Interview with Alexa Shoen
by Gina Martuscello
Originally from San Diego, California, Alexa Shoen is the internet’s leading confidant for panicking 20-something job seekers. She is a writer, global technology leader, career growth expert, and the founder of #ENTRYLEVELBOSS: an online education company empowering young professionals to get onto the career ladder and get going. Alexa began her journey as a freelance copywriter, taking on multiple gigs in San Francisco. She then moved to Berlin and began her own consulting practice while also starting the #ENTRYLEVELBOSS newsletter. This led her to become one of the most sought-after communication consultants in the European tech industry, where she advised high-growth companies in Berlin, London, and New York. After that, she was a senior product strategist at Facebook, tasked with building the company’s multi-billion-dollar advertising business. Aware of the job-search struggle from her own experience and that of her peers, Alexa saw the lack of guidance for entry-level job seekers. After signing a book deal with St. Martin’s Press and Scribe Publications, #ENTRYLEVELBOSS came to life as a how-to manual about the job search. Alexa is a beneficiary of the United Kingdom’s Exceptional Talent (Technology) visa scheme, a prestigious immigration route awarded to just 200 world-leading technologists annually. She’s also an acclaimed independent jazz vocalist and holds a Master of Vocal Jazz Performance, First-Class Honors, from Leeds College of Music.
When was the moment you decided to start #ENTRYLEVELBOSS?
I decided to start #ENTRYLEVELBOSS when I was 25 years old – first as a newsletter, and then a failed YouTube series for a hot second (I was too impatient for uploading).
Reason: I felt like I’d fallen flat on my face after graduation. Not for lack of trying, not because I felt entitled, but simply because I was missing some key information and context about how the professional world actually worked.
There wasn’t some magical moment. I just had some truly horrible experiences in my first years of working – and once I finally felt like I was safely employed enough to take a breather, I figured I should share some of the stuff that I’d had to learn the hard way.
Why did you decide to start using TikTok as a platform? Do you feel that people are more receptive there?
TikTok is wildly intimidating when you first begin. Everyone on Instagram looks perfect, sure, but everyone on TikTok is… smart, clever, fast, wise, funny. Regardless: I knew I had something to offer, especially because almost 70% of TikTok users are Gen Z and my specialty is talking to 22-year-olds who are starting their careers for the first time! I don’t know if people are more receptive–I think it’s just that everything lined up. From COVID, to the age of the average viewer, to the economy, to my experience with video, to my book coming out: it just all made sense at the right time.
What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned on your journey so far?
The biggest lesson, by far, is that nobody else can tell you what you want to do with your career. Which is annoying. You’ll want them to, often. Making decisions sucks. But it’s your call. Better or worse, frustrating or not, it’s always gonna be your call.
"Nobody else can tell you what you want to do with your career."
How did you remain motivated in your job searches and how do you recommend others remain motivated?
Remember that rejection is socially accepted in romantic relationships, but that we’re “not supposed to take it personally” in professional life. That’s nonsense. Let yourself be sad when you need to be sad, step away from the computer, and then start again tomorrow. Motivation comes from accepting how hard the process can be, sometimes.
In your book, you state that the transition from college to the work world "requires a giant mental reframing." What advice would you give those transitioning from college or high school to the work world?
In the academic world, you automatically qualify for Spanish 201 so long as you take Spanish 101 first. It’s a simple, linear progression. Maybe sometimes you’ll get two choices – Spanish Literature 201 vs Spanish Conversation 201, for example – but it remains a straight line. In the employment market, none of that’s really true anymore. That’s why it feels like you got sucker-punched, frankly, because you never realized how linear your life was in school until it’s taken from you.
What advice do you specifically have for women job seekers?
Once you get that first foothold on the ladder (AKA your first Big Kid Job), remember to keep going. I want you to apply for jobs that are “too senior for you” again, and again, and again. Throw your hat in the ring.
What songs do you have on repeat right now?
"Bad Habit" by Your Smith, "O Connell Street" by Crook, and "Ain’t Together" by King Princess. They’re all big hits on my personal “all I’m allowed to do is go on walks” playlist.
If you could live anywhere in the world for a year right now, where would it be?
The idea of being *anywhere* that’s not my house still feels so far away right now. But perhaps I’d like to live in Mexico for a year. And I’d like to live in Hawaii for a winter.