A key problem for many college graduates today is getting hired.
Landing a job is a tough gig in general. On top of being generally qualified, there are plenty of skills to master when job searching such as building a resume, interviewing effectively, learning brand new skills for certain jobs, and networking – to name a few.
Aiming to solve any employment issues, Pathrise offers a career-accelerator program that helps recent graduates or professionals find work in tech. The eight-week program teaches many of the skills just mentioned, increasing your chances of finding work.
Kevin Wu, CEO and Co-Founder of Pathrise, offered some of his time to answer questions about Pathrise, its career-accelerator program, getting hired, the job market today, and more. Check it out to learn more about how Pathrise helps you get employed and working.
In this Q&A:
- Pathrise Beginnings
- How Pathrise Gets You Hired
- Looking at the Hiring Environment Today
- Discussing Student Loan Debt
- Moving Forward
Q: Where did you get the initial inspiration for starting Pathrise?
A: Together with my co-founder, Derrick, we have over a decade of combined experience in building products for education and university students. We started Pathrise because we just wanted to help students find better jobs. Once we saw how much we could impact their job search by applying a tactical and practical mindset to it, we realized that the job search was really just a funnel optimization problem that was in serious need of help.
As we began further developing our curriculum and taking on more students, we then realized that Pathrise was, in particular, impactful for students that felt marginalized in some way, whether they are students from underrepresented communities in tech, immigrants, parents returning to the workforce, or more.
For these types of people, Pathrise was not only a new and systematic way of optimizing value in their job search, but also a way to make up for decades of environmental advantages and privilege that they missed out on.
Q: How did your previous experience prepare you to start Pathrise?
A: I have experience working both in large, tech spaces (Salesforce and Yelp) and small startups, specifically in the education space. In fact, I was the first employee of a different Y Combinator-backed education startup. I also led a nonprofit while at Berkeley that connected software engineering students with other nonprofits to do web and app development pro bono. My background is in engineering and product, so I have a good sense of tech pipeline.
Q: What are some key challenges to growing a startup in the career accelerator space? What was the most challenging aspect?
A: The most challenging aspect of growing a startup in the career accelerator space, especially initially, was fighting the industry perception of career coaching. The problem we were solving had gotten so bad that basically nobody believed that you could actually approach career coaching in a systematic way and give good, practical advice and tactics to help people with it.
In everybody’s minds, career coaching was guru-esque, impractical, and unspecific advice and we had built Pathrise to be the exact opposite, but had to truly show people. We are focusing on being data-driven and transparent, which has been working, but it’s interesting to see a space where the problem we’re solving is so bad, that the bad perception of it in the first place is a challenge in and of itself.
How Pathrise Gets You Hired
Q: How does Pathrise differ from job-search websites such as Indeed?
A: Pathrise works in conjunction with job search websites like LinkedIn and Indeed because we provide 1-on-1 guidance and support to our fellows so they can optimize their applications to these sites and expedite their search, while also improving their overall job search process.
We teach resume and profile optimization, cold email strategy, advanced sourcing, and reverse recruiting so those in the program can make sure that their applications to the jobs they find on those sites or through other sources are actually seen by the right people. Basically, Indeed is a job board, but Pathrise is your career coach/advisor.
Q: What sort of edge does a service like Pathrise have over other traditional resume builder, networking, or career-accelerator classes?
A: The traditional classes have been the same for basically the past century. Nothing has changed. Pathrise looks at the job search as a funnel optimization problem, using data to give the best recommendations and support to our fellows. We also provide flexible, 1-on-1 attention from top industry professionals from companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and so on, that you wouldn’t usually be able to find in a traditional class.
Q: Are you able to help unemployed high school graduates or even college dropouts find work as well as those who graduated college?
A: We are not a bootcamp, so we do require that our fellows have the base technical skills necessary to get jobs in the position of their choice. That being said, we often work with bootcamp grads who have a less traditional educational background to find great jobs in tech.
There are plenty of people with unconventional situations (like college dropouts, for example) that have had great skills who we have helped figure out how to better frame themselves and succeed.
Q: In your opinion, what is the most crucial step in the Pathrise 8-week program? Why?
A: One note – the Pathrise program is not actually 8 weeks, it lasts until you get a job, and you receive unlimited support until you do. It’s very important for us to support someone throughout their job search, not just teach a course and call it a day.
Outside of that, It’s hard to say what’s the most crucial step of the program because everyone has such a different situation. Pathrise is a program with personalization baked in, and so while one student may struggle with their resume optimization but be great at interviews, another may have a great resume but struggle with how to pass a specific type of industry technical interview without our training.
In this case, I’d say the most crucial step in the program, then, is actually just making sure to attend small groups and 1-on-1s consistently – because it’s so personalized, we’ve observed a direct correlation between a student’s attendance and engagement and their eventual success and outcomes.
Q: As Pathrise grows, do you expect to build out a larger and more connected network of hired fellows? How do you see this impacting employment and hiring performance down the road?
A: We already have over 250 fellows placed and we have seen a great sense of community amongst alumni and current fellows. We’re really excited for this to continue and be able to reach out to our network of alumni for referrals as well as networking opportunities, advice, and support for current fellows.
Looking at the Hiring Environment Today
Q: In your opinion, what’s the biggest mistake that many high school graduates, college students, and college graduates are making today when looking for jobs?
A: Unfortunately, just sending applications into online portals doesn’t work most of the time. You want to be more creative than that. If you have the network, sourcing referrals is great too, but that’s not the only thing you can do.
For example, people are afraid to send cold emails or they might think that it’s not worth it, but we have found that is not the case. Cold emails are an opportunity to remind recruiters that you are human and, especially if you can find a connection, you can double your chances of receiving an interview with a solid cold email.
Overall, finding ways to go beyond being another resume in the stack or go beyond just an online application is essential to converting those applications to interview opportunities, but referrals and cold emails are great examples.
Of course, in the program itself, we get a chance to go much more depth into a step-by-step breakdown of the features and tactics to consider with referrals, cold emails, mail merges, career fairs, meetups, and so much more – but step one is even knowing that all that stuff is possible in the first place.
Q: What is your best advice for college graduates or others looking for a job?
A: It’s hard to pick a single best piece of advice. Here’s one: you know those behavioral questions you keep getting asked? They are all the same. The top one is “tell me about yourself” but “tell me about a challenge you overcame” and “tell me about a conflict you had with a peer or manager” are common too.
If you pay attention, you’ll notice that there’s about 5-10 of these questions that you’re asked almost every interview. Most interviewers go from interview to interview and just answer these questions off the top of their head, but if you think about it, that doesn’t make much sense. If you know you’re going to be doing a dozen or more interviews, and you know you’ll be asked the same 5-10 questions almost every time, you should write your answers down beforehand and ask for feedback – next time you answer that question, you’ll have a much more collected thought process!
At Pathrise, we have a worksheet for this and then company-specific worksheets based on our knowledge of the interview process of that company. We have every fellow fill out their core questions worksheet (we call it the “behavioral matrix”) and then review with their industry advisor to polish it until it sounds amazing. The difference between the original improvised answer and the one you actually write down and think about is night and day. If you want to practice on real behavioral questions from top companies, here’s a list from the blog.
Discussing Student Loan Debt
Q: Do many Pathrise fellows enter the program with student debt? Do you know the average balance of applicants?
A: We don’t request student debt information, but we do our best to accommodate financial situations when a student brings up certain challenges. There’s a priority to make sure our students are taken care of first.
Q: How does Pathrise help student loan borrowers pay back their student loans?
A: We help them make more money. The program usually pays for itself and then some, which means that students who go through Pathrise not only are paying less for Pathrise than the improvement to their pay overall, but are also pocketing that extra pay or sending it straight to help them pay back loans faster.
Q: Could you see Pathrise opening its doors to helping with other career options outside of strategy, software engineering, data science, and UI/UX design?
A: Definitely! We are exploring new tracks as we speak. Likely we are looking into marketing, sales, and recruiting.
Pathrise offers a career-accelerator program to recent college graduates or current professionals entering the tech space. The program is an eight-week course meant to bolster your resume, hiring profile, interview skills, programming skills, and more.
About Kevin Wu
Leading up the Pathrise, Kevin Wu worked in various different software engineering and product design roles, including founding his own mobile gaming studio: Unboard. Kevin co-founded Pathrise with Derrick Mar in the Y combinator W18 startup batch.