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Small Schools, Big Jobs – The Introduction 2009

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John Masci - SmallSchoolsBigJobs.com


Small Schools, Big Jobs – The Introduction 2009

First off, thank you for purchasing Small Schools, Big Jobs – this is a project I’ve been truly passionate about and has consumed most of my life for the past two years. It’s taken a lot of time and energy but been rewarding as well, not just because I knew the information would provide me with financial and career benefit in my own job search, but because the topic has been left essentially uncharted up until now. Exploring the unique situation of your first job out of college has proved to shine light on a matter that has been free of innovation since its conception. I started the project after dealing with my own frustration of finding valuable information for job hunting as a new graduate – stuck only finding stale information being touted by academic advisors and ‘career experts’. What did these people know about finding their first job? The job hunt has changed so much in the past 5 years and more noticeable the past 1 year or so that the historically true job hunting tips are no longer applicable. If I was going to get advice on this endeavor, I wanted it from someone who recently had to deal with this process, not someone who did it 40 years ago and spent the next several decades simply being a passive bystander to others going through the process – it just didn’t make sense. My hypothesis was true, after two years of studying every facet of the hiring process; I learned I was lied to by these people. Maybe not intentionally, but these people I trusted for advice just weren’t telling me the truth and weren’t clueing me in to the tricks I could use to make more money, get a better job, and set myself on a brighter career path. Before getting into the details of the program, it’s important to give a little background on myself, the struggles that prompted me to start this program, and the answer to why you’ll be able to completely change the game of getting job interviews and ultimately your dream job and salary. I graduated from Merrimack College, a small liberal arts school about 35 minutes north of Boston and 5 minutes south of the New Hampshire border. It’s a liberal arts school founded in the mid 1900’s by a group of Augustinian Friars. It was built on a plot of land that consisted of only a single chicken coop. Currently the student body is about 1,200 students strong with the majority living on campus. I studied computer science at Merrimack and graduated with only

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John Masci - SmallSchoolsBigJobs.com


Small Schools, Big Jobs – The Introduction 2009

two other students in my field. Merrimack College was not put on the map for its computer science program. My first two years at Merrimack were challenging to say the least, after having a round of new professors who came straight from the industry and had no teaching background, the amount of students in my major quickly dropped from 24 in my first class to our graduating group of 3. The attrition rate was high and the classes were unfairly difficult. Needless to say, I failed Computer Science II and Computer Science III, and struggled in other non-essential classes. After retaking some of the courses and settling with poor grades in others, I was discouraged. College was a new experience for me and my study skills weren’t what they should have been. After finishing my first two years of college it was particularly frustrating because I knew the material but my GPA certainly didn’t reflect it. I would fail homework assignments and tests throughout the semester, but do very well on final exams after learning from the errors on the assignments. To be a student who got 90’s on finals after learning from my mistakes, I was discouraged that my GPA didn’t reflect what I actually knew. More discouraging was knowing the GPA was a major benchmark which would be used to judge me. Finally, after those first two years, I had gotten a grip on how to study properly and found out what worked for me. Everything had completely changed – now I was doing very well in my classes throughout the entire semester. I spent my last two years playing ‘catch up’ for the errors I had made my first two years, juggling a double course load just to graduate on time. Despite a more challenging set of courses, I did better in class and wrapped up my final semester (of 7 classes in my major) on the dean’s list. I was proud, my parents were proud, my professors were proud. Unfortunately for me, it’s difficult to raise a GPA when you have the weight of a few D’s carrying you down. I had managed to raise my 2.5 GPA to a 2.85 at the time of graduation. I was shocked to see that all my hard work had barely raised my already lacking GPA. Not quite as bad as this GPA was the fact that I gone through my college career only having three months of work experience. The rest of the time I had figured out other creative

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John Masci - SmallSchoolsBigJobs.com


Small Schools, Big Jobs – The Introduction 2009

ways to put cash in my pocket, methods I was proud of – but I knew wouldn’t bode well on a résumé. Just prior to graduation I was in a frenzy, juggling my massive course load to graduate on time and praying I’d be able to find work at graduation time. With financial burdens approaching, I didn’t have any time to hang around – I needed work quick and I wanted to be paid well. Who doesn’t? I had an old résumé that I polished up and began submitting to companies via their ‘careers’ sections on their websites. I wrote a cover letter, I made a nice résumé, I asked my professors if they’d be my references (knowing they were one of the few groups of people who could vouch for the fact that I had been able to improve myself throughout college and my GPA wasn’t an accurate indication of my knowledge). I submitted dozens of résumés to companies in the area, as well as Monster.com & Career Builder, shared it with friends and their parents and while I waited for responses I was getting interview help from my professors with a few mock sessions. I felt like my skills were up to par, but I never got a chance to use them despite the tireless attempts I made to actually secure myself an interview. What was going on? What did I do so wrong? I asked my professors and got a somewhat canned response along the lines of “you’ll find the right job when it’s a match for you….do you really want to work for someone that’s not interested in you?” That was their answer? Just keep doing what I knew wasn’t working? I wasn’t even able to get a response from these companies as to why they didn’t want to interview me. I just got email after email from their automated system saying they weren’t interested in me for the position I had applied for, but they’d keep my résumé on file for 6 months and contact me if something changed. It wasn’t until I resubmitted my résumé after revising it, with the tricks in this system, when I started getting double booked with interviews from the same companies that wouldn’t give me the time of day. I knew that something had to change if I wanted a job. I had already worked my hardest these last two years to make up for my mistakes when I started school and I felt like it was all a waste. It was very discouraging. My final outreach was to the company that I worked for during school, for all of three months. It was an internship I found through a family friend (yes, I wasn’t 4|Page

John Masci - SmallSchoolsBigJobs.com


Small Schools, Big Jobs – The Introduction 2009

even able to get myself an internship in college – my job hunting skills just weren’t there). After bugging my old employer for a bit, they told me they had a position for me full time if I wanted it – at about $35k a year doing work that didn’t really interest me at all. The offer would remain open as a sign of good faith from them, but I said that I wanted to focus on something else I enjoyed more and offered a higher salary, so I would continue my hunt. I consulted teachers, family members, and anyone else I thought would shed some light on it for me. I got the same stories from everyone that I talked to “The economy is bad now, it’ll turn around eventually”, “They don’t want to hire young people without experience”, “You need a master’s degree nowadays”. Those weren’t the explanations I wanted to hear. What I was doing wasn’t working so I abandoned it. I deleted my résumé, forgot about the jobs I already applied to and started again from square one. I was out of school for a month now and was looking for other options. I read everything I could about résumés, about selling yourself in interviews, etc – it all seemed pretty stale, the same stuff over and over again. The engineer in me brings out the analytic thinking, I looked at it differently. I shouldn’t be asking ‘how do I get a job’ ‘what makes a good résumé’, etc – I should be asking ‘what are the people who ARE getting jobs doing?’ ‘how can I design something to really sell myself to someone?’ ‘What is it that recruiters/employers look at in the résumé?’, ‘how does the hiring process work’? Answering these questions was my key to success. There were basically three components to locking in a great job: Picking a target job, creating a résumé, and mastering the interview. It’s essential that they’re performed in that order. One of my many mistakes had been creating my résumé and then looking for jobs, or the biggest mistake of all – throwing my résumé out there and hoping a job would find me. I have to shake my head at the ignorance I had been acting on before. Mastering these three steps were all I needed to lock down the job with the most opportunity and also the highest paying salary of all my peers. The most important thing to know about these three steps is that they’re both a science and an art – but certainly not a lottery or destiny as I had been so led to believe. More amazingly is that by following a straight forward process, anyone can follow the steps and find dramatic success - the secret all lies in using a few time efficient practices for truly 5|Page

John Masci - SmallSchoolsBigJobs.com


Small Schools, Big Jobs – The Introduction 2009

separating yourself from the crowd. Everyone’s heard the same tips from professors or advisors, and that’s the problem, everyone’s wasting time with misdirected efforts. Rechanneling those efforts in what makes a serious impact not only saves you time and energy in a job hunt, but allow also opens the door to job hunting success. I’m often doubted by people when I tell them that there’s a method to success for finding jobs. When people find out that someone less qualified or less experienced can still get a job and beat someone else out who appears to be such a better fit it simply dumbfounds them. The first step to understanding all of this is to realize that getting a job is making a sale – simple and true. There’s no way around it, you’re selling yourself to an employer and you have to do whatever it takes to convince them that you’re the perfect match. I remember literally being laughed at from friends of mine when I told them where I was applying for jobs. They’d sarcastically reply ‘wow, not settling, huh?’ If someone who knew who I was had this attitude about my endeavor, why was I surprised that employers were brushing me off just as easily? As I said before, there’s a science to this - the bottom line is a psychological principle called ‘expectation assimilation’ – meaning that someone is going to make a judgment based on what they know and if they have control, they’ll enforce their own expectation. It’s a double edged sword, if someone takes a look at you and thinks you don’t fit the profile of the job – plain and simple, you won’t get hired. If someone looks at you and you look like the perfect match, then you will get the job, even if it’s just based on their perception and not a full evaluation of you up and down. The goal is to find out what they’re looking for and just match it. The problem with ‘expectation assimilation’ or a ‘confirmation bias’ is that’s not obvious or concrete, most often is subconscious and happening without the decision maker even knowing it. This presents an extreme challenge. The consolation is that as I said before, getting a job is making a sale. Fortunately for us people’s livelihoods depend on makes sales of retail products and they spend billions of dollars and centuries of time examining what it takes to tap into subconscious and conscious cues in order to make you want they have. Whether it’s someone trying to convince you that you need an iPod, a new car, a cheeseburger, a medication or in our case, that they need you to be on their staff ASAP - there’s success proven 6|Page

John Masci - SmallSchoolsBigJobs.com


Small Schools, Big Jobs – The Introduction 2009

tricks to make that sale. Now that I spent 2 years researching how this applies to job hunting, you can benefit from it. These are tried and true tricks that have been practiced and refined. When people criticized me for my aspirations it was because they had fallen victim to the same confirmation bias that was preached by everyone. My school was lining up jobs for students, but they weren’t offering the salaries, responsibilities, or career paths I was interested in. Because this is what was being pitched at us, people believed this is where I belonged. I had this working against me, plus I’ll even admit that I didn’t have the strongest grades and I didn’t have the best experience of my peers. The deeper question that comes from this is ‘does the best candidate always get the job?’, or as I mentioned earlier, ‘does the best product always sell?’ – and the answer is no. This was the most critical discovery I had made. I didn’t have to be the best candidate, I didn’t need the best grades, I didn’t need the most experience, and I didn’t need to come from one of the top 10 schools in the country to get one of the best jobs. If there’s one thing to take away from all this it’s that the best product doesn’t always sell. The best product isn’t always worth the most. This has repeated itself non-stop throughout history. Did you know Coca-Cola always beats Pepsi-Cola in sales, but that in blind taste tests more people prefer the taste of Pepsi? How criminal is that? You develop the statistically best tasting product and you’re constantly outsold by a product that people tell you tastes worse! Even simpler examples exist, when the microwave was first invented it was a massive failure. Nobody wanted it and it didn’t seem practical. When the original manufacturer passed on the product and the same product was remarketed it became one of the most common household products in the world. It boggles the mind, but it was the glimmer of hope I was looking for and it was the one thing I HADN’T been told when I started searching for jobs. I had been rejected and rejected from jobs after interviews and people that were so called ‘career experts’ at my school told me to move on because there was no sense in going after a job that wasn’t a good match for me. Securing my dream job took three tries with my current company before they finally said yes. After working my job for a few months I casually mentioned my experience to my fellow coworkers and EVERY SINGLE PERSON shared the same 7|Page

John Masci - SmallSchoolsBigJobs.com


Small Schools, Big Jobs – The Introduction 2009

story – it took them at least two or three failed interviews before they landed the very jobs they were working. These are jobs that all of us have excelled at, received accolades for our performance at, and generally been thankful for since receiving them. The truth of it is that I hadn’t failed those initial interviews, I hadn’t failed at all – it’s the age old adage that "life's real failure is when you do not realize how close you were to success when you gave up." The funny thing about job hunting is that nobody does it regularly and that your first job out of college is so unique that nobody has any experience because it only happens once. One of the most incredible parts about your first job is that if you do have an advantage it’s like getting to leap before the gunshot in a race. You’re the only one with the advantage in a massive applicant pool and it’s a benefit that pays for itself time and time again over the years. Students with high salaries and promising jobs out of college continue on this path indefinitely, those who setting for subpar positions continue on that path indefinitely. It’s a critical point in life that is so grossly overlooked it’s laughable. Now we can sink our teeth in and examine the three components that need to be mastered to lock in that dream job.

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John Masci - SmallSchoolsBigJobs.com


Small Schools, Big Jobs