This post originally appeared on the Paysa blog. You can view the original post here: “Expert Interview: Ethan Bukowiec of CampusTap.”

Ethan Bukowiec is the Content Manager at CampusTap, where he covers all the latest trends and developments, innovations and success stories in the career services and alumni relations industry.

We recently asked for his insight on how job seekers should be leveraging their alma mater and alumni connections to launch their careers in tech. Here’s what he shared:

Paysa: Can you tell us about the mission behind CampusTap? What’s your approach to mentoring students and alumni?

Ethan Bukowiec: At CampusTap, we’re driven by the mission of providing the necessary network and resources that allow students and alumni to obtain passion-based and fulfilling careers. In working with both students and alumni, we understand there are various points in the career timeline where people need professional development and advancement advice. Knowing this, we strive to have our mentoring platform serve as a lifetime resource they can turn to to make the connections necessary in taking the desired next step in their career.

In terms of our approach to mentoring, we believe it’s best to have multiple mentors coming from different backgrounds and offering various expertise in different industries. Just as people rely on different personal relationships in different situations, we feel it’s best to approach mentoring in this way. Through the CampusTap platform we encourage approaching mentoring in a tactful way, where relationships are first formed based off of shared interests, passions and experiences. We’ve found the most optimal mentoring relationships are a product of organically developing over time. Our sentiments are echoed by the fact that we’re trying to shift mentoring away from the formal, one-to-one structure to adopt a team approach.

Paysa: How are you hoping to change the way students and alumni find jobs?

EB: Our goal is to help students and alumni identify where their passions lie, and then help them make connections with others who share that same passion and have made a career out of it. To achieve that goal, we’re helping colleges and universities get students thinking about their passions and career interests earlier in their college career. By getting involved in the career development process as a freshman or sophomore, these students will have a better understanding of the goals they want to achieve once they approach the job market as seniors. On the alumni side, the CampusTap mentoring platform allows them to maintain a lifelong connection with their alma mater and fellow alumni.

Networking has never been more vital to getting a job. A recent ABC News report shows 80 percent of today’s jobs go to candidates through an internal connection or network referral. Through CampusTap, students and alumni can naturally develop these connections that come into play when entering the workforce or advancing in your career.

Paysa: What trends or innovations are you following in career development today?

EB: Two major trends that we’ve spoken with multiple career services and alumni relations leaders about are the collaboration between career services and alumni relations offices as well as the structuring of industry-based affinity networks.

We’ve been following them so closely because they both center on exposing students to alumni and vice versa for career advice and industry knowledge sharing. Many institutions are restructuring career services and alumni relations offices to move them under the same umbrella. Their efforts are very complementary, universities have recognized, and they’re now increasing career outcomes and better engaging alumni with the university as a result. With the industry-based affinity networks, students and alumni who share experience and interest in similar fields are connected to focused programming that includes networking, keynote speaker series, panel discussions and other knowledge-sharing programming.

Paysa: What can colleges do to better prepare individuals for careers in tech today?

EB: I believe colleges are already doing a great job preparing individuals for careers in tech today. Their success is especially prevalent in Boston, one of the top thriving innovation economies in the country. Institutions such as Harvard, Boston College, Northeastern University and Boston University are consistently developing top tech talent and feeding the tech industry’s talent pipeline by developing full-scale entrepreneurship curriculums, setting up internal incubators and accelerators, and having tech leaders come to campus to engage with students.

As cities across the country and the world continue to develop tech and innovation hubs, these institutions have created a replicable formula for colleges and universities in these cities to follow.

Relative to careers in tech, I think the one area institutions can improve in is developing employer relationships with more startups and tech companies. They don’t fit the traditional mold of employers universities seek to develop recruiting partnerships with, but relevant experience is crucial for success in the tech industry. I’d like to see colleges and universities focusing on creating partnerships with startups that allow students to gain, at the least, valuable internship experience.

Paysa: What should individuals, particularly in the tech industry, do to kickstart a successful career?

EB: In my experience, what makes the tech industry so unique is the fact that decision makers and those making hiring decisions are enamored by ideas and intangibles such as initiative, creativity and leadership. For those looking to enter this industry, the best advice I can give would be to put yourself in as many situations where you can prove you possess these skills.

Depending on the role they are seeking, candidates obviously need certain technical skills, but I think a bigger differentiator is gaining experience you can put on your resume that proves you can challenge yourself, handle adversity and don’t hesitate to share your input. Even the most established companies in the tech industry (Google, Amazon, IBM) are constantly innovating. And they are hungry for fresh talent that can push the envelope and develop the next generation of devices and systems.

Paysa: What are the most common mistakes or oversights you observe students and alumni making when pursuing careers in the tech industry early in their career?

EB: What’s great about the tech industry is that there is such a variety of companies providing an immense variety of solutions. With that said, many professionals early in careers in tech can struggle when moving from a company that provides one solution to a company that deals in a totally different realm. It takes a great deal of time and energy to get acclimated to a new market, messaging and particular industry knowledge, and I’ve seen that burn out a lot of talented people.

It’s similar to the approach in any career, in that it’s best to identify what you are most interested in or passionate about. I feel that’s important because then you’re motivated to go into work and make a difference even when situations become stressful and you’re balancing a number of different projects.

Paysa: What tools are essential for students/alumni preparing for a career in technology?

EB: Breaking into the technology field, it’s a necessity to have pre-existing technical knowledge and at least a basic understanding of what it’s like working in that type of setting on a day-to-day basis. That technical knowledge can refer to web development skills, graphic or UI/UX design skills, or experience using different products such as CRM and CMS tools and email marketing tools. And at the least, a previous internship or co-op experience at a tech company is crucial.

Beyond that, it really comes back to the skills and attributes a student or alum possesses. They need to be able to work in a fast-paced environment, be agile in terms of reprioritizing projects based on company goals, and have the confidence to contribute their own suggestions and ideas from the get-go.

Paysa: How should alumni be using resources from their alma mater to land jobs in tech?

EB: The greatest resource alumni should be using from their alma mater is fellow alumni. Those are the individuals who can provide the relevant industry knowledge they need to enter the field and start a career. While colleges and universities can certainly provide insight and other resources, through alumni connections individuals can have as much time and ask as many questions necessary to understand the industry. These alumni connections are also closest to the source, aka the hiring managers, and can expedite getting someone an interview through referral.

Paysa: What is the most interesting or insightful research you’ve uncovered at CampusTap about what works in career development today?

EB: The most insightful — and, in my opinion, inspiring — research we’ve uncovered at CampusTap is that employers place a premium on candidates’ skills or “core competencies.” This allows colleges and universities to prepare students for a career versus a job. In the long run, that is what is going to allow future graduates to become the most successful when they enter the workforce. Pressure should not be placed on a student to enter college with a complete idea of the career they want to obtain once they graduate. Instead, they should be using that time to explore their interest, establish what is most important to them regarding a profession, and then working with career services to enter that profession after their undergraduate or graduate experience.

Personally, it’s very encouraging to see employers recognizing passionate candidates is what makes the most productive employee. And colleges and universities as a whole are working to meet that employer need and best prepare students.

Interested in learning more about how CampusTap can help you launch a career you’re passionate about? Feel free to explore CampusTap’s private career networking platform.


Image courtesy COCinTech via Flickr