Ashutosh Jha, an Information Management graduate student at the iSchool, stressed about finding a job after graduation. He had been applying to job postings on LinkedIn and wasn’t hearing back from employers. After months of automated rejection letters, Jha knew he needed to do something different to land a job.

“As a student who is graduating in May, I was looking for full-time offers, and being an international student, I had no exposure to how the job market worked in the States,” shares Jha.

That’s when Jha decided to attend the iSchool’s TechConnect program. The two-week virtual program brought together more than 50 Syracuse students and 60 alumni representing the leading names in technology and e-commerce such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. Students like Jha took part in sessions designed to prepare them for successful job hunting. Sessions covered everything from resume building to networking and interviewing skills.

“At the end of every session we had a Q&A with different teams who come from different companies, and they shared their own stories about how they found their jobs coming out of school,” explains Jha. “I would say one thing that was common for everyone; everyone did networking. I was able to identify, ‘Okay, this is how I’m supposed to find a job. I need to network,’” says Jha.

Not only did Jha learn the importance of networking, but he also realized the importance of finding a company to fit his needs. In the past, Jha applied to any company with an open job role that matched the type of job he wanted. After TechConnect, he realized job hunting is more than finding a role, it’s about finding a company that matches your values and will help you grow. Jha says he has become more curious about a company’s culture to ensure he’s applying to places that align with his goals and work style. 

“I had no idea what to look [at, whether] this is a work culture that suits me or not,” says Jha. “Culture is one of the important factors. If it’s favorable to your workplace or to your personal growth, then it’s beneficial.”

Like Jha, Katherine Buddenhagen, a junior minoring in Information Management and Technology, felt nervous entering the job market after graduation. Specifically, Buddenhagen wanted advice for standing out in the initial application process.

“When you’re submitting your resume through an online HR platform, getting past that initial screening process is something that’s been pretty frustrating,” says Buddenhagen. “During TechConnect, we got to talk about resume building and how to tailor your resume toward a job description, like putting in more quantitative pieces for what you’ve done.”

Beyond learning tactical skills to improve her job search, Buddenhagen also gained valuable insights into entering a workforce that’s been rapidly changing. “We as students have a really unique experience right now being in college during the pandemic, but there’s also a really unique experience going on in the corporate professional world,” says Buddenhagen. “I was really interested to hear from alumni who are currently working in tech specifically, how their jobs have changed and where they think things are going. I was a little bit nervous it was going to be a lot of Doomsday talk, but alumni ended up being really helpful and encouraging.”

While the sessions at TechConnect built confidence in students such as Jha and Buddenhagen, Darren Orzechowski, Senior Director of Marketing at Red Hat, points out many iSchool students already possess the essential skills needed to succeed in their future careers. 

“We’re growing very rapidly. We’re looking for a lot of the skill sets that the iSchool students have,” says Orzechowski. “I think the biggest ability iSchool grads show is the ability to be able to bridge the gap between business requirements and technology. It takes a unique person to translate, ‘What are the goals of the business?’ and ‘What technology do I need to be able to meet those goals?’ and ‘How do I adapt that technology for the business?’ That’s what I think is a very unique skill set of the iSchool students.”

As Orzechowski points out, students at the iSchool receive a unique education that teaches the technical side of technology while also developing soft skills like critical thinking. As an iSchool alum, Alana Smith, Senior Product Manager of Video and Imaging at LinkedIn, encourages students to take advantage of the resources and classes available at the iSchool. Smith points out that many of the courses offered through the iSchool can help students find a balance between the hard skills, soft skills, and management skills needed to succeed in the workforce. 

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I took a management operations course and I was like, ‘Oh, this is very academic. I’m not learning about hard technology,’” says Smith. “But once you’re in the workforce, organizational behavior is actually something that you live in every day. I think my advice on courses is even if at the moment it might not seem super relevant, there is a good chance it’s going to be really relevant when you’re out of school.” 

The nerves around finding work after graduation are natural, but after attending sessions from industry leaders such as Orzechowski and Smith, students like Jha and Buddenhagen say they feel more confident in their job search. They learned the importance of networking, finding a company culture fit, the opportunities of a post-pandemic workforce, and the importance of every class they’ll take up to graduation.