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Career and College Transition Podcast with Career Expert, Beth Ross

Getting the Right Job in 2011: Beth Ross; Language Skills, Internships and Interview Training

Beth Ross, certified career and executive coachBeth Ross

Welcome to a special Career Strategiespodcast on Total Picture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting.

Joining us today in New York is frequent contributor and career expert, Beth Ross, a certified career and executive coach. Beth’s background includes a bicoastal practice executing confidential and mission critical senior executive searches for Fortune 500 corporations.

Beth’s career coaching practice is global in scope, and she is frequently quoted in major publications. Beth was quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal article written by Joe Light titled Languages Needed, but No Plans to Learn. Since the article was published, her phone has been ringing off the proverbial hook. Beth, welcome back to Total Picture Radio!

Beth Ross, TotalPicture Radio Transcript

Welcome to a special Career Transition Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting and joining us today in New York is frequent contributor and career expert, Beth Ross, a certified career and executive coach.

Beth’s background includes a bicoastal practice executing confidential and mission-critical senior executive searches for Fortune 500 corporations. Beth’s career coaching practice is global in scope and she is frequently quoted in major publications. Beth was quoted in a recent Wall Street Journal article written by Joe Light titled, “Languages Needed But No Plans to Learn.” Since the article was published, her phone has been ringing off the proverbial hook.

Beth, welcome back to TotalPicture Radio.

Beth: Thank you.

Peter: I’d like to start with a quote from you in this Wall Street Journal article, “Already employers plays a premium on bilingual job candidates especially those who know non-romance languages like Chinese and Russian. It can be a gold mine. It’s easier to find them jobs and they often get paid more.” Beth, can you expand on this a little bit and tell us what some of these trends are that you’re seeing especially around the area of language skills. I mean we’ve talked numerous times on this show about the fact that this really is a global economy we’re dealing with today.

Beth: It’s totally a global economy and since this article came out, I’ve talked to so many people who have language facility. Amazingly, many of these people are in Europe or South America, Asia, but I’ve gotten calls from all over everywhere and the calls from New York are interesting too. I’ve learned in the last few days that we have 16 Chinese newspapers with different dialects in New York City and I’m told by many of the people from these newspapers, guess what? There are Mandarin classes now in preschools in the Chinese community. So the children, other children, so forth, you’ve got to have other languages, in addition, you’ve got to have more than one language to survive and thrive in the world economy.

Peter: Well obviously, I mean you go outside of the United States, you go to Europe, you go to Asia, you go almost anywhere else on the globe and you’re going to find people who have at least two languages that they’re proficient with, right?

Beth: At least two.

Peter: At least.

Beth: Tonight, I’m speaking with a young man from Germany, this is my second call with him. He speaks English just like you and I do but he also speaks four other languages. He wants to come to this country to work. Why? Because companies have – North American headquarters here in New York City, it’s a great jumping off place for working all over the world. The people in other parts of the world seemed to be a lot more aware that we’re in a global economy and some of the Americans.

Peter: Back to Joe Light’s article for just a minute Beth, as he wrote about in this article, the kids in college here in the United States just aren’t getting the language skills that they need. Why is this happening? These are smart universities.

Beth: Smart universities and somewhere the pressure needs to come to bring language study back into the forefront as an integral part of what these young people are going to face when they go out into the job search world.

Peter: We’ve talked about this before and I know that a lot of your practice today has to do with college grads with very high GPAs, with MBAs, advanced degrees who have been out of school for a year and cannot get a job.

Beth: Yeah, and this was never a part of my practice until recent times, never, ever, ever. I worked only with high-level executives. Now, I get calls from parents who are really tired of writing checks and they’re tired of these kids sitting around at home, what else can be happening? The young people have heard “No” in so many interview situations that they’re really beginning to believe that “No” is the operative word. They’re scared, scared, scared about interviews because they can go through several interviews and think they’re doing just fine and then they’re not the ones that get the job.

Peter: Are university centers/career centers giving them the information they need today to launch a job search effectively?

Beth: Absolutely not. I can say no because some of the best and most prestigious universities and colleges that you and I know about are not doing that. However, I have a couple of examples here in New York City, Pace University being one of them where they start this preparation for getting a job as the young people come in as freshman. They’re required to take a course called university 101 and this begins to get them ready for applying for internships. The companies in New York City are very aware of these career development centers. Parsons has one, Baruch has one, various universities are wide awake and they have big staffs doing these internships. They’re required to take a course in interview training. They’re required how to figure out how to package themselves, but in particular, I know it pays.

I can quote this exactly, one of their career counselors said to me, “The academic part is very important. A high GPA, yes if you can do that, that’s very important, but more importantly, you have to know what the work turf looks like,” and that’s changing as we sit here speaking right now. Emerging growth companies, alternative energy companies, all sorts, even the accounting majors are looking at instead of a traditional accounting career, they’re looking at things, situations that might be quite different from what it has been in the past.

Peter: You bring up something I think is very germane to the problem that a lot of these students are having when they get out of college. We’re talking about young people who have had a lot of success academically and a lot of kudos.

Beth: Yes, but they don’t know how to write a résumé.

Peter: They don’t know how to write a résumé, so they go out there and they just assume because they’ve got a 3.5 or 3.7 GPA that companies are going to be falling all over the place to hire them and they don’t.

Beth: They don’t and this self-confidence can be eroded very swiftly.

Peter: Right.

Beth: Very swiftly. Most of the young people who are going to be graduating this coming May and June are believing with every breath they breathe that they will have a job offer by then. Some colleges and universities set up mass interviews where companies come in and so forth, but there is almost no preparation for this. How do you talk to an interviewer? No one has this experience. It has to be taught and it can’t be just a mass room full of people hearing some information and getting some handouts. It has to be one-on-one career coaching and this costs money.

Peter: Back to the résumé, the résumés you see from these young people are now starting to come to you. Are they structured properly? Do they have the right kinds of things in them? I would guess not, right?

Beth: Well, sometimes not. They’re all crammed into one page, you know that, the myth of the one-page résumé. Sometimes, if they’ve had a lot of internships, you can’t get it all in one page. What they do is start making the font smaller. If these things are faxed, they can strip to nothing. The language is, they don’t know about professional summaries. They don’t know about crafting a two-minute pitch. The most horrific question they can be asked in an interview situation is, “Tell me about yourself?” Now, if they decide to go on and on like War and Peace and tell about what they did in the seventh grade newspaper that they wrote on and so forth, they lose out before they even get started. They need training and how you succinctly present yourself as a valuable commodity, as someone who can contribute significantly to the company’s bottom line. Yes, entry-level positions do do that and they need that but the young people aren’t thinking in that vein at all.

Peter: They come to you, their résumés really are not structured properly. What are they doing to find a job?

Beth: What are they doing? That’s another thing Pace does brilliantly is they have a whole class on how to utilize search engines. They go to the internet and they look for postings. They send their résumé which sometimes they never even get a reply from. That’s what they’re doing. I teach skills in networking, in using your contacts even they don’t even think – the young man I saw yesterday as a client whose parents are paying for his career coaching, it has never occurred to him that when he’s out on the weekend with his friends that he needs to be asking the ones that Morgan Stanley, “Hey, who is this finance business major from a very prestigious university in the south?” And he needs to say, “Who did you talk to there? Who should I talk to? Can you put in a good word for me?” or “Can you give me a phone number or an email address?” They don’t get it. It’s called networking and most Americans don’t understand networking, even at a more sophisticated level but these young people are lost.

Peter: That’s really amazing.

Beth: It’s totally amazing, things that would seem logical. I had another young man who turned me down. His parents let him make the decision. He turned me down because “My dad has got contacts. He’s going to get me a job.” That’s probably true but that kind of arrogance will not mean that this young man is going to be successful in a prestigious financial services company here.

Peter: You know what Beth? He may not…

Beth: He may not, yes.

Peter: …because there’s a new normal out there and that new normal says that just because your dad is a senior vice president or EVP somewhere…

Beth: Yeah, and he is.

Peter: …does not mean that automatically junior is going to get that job.

Beth: That that’s going to open the door, right, yeah.

Peter: Not anymore.

Beth: Not anymore.

Peter: There are jobs out there but the jobs that are being offered by organizations today are all critical jobs that need to be done. There is no slack anymore to bring junior in there and just give him a desk in the corner.

Beth: No, there’s not and another thing, the whole business of creativity and thinking totally outside the box is just anathema to the young people who are, some of them at least, refusing to consider the possibility that they might have to take what I label a bridge job. A bridge job is something that gets you from here to there and it may be something that’s very interesting.

Another thing that they’re not considering, it’s quite possible to get a paid internship after you’ve graduated from college. They may not have the headcount for the openings, but the paid internships are there.

Also, volunteerism is really wide open. I get some young clients who are in the non-profit world. Hey, I don’t know a non-profit that might not consider some volunteer work which can lead to either full time or part time, but there needs to be a lot of creativity in the way that people are thinking. It’s not just the young people. It’s the parents, because they’re not prepared for this either.

They thought if they wrote those checks for four years, work as hard as they could to send their kids to a great university or college. If the colleges and universities are not providing skills, job search skills before graduation, then it’s going to be a rough road uphill. There are always going to bar tending school. You think, “Oh, this is unthinkable.” It’s very hard when someone is young. I guess I was young once. I remember to just say to them, “Hey, nothing is forever,” but when you’re 20, 21, 22, whatever it is, is they’ll think, “This is the job, if I get this job with this company, I’ll stay there for years and years.” Probably you won’t.

Peter: Beth, I want to return to what you were just talking about and that’s internships as a bridge job or as a summer job for juniors and seniors in college, what are some of the advantages of having an internship and how do you go about finding these things?

Beth: There is a tremendous advantage to having an internship. An internship can be very easily translate into one’s first job. If you do a great internship, they’re highly likely to pick up on you when they’re hiring for entry level positions.

Peter: Are there internships other than summer internships? I mean are they all year long?

Beth: Yes. They can be in various semesters. I know some of the Columbia students that I worked with have done internships from January through May, for instance. It sort of goes with the academic semester thing. The summer internships, that’s what everyone thinks when they think internship.

Incidentally, another thing that you can do and many people get a chance to do in the summer is visit and work in some capacity in a foreign country. This goes back to the thing about knowing a different language, a different culture, but also knowing a different kind of work environment. On very good résumés that I see, these kinds of experiences are positioned the same internships are. I seldom see a résumé anymore of a recent college graduate who doesn’t have at least one or two internships. It’s the thing to do now.

Peter: Going back to this whole about the skills of having a foreign language and at the beginning of this interview, you were telling me you were getting all these calls from people all over the world, from Germany, from everywhere, from people who speak multiple languages who would love nothing more than to come to the United States and get a job here in New York City with a multinational company. Is that possible? Is it possible to immigrate into the United States?

Beth: Not in the sense of coming to Ellis Island by immigration, but the immigration laws are really complex. Getting that H1 visa is hard – not impossible. Legal departments in corporations know how to do this. You can get yourself an immigration lawyer and so on. You’ve got to be here for a legitimate reason; you can’t just come to New York City and hang out your shingle or start reading the ads and looking for a job. This is why that quote in the Wall Street Journal was so important because everybody has to do it from afar to start out. They’ve got to figure out how to get an interview with a company who may have their North American headquarters here in New York and is thirsty for the language and cultural understanding that people can bring in from all over the world.

Peter: That’s really good to know. With the experienced hires, we’ve often talked about the importance of having referrals and what a referral can bring, especially a referral to a hiring manager in an organization because when you look at the statistics, even like on Gerry Crispin’s site CareerXroads, source of hires. Now of course, these are large organizations that he works with but it’s over 33% referrals where job boards maybe 1% or 2%, it’s a huge difference…

Beth: Yeah, totally a huge difference. A referral, a name, anybody who knows someone who can say, “You call this person and use my name,” then you’ve got a leg up on everybody else. You will actually go out in front of others who might have sent in a similar résumé.

Peter: What is the most important thing college grads in 2011 need to remember as they start interviewing for jobs this spring?

Beth: They’re already interviewing. If the schools are doing their job, some of the interviewing starts even before Christmas, so that a lot of people have been interviewed and they’ve already been given job offers. Those who haven’t, if the schools are doing their job, they’re still listing these things and the most important thing is to be really prepared for these interviews. It’s more competitive than it’s ever been before. It’s really, really, really important to remember that preparation – I see so many young people who aren’t prepared for the interviews. What is preparation?

Preparation now is easy. It’s a no-brainer. You Google the name of the company and you read about the management team and you memorize their mission statement because one of the questions that is so easy to get in these interviews is, “Tell us, what about our mission statement really appeals to you? How does it relate to you in your life, in your goals going forward?” These are very mature questions.

Peter: Right, and if they go, “Uhhhh… I don’t know what your mission statement is.” Guess what? That’s the last interview you’re going to have with that company.

Beth: That’s right. Another thing that will make it the last interview you ever had, at the end of every interview – every single interview for these newbies, the question comes up, “Do you have any questions for us?” The young people who say, “No…”

Peter: That’s it.

Beth: They’ve lost it. They’ve lost it. They need to know that they can and should ask where are you in the hiring process? How many other candidates have you interviewed for this job and by the way, how do I stack up to these candidates?

Your goal is to kill off the competition. Your goal is to make the interviewer believe and know that you can fill a special niche for them. Enthusiasm goes such a long way. Enthusiasm where they ask what your strengths are, the first thing you always need to say is your work ethic. They want to know you’re going to contribute to the bottom line. They want to know that you’re going to be a part of the team, even if you’re not a team player, get yourself in a mental mode so that you can produce that as a fact if you need to.

Peter: I did an interview for Jobs in Pods a couple of months ago with Pepsi Co., in Purchase, New York with a hiring manager for a marketing job and this was for a six-figure job and one of the questions I asked her was, “What really impresses you in an interview?” She said, “Really simple things like being on time, bringing a résumé with you,” and Beth, I was absolutely dumbfounded. This is a hundred-thousand dollar plus job with a major multinational company and people can’t be on time, they can’t bring a résumé with them? What is that about?

Beth: That is about – because the only word to describe it is shocking.

Peter: It is. It is, and this is for like maybe 5 to 10 years of experience, so this is an experienced hire.

Beth: I’ve told you several times that one of the biggest part of my coaching practice now is interview training, because what people are discovering is that they can’t get past that first interview or God forbid, the second.

Peter: Which is often a phone screen. That first interview is a phone screen.

Beth: It’s a screen. The purpose of any interview is never to get a job, I think I’ve said that before – I’ll say it again – it is to get to the next meeting… and the next and the next and the next. You don’t know where it’s going to end and you can’t reject an offer you haven’t been made. You don’t really know what they’re interviewing for. They may have called you in because you answered a certain posting or you had a certain referral. The job that they’re looking for could be very different and you want to keep all those doors open. Interviewing is work.

Peter: And if you’re called in, in person for an interview with the hiring manager, you’re already pretty far up on that list of desirable candidates or they wouldn’t be bothering.

Beth: They would not, because everybody’s time is so valuable and you need to respect that and be ready to make it work for you because this is your only chance. You don’t get a chance to go back, because they’ve got people lined up.

Peter: Another myth that I think we should dispel right now is that yes, this is a very tight job market. It’s very competitive, but the economy is improving and there are good jobs out there with very good companies, you just have to know what… the skills that you teach on how to get into these places.

Beth: Yes, how to get in front of decision makers.

Peter: Beth, I really appreciate your time today here on TotalPicture Radio. Is there anything you’d like to end with that you like to leave the listeners with?

Beth: It’s very hard to send someone who’s out of work there are plenty of jobs. I’m not sure there are plenty jobs but there are plenty of good jobs that people are getting and nothing is forever. Try not to think about any job that you really want is the only job that’s out there. I do a lot of talking about bridge jobs. A bridge job is how you get from here to there and people sometimes really just fall in love with their bridge jobs. You and I talked earlier about paid internships and I have seen so many postings for jobs that are described as internships and they’re being paid. In other words, it’s an entry-level job and the way to learn businesses. Don’t forget to look for opportunities to do internships and to do volunteer work, but the job market is getting better.

Peter: Beth, thanks again for joining us on TotalPicture Radio.

Beth: Thank you.

Be sure to visit Beth’s feature page in the career transition’s channel of TotalPicture Radio, that’s, for resource links and show notes. Beth’s website is

This is Peter Clayton. Thank you for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio.

Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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