Internationally known speaker presents to B&E graduate students

October 28, 2013
Don Asher

“Get comfortable with a high failure rate –about 90%.”

“Being a student is a super power.”

“Posted job openings are fool’s gold.”

“Be like a horde of zombies.”

At face value, these may seem like some pretty outlandish statements. However, in the world of student job searches, they couldn’t be truer – and students were hanging on to these and every other piece of advice Don Asher gave at the MSIR/MBA Practicum Series event where he was a featured speaker October 4th.

Asher’s lecture, titled “Cracking the Hidden Job Market”, was based on one of his 12 books on career development and higher education. Asher’s writing accomplishments include The Overnight Resume (in print for 20 years; used as a text for professional resume writing examinations), Who Gets Promoted, named career management book of the year, and as a contributing writer for the Wall Street Journal’s and He holds a M.A. in human development from Fielding Graduate University, a master of human resources and organization development from the University of San Francisco and a B.A. in philosophy-religion from Reed College.

“Don was a gem that I stumbled upon when going to Career Services meetings,” said Rita Sailer, Director of the B&E Career Development Center, the entity that hosts the practicum series. “The one name that kept coming up over and over again was Don Asher. He’s been here before, and the students always react positively and say it’s one of the best sessions that we do. He speaks on virtually all the top campuses around the country and the world.”

Asher spoke to students about finding job opportunities that many job seekers miss.

“My goal is to change your idea about how the job market works,” he said.

“You get jobs by talking to people. In a database, there are no people,” he said, explaining that when a student forms a link with a company, the link at the other end better be a human, not a computer.

“You need at least 100 leads at all times,” he said. The students seemed startled. “Most people running a job search have 5 or 6 leads. One hundred leads takes discipline. One hundred means you have a good chance of getting (a job). You need enough leads so that you are not afraid of your leads. When you only have 5, each is too precious. One hundred leads also creates enough stuff you can do for 35 hours a week (while you are searching for employment), which is what you need.”

Asher encouraged students to make career decisions soon, and to keep in mind that they can tweak them as they go.

“Recruiters can smell indecision and fear. Looking for clarity and purpose will make people happy to interact with you,” he said. He also stressed the importance of networking with recruiters and professionals now as students.

“Networking is part of the educational process. Everybody loves a student. Career exploration now creates job leads later,” he told the students. “While you’re in grad school, interview (business) people for your papers. They are likely to put you on their schedule. Being a student is a super power.”

He encouraged students to always attend information sessions with companies on campus, even if it’s not a complete bulls-eye.

“You have to apply for all jobs at all times, because (companies) are always recruiting, even if they aren’t recruiting specifically for you,” Asher said, explaining that someone who has submitted an impressive resume will come to mind later on down the road when there is a need in the company. “Between 55 and 80% of folks hired did not respond to a formal posting,” he said, according to his research.

“When managers become unhappy, it’s the beginning of opportunity. Before (the job) is posted, you may have 10 people competing for the position. Once it’s posted, you could have hundreds competing,” Asher said.

He also explained the role of aggression in a job search. He said that in all of his years of experience, he could count on his fingers the number of job seekers who were too aggressive. Almost always, the problem is that folks weren’t aggressive enough.

“Be a horde of zombies,” Asher said. “Come to the front door, the windows, the back door, the back windows, the chimney, the sewer.” This was an illustration to explain the minimum aggression job seekers should employ - 3 emails, a business letter and 1 phone message. This is what it takes to get noticed, he said, as many important businesspeople receive over 300 emails per day.

“The three pillars of b-school,” Asher said, “are academics, connections, and a job search. If you graduate with no job and a 4.0, you didn’t do it right.”

The goal for B&E graduate students is to “do it right.” Thanks to the hard work of B&E’s graduate programs faculty and staff, as well as the Career Development Center, our graduate students will be able to focus on their professional development just like they do their academics, and make the most of this precious window of time where they have student super powers.