Lecturer Offers Career Advice to Knox College Crowd

Pete Leibman outlines strategies on how students can land a 'dream job'

November 10, 2010

by Matt McKinney '13

Most college students worry about finding any job, let alone their dream job, but Pete Leibman assured Knox College students that they can ease their anxieties with a "simple" strategy.

Leibman, a former front-office executive with the Washington Wizards professional basketball team, presented a lecture on November 3 entitled, "Seal the Deal: Six S.I.M.P.L.E. Steps for Getting Your Dream Job." S.I.M.P.L.E. is his abbreviation for each of the six steps, boiled down to a single word.

The Knox College lecture was sponsored by the John D. Carlin Career Development Support Fund.

Now president of Idealize Enterprises, Leibman presented a variety of suggestions for students to consider before they enter the workforce.

The first theme he stressed was preparation. To find the ideal job, students must ready themselves for their future career, while at the same time remaining open-minded to new possibilities. Leibman pointed out that the only internships he had during college -- one at a brokerage firm and the other at a pharmaceutical research firm -- did not directly relate to his dream of working in the National Basketball Association.

"It doesn't matter what the experience is, because you'll develop important skills no matter what you do," said Leibman, a 2003 graduate of Johns Hopkins University. "Were those internships relevant? No. But I developed skills that I could talk about in (a job) interview."

Leibman also said that students often delay acting on their dreams because of fears, many of which are imagined. Students should act with confidence, he advised, because the longer they wait to pursue their ambitions, the more debilitating those fears will become.

The Six S.I.M.P.L.E. Steps of Pete Leibman

1. Setup. Get involved by participating in internships, clubs, and volunteer work. 

2. Identify. Zero in on your dream job by recognizing your talents, passions, and heroes.

3. Makeover. Refine your appearance with good grooming, and remove any suggestive material from social networking Web sites such as Facebook.

4. Plan. Network with personal, academic, and professional connections to find people who can offer advice and resources down the road.

5. Lead. Act as soon as possible. It's never too early to start planning for the future.

6. Execute. Seize opportunities when they arise by making good first impressions and performing well in job interviews.

Many young people are concerned that internships might take up too much of their time, said Leibman, who stressed that any experience is better than none. He suggested finding part-time work or internships during summer and breaks.

"The main point with internships is that most companies use internships as potential training grounds for people they're going to hire full-time," Leibman said. "If you do a great job in an internship, that could be your full-time job right there."

Students who are entering the job market frequently have the misconception that more money means greater happiness, Leibman said, pointing to his own misguided experiences as proof that this is not necessarily true. He left the Washington Wizards in 2008 and accepted a better-paying position elsewhere, but he soon became dejected at his new job.

"I felt like my life had no purpose," Leibman said. "I felt completely insignificant and couldn't enjoy all the money that I was making."

He urged students to merge their passions and skills, and then to seek a career based on those assessments -- even if it means earning a smaller paycheck.

The final step in getting a "dream job" is execution. In a job interview, Leibman said, it's important to be confident and to seize opportunities. One of his tips is to write a statement ahead of time that will help a job applicant explain -- with conviction --why he or she is the best candidate for a position.

"You want to close strong," he said. "At the end of the interview, you want to look at them and say, ‘I promise you're not going to regret hiring me.'"

Audience members said they learned a lot by listening to Leibman. "The speaker was engaging, and his personal stories were uplifting and relevant," said Knox first-year student Shelly Bhanot.

Ben Moss, also a first-year student, said Leibman's speech "showed me that it is never too early to start chasing a dream."

Knox College has many resources to help students and alumni pursue careers. The Center for Career and Pre-Professional Development provides resume assistance and job-interview preparation. It also coordinates on-campus interviews and recruiting by employers.