Richard Branson’s Advice for Recent Grads

Richard Branson Founder of the Virgin Group, The Virgin Group

Richard Branson occasionally answers readers’ questions in his column. This week he writes about founding Student magazine and finding your career path.

Do you have a question for Branson? If so, send yours to and it might be the inspiration for a future column. Please include your name and country.

Q: I feel like I am the only one of my classmates who doesn’t have a post-college plan. How did you figure out what you wanted to do as a career?
— Trevor, United States

A: In 1967, when I quit high school at age 17, I knew what my next project would be: founding Student magazine. But I did not know what I wanted to do in the long term.

The headmaster’s parting words to me were, “Congratulations, Branson. I predict that you will either go to prison or become a millionaire.” I am still not sure whether that could be classed as career advice or not, but it did give me the impetus to prove him wrong on the first point.

When I set up Student magazine, I wanted to work as a journalist. However, we needed to keep the magazine afloat financially, and soon I had to stop reporting and focus on production and financing instead. I stayed involved in the editorial side by landing some of our most important interviews, but for the most part, during Student’s early days I honed my skills at business, negotiating and management—all of which would later prove useful as we built the Virgin Group.

I did not feel confident about my business skills, but I did take up the challenge without hesitation. I made that leap probably because my family instilled in me from an early age a sense of adventure that has served me well. My mother was determined that my sisters and I would become very independent, self-reliant people. She was constantly encouraging us to try new things—always sending us off alone on marathon bike rides and long hikes.

Until that point, my personal challenges had always been practical. At school, I had struggled with dyslexia and myopia, and the education system at that time did not recognize learning problems or provide help. So instead of studying, I spent my days dreaming up business plans. During school holidays, I had attempted brief ventures like growing Christmas trees and breeding small Australian parrots.

I was also willing to take on the business manager role at Student because I cared deeply about the venture. My friends and I did not start up the magazine in hopes of making money. My early ventures had taught me that money was only a tool for getting a business going, and that the real reward was doing something fun, creative and positive. I felt that most media organizations were not concerned about young people and did not look to their interests, and I wanted to make a difference.

Three years later, as we started up our record stores, I had the same concerns. I felt that many companies were taking advantage of young people by charging high prices while distancing themselves from those customers. So we sold records at discounted prices and we tried to make our customers happy and comfortable, rather than pushing them to make their purchases and get out of the store as quickly as possible. We explained what we were doing to anyone who asked.

At that time, our business model of offering better value at low prices, welcoming customers and communicating with them frankly was so unusual that it was nearly revolutionary. After Virgin Music and Virgin Records did so well, my ambitions broadened and I began to dream about setting up similarly fresh, fun, competitive ventures in other industries. Our group soon took on many diverse industries, reimagining everything from nightclubs to airlines to mobile phones, all intended for people who embraced our youthful spirit. We worked hard, partied even harder, had fun and made a positive change.
Looking back, my team and I were not interested in pursuing particular careers or succeeding in certain industries. We wanted to make a positive difference in our customers’ lives. We discovered our talents and built our careers while pursuing that goal. I’m proud of where Virgin is today, but I’m even more proud of the journey we took to get here. It was one of discovery and positive action.

Today, you and many other young people face the problem of choosing which career path to pursue in a changing world, where the traditional models of business and government are in flux. The rise of the Internet is still constantly opening up new opportunities, and where the West once dominated global markets, a new order is taking shape with the emergence of China, India and Brazil. These changes mean a lot of uncertainty.

Rather than try to position yourself for this changing future, use your remaining years at college to assess where your true interests and passions lie, and to look for opportunities to further develop your knowledge and talents. If you love music but can’t carry a tune, use your knowledge of music to promote your favorite band or bring them to your city for a concert.

Read the rest of the AMEX Open Forum article

A Winning Job Search Strategy

By Peter Vogt, Monster Senior Contributing Writer

You’ve posted your resume online and are submitting resumes and cover letters for all the job openings that seem to fit you.
Is there anything else you can do to look for a job? Absolutely! In fact, the more diverse your job-hunting strategy, the more effective it’s likely to be.
Here are eight tactics you can use to track down job opportunities:

Contact Professional Organizations in Your Field
National, regional and local professional organizations exist in great part to help their members with career development. Many organizations include field-specific job listings on their Web sites or in their printed publications.

Visit Company and Organization Web Sites
Many companies and organizations post their job openings right on their own Web sites (usually under an Employment or Career Opportunities link).

Apply Directly to Organizations That Interest You
Do you know you want to work specifically for Company X or Organization Y? If so, send a well-written cover letter and your resume directly to the company, either to its human resources office or, often more effective, to the person who would likely make hiring decisions for the part of the organization that interests you. It isn’t always easy to find the right person to get in touch with; typically, you’ll have to do some digging.

Network, Network, Network
Generally the most effective job-hunting approach, networking is simply talking to people to either track down helpful personal contacts or learn about job openings that may not necessarily be widely advertised or advertised at all. Start by talking to your own family, friends and acquaintances. Let everyone in your life know you’re looking for a job, and give them an idea of what type of job you want.

Join Professional Associations
If there’s a professional organization in your field, join it and start participating in its meetings and other events so you can get to know people in your area of interest. Work with a career counselor at your school to both tap his contacts and learn of alumni from your school who might be able and willing to lend you a hand in your search. Finally, don’t forget to tap your professors’ connections as well.

Participate in Job Fairs
Many cities, particularly large ones, host job fairs at various locations throughout the year. Most colleges and universities hold their own job fairs as well, either individually or in collaboration with other institutions. A job fair is a rare opportunity to have employers come to you, so make sure you attend whenever possible.

More Tips and Complete Monster Article

50 Job Search Tips That Work

by: Chad Bauer

It’s a tough job market out there.

It’s not uncommon for hundreds of resumes to flood a company for just one position. This means that it’s a buyer’s market for employers and you’ll need to bring your A-Game to stand out from the crowd.

Every day we work with employers and recruiters to find and hire serious job seekers. One advantage for you is that we’ve been able to compile the best tips from top companies and recruiters.

Here are 50 of the top job search tips and strategies that we’ve uncovered –


1. Do Your Homework: Always research the organization prior to interviewing. Knowing some of the company’s successes and accolades, such as awards and charitable actions, shows that you have done your homework.

2. Have a Focused Plan: Create a list of companies that you will systematically contact. Prioritize companies that are a close match to your experience and skills.

3. Schedule Networking: Treat networking like a job. Fill your calendar with events and follow-up regularly.

4. Arrive 10 Minutes Before the Interview: Arriving early relieves the stress of possibly being late and demonstrates that you are responsible and dependable.

5. Professional Email: Don’t use your “party email” for follow-up. Get an email address that is simple and professional.

6. Get Business Cards: Make a point of asking for your contact’s business card. This will ensure that you have correct titles and spelling for follow-up.

7. Stay Updated: Set up Google Alerts for each of your top employment prospects. Review the latest news before your interview.

8. Practice Your Writing Skills: All professional positions require excellent writing skills. Take the time to upgrade yours.

Tips 9 – 50 and Complete Article

Four Job Search Rules You’re Better Off Breaking

By Beth Braccio Hering, Special to CareerBuilder
Follow the rules and you are bound to get rewarded, right? Not necessarily. Here, experts offer their take on some traditional advice that might not always be in a job seeker’s best interest:

  1. “Do not be too obvious that you are trying to find a job.”

While one need not hang a “Hire me!” sign around his neck, valuable networking opportunities can be wasted if a job seeker is overly apprehensive about displaying interest in employment.

“I do think this rule has been dispelled in our down economy where the job search stigma has been eliminated, though some folks are still afraid to advertise their status,” says Christine Bolzan, founder of Graduate Career Coaching — a custom-counseling service for college students and new graduates. “Just yesterday, I was speaking to a father of a current college senior and suggesting to him that he leverage his own network to help his son’s search. His response was, ‘Oh, no. His mother and I have not told anyone that he does not have a job.’ There was a perception that this is an embarrassment or a failure of sorts, which is completely wrong on both accounts.”

2. “Provide salary information if the job ad asks for it.”

“So many job seekers are under the impression that you show that you can’t ‘follow rules’ if an ad asks you to state your salary history/expectations and you respond without it,” states Darrell Gurney, founder of and author of “Backdoor Job Search: Never Apply for a Job Again!” “If you are close enough to the specs, chances are you’ll hear back even if you didn’t include it. That’s what you want, so you can at least begin to deal with a real person rather than set yourself up to be eliminated with no contact whatsoever.”

If the lack of a figure comes up when contacted, Gurney suggests a response such as, “Oh, I’m sorry. I’d be happy to provide you with copies of W-2s at an appropriate time. Perhaps we can see if there’s some initial alignment on what you’re looking for first? Can you tell me more about the role?”

3. “Let the employer run the interview.”

“Going in and being a ‘good’ interviewee is not in your best interests, though (of course) amiability and friendliness are critical,” Gurney notes. “Think of it like you were brought in to consult. Going in with questions and interests that you want to have addressed, including a real interest in the interviewer, can go a long way to setting yourself apart from the masses.”

David Couper, a career coach and author of “Outsiders on the Inside: How to Create a Winning Career … Even When You Don’t Fit In,” adds, “The more you know, the better. Some job hunters think it is OK not to do research because the employer will explain to them about the company. The problem with that approach is that all the information is one-sided. It is what the company wants you to hear, not what the market, customers or employees are saying.”

Rule # 4, More Advice and Complete Article

Beth Braccio Hering researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues for Follow @CareerBuilder on Twitter.

Is the New Career a Perpetual Job Search?

If you’ve been working for more than five or ten years, you likely expect your career to bring stability, company loyalty, and the possibility of upward progression.

Yet in many professions, that’s no longer the standard. At a recent board meeting, two executives echoed this idea. Their words: “There’s no such thing as a career anymore,” and “The traditional career is a thing of the past.”

Any move away from our long-time employment model, where employees stick with one company for their entire career, will take time. It’s affected by the actions of employers, mainly big companies, and politicians who decide what financial protections—like social security—we’ll rely on in the future.
But if trends continue, we’re heading toward a work economy that requires workers to be far more adaptable. It requires us to always be looking, to remain in a state of perpetual job search.

This future work style is less like a traditional career and more like running your own small business. So what new habits do we need to establish to survive?

Instead of revving up the job-search engine every five to ten years, simply leave the motor running. This doesn’t mean you plan to fail (get fired, laid off, etc.), but you set yourself up to succeed in a more interrupted work life. In fact, you may find yourself working for more than one company at the same time, which can be both intriguing and frightening.

To succeed in this new environment, consider developing the following new habits:
Establish and maintain a strong social network. No longer can you find a job and quickly crawl under a rock. You have to stay out there. So let’s figure out a way to enjoy it. Find groups that stir your passions, people that intrigue you, and groups that support your longer-term work objectives. Social networking is not work if you do it right. But you have to keep working on it to see the benefits.

Create a unique personal brand and manage its evolution. What’s your brand promise? What shows your difference from others seeking similar work in your community? As your life moves along, complete annual audits to be sure you still like what you do. Make sure you have the training, certifications, and education to solve the needs of your current company, companies, or clients.

Become comfortable with change. While more permanent jobs are not likely going away, more and more jobs will offer flexible hours, alternate commutes, and contract or short-term employment windows. So you’ll need to have your proverbial bags packed at all times. Instead of hiring movers to get you moved out of an office, you’ll fit it all in your backpack. And you’ll likely become less attached to people as co-workers and more attached to them as new friends (if you get along). They’ll become part of your longer-term network.

Become your own personal benefits administrator. Instead of walking down the hall to ask for clarification on your medical benefits, you may have to answer some questions on your own. While this new economy will likely bring rise to a new sub-industry of health-care support systems, you will need to become well versed in your own benefit plan and know how to use it wisely.

More Advice And Complete USNews Article

Recruiters Say Job Boards Are Here to Stay

Dan Schawbel

My last Forbes article created quite a stir in the recruitment world and a lot of recruiters left comments and posted their own articles to dispute it. I wrote about how job boards and resumes are no longer useful and how LinkedIn will put them both out of business. Recruiters, on the other hand, believe that job boards are here to stay. In order to get their side of the story, I reached out to two of them who could provide more information and research on the topic.

Chris Russell, a ten year veteran of the online job board industry, is the founder of James Durbin, with twelve years of experience as a recruiter, is the founder of

Why are job boards still important/relevant?

Chris Russell: Because employers still rely on them greatly, especially for small business which typically practices reactive recruiting. When they have a need, they post a job. Plus job boards are good at driving lots of eyeballs to a job listing whether it’s for a certain industry or location. That’s why niche and local sites will always be around.
James Durbin: They are faster signals to the market.  Searching LinkedIn takes time, and only works in targeted searches.  Major job boards tell you who is available, right this second.  Those resumes are a signal from the job seeker, and create good churn in employment markets, since it forces companies to move quickly if they don’t want to lose available candidates. 

How does LinkedIn fit in the job search/recruitment equation?
Chris Russell: From what I hear from the recruiters I talk to it’s used primarily as a sourcing tool, not as a job board.
James Durbin: A fantastic, updated database that in varying degrees, showcases bright and active talents.  The apply button sounds good, but from a technical standpoint, it’s no different than “apply online,” which causes huge amounts of resume spam from candidates not willing to read the job before sending the resume.  LinkedIn is a different kind of database, with different strengths, that has more user data and interaction.  A powerful tool, but still only a portion of the process.

Do you have any research on people getting hired through job boards versus other means?
Chris Russell: I have some testimonials but I’ll also point to Gerry Crispins recent sources of hire study that says 27% of hires are made through job boards. For many of my clients, my job boards are their only source of hire.
James Durbin: Gerry Crispin is the one to go to for this –but be careful – comments like “referrals are our biggest source” doesn’t cover modern social media or employer branding and there’s a limit.  Few companies can ramp up their referral hiring more than it already is.  Folks have been trying that for years. The well goes dry too quickly, and most people overvalue their ability to judge their friends.  

What are companies investing in more, social networks or job boards and why?
To find out the answer read the rest of the Forbes Article