In Landing Internships and Your First Job, Jerome Wong offers invaluable career-preparation advice to college students about to enter the workplace. The subtitle, ‘Why Qualifications Are Not Enough’, reveals that hiring managers look for more than just academic success and so-called “hard skills” when evaluating candidates.
Wong has spent plenty of years on both sides of the hiring process. He has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Tufts University, has had a career in technology, received another degree from Columbia Business School and then entered the banking world, and eventually, began his own company, Real World Experts, to advise students on the entire career-preparation process. Besides being interviewed for jobs many times himself, Wong has frequently interviewed prospective employees, participated in campus recruiting teams, and worked with the human resources departments at the firms he worked for to hire the best college talent available.
Today, through his company, Wong coaches students on the entire job search process, including interview techniques and proper business etiquette. Now he shares all his experiences, thoughtful insights, and actionable strategies in his new book.
Landing Internships and Your First Job goes far beyond the usual job search books about interviewing techniques and how to write a resume. This book is for students specifically and explains how they can use their academic experience to translate into the key components employers want in their respective fields. As Wong states in the introduction:
Unlike experienced professionals who can point to their relevant work experience as qualifications for future success, students have a more challenging task of convincing prospective employers that their academic and extracurricular experiences can translate into professional success. They also have the additional burden of convincing companies that they are truly interested and committed to the industry.
Wong relieves students of a large part of that burden by showing how to give value to their experiences. But this book is much more than how to fluff your resume to look good to an employer or what to say in an interview. Wong talks about all the things students should be doing long before they begin looking for a job. He instructs on how to determine what courses to take to establish a compelling academic profile, how to use your school’s career services office to help you, and, most importantly, how to tell your authentic story to convince the company to hire you.
Equally important, Wong asks readers to think about what career is an appropriate fit for them. Students need to determine what their values are and how those will translate into the workplace. It isn’t enough just to want to make a six-figure salary, and you certainly can’t tell prospective employers that’s why you want to work for them. You also don’t want to take on a job just for the money if it will give you more stress than you can handle or it ethically doesn’t align with your values.
One of the most important chapters in the book is about building your personal brand. Success in the job market begins with personally being a success, and that doesn’t mean just academic achievements but moral success and coming up with your own personal definition of success that will align with your goals, personality, and ethics. You have to brand yourself to reflect in all ways who you are. Wong helps students not only to determine what their brands are but how to communicate those brands effectively to employers so they will “buy into” the brand.
Wong also focuses on the importance of treating the career prep process as a sales process. While in class, you’re in a sales situation because you have to cultivate relationships to receive recommendations from professors. Summer internships also should be treated like long and thorough job interviews. In addition, Wong gives advice on interviewing, adding this surprising nugget of truth: “Hiring managers are often more impressed by questions candidates ask them than by their answers to their questions.”
There is plenty more invaluable information in this book—advice on networking, attending career fairs, how to have the right attitude, how to be self-confident, and how to have a sales mindset to sell yourself. But perhaps most important is what Wong has to say about when and how often to prepare for finding a job. Wong states the hard truth by saying:
Students often tell me they are too busy with their coursework to dedicate time to career prep. Unfortunately, attending job fairs or on-campus interviews is not necessarily enough to find a job; you will need to put in a lot more effort if you want to maximize your chances of landing a great first job or internship…. People often say that searching for a job is a full-time job. For college students, it should at least be a part-time job, which means you should consistently set aside time each week for career prep. Ideally, you should start thinking about career prep efforts as a first-year student, although at this stage, your focus should just be on getting familiar with the career services available on campus, exploring your academic interests, and thinking about establishing academic credentials attractive to potential employers.
Hopefully, you are one of the smart ones who is ahead of the game and will read this book early in your college career, but if not, there’s still plenty to help set you apart from all the other job applicants. I wish someone had given me this book when I was in college. It will make the perfect gift for high school or college students, anyone about to enter the job market, or even someone who wants to prepare to find a better job.
For more information about Landing Internships and Your First Job, visit the author’s website.