8 Questions with Don Raskin

There is nothing more important than focus. Having focus gives you an opportunity to tackle tasks at hand while on your path to success. Focus is perhaps no more important than for recent college graduates/college students who are attempting to find their way in the professional world.

My friend Don Raskin recently wrote a book called The Dirty Little Secrets of Getting Your Dream Job. As we get closer to the Spring, and more people graduating and getting ready for interviews, this is a must-read. In the book he draws on his extensive experience evaluating applicants for his marketing agency to help give you the necessary tools for navigating the tough job market and secure your dream job.

Let me brief interview with Don serve as an introduction to this valuable tool.


Brandon Steiner: Who is this book for and why did you write this book?
Don Raskin: I wrote this book for recent college graduates and college students, particularly juniors and seniors who are preparing to search for their first job. In addition, parents of recent college graduates or graduating seniors can refer this book to their children to help them prepare for the job search process. As an owner of an advertising and marketing agency, I get to interview many new college graduates for entry-level positions. I wanted to write a book from the perspective of the employer, relate stories from many of the students I have met in the past and offer up all the dirty little secrets you must know in order to market your job candidacy and land your dream job.

BS: What are the two keys to owning the interview?
DR: The first is confidence. I place a premium on confidence in a prospective employee. From the moment you walk into the room and introduce yourself, to the moment you leave, you must be confident in your approach. That is the first signal to an employer that you have leadership potential and when combined with smarts and passion, you are someone any company will want to invest in.

The second is preparation. You must do extensive homework on the company and people you will be interviewing with and you also must prepare to answer questions that will be asked of you. My best secret for the homework part of preparing for an interview is to write down five key things you learn about the company or person you are interviewing with. Then, just at the right time during the interview, serve up that key piece of information. Your interviewer will make a mental note that you came prepared and are taking the interview seriously. In terms of answering questions that will come your way, do it before the interview and do it out loud. You need to get used to hearing your voice and you need to polish your delivery.

BS: Can someone who is not a college graduate and is more experienced in the workplace, but looking to make a change, still get their dream job?
DR: I dont care if you are twenty-two or fifty-two, your dream job is out there. If you dont believe that you are in your dream job at the present time, start a search. Start by writing down what constitutes your dream job. Then assess your qualifications and skills and make sure you are a viable candidate for that job. If you are unsure, seek the advice of a career counselor. Then, go find a recruiter that specializes in what you want to do. Work with that person until you land your dream job.

BS: A great resume does ____________.

DR: A great job of telling your story in a smart, sequential way. I see a lot of graphically designed resumes that force me to wind my way through and work hard to understand a candidates background and qualifications. Dont make me work so hard, especially if you have a great story to tell. Be succinct, be relevant and be smart.

BS: What three pieces of advice would you give to a graduating high school student about the things they should focus on during their college experience?
1) Keep your grades up throughout your college career. Your GPA is an indicator of your college success when you graduate, and if you are an academic star, companies will be interested in meeting with you.

2) Major in something you love, but be certain that it will lead to a job once you graduate. Experiment with different courses early in your college career, but then narrow down to a major that will land you a job. There are so many emerging fields out there today, including in my own industry. Learn about each and every one of them during college and see if you can picture yourself in that type of industry. If you can, you most likely have figured out what you want to do once you graduate.

3) Get two relevant internships during college, and time them for the end of your sophomore and junior years.You want to have work experience in the field you want to get into, both for your sake and a potential employers sake. For your sake, relevant internships will help confirm that yes, this is the field you want to get into. For an employers sake, it will show that even though you are at the entry-level, you will be bringing relevant work experience into your first job.

BS: How did you overcome your greatest challenge in your initial job search years ago?
DR: When I graduated from Syracuse University with my MBA in marketing, the job market was my greatest challenge because it was a tough market. I felt that the most important thing I could do at that time was to be seen first. I viewed my search as a game of musical chairs- lots of people playing, not a lot of chairs. So, I felt that if I could be seen first, I had a bette r shot at getting a job. I felt so strongly about this that I graduated six months early because I knew the December class would have fewer students to compete with for jobs. That strategy paid off for me as Unilever was looking for an entry-level assistant brand manager in January of my class year and I was able to land my dream job.

BS: If you had to pick just one, what is the most important Dirty Little Secret to getting your dream job?
DR: I tell the people who work for me that if you are doing what is expected of you, you arent doing enough. Why? Because anybody can do what is expected of them. But if you want to be great, you need to do more than what is expected of you. I recently interviewed a young woman for a job with my agency. She told me in the interview that she got on a train and rode 45 minutes to check out one of our clients businesses. She wanted to experience it first hand, so that we could have a more meaningful interview. So, for me the most important Dirty Little Secret is going above and beyond like this candidate did because that tells me the type of employee you are most likely going to be.

BS: How do you define success?
DR: Waking up every day and looking forward to going to work.

BS: Thank you, Don.

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