The Internship Show

Upwork

November 13, 2020 Scholars, Inc.
The Internship Show
Upwork
Chapters
The Internship Show
Upwork
Nov 13, 2020
Scholars, Inc.

On this episode of The Internship Show, we speak with Keller Lambert from Upwork. Keller is an award-winning Senior Program Manager currently leading Upwork Enterprise & Fortune 500-focused Talent program initiatives. Keller helps manage and lead the top-tier pool and program of talent on Upwork to better fit them with Enterprise and Fortune 500 hiring managers that he collaborates with on the front-end for high-budgeted, remote, consultant opportunities. Keller is local to Chicago.

We learn about Upwork's company mission and how it relates to college students and recent graduates, how to land a job as a student in a competitive job market and more.

This episode was brought to you by Scholars. Scholars amplifies top employer brands to an audience of diverse students from across the country through curated podcasts, blogs, newsletters and more.

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Listen to past episodes here!

Want to be a guest on the show? Click here to contact Parker about why you should be featured on The Internship Show!

Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of The Internship Show, we speak with Keller Lambert from Upwork. Keller is an award-winning Senior Program Manager currently leading Upwork Enterprise & Fortune 500-focused Talent program initiatives. Keller helps manage and lead the top-tier pool and program of talent on Upwork to better fit them with Enterprise and Fortune 500 hiring managers that he collaborates with on the front-end for high-budgeted, remote, consultant opportunities. Keller is local to Chicago.

We learn about Upwork's company mission and how it relates to college students and recent graduates, how to land a job as a student in a competitive job market and more.

This episode was brought to you by Scholars. Scholars amplifies top employer brands to an audience of diverse students from across the country through curated podcasts, blogs, newsletters and more.

Subscribe on Apple Podcasts
Subscribe on Spotify
Subscribe on Google Podcasts
Listen to past episodes here!

Want to be a guest on the show? Click here to contact Parker about why you should be featured on The Internship Show!

Parker:
Welcome to The Internship Show, where each week we explore the ins and outs of early talent programs at companies of all sizes across the globe. Early talent fuels businesses from startups to the Fortune 500. We're here to provide the information you need to stay informed on all of the amazing opportunities that exist in our world. I'm Parker Pell, and this week, I spoke with Keller Lambert from Upwork. Keller's and award winning senior program manager, currently leading Upwork Enterprise and Fortune 500 focused talent program initiatives. Keller helps manage and lead the top tier pool and program of talent on Upwork to better fit them with Enterprise and Fortune 500 hiring managers that he collaborates with, with front end, for high budgeted, remote, and consultant opportunities. Keller's located in Chicago, and this is going to be a great show. Keller, thanks so much for taking the time today.

Keller:
You bet, Parker.

Parker:
So for all of our listeners, could you go into kind of, what is your journey into talent industry really been like?

Keller:
Yeah, so it's kind of in the blood, per se. My dad's been in staffing for his entire career. And I think if you had told me when I was in college, that I'd fall into the industry myself, I probably would've called you a liar, but he's been in agency staffing for 30 years plus, and when I was considering a career after college, I moved to Chicago without having a job. I didn't know anyone, and I had never been here before. And I went on an interview with the creative group, they're owned by Robert [Half 00:00:01:39]. And then I also interviewed at a couple of other agencies locally and kind of just fell in love with the opportunity that the sales environment and the commission could bring somebody after school. Everybody's got student loans to pay for. So I really fell in love with creative staffing specifically.

Parker:
And what was kind of your experience when you were in school, in terms of internships? Did internships that you held kind of guide you to that decision of moving to Chicago or kind of, how did that all play out?

Keller:
No, not at all. Actually, my internship experience in college was the best. So kind of like scholar, like what you guys are up to, Baylor had a matching program when I was in London and I went to college for a mix between philosophy and literature, essentially. And I landed an internship at a organization, nonprofit called The Poetry Society. And I am very much still a huge reader and a writer. That's ultimately what I went to school for. And they helped match me with the poetry society over in London. And I was working in then marketing, marketing in general, some really heavy admin stuff as well. And it was the best experience. So my internship experience was my favorite thing about college, hands down.

Parker:
What would you say and what would your, maybe, advice be to students who are looking for that internship experience in terms of how should they go about selecting the type of internship that they want to do? Should they use it to maybe explore the career path that they were like, "Oh, I definitely want to do this," or should they kind of venture out and do something that's maybe unique?

Keller:
Yeah. I think it's a great opportunity to figure out what it is you might not know about what you're looking to do after college first, because an internship ultimately is a relatively low stakes opportunity just to figure out what you love doing in a professional environment. For me, I think that doing anything you love is worth doing for free at first to get your foot in the door. So if you're looking to kickstart a career right after you graduate, I think an internship is a great way to figure out exactly what it is you're open to doing, because it's probably not going to be the first or second job that you land right after school. Right?

Keller:
So any kind of leg up that you can get via an internship, whether working in a huge corporate brand is important to you, whether developing a skill set is important to you. I think that the number one thing to look out for is developing a versatile skillset. I talk with a lot of marketers today and what's trending more and more is marketers who can speak tech, who can speak data, who can speak analytics. So if you can land something or a series of internships where you're developing cross-functional skills, that's the biggest thing you can do.

Parker:
And I'd love to dive in a bit more into your background in staffing, and your experience in staffing, because I think that that plays really interesting into the job market than many recent 2020 grads are in right now. It's extremely competitive. Everyone's talking about budgets being cut, hirings being reduced, and those students that just graduated, they're actively still, hopefully, looking for roles. Maybe they have landed one already. From your staffing experience in this competitive job market, what would you tell these students as to how do you look to hopefully land a job?

Keller:
Yeah. I mean, those are great questions. I didn't think probably anybody entering graduation in 2020 was thinking that a global pandemic was going to hit. Right? So like I mentioned earlier, I think when you're starting your job search right after school, it's really important to keep your options open. I think being comfortable, being uncomfortable is the biggest thing that you can do when you're performing a job search. Like I mentioned also, doing something in order just to garner the experience and learn more about yourself as the biggest thing you can do. Did I ultimately want to go and start a sales career when I graduated college? No, but being in that sales environment allowed me to figure out exactly what worked in an environment that I immediately wasn't comfortable in and you really start to find yourself and level out.

Keller:
So I think if you're starting a job search, some of the biggest things you can also do is be really active in your job search, right? Applying for jobs on LinkedIn or Indeed isn't going to get you that dream drive or even a job you're going to tolerate right after school. So I think digital networking is huge right now. What I really advise people to do is to connect with peers or mentors or people that you admire on LinkedIn, right? Do your research, know the content they put out into the world, develop your own content as well, and reach out to folks with value oriented statements or offers. Those relationships that you start, both short-term and long-term, will very likely get you in the door at a company rather than just clicking "apply," because like you mentioned, there's thousands of people for each job post right now.

Parker:
No, without question. And I love that you said to grow their own personal network in content, because I think that relates directly to the kind of a student's personal brand and how an internship is the beginning of you in an individual creating their own personal brand to be able to go into that interview and say, "Here's who I am and what I'll bring to the table."

Keller:
Yeah. I mean, that could lead to jobs being created for you. Right? Something that I try to do really hard on LinkedIn is I don't have social. The only social media that I have is LinkedIn. I try really hard to bring what I think the job industry is like and what I think staffing is like and Upwork in general. So if you can create that content and catch some eyeballs, people will reach out to you and you'll be surprised what they have to say.

Parker:
And would you say they're kind of qualities or experiences in particular that companies would be looking for in students when they're applying to roles in this current, obviously, competitive market? Anything that you would say, "Oh, if you did like this or had this," it would make that student stand out so to speak?

Keller:
Yeah. Well, to state the obvious, it's really not enough to graduate from a good school with good grades and the right internships anymore, right? Landing a job as much more than that. So one of the biggest things that I recommend for grad students and recent grads to do is to spend some time thinking about things like a mock project, creating something and showcasing it, even though it's not technically a corporate experience or even an internship, that way you have something to show that you're interested in, right? So for creatives, it could look like a portfolio. I remember on the news lately, I think something was trending where this college student edited a video and tweeted at the CEO of Disney. I don't know if you saw this, but it was a 30 second editing superpowers and it got viral to the point where the CEO actually tweeted back at him and was like, "Dude, you've got a gig, please get in touch with me." Right?

Keller:
So doing things like that proactively, even though you're not getting paid to do it is huge. Obviously it's a little bit harder if you're in tech or if you're in something like chemistry or biology, but you could always showcase something you're passionate about, even if you're not being paid to do it. So that's a huge thing. And then again, if you can share that content with people and showcase what you're about and what you're doing, be it social media, networking events, or even in conversations, I think that you're going to be presented with opportunities that you might not have been expecting, or that might not have been available to you from the get-go.

Parker:
And it's so simple to do a Google search as to, "I've got all these ideas and how do I maximize my LinkedIn reach if I don't have a ton of connections?" How do you work the algorithm and how do you post content to make sure that people are seeing it? It's not that difficult to Google search it and then be able to find kind of exactly what you can do if you're like, "I want to be able to start this kind of journey." Silence an inner critic, maybe, that students have, of, "Maybe I shouldn't be posting on LinkedIn just because I'm a college student," which I think is a sentiment that many students feel today, honestly, because I don't know what I should be posting, but the first step in getting to what you know should be posting is posting.

Keller:
Yeah. Well, the hardest thing, especially related to fitness, the hardest day in the gym is the first day, right? After that, it becomes a routine. And I don't know if you remember this, but back in the day, Apple Music really wasn't a great user experience for most of the people. I think that in the same vein as that Disney example that I gave you, there was a user experience designer that used Apple Music and he was just kind of fed up with dealing with it and he created a mock project and it actually ended up, again, going viral and got Apple's attention. And then that's essentially the reason why it's a little bit better to interact with today.

Parker:
That's super interesting. I can remember clicking on each individual song and having to buy it and download it. And now you're just like, "Oh, I just pay for Apple Music." It's super easy.

Keller:
Yeah, exactly.

Parker:
But we're here. And you're here to represent Upwork, obviously. Could you kind of give an overview of who is Upwork the company?

Keller:
Yeah. So Upwork essentially is the leading online talent solution, and we provide remote talent for over 30% of the Fortune 500 right now. Some of our clients include really heavy hitters like Airbnb, Microsoft, NASDAQ, GE. From a talent perspective, whether you're searching for short-term or long-term engagements, and I was really interested when you reached out, because I know tech is a big demographic for your grads. Tech is the largest category as we refer to it on Upwork. I think over 40% of our revenue is in the tech industry. Finding jobs, finding projects is really hard. So if you are open to that remote work, which everybody is now because of the pandemic, Upwork makes it really easy for skilled tech professionals or professionals in general, to find really meaningful projects. I think last year in 2019, $2.1 billion was earned by these independent professionals on Upwork alone. So essentially creating that global marketplace for people to explore remote professions and remote work is what Upwork is all about.

Parker:
What is that kind of company mission or culture look like? That's something, obviously, students are always exploring and looking at in evaluating opportunities as, "Oh, what's the culture? How do everyone interact with each other? How am I going to fit in? And it is going to mesh with kind of how I operate?" So what would you say your Upwork's company mission or culture is like?

Keller:
Yeah, it's always a buzzword that's tossed around now, the culture of a company, but I think it's really hard for an organization to put their money where their mouth is almost. But for Upwork specifically, our vision is to be the number one flexible talent solution in the world. But our mission is to create economic opportunities so that people have better lives. And at Upwork, what I can say about our culture is that mission statement isn't just an ad on a wall in the office. Everybody that is hired at Upwork, either immediately or soon after they go through training, starts to develop a passion for enabling remote professionals to live a better life.

Keller:
So I would say in the context of our culture, buying into that mentality, really trying to make the world a better place, whether you're in sales, whether you're in product or engineering, the culture at Upwork is one that's so cohesive. And the mission is one that you can get behind, and you start to see it seep into your personal life too, because when you stopped viewing going into the office like we used to, or logging in at the beginning of the day from your computer, when you stop thinking of it as just a job or work, I think that's when your culture is actually working for you.

Parker:
Would you say that there are qualities that a student who's talking to your team or you're interviewing with your team could portray or show that would give you all kind of an inclination as to, "This student is interested obviously in the company mission and kind of really being a part of the team."

Keller:
Yeah. And in the same vein as what you were talking about with what can set you apart in the interview process, I think being plugged in and not just present is the biggest thing new grads can do. Do your research. Really dive into the content of the company. Check out their events. Look at their marketing. Analyze things like public reporting if you can. I think the more that you can be plugged into that research, the more you can be prescriptive in your job interview, and it's less about answering questions and more about showcasing what you know about a company, how you think that you'd fit into the culture, how you think in the particular role that you're applying for, the kind of value that you would add to the organization.

Keller:
Like I mentioned, I think an interview today is much less about putting forth the right answers to questions. I think it's ultimately showing that you've already got one foot almost in the door, right? And being able to showcase, "Here's what I know, here's what I'm passionate about, here's what I think I can offer." And then building the relationship from there. That's the biggest thing.

Parker:
And how does your role kind of specifically relate to the mission as kind of a senior program manager at Upwork?

Keller:
Yeah. So what I do essentially is I manage a program within our Enterprise talent services organization. And what I do is on the front end, I partner with Enterprise clients on our platform in Fortune 500 organizations to scope, curate, and create the best flexible hiring solutions. On the backend, what I do is I reach out and I manage a team of people that reach out to folks within the categories of sales and marketing, design creative, and technology. Again, tech is our biggest one by far. We reach out to people proactively on our platform and off of our platform as well, to vet, evaluate, and assess the best talent. And what we do is we create a pool, and today it's known as the expert vetted talent program. And essentially, we want to match that talent through assessing, evaluating, interviewing, and vetting them to our Enterprise and Fortune 500 clients.

Keller:
And I think that by having a program like ours, that is focused on the top tier of talent, we're better able to drive more spend per client, land those bigger client opportunities, and then make better quality matches for people in those categories. And that's essentially what my program is all about over on the EBT side of things.

Parker:
Certainly, of course, and the best talent obviously everyone is looking for. And it's a great program. And I'm interested is kind of, what are the opportunities at Upwork for students and recent grads?

Keller:
Yeah, so externally, I would say if you're curious about what the life of a freelancer is like, there's a ton of content on our website that will give you an understanding of what's possible instead of perhaps going that traditional corporate route, if you will, through a full-time role. A lot of people entering the workforce right now, obviously are interested in any kind of leads that could lead to a successful career. I think that for grads, it is really pertinent to consider starting your career and garnering experience through a website like Upwork, to work on real projects, to develop client portfolios, whether you're in tech or creative or marketing, what have you. And then internally at Upwork, we have here in Chicago, we have a massive sales team. I think we're over 200 people now I believe. Miss their faces every day right now.

Keller:
So I think we hire a ton of talent on the sales side. I'm not sure how friendly we are to complete remote hiring right now, but if you're anywhere near the Chicago line area, or interested in relocating here, we hire a ton of sales talent. We also have a really well built out product team, and I think that we're regularly hiring on the product side of things as well. But we obviously have stellar engineers, but much like taking your own medicine, Upwork hires a ton of people off of our platform to work internally as well. So again, that's just another reason to explore freelancing in general.

Parker:
Without question. And it's just like you mentioned, get your foot in the door before that interview, by being on the site and actually developing relationships and utilizing the product to be able to say, "Hey, this is how successful I've been with it, and this is why I think I'd be an asset to the team."

Keller:
Yeah. People, especially grads, might think that a career as a freelancer is unstable or not steady or it provides more questions than answers, but it's really not the case anymore, especially because of the pandemic. A lot of seasoned professionals outside of being recent grads are turning more and more to freelancing and starting their own businesses. Speaking to the culture, like you mentioned before, sometimes there's no better culture than the one that you're creating with yourself. You know what I mean? So these are all examples of why I think people should... Indigents are super crucial as well, but potentially thinking about becoming a consultant or a freelancer could get your foot in the door.

Parker:
Without question. I completely agree. And it's been so awesome to learn about Upwork and just kind of your background, obviously, and students facing a competitive job market saying, "What do I do?" Well, the first step is to just start doing, I think, and it's not to sit back and wait for opportunities. Like you mentioned, you have to go out there and be proactive in your search altogether to be able to at least get those initial conversations and see if you can make a relationship turn into an opportunity.

Keller:
Yeah, exactly.

Parker:
And we just really appreciate the time obviously. Is there anything else, Keller, or kind of any closing remarks that you would want to share about Upwork, the company, your all's mission altogether?

Keller:
Yeah. So I think to reiterate, especially right now in what a lot of job seekers might be looking to hear, Upwork aside, make your job search or your internship search work for you. I think right now, it's really easy to kind of go into tunnel vision mode and start applying for jobs eight hours a day, but that's not good for your mental health and it's not ultimately probably going to get you that job that you're looking for. So really make your search for that internship or that first job out of college work within the routine that is best suited to keep you positive, outgoing, connected.

Keller:
And I think that Upwork plays a big role in that kind of opportunity, namely through the fact that right now, remote work is a significant, if not majority, part of at least the domestic US market. So plugging into potential opportunities like remote work, freelancing on Upwork's website, or just being able to develop your portfolio through an extension of global work through remote opportunities is the best thing you can probably do for yourself currently. So highly recommend it.

Parker:
Keller, it's been so great chatting. I really appreciate you taking the time today.

Keller:
Thanks Parker. I appreciate coming by.

Parker:
We had a great time speaking with Keller from Upwork. We shared their mission and how it relates to college students, his advice to the students in a competitive job market, and so much more. To listen to all of our shows and get updates on future ones, check out our website, theinternshipshow.com. If you're listening to this on Apple Podcasts or Spotify, we'd love for you to leave a rating or review about the show. This episode is brought to you by scholars. Scholars, not just college students, and employers for internships and entry level jobs based on skills, experiences, and interests. Make sure to tune into the next episode of The Internship Show, and have a great day.