13 Questions With Alexa Shoen

We caught up with Alexa Shoen, internet career coach and author of #ENTRYLEVELBOSS, to learn more about what it takes to find a job during a pandemic...

First off, how are you and how have you been coping in 2020?

Oof. I have been… fine? All things considered? Maybe? I’ve had several bad weeks, but there have also been unexpected pockets of good. I got really lucky with my lockdown in that I met basically everyone in my building and we now do straight-out-of-the-movies things for each other, like bake fresh chocolate chip cookies and “pop by” for a glass of wine.

My work has become more important than ever–because my life is all about coaching young jobseekers through the process of finding their first or second proper job, and there are a whole lotta jobseekers right about now. We’ve helped thousands of young people in the US and UK figure out their next career move since COVID hit. That makes me proud and gives me purpose on the tough days.

Tell us about yourself! How do you balance your multi-hyphenated career as a Singer, Author and CEO of an education company

I’m Alexa: author of a bestselling career guide called #ENTRYLEVELBOSS: A 9-Step Guide For Finding A Job You Like (And Actually Getting Hired To Do It) that came out globally during lockdown. I’m sometimes referred to as the internet’s favorite career coach… like Joe Wicks, but for CVs. I run a career education company (also called #ENTRYLEVELBOSS) and we work with young people who need support finding their way in the professional world.

Also, yes, a jazz vocalist! My new album, Lies I Used To Tell Myself About Love, came out in late 2019.

As for how I “balance” it? Last year, I released a full studio album, wrote the entire manuscript for #ENTRYLEVELBOSS, hired a team for my company, and took some big business risks. I played gigs in Mexico, took meetings in San Francisco, wrote the book in Berlin and New York… It was one of those years when you see an opening and you just sprint for it.

The year before: I still had a full-time job and was hustling before work to write my proposal and make sure all our jobseekers were succeeding.

Whenever you hear that someone is doing it all, please know they’re not doing it all in one week. They’re tinkering over time. Things that seem to be happening “all at once,” aren’t.

How did you get the idea and inspiration for Entry Level Boss?

I graduated with my BA in English Literature in America (I’m Californian). Then, I came to England (shout out to Leeds) and did my MA in Jazz Vocal Performance. And then I tried to go out into the world and… fell flat on my face, couldn’t find a job to save my life, and had no idea what to do next.

It wasn’t that I was entitled, I was just clueless. I’d done everything I’d been told to do – get educated! participate in clubs! etc! – and then there was no clear step as to what to do next.

I slowly learned, the hard way, what it takes to get the good interviews and land the cool jobs. I paid attention to all the things I wished would’ve been spelled out for me. And then, I wrote it all down.

What are some of the key takeaways from Entry Level Boss?

In #ENTRYLEVELBOSS, I teach you all the stuff you need to know about how modern employment actually works–a lot of which directly contradicts the outdated, pre-internet career advice you’ve been given. Then, I walk you through a proven 9-step method for getting the kind of job you want, faster, by sending in fewer applications.

The keyest of key takeaways: multiple studies show that 80% of jobs are landed through personal connections. That means that scrolling through LinkedIn and writing yet another cover letter for yet another job you don’t want whilst crying is… a wildly inefficient use of your time. You don’t have to do it like that.

What was it like to write a book and get it published?

Honestly? I genuinely hated writing a book. The actual writing part, I mean. I like immediate gratification, being in front of crowds, working in teams. I knew that it would be worth it, but I found it super lonely and draining to work on such a solitary task for so many months.

I’m a much better author of a published book! #ENTRYLEVELBOSS was always meant to inspire action. This, to me, is the magical part: watching my work come alive in the world and getting the messages from readers who are writing to tell me about their job offers.

What is your process like for preparing a talk when you’re public speaking?

I’ve always been dangerously good at winging it on stage–blame it on a lifetime of singing. But the best advice I ever got for public speaking was this: what is the ONE thing you want the audience to remember when you’re done? Reverse-engineer your entire talk to make sure that ONE point hits home. That’s your only job.

What are you currently working on?

I’m still doing a lot of press for the book (it’s coming out in India this month!). My team and I are also spending a ton of our time working with universities and careers advisors who are excited about getting #ENTRYLEVELBOSS employability into the classroom for students before they graduate.

Who are some of your top follows online?

@theferocity on Twitter – Saeed Jones is a shining light, needed more than ever | @gabifresh on IG – the OG plus-size icon that we all need in our lives | @thelesliejordan on IG – the true breakout star of quarantine video IMHO | @blackownedeverything on IG – for finding your new fave Black-owned brand

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

The day I found out that St. Martin’s Press bought my book proposal was a huge deal for me. I started a newsletter when I was 25, and then 3.5 years went by, and then I got two book deals within a week (US and UK). That feeling was insane.

What do you always carry with you?

A pen. I feel like I can’t really ask to borrow a pen anymore, because… pandemic.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be?

This question is making me think nostalgically about one of the best meals of my life: Ka’ana Kitchen at the Andaz Hotel on Maui. Just order whatever they tell you to order.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

Somewhere beautiful, with no phones and no itinerary, surrounded by people I love. Oh! And I’ll probably make breakfast burritos for everybody at some point.

If you could give one piece of advice to our audience, what would it be? 

Don’t take career advice from people whose careers you don’t want.