Letter to a graduate

Below is a letter I wrote in response to a job applicant. She’s 24, a recent masters graduate in computer science from a mid-tier university with absolutely zero work experience. Her cover letter stated “Want to seek a challenging position.” I generally ignore such resumes. Don’t judge me, India has a bad signal to noise ratio when it comes to job applicants and if someone doesn’t take the time to even read the requirements, I don’t feel obligated to reply. However, for some reason this one stood out. I’m not sure why, perhaps because she was the first one with no experience whatsoever and I wondered what it felt like to be her. Her name is not Sushmita.

Hi Sushmita,

Thanks for applying for our Project Manager job. I assume you know we could never consider you for this position since you do not fulfill any of the criteria. I get lots of applications which do not come close and I generally don’t reply to them. It seems to be a common practice in India to just apply to random jobs and hope someone is not paying attention or is especially desperate.

I’m writing to you because you have no experience at all (related or otherwise). I imagine you don’t really know how to approach this whole career thing. I can’t say I did then or really know that well now, but for some reason, I’d like I’d like to give you a little advice.

1. Don’t be random. Have an opinion and an interest. If someone came to me with a clearly defined idea of why they wanted to work with me or my company or this technology, I would consider them even if they had very little experience or skills. The right motivation is worth everything.

2. Experience != work. You can build up a portfolio of interesting projects without getting paid for it. In fact, you should continue to independently create and publish regardless. Blog posts also count. If you have something to show, it is worth 100x stated experience. http://github.com is a good inspiration, but also just tiny things, toy things, just make excuses to create.

3. Make a network. This is the hardest, but find local user groups in your area and make the effort to go meet people and contribute to open source projects. Offer to intern with a professor or a technology activist organization.

I hope you don’t mind me having the presumption to write this. If you are not interested, no worries, I enjoyed penning it anyway. Good luck in all your ventures and do let me know how things turn out.

 Jacob Singh
 Regional Director — India

Originally published at http://www.jacobsingh.name on January 9, 2014.

Jacob Singh
CTO in residence at Sequoia Capital. Independent product and Engineering Coach Mediocre guitarist, singer, rock climber, point guard and baker Dedicated dad. American in New Delhi.
New Delhi