BTU #180 - Career Advice from Andy Chan

You get out of the job search process what you put into it. This process is an investment in yourself. If you go at it really hard the first time, it will be easier the next time you want to do it. If you do it the right way the first time, you’ll probably do it right the next time.
— Andy Chan

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Andy Chan works at Wake Forest as Vice President for Innovation and Career Development. He oversees The Office of Personal and Career Development (OPCD) which is creating a supportive university-wide career community designed to empower and equip students to successfully navigate their path from college to career. Previously, he was the assistant dean and director of the MBA Career Management Center at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.  Before joining Stanford, he served as president and CEO of eProNet, an online recruiting and career network based on exclusive relationships with university alumni associations.  Earlier, he was president and CEO of MindSteps, a corporate education software start-up. He has extensive executive leadership and career coaching experience as well as business experience in venture-backed start-ups, The Learning Company, The Clorox Company and Bain & Company. He earned his BA and MBA from Stanford University.

Why Listen: 

I am predicting that this will be one of the most successful Beyond the Uniform episodes of all time. Andy brings over 20 years of experience helping more than 11k students at both Stanford University and Wake Forest figure out their next career move. In this interview he covers ground about the most common challenges people face in a career transition, and simple actions to take to approach this change with more confidence and skill. This is a MUST LISTEN TO episode for all members of the Armed Forces and military Veterans. I plan on listening to this episode at least one more time, as Andy packs in so much incredible information in a very short amount of time. 

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Transcript & Time Stamps:


Joining me today from Menlo Park, CA is Andy Chan. For those of you who have listened to the show for a long time, you probably have heard me cite his advice in various episodes. When I was at Stanford Business School, Andy was the Director of the MBA Career Management Center. I’ve shared with listeners how Andy stressed the importance of closing doors and ruling out careers that you don’t want to go into as a way to narrow down your focus on what you do want to do. Thanks so much for joining us, Andy.


Can you explain your job at Wake Forest?

I have two roles at Wake Forest - one is in thinking about the changing world of work and helping students be career ready. The second piece is helping our university be innovative and keep up with all the changes that are happening in higher education and in the job market.


How many students have you worked with in your time at Stanford and Wake Forest?

I was at Stanford for about 9 years and now I’ve been at Wake Forest for about 9 years. During my time at these two great institutions, I’ve probably advised over 11,000 students. Prior to that I had a business career with Bain & Co and Clorox. I also worked for several education related startups.


What are some common challenges people face when going through a career transition?

I think most people have a mindset or attitude of thinking about their career in a way that is either not accurate or is holding them back. There’s three categories. The first is a scarcity mindset versus an abundance mindset. I think people think about themselves in a way that they feel that they don’t have the right skill set for a particular job. It’s difficult to change that to an abundance mindset but when I talk to people, I try to make them realize what is possible. One of the reasons why I bring this up is that it can be really helpful to talk to someone outside of yourself that can help you see what is possible. You might want to talk to a career coach or trusted friend that can help you package yourself in a particular way and help you realize what is possible for yourself.

You also want to think about putting yourself in an environment where you are around people that will make you think about different possibilities. Networks are important in that they can help you find out about new job opportunities but apart from that you also want the people in your network to be positive people that expand your ideas of what is possible.

The second category is people that have limited information about the job market or particular careers and make incorrect assumptions about what their options in these industries are. People only have a few small pieces of information and construct what they believe is possible from them off of this limited information. So you want to know what you really know about a particular industry and how you can learn more about that. It’s helpful to have someone you can talk to about this as well.

The third category is that in general, people underestimate how career ready they need to be to get a great job. They also underestimate the time and effort it will take them to find this job. Because it is an uncertain and difficult process, people keep themselves from going through it. People don’t want to tackle it wholeheartedly because they know there will be lots of ups and downs. There are a lot of pieces that it takes to be ready for a job into today’s job market. There’s so many different industries and markets.

The internet has increased our access to jobs all over the country. But it actually has made the job process more difficult because now there are more people applying to every position. A lot of companies use automated systems too and that makes things more difficult as well.

So people want to go about the job search process in the most expedient way possible. But looking for a job is like having another job. You might have to give up your hobbies or time with friends for a little while in order to focus on the job search process.


I’m loving everything you’re saying here. And I like the idea of giving yourself a deadline for the job search process. Otherwise, it could be several months or years later and you still haven’t made a decision about what direction you want to take.

The phrase people hear is you get out of it what you put into it. This process is an investment in yourself. If you go at it really hard the first time, it will be easier the next time you want to do it. If you do it the right way the first time, you’ll probably do it right the next time. People say that perfect practice make perfect. So you need to make sure the quality of your practice is correct.

The job labor market forecasters predict that college students today will have over 20 jobs through the course of their career. So if there’s one thing you want to be really good at, it’s being able to go through the job search process. You have to learn to market yourself and sell yourself in a particular way that will be appealing to employers.

This is why I do the work that I do. I’ve really been on a path to make sure preparing themselves for the career market is mission critical to the university.


How do you recommend people start narrowing down options when thinking about what industry to go into? And how can veterans package their background in a way that will resonate with a hiring manager?

In terms of thinking about options, I think the first things that’s worth thinking about is figuring about ways to simply this big question of what you want to do. So think about if there are specific geographic areas that you prefer to be working in. Location is a really important component because once you’re focused on a particular location, you can become more knowledgeable about the industries and work environments that exist there. If you’re interested in a particular area, I would encourage you to take time to go the that location and meet people in that area.

Also think about job function and the skills that are required to do a particular job. Think about whether or not these interest you. One of my business school classmates came up with a “Best Work Skills” matrix. He encourages people to think about skills that you are very good at and that you also like to do. These are your best work skills. Try to find jobs that overlap with these skills. And also think about skills that you have that you are really not interested in using as part of your job.

When you’re thinking about your job search, you want to think about geographic location, job function, and the dimensions of the organization that you would like to go into. For example, is there growth in that industry? Be careful about getting into an industry that is growing. Also when you meet the people at this company, does it seem like managers have respect for their people.


This wealth of knowledge is really incredible, Andy. Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show today.

It’s been a pleasure to catch up with you Justin and I just want to thank everyone that has served our country. When I was a Stanford we had quite a few student veterans. Many of them were stressed out that they were in business school with many classmates that had much  more business knowledge than their classmates. So they banded together to share knowledge and learn about different jobs and industries. These veterans worked so hard and ended up getting multiple job offers. They realized that they could learn really quickly and work hard in order to win the job search process game.

They also learned to interview well. Most job interview questions fall into three broad categories - Can you do the job, do you want to do the job, and will you fit in at the company. And these veterans learned how to demonstrate these things in interviews and ended up opening new doors for themselves.