It was around 4:30pm on a Thursday in November. As I was leaving our conference room, I saw a cluster of people gathered around the long glass window separating our reception area and the main hallway of our Madison Avenue building.
At first, I thought they were looking at my very cute beagle, Charlie, who tends to parade up and down the reception area in search of treats left behind by visitors to the SilverChair Partners office. I opened up the front door and said a big hello to the crowd. They all gathered closer and, yes, Charlie the Beagle was indeed the main attraction. However, when I asked the crowd of obviously bright, shiny, young twenty year olds why they were all camped out on the 14th floor of my office building, their Professor, Francine Varisco, stepped forward and told me something that almost blew me off my feet. Ms. Varisco is a professor at Cazenovia College (located about four hours outside of NY, near Syracuse). Every year, she takes a group of her students to visit different firms and contacts she has collected over the years. She personally takes the students on a train and spends three days introducing them to all of her contacts. They give out their resumes and get an inside view of many different firms which, till that point, were only names on paper
Getting to see the culture and inner workings of a company can be hugely enlightening. Learning about Professor Varisco’s efforts almost brought me to tears. One of the most disheartening things I’ve seen in my fifteen years as a leader in the executive and non- executive search world is how few college grads are given solid advice and counsel about how to actually go about their job search. Even the most manicured and focused of these college grads—aiming for their dream of “being a lawyer/being in PR” etc.—goes in blindly. It is many of these post grads who come to us 1-2 years later trying to change course, once again not knowing where to turn for real, honest, and non-biased advice/guidance.
Now, not to knock the recruiting world, but the fact of the matter is that not all recruiters have the best intentions for the candidates out there. A fair amount of recruiters are truly out to make the “almighty buck” and just want to make a placement. Never mind what the candidate sitting right in front of them is saying they want, and god forbid even dispensing good advice that may not always yield a “placement” by said recruiter. This makes me sick, and it’s exactly why we founded SilverChair Partners in early 2013. We wanted to be an actual resource to our candidates, to tell them when we DON’T think they should make a move, or to advise them to make the right move EVEN if it doesn’t behoove us personally. This is something we take very seriously, and yet we are only one small firm. There are countless college grads flooding NYC each year with big dreams and little to no actual chance to really look before they leap. Rents are high, and time is always nigh.
This is why I was so personally encouraged when Professor Varisco appeared outside our hallway on the 14th floor last Thursday. Prior to this, I had never heard of Cazenovia College. Not a big deal when you consider that there are over 4,000 degree granting institutions in the US and, on any given year, an average of 17,383,000 college students in the USA. But what did I find out? According to Ms. Varisco, “This college is an amazing place. We are a student-centered teaching institution that truly empowers our students to be leaders. We just were identified by U.S. News as the #1 best value in the North out of 8 states. That speaks volumes for what we do! I have been coordinating business interns for years and consistently hear from corporate sites that my interns set the bar and, most of all, do not come in as ‘entitled.’”
Here is what I told her in response:
“If you only knew how many postgraduate kids I have met over the years who graduate from school so dreadfully unprepared for how to go about finding a job in the working world. It astounds me. So much effort and money put into a college education, and then so many people sent out into the big cities with lots of ideas but no actual guidance to help steer and propel them through the process, the pitfalls, the what-to look out for/what-to-avoid scenarios…and this is not to mention solid advice as to how to actually figure out what you want to do. The fact that you take the time and effort that you do each year bringing your students to the city and introducing them to quality people was amazing for me to witness. Ms. Varisco, you are a true inspiration, and I would love to see more people do what you do. Please let me know how SilverChair Partners can support you in your efforts moving forward.”
So here is what we at SCP are starting with: raw inspiration. Read this and spread the word.
Recruiters: consider devoting a few minutes here and there to giving good advice to these young, hungry minds that come to you eager to take on the world. Good guidance doesn’t always have to come at a price.
Candidates: look into every option you have with as much information as you can possibly get. Do not take one person’s advice as gospel. Do your homework. Go online and research every opportunity. Go on Glassdoor.com, go on review sites. Really do your due diligence before committing to your first or even second job. Actually, why limit it there? Always do your homework. But, as you would when getting a doctor’s opinion, make sure you get more than one opinion. It’s the first step in avoiding making a bad decision.
And, hey, if you’re REALLY lucky, you will have a professor or mentor like Francine Varisco who will lovingly take her own precious free time to educate and connect her graduating students, all in the hopes of sending them off into a less daunting working world.