Steve Gordon: Okay. Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon. And today I’m excited. I’m talking with Beth Hendler-Grunt and she is a little bit different from a lot of our guests. She’s an entrepreneur. She’s got a really interesting business and I think those of you who have children are going to get a ton out of this. Particularly, if you, like I do, have children who are approaching or in college or maybe you’re … or just out. So, I think we’re going to accomplish a lot today. But Beth is … she’s the founder of Next Great Step and she is an advisor and a facilitator who has extensive experience consulting with startups and fortune 500 firms, universities and individuals. And with Next Great Step, her focus is really to guide college students and recent grads to help them achieve career success. And I don’t know, you know how well you know people who are in that stage, but I can tell you with kids of my own, they need a lot of help. So, Beth is here to help us with that. Beth, welcome to the unstoppable CEO. Really excited to talk with you.
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Thanks so much for having me. Excited to be here.
Steve Gordon: So, we gave folks just a little glimpse of who you are. Can you expand a little bit and help everybody understand where you came from, how you got to the stage of your career?
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Sure, absolutely. So, I actually started my career with an internship, I was very lucky when I was in college and it really launched what I guess the first segment of my career has, kind of, there’s three parts to it. So, I started on my career in the high-tech sector working for ATT Lucent technologies and Avaya as a sales leader in different capacities in the company. And that was great. And then after about 15 years I was ready to learn more and make a pivot. So, I actually moved to the consulting world where I worked for a boutique management consulting firm called KappaEast Management Consultants. And we provided guidance to fortune 500 CEOs and their executive teams on strategic planning and sales performance. And that was a fantastic experience because I understood the sales side, but really wanted to learn the strategy. And what came out of that experience was that executives would constantly say to us, we’d talk about hiring.
And they’d say, you know, I’d love to really hire some excited and enthusiastic recent grads, but they just don’t get it. They don’t understand the scope of the problems that we have. And I don’t really have time to hold their hand and guide them. So, I’m just going to hire someone who has more experience. And I’m also of the age like you, I have a son in college and friends and peers would say to me, I don’t understand, my son or daughter went to a great school. They did really well. They did everything that they were supposed to, and they cannot get a job. And this would just continue to go on. And what I decided that actually about four years ago is to go out on my own as an entrepreneur and launched this business that addressed this problem in the marketplace of this disconnect between employer’s expectations and what parents and students think that they are prepared for. And that’s how I launched Next Great Step.
Steve Gordon: Well, I can tell you, and I’m sure you’re finding this as well. It’s a really needed expertise right now. And I’m interested though, you started this business, you’ve been in it about four years, as you’ve built the business. What are some of the things that you’ve run into as roadblocks and more importantly, how have you pushed beyond those?
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Yeah, great question. So, I had not been in an entrepreneurial role. I worked for a big company. I advised other companies, but I had not run my own. So, it was definitely something new and exciting and challenging all at the same time. One of the first things is that, that kind of pushed me forward is that I was testing this idea. So, I left the consulting firm and said, okay, I’m going to try to make a business out of this. And I had to do a lot of validation that this was needed because people would say, well, my kid’s going to have career services. They’re going to help them. And when they go to college, that’s why I’m paying all this money. But yet when I would speak with so many other parents and students saying, I’m not getting the help I need, or maybe I should’ve gotten it sooner and I didn’t reach out and now I realize it’s too late.
So, I think one of the first most important things was that I really believed in what I was doing. The fact that I knew that I think I had a solution to this problem and I would test it over and over again, very early on where I would do advising and consulting for free just to make sure that I was proving out this concept that if I teach you a certain way of how you present yourself, where you can be really focused and confident and how you articulate your values, you actually can get hired. And I was seeing success over and over so that helped push me through. The other thing was just seeking out a lot of resources around me. I’m very lucky just to have good family support. My husband, who runs a business, so he’s kind of my go to.
Actually, one of my college roommates is actually now a colleague in my business and she’s just been a phenomenal source. So just really making sure you surround yourself with people and testing ideas because it’s hard when you’re by yourself, you know, you get in your head and you can make good decisions or have a bad day and feel like what am I doing and why am I doing this? But I think just having a board and I think just the last piece is just being resilient. You know, that whole topic of having grit and just pushing through. And again, I believed in what I was doing. So that’s why I just kept … it kind of pushes me forward. And I think I’m a pretty disciplined person, but it’s hard. It’s hard being an entrepreneur. It’s hard to kind of staying focused cause it’s, you don’t always see the immediate result. Even though you’re putting in a lot of time and a lot of hours.
Steve Gordon: Yeah, I joke normal people wouldn’t do this. They would say, no thank you. No, I’ll pass. So, congratulations on making it through four years of having a successful business and having a growing business. And I’m curious, we always start the show off talking about usually one or two ideas that people use to overcome adversity. I’m interested to find out from your perspective with the young people that you work with, I mean, they’re coming in to a lot of change in their lives, in this period, going out on their own, being responsible. They run into I’m sure all kinds of adversity. For the ones who are successful, what have you observed in them that keeps them pushing through?
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Great question. The ones who are successful are the ones who are willing themselves to persevere. I think one of the challenges that I see in this demographic in the market is that they’re very fragile and whether it’s because of technology or how they were brought up or they’re just seeing what everyone else is doing. So, they just think that everyone else has it figured out. Someone else is doing it better, quicker, faster. Although, I guess don’t we feel that way as entrepreneurs? But you know, young people are just … don’t feel like they have always the thick skin to handle rejection. So, the ones that do well are the ones that are just able to keep going, especially the ones that are not afraid to reach out and talk to people and network and have a conversation and speak to an alumni and speak to someone else.
Because as I tell them, 80% of jobs are gotten by referral. They’re not found online. They’re not by applying to a hundred jobs on Indeed or Glassdoor. It’s because of the relationships that you build with someone who learns about the value that you have and the skills that you can bring. But the ones who are not afraid to pick up the phone, which is such a like old school thing that some of them, they’re so afraid to talk on the phone, not afraid to pick up the phone, not afraid to reach out and ask to meet somebody in person or have a conversation. Those are the ones that are more successful.
Steve Gordon: So, do you feel this is a new challenge or has this been around forever and it’s just sort of getting more awareness now?
Beth Hendler-Grunt: It’s interesting. If you look at the statistics right now that we’re at the lowest, you know, unemployment ever. So most on a logical level it seems like, why should this even be a conversation topic? But what has happened now, I think, it’s even more competitive or the disconnect between what an employer wants and expects versus what a student in Grad thinks they have to offer is wide, is larger than maybe what it was some years ago or where there were more companies who are offering training programs and we’re willing to take you even if you didn’t have it all.
Those training programs are fewer and fewer and more companies want you to come in ready to go or ready to be focused on how to help that business achieve success. A lot of, I think young people are, they’re focused on themselves. You know, they’re focused about, well, how is this job good for me? You know, I teach them, this is actually not about you. It’s actually about how you help someone else be successful. But it’s just maybe a mindset, I think it’s a little bit different. I think it’s always a challenge, but this gap, I feel that is wider now maybe than it was some years ago.
Steve Gordon: Very interesting. I want to take a quick break in our conversation, Beth, and I want to come back in just a second and I really to dive into the work that you’re doing with young people and I want to … I hope you can take us through two perspectives because for the business owners who are listening, who have children who are going through this, they’re going to want to know what does my kid need to do to be successful?
But I’d also like for you to share some of the insights that you’ve gleaned because you clearly understand from the business owner perspective what the expectations can be or should be of hiring new graduates. And I think that’d be really useful for all the business owners who are listening, who are looking at hiring new graduates. There may be some things they can do to attract the right people. So, I’d love to cover those two things when we come back. We’ll be back in just a second.
Well, welcome back everyone. This is Steve Gordon. I’m here talking with Beth Hendler-Grunt and Beth you gave us a really great picture of what it takes to be successful for one of these young people coming out of college right before the break. I’d like to dive a little bit deeper and I’d like to understand how you help them, what it is that you take them through. And I’d also like to look at it from the employer’s perspective. So, for those business owners listening, how can they really work with … work through this recruiting process and attract the right people?
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Sure, sure. Happy to do that. So our focus is working with students who are in college probably from sophomore year on, who are trying to figure out that all important internship, which has become really critical in landing permanent employment, as well as working with soon to be grads and then grads one year or two year, maybe up to five years out at the most on how to get that first job. And even though we are supporting, you know, students and Grads, we talked to dozens and dozens of parents because they are concerned about well how do I help my child? Because many of young people don’t always want to listen to their parents even though they have great advice. So, we talk to both the parents and the students, but ultimately, we work with these students and grads to help them be successful.
And this is how we do it. What we think is different is that we’re really taking the approach, actually the approach that I used in my consulting work that helped businesses to stand out, to have a clear strategy to differentiate themselves in the market. What I’ve done is I’ve applied that to young people in a really simple, structured way. So they understand step by step how to do it. So the overarching thing is we help them get focused on what is it that you actually want to do with the rest of your life. A lot of times they still come out of school and not sure how to apply their majors. So we work with them on narrowing that down and then we help them to feel really confident that they have a strategy of knowing exactly who are they going to target, what companies do they want to work at, what are they going to say about themselves that really adds value and explains to someone in a concise way so someone understands what they could do for them and ultimately teaching them how to execute.
So, every single time you write a letter, or you have coffee with someone, or you go for an interview, that you actually have a plan of what you want the outcome to be. And we teach them kind of a way of how you get there. So, in essence, we’re teaching them how to sell themselves using a lot of sales techniques that I had from years ago. And just how do you convince somebody that, you know, to take a chance on you because you’re the product that you want to sell in essence, but also how you can add value and help that person achieve their goals. So, kind of taking a more of a business take versus a pure, you know, let me fix your resume. The resume is just one piece of the whole puzzle and we look at that along with, you know, how to use LinkedIn and how to network. It’s just how do you verbalize the value you can bring and make yourself stand out.
Steve Gordon: Before the break, you talked about the fact that some of the more successful students that you work with are not afraid to pick up the phone, to contact people to network. How important is who you know in this whole process and how do you take, you know, I know how our kids are. I think they’re all definitely afraid of using the telephone feature on their smart phone. How do you take kids who aren’t used to that and really get them comfortable with it?
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Yeah, we do that by actually starting out kind of with themselves. And probably the number one reason why I think students and grads are afraid to speak on the phone because they don’t know what to say. They’re afraid that they’re going to be asked a question and not know how to answer it. So, we actually start with this concept, I call it core skills and everyone has them. We all have these lists of skills. It’s just how do you narrow down the ones that you’re the most competent and the most skilled at and you enjoy doing the most. So, if we were to work with a young person, let’s say their core skills are that they’re really great at analytics, they know how to research and they’re great at writing. And the only way you can say that is if you have actual experience that backs it up, whether it’s in the classroom, a project, a part time job.
And we help them with these stories in essence. So, we help them get comfortable talking about themselves. So, if someone said to them, tell me about yourself, you’d like, sure, you know what, I have great writing ability. For example, I just wrote on my student newspaper, I did some research for a professor and I’m really good at analyzing concepts, but at least you know, that kind of short blurb for them to be able to talk about themselves. I think that’s the first piece of knowing what you’re going to say. Then in terms of the who you know, I have to comment, you know, so as parents, and I’ll speak for myself too, my son’s a sophomore in college, you know, our first thought is, well, let me see who do I know in my network and I’ll introduce my kids to them. And what tends to happen is that sometimes we make these introductions and they’re not ready, they’re not ready to talk about themselves.
So, then they kind of like blow it because now the person who might have been one of our friends was an influential position and they’re like, well, I’m not sure I’m going to take my chance on them because this is business and I could potentially jeopardize my job or money if I hired my friend’s kid. So I think, well, you know, the other piece that we teach them is yes, it’s good to use connections as much as you can, but you need to make your own connections because maybe the person that mom or dad introduces you to is not someone who’s in the industry that you want to be in.
So, I really teach them how to use networking within their own alumni, which, who doesn’t want to talk to another fellow alumni who went to the same school. So, I teach them how to have those conversations, how to find something that you have in common with another person who might have the job that you want. And it makes them more likely to want to speak with you. So, we get them focused on themselves. Get their story straight and then teach them techniques about reaching out to people where they have commonalities. It makes it easier.
Steve Gordon: Yeah, I love that idea. And I’m thinking back to my first business, we did a lot of recruiting at my Alma Mater, the University of Florida, and you have this immediate bond with someone because the traditions are the same, in our case we’re in the south, so football is the king during the fall. And so there was always something like that to talk about it. I’ll never forget one kid that I interviewed, we didn’t end up hiring him, but came close and it turned out he found another opportunity that was actually probably better fit for him, but there was this iconic place in Gainesville called Burrito Brothers and made these burritos, well he went and got a box of those and had them freeze dried and shipped to us. We were in another city where our company was. And in that little bit of understanding allowed him to do that. In other words, he kind of knew what the move was. And if he was interviewing with other alumni, I’m sure he sent that out to many of them. But little things like that, so you’re not dealing with a complete stranger. I love that idea. To me that makes this whole process instantly accessible to a student who might otherwise be intimidated to talk with someone in business.
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Yeah, absolutely. And there’s a tool inside of LinkedIn. It’s free. You don’t have to pay for it. Every university has what I call this alumni, the LinkedIn alumni, it’s where every university across the country has a LinkedIn page. And if you go to that page, you can click a button that says see alumni and then you can filter by anything you want by the major that person had, what year they graduated, what city they’re in. It’s like a phenomenal searching tool to find people that have all these same things in common as you. Most students and parents don’t know exists, so we teach them how to just make use of tools like LinkedIn and like that of how to search for people in a way that makes it real easy.
Steve Gordon: So, I know the question that’s on the mind of every parent who’s listening right now is, okay, I’ve got a kid who’s either just out of college or maybe more than just out of college, still sleeping on the couch, how long are they going to be here? What’s your advice to parents who are worried about the fact that it used to be when we sent a kid off to college and they graduated, it was an export to the world. Seems like we’re importing them back now. How do you get them to even stay out and stay sustainable and build a life on their own?
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Yeah, it’s an issue. There was just recently in the news a few months ago, a parent that I think went to court to have their son leave their house to not be on their payroll anymore. It’s challenging. It’s challenging. I think a couple things, the first thing is to help your child understand what is it that you’re trying to go for. You know, kind of even going back to those core skills, just help them understand what is it, what are those talents that you had that you think you want to promote and focus on? And sometimes it does not exactly correlate with their major in college. So that could be a hard pill to swallow after spending a certain amount of money and investment. But sometimes you just have to understand what is it that you think you’re really good at. And maybe just helping them frame their stories.
And then the other part is just understanding, well then how do you then go about it? What can you even just having them practice talk about themselves, some of that is just getting over the fear of what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it. As I said before, making introductions is great, but making sure that they are prepared. And the other thing to consider too is, you know, mental health is a real issue. I have so many parents who say to me, I can’t tell whether my child is depressed because they’re not back at school. Are they getting depressed because this is just really hard and there’s so much pressure, there’s so much pressure to feel that you have to be just as good as, or not as better than other people. So, you always just want to take that temperature as to do we feel that they need additional mental health support.
But if you think everything’s all just kind of, they’re just struggling, I think giving them a chance to test things out, I would definitely ask them about what they’re doing. You know, there’s lots of students will say, well, I’m spending hours of this every day. Well, what exactly is it? Because applying to jobs online solely every single day, day in and day out, and if you haven’t found something, it probably won’t find you something in the next few weeks or months. Something has to change. And encouraging them to talk with people, even whether they connect back with a professor or seek additional resources. Sometimes there needs to be that buffer. I find it just such a challenging stage in life where whether it’s a family friend or whether you seek outside counsel, just maybe even giving them resources to utilize to make sure that their voice can be heard, and they can talk about what they’re really thinking about.
Steve Gordon: I’ll tell you, I’m just thinking through all this, we’ve all been through it. If we’re past that stage now, we’ve all been through it and things have changed very dramatically. And so I think this is all really fantastic insight for folks. I’d like to talk a little bit about from a business perspective. So, businesses right now, we’re at an all-time low of unemployment.
The business owners that I talk to are now complaining more and more loudly that they can’t find the type of talent that they need. And you know, one of the things that I tend to advise people is well, you need to go back, and you need to find new graduates. In my first business we grew the company on nothing but new graduates. Because they had the right skillsets, they had the right understanding of the new technologies that were affecting that industry at the time. And so they were really essential to it. And so I’m a big believer in that. So as a business owner, what can a business owner do to position themselves to find the top talent that’s coming out of these schools, because there are smart kids coming out.
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Super Smart. I mean, I have so many STEM people studying engineering and math. Absolutely. There’s great talent to pull upon. I think a few things that employers can do. I think a combination of, you know, employers are sometimes missing out on hiring qualified candidates because part of the grads fault, the grads can’t talk about articulating their stories. So that onus is us, myself as a … you know, all of us as parents and career coaches to say, let’s help our young people get their story out. So that’s kind of something that we have to figure out.
But the other thing is that a lot of business owners do put their ads on online job boards. And here’s the challenge, and I know it’s with the intentional to save money, but so many grads are not going to get picked up. You’re not going to find them when you post a job online because there’s no way that they’re going to have enough keywords in their resume that will ever get high enough in the rankings and get pulled out. So yes, it’s harder for a business owner to find grads because they’re not going to necessarily get pulled up. But you know, giving them potential or finding fr-, you know, reaching out to other people or going to universities and seeking them out I think will help, you know, get you exposure to more students there.
They’re hungry, they want to work, they want the jobs. But sometimes business owners have to step away from the technology a little bit. The way I tell students and grads to step away from the technology, it’s not always solving all the problems. And the last thing is about the role of internships. I think the more employers can give opportunities for students to have interns and internship opportunities is so helpful. First of all, it’s very low risk for an employer. You’re not paying someone a lot of money. You’re basically, sometimes kids are going to do it for free or low cost and it’s eight to 10 weeks of the summer where you get to test somebody out.
Candidly, they really need the experience and exposure to be in a real business environment. And if an employer’s able to find an intern from this experience, boy doesn’t that just save you so much time and effort that you now have someone you can groom the way you want and train the way you want. And now you were able to test them out for about two months to see whether you like them or not. So, I think the more businesses could also offer intern experiences beyond filing papers and getting coffee, like something really giving them exposure to the work that’s being done. I think that would really help a lot of students as well. I mean, a lot of companies are requiring internships to get a job, but if you don’t offer it, you want to make sure you reciprocate.
Steve Gordon: Well. I think that’s incredible advice. And over the years, that’s something we’ve always done. And what I found is that it really eliminates the risk in hiring, not maybe 100%, but it probably knocks off 80% of the risk in hiring right off the bat. Because the things that you can’t teach, you can teach most intelligent people, you can teach them virtually any skill in your business. But the things that you can’t teach, the sort of ways of thinking, the ways of problem solving, the attitude, do I show up whether I’m having a good day or a bad day and in a good mood and ready to go to work, those sorts of things, you’ll know really quickly in the internship, whether or not that person has it without having to invest in the full hiring and interview process, which is expensive and can be time consuming.
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Yeah, absolutely.
Steve Gordon: Well. So, Beth, I know that there are people who are sitting here thinking, I’ve got a child who needs this. So, what should they do next? If they’re looking for more help, where can they find out more about you?
Beth Hendler-Grunt: Sure. So, they could find out more about me and my company at nextgreatstep.com and at the top of the page or it’s actually a free offer for … we offer LinkedIn for College Students, a free video course, you can download it. We offered it for free because we think it’s so important that everyone understand how to use the basics of LinkedIn and how to network on it, especially as a student. I also teach about that LinkedIn alumni tool. So I encourage you to, to grab that. But we are on all social media channels, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. So follow us anywhere along those channels and we record a lot of videos and do monthly blogs. But the website is your best source and if you’re interested, there’s a way to contact us there. But I welcome the opportunity to speak to parents, students, separately and together. It’s usually a joint decision about who needs help and how, but if you feel that you have a grad that’s been struggling or doesn’t really know what to do anymore or won’t listen to you, but you know they need help, then we’re happy to support you.
Steve Gordon: Awesome. Well, check out NextGreatStep.com. We will link that up in the show notes. So, if you’re driving and can’t write that down, you can always go to UnstoppableCEO.net from any of the emails that you receive from us and you can find it in the show notes there. Beth, thank you so much for investing some time with me today. This is an important topic and I really appreciate what you shared.
Beth Hendler-Grunt: My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.