Why study at GIX?
Whether it’s developing high-impact projects in collaboration with GIX industry and nonprofit partners or hearing exclusive talks from successful CEOs of companies and nonprofits like Accolade and PATH, the value of the GIX graduate student experience goes beyond the four walls of the classroom.
In our Beyond the Classroom series, we’re showcasing the wide range of networking, learning, and development opportunities that exist for GIX MSTI and Dual Degree students.
Introducing GIX mentor, Jim Medalia
Over the summer, we invited some of our industry mentors to host exclusive weekly seminars for GIX students focused on career development, the future of work, and the evolution of rapidly growing fields and industries that are incorporating emerging technologies.
Jim Medalia, GIX mentor and founder of over six successful startups, offered an interactive, action-oriented seminar to students focused on key tips and tricks for building their network and landing a job.
Here are a few of his top pieces of advice for anyone starting or in the middle of their job hunt.
Leverage the strength of weak ties
According to Medalia, referrals are the single best way to land a job.
“The landscape is much more competitive than it was when I was young,” says Medalia. “Companies spend more money in the hiring process and are more critical about who they bring on board. Many companies prefer not to hire anyone, as opposed to recruiting someone that isn’t a good fit. That’s why referrals are such an important part of getting your foot in the door.”
Now retired, Medalia gives the example of his own daughter, who is now a product manager responsible for scaling and growing the UberEats platform.
“It was a friend’s neighbor’s sister’s referral that opened the door to my daughter landing her first job,” says Medalia. “This is the perfect example of how persuasive weak ties can be in getting over some of the first hurdles in the job-hunting journey.”
As you start to build your network, Medalia recommends keeping a mini CRM of all your new connections.
“Even if your network doesn’t pay off in the short-term, it will help you find future jobs down the track,” says Medalia. “Hold on to your connections!”
Companies and organizations share Medalia’s emphasis on the value of pursuing referrals. According to CareerBuilder, 82% of employers rated employee referrals above all other sources for generating the best return on investment. 62% of all external hires are also generated from employee referrals, making it the number one hiring source.
Do your homework
Medalia advocates for rigorous pre-interview preparation. Before going into an interview, he suggests researching the company, their corporate culture, your interviewer (if you know who it is), and even the current affairs or recent publicity that company has received in local and international news outlets.
“Let the company see how much effort you’ve put in to prepare for the interview,” says Medalia. “It shows you genuinely want to be there, and it also prepares you for the single most important question, which is – ‘do you have any questions for me?’”
Medalia reminds all job hunters that the interviewing process is a two-way street.
“You should be interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you,” says Medalia. “It’s not just about getting a paycheck, it’s about accepting a position that matches your current and future goals. Otherwise, there’s no value in accepting the role – not for you or the employer.”
Rehearse with a friend or mentor
“You can practice responses to potential interview questions in your head,” says Medalia. “However, that doesn’t compare to workshopping your answers in real time with a friend or mentor.”
While many of us fear the left-field, curveball questions that companies like Facebook and Google have become known for, Medalia believes it’s the most-asked and expected questions that are the hardest to answer well.
One great example is – What are your strengths and weaknesses?
When we probed for tips on the best way to answer questions like this one, Medalia advocated for honesty, without appearing arrogant or too flawed.
“Be truthful – both to your prospective employer and to yourself. Interviewers aren’t typically trying to trick you. Most likely, they just want to better understand your thought process and get to know you,” says Medalia.
He also shared his own response to this question.
“My strengths are also my weaknesses,” says Medalia. “Why? Because those are the things in my job I focus on most.”
Be strategic about the way you position your work experience or past positions
When conveying how your past experiences will help you in a prospective position, Medalia recommends carefully considering how you frame your previous roles.
“Talk about cause and effect,” says Medalia. “Rather than reeling off your responsibilities to your prospective employer, focus on your accomplishments, and specifically, the effect, value, and significance of those accomplishments. Job titles don’t say anything, it’s what you do in those titles that matter.”
Referring back to one of his daughter’s first experiences looking for a job, Medalia mentions how effectively she positioned the value of her summer-long experience as an Assistant Coach.
She didn’t just list Assistant Coach on her resume,” says Medalia. “She put – responsible for the health and well-being of 300 teenage girls as an assistant coach. It’s not only more specific, it showcases the depth and breadth of her role, as well as the skills needed to be successful in that position.”
Medalia also expresses the importance of matching your story with the corporate culture of the company.
“Find out more about what your prospective employer looks for in new hires, and tailor your responses around these key company values,” says Medalia. “Reach out to someone at the company that’s already in that role and ask for their perspectives on what’s made them successful in their job, as well as the challenges they’ve experienced along the way. As you tell your story, make sure it’s consistent! All of your experiences and attributes should somehow relate back to the story you’re telling.”
About Jim Medalia
I’ve spent the last 40 years conceptualizing, modeling, founding, and building businesses. The businesses have ranged from computer graphic services, online retail, registered private safe deposit bank, a CRM platform, consulting, and corporate board membership. I’ve raised millions of dollars from friends and family, VC’s, and angel investors. I’m an observer and student of both macro and micro business cycles and trends. Today I thoroughly enjoy working with and mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs.
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