Steven Rothberg, Founder of College Recruiter, Shares His Best Career Advice for College Students
As the president and founder of job search site College Recruiter, Steven Rothberg turned his entrepreneurial knowledge into an online platform that believes every student and recent graduate deserves a great career. The College Recruiter site is used by students and recent grads to help find internships, seasonal jobs, part-time work, and entry-level career opportunities from tens of thousands of different employers. We spoke to Rothberg to learn more about what led him to start College Recruiter after college, plus his best tips on how students can stand out, land the best internships, and what he looks for in potential employees.
Q: What inspired you to start College Recruiter?
SR: The idea originally came to me when I was in my senior year in college. I was a business major and enrolled in a small business class that essentially taught us how to write a business plan. Our group wrote one for a friend's small publication business, which made calendars and coupon books that were distributed on-campus. He made money from selling advertising. I came across a campus map with advertising on it at another school, and suggested that he add something similar but better as a new product, however he wasn't interested. I asked if he would mind if I tried it. He was okay with it, and I had a really fun and profitable summer.
I then passed on the microbusiness to a couple of friends, one of whom still runs it, and I went to law school. I was working as a judicial law clerk after graduation when the business bug bit me again. I started up a similar business where I was now living and the business evolved from campus maps with advertising to employment magazines with employment ads and the website CollegeRecruiter.com.
Q: Do you have any tips for students creating their first resume?
SR: A resume is not an alibi. By that, I mean that your resume need not account for everything that you've done every month since you began working. Employers use resumes to determine if they want to interview you. If they're interviewing you for a marketing internship, they don't really care that you delivered newspapers when you were seven. Also, ten years from now, they won't care about your marketing internship. Within about ten seconds, you need to demonstrate to them that you're likely to be qualified for the job.
Do not rely upon them reading between the lines or understanding that the X you did at a previous job was somewhat similar to the Y that the employer wants. Tell them. Use exactly the same language the employer uses in their job posting ad as they're likely going to scan down the resume and make physical or mental check marks by each requirement and preference they have. The easier you can make it for them to see that your educational and work experience lines up with their job description, the more likely it will be that they will interview you.
Q: What’s one quality you look for in a potential employee?
SR: At College Recruiter, when we're hiring employees to work for us, we have an entire checklist of items that we look for. But the biggest differentiator between employees who thrive and those who don't within our work environment is their ability to think critically.
We can teach an employee how to use Salesforce or write compelling, professional emails, but we can't teach them how to look at a situation, realize it doesn't make sense, and come up with some solutions to make it better.
Q: What’s the best way to make the most out of your internship?
SR: Too many students and employers view internships as temporary jobs. Done properly, they're temp-to-perm jobs, meaning that you and the company agree to work together temporarily with the goal that the relationship will become permanent. If you are not hired into a permanent role, the internship has failed.
Q: What can interns do to increase their chances of being hired once the internship is over?
SR: One of the easiest and yet least common ways that interns can greatly increase their chances of being hired into a permanent role upon the completion of their internship is to tell everyone of the decision makers that they want to work for the organization upon graduation. Tell each of them several times weeks or even months before the end of the internship and show them that working for them is what you want. Get them to look at you day after day as more than just an intern but, instead, as a member of their permanent team who just happens to still be in school.
Q: What advice would you give to yourself as a college student?
SR: Don't try to plan out your career more than five years in advance. I graduated when I was barely 22 years old. My competencies, interests, and values at the age of 22 were incredibly different than they were at 27 and then again at 32 years old. You change less as you get older and can plan out further. Trying to figure out at the age of 20 what you want to be doing when you're 50 is just paralyzing.