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VOL. 36 | NO. 30 | Friday, July 27, 2012

Local authors tackle post-college job hunt

By Joe Morris

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The twin perils of debt and unemployment stalk most college graduates today, so some new thinking might be in order when it comes to the job search.

At least that’s the take from Paul Frankenberg and Ethan Dunham, who have co-authored Burn Your Resume, a how-to book for young professionals that veers from the traditional job-search methods new grads usually employ.

“I recruit, so much of the advice we give came naturally to me,” says Frankenberg, president, CEO and founder of FOCUS Search Partners, a healthcare executive search firm, who met Dunham when they both were involved with the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University’s accelerator program.

“We knew what we had been through as undergrads and, because of Ethan’s teaching experience, I thought we could combine our knowledge and provide good information in a new way.”

“We saw this book as addressing a gaping hole in the market around any kind of practical, how-to approach,” says Dunham, vice president of organizational development for Cogent HMG, a firm specializing in developing and managing hospitalist and intensivist programs.

“There’s a lot of information out there talking about what to do, but not how to do it. People are told to have a resume, to network, to interview, but not given the tools to do those things correctly.”

Fewer than half of all college students get a degree in four years, and tuition is climbing by double-digit percentages yearly. That means graduates finish with enormous debt and are in a market where their employment prospects are chancy.

Being able to find their niche and target employers within it is paramount now, the authors say.

“We know we can’t solve the whole issue, but we can work on the employment piece and help students not rely on the economy to turn around to pull them out of debt and get a job,” Frankenberg says, “They can drive themselves through their own action — we wanted to put controls back into their hands.”

In addition to the advice contained within its pages, the book itself demonstrates an evolution. It began with long, wonky chapters, and through multiple reviewers was winnowed to short chapters with bite-sized information.

“We wanted something that a person could pick up over coffee and read through anywhere, but also come away feeling as though they’d done some research,” Frankenberg says.

“It’s not a silver bullet; the reader has to do the work. But for someone who doesn’t really have a path to success, it can help get them started.”

In working with students, Dunham says he picked up some valuable insight that helped form the core of book.

“One chapter is about how I wanted my resume to do my speaking for me, and a summer associate I worked with told me that really spoke to him,” he says. “He reformed his resume, and did so in language that a hiring manager could appreciate. That let him take the power back, and gave him a much more action-oriented approach to finding work.”

The book also may be of value to parents who find themselves hosting an adult child, complete with college degree, who can’t find firm footing in the working world.

“We wanted to present information on how to network, to prepare for interviews, to shake that network for contacts,” Dunham says. “Not what to do, but how to do it; that’s really where the magic lies.”

The two have launched a social-media presence around the book, and are selling and promoting via that route. As for what’s next, they don’t see a sequel as much as they do a “where are we now” type of follow-up tome down the road.

“We want to meet with people who have been successful, find out what’s working for them,” Frankenberg says. “Five years out of school, where are they? Have they changed industries? Are they looking at a master’s or professional degree?

“The road starts to fork again a few years into your working life, and we want to explore those paths as well.”