ND Founders Profile #29: Without an Obvious Career Track, this Notre Dame Alumna Became Her Own #ENTRYLEVELBOSS

Author: Melanie Lux

Facebook Web Nd Founders Alexa Shoen


Company Founded: #EntryLevelBoss Year Graduated: 2011
Title: Founder and Author Degree: B.A., English Language and Literature
Location: London, England Residence Hall: McGlinn

Growing up in the San Diego area, Alexa Shoen developed a fascination with the Midwest, fueled in least in part, by the movie Rudy, the story of a young man who dreams of playing football for the University of Notre Dame.

“I watched that movie once a week,” recalls Shoen. “I was fascinated by Notre Dame, the big football games, changing seasons, and snow! I wanted to be a Domer or nothing. When I was accepted, my parents were shocked; I was the first person in my family in many generations to live east of the Rockies.”

Notre Dame and the Midwest did not disappoint, largely because of the “annoyingly close” friendships Shoen made. “America and California can feel like two different countries. We all know that Notre Dame attracts students from all 50 states and all over the world, but what you don't realize at the age of 18 is how intense those friendships continue to be, well into your adult life. And how rare the intensity of those relationships is compared to other college experiences."

During her sophomore year in 2008, the nation was locked in an economic crisis. Anxious about the future, many of Shoen’s classmates hedged their bets and went into traditional jobs in finance, law and medicine. With a degree in English Language and Literature, Shoen couldn't find an obvious career track. She headed to England after graduation, earned a Master of Arts degree in Jazz Performance Vocals before jumping into the tech industry—back in San Francisco first, then in Berlin, then London."

She eventually founded her own consulting company, Shoen Creative, providing UX copywriting and communications design services to global brands and startups. Leveraging her experience in the relatively new field of UX content strategy, Shoen secured an Exceptional Talent Visa in the United Kingdom, awarded to just 200 global technology leaders a year, and landed a plum position with Facebook, leading cross-platform information architecture initiatives to optimize the company’s multi-billion-dollar advertising business. 

For someone without a clear career track when she graduated from Notre Dame, Shoen was definitely on the fast track, crediting her natural head for business. “My saving grace were my critical thinking and communications skills. I’m very good at asking questions and curious about the bigger picture,” she says.

In retrospect, Shoen’s success seems so easy, with each new gig carefully planned and achieved. However, she’s the first to admit, figuring out how to get a job wasn’t easy. At age 25, she began writing a newsletter on the topic. “I thought, if it was difficult for me, it must be difficult for others, too. I mean, how do you apologize if you’re late for an interview? What are the rules of networking? How do you initiate a conversation with an alumnus from your college who might help your job search?”

She adds, “The Internet broke the traditional job search process. Everything is digital—uploading resumes online for example—yet no one bothered to tell jobseekers how to be successful doing it. That became my job, teaching people how to navigate the broken hiring process, and that gave birth to #ENTRYLEVELBOSS in 2017.”

Utilizing her content marketing expertise and word-of-mouth, Shoen built a following of thousands of readers. She started offering online classes plus job search and employment advice. With the number of newsletter subscribers and students growing rapidly, Shoen knew she’d struck a chord.

“Searching for a job is both an art and a skill. The biggest mistake jobseekers make is thinking they can exchange a degree for a job of some kind. In a capitalist society, you have to learn how to sell yourself. You may want to change the world, but companies want you to either save them time or make them money. Straight out of school, people don’t know how to do that. It’s not always taught around the family dinner table,” she explains. 

“As a result, everyone thinks they are the least employable person on the planet and are looking for help. People embrace #ENTRYLEVELBOSS because I’m approachable.  I’m the older sister who screwed up, found her way and is now sharing what I learned from my mistakes and helping people land jobs.”

Shoen likens following the #ENTRYLEVELBOSS process to following a fitness or diet plan. Accountability is key. Students have regular check-ins with their coaches, who respond with practical advice and emotional support. The overriding message is that you are not alone. As one graduate put it, #ENTRYLEVELBOSS “is like the silver lining of the job search without the cloud.”

In 2019, a literary agent approached Shoen about writing a book based on her newsletter. The book, #ENTRYLEVELBOSS: How to Get Any Job You Want, was published by St. Martin’s Press on May 12, 2020 and is available worldwide via online retailers. The timing—in the midst of a global pandemic and heightened job search anxiety—coupled with its proven nine-step methodology, has made the book an instant cult classic among recent college graduates. 

Shoen believes everyone deserves a great job and wants to help as many young people as she can get past that first professional threshold. Thus in 2020, she launched an academic partnership initiative that offers her online curriculum to universities to use in their career placement offices. The idea is to add a positive, digital resource to complement existing career planning tools. To date, three universities in the United Kingdom are onboard and discussions are underway with several U.S. universities.

By any measure, the former jobseeker without a clear path to satisfying employment has done quite well establishing herself as an author, educator, speaker, and motivator. What excites Shoen most about her success are her students, especially when they get a job and tell her about it. “Those emails have lots of exclamation points,” she says.

“I’m a believer in mission-driven businesses. I picked a problem area I was fascinated with: finding a job. If you’re passionate about what you do, you can deal with other hurdles,” Shoen says.

She offers this mischievous advice to would-be entrepreneurs. “If you’re only starting a company to escape a nine-to-five job, you might just need a better day job.”