Firstjob offers graduates head start

By Jonathan Jacobson

Graduating students will not be entering the same world that their parents did when completing their undergraduate degrees.

In a recent survey of 1,092 graduating seniors, the MonsterTrak Web site, an offshoot of, found that by the March before graduation, only 10 percent of seniors had been hired. The survey also reported that 57 percent of students planned on moving back home with their parents.

Bob Klein, a Deerfield, Ill. native, is trying to fight against these statistics with his program called Firstjob, which he is presenting at the University on Feb. 26.

“I’ve done this program at Madison for 15 years,” Klein said. “I’m giving students the benefit of my experience and that of my mentors.”

Klein, an executive vice president at a Chicago advertising agency, bills the program as a way to get a head start in post-graduate job searching.

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Firstjob is a six-hour program that gives students an “unfair competitive edge” through presentations, speeches and small group talks. Students will be taught a 12-step program to help them market themselves. According to Klein’s Web site, Firstjob graduates will also leave the seminar with a comprehensive and personal plan tailored specifically for the student.

“Bob had some interesting thoughts that helped me along,” said Andy Whitman, one of the original Firstjob attendees. “Think of it as ‘you are the product’ and you’re marketing yourself.”

Firstjob, which originally started at the University of Wisconsin at Madison is expanding with events also scheduled at the University of Kansas at Lawrence.

The program began in 1989 as a way to honor Klein’s mentor Don Stoffles with a scholarship dedicated in his name. Stoffles was an adjunct professor at Madison, and also ran a local advertising agency.

Serving as the voluntary advisor of the Student Ad Club, he would also take his students on trips to visit advertising agencies across the Midwest. He and Klein also attended the National Student Advertising Competition twice.

“I always told the kids you gotta have the experience, you gotta have what it takes to sell yourself,” Stoffles said. “Bob just carried that many steps further and put it into a top notch presentation for the students.”

Firstjob charges students $125 for the seminar, which begins at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning and ends at 2:30 p.m.

“We’re going to identify the most outstanding students and recommend them for jobs to the top firms in the country,” Klein said.

Firstjob is a for-profit company, but some of the fees will be entered into a scholarship. That scholarship will reward at least one student at the seminar for academic and extracurricular achievement.

“It’s not going to help everybody with every job,” Stoffles said. “But this is going to provide you with the valuable information that you need to prepare.”