Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Not Your Average Networking Post

Written based on the expertise of Cindy Hosea, Associate Director of Graduate Accounting Program and Information Systems Graduate Program – Kelley Graduate Career Services.

Cindy Hosea
Jane* conducted her job search like just about most other college students. She applied to jobs that fell within her scope, showed up for career fairs, and went to nearly every company-hosted event on campus. Which is why she was left confused and discouraged when she was approaching graduation without a job or even the prospect of an offer.

When she approached her career coach, it wasn’t hard to figure out what had happened. Jane had been showing up to the right events, but she hadn’t been engaged. Fortunately, she made another right choice in showing up to career services. Her coach explained that companies weren’t hiring her because they didn’t know her – there was no one advocating on her behalf. The session that happened in Cindy’s office that afternoon was a breakthrough, both for Jane’s immediate job search and the rest of her professional career. Their plan of action first set out to tackle the self-limiting thoughts that were holding Jane back from networking from the start.

Hurdle #1: Networking feels so awkward. I hate pretending to be friends with people to get what I need.
If this is your mentality, you should feel awkward! No one enjoys being used. Unfortunately, it’s often the case that the urgency of getting a job often can get in the way of building a relationship. Relationships take time, and although you may not feel like that’s something you have much of at the moment, successful networking is going to take commitment and a change of attitude.

Hurdle #2: Why would they want to talk to me?
This isn’t as much about them as it is about you. When you strip everything else away, this is actually your pride getting in the way. It can be hard to put yourself out there and risk rejection, but so many people are just excited to help! Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you would feel if someone wanted to learn about you – pretty good feeling, right?

Hurdle #3: I don’t know what questions to ask.
Nothing that can’t be taken care of with a little planning. Making an agenda for your conversation takes a little work, but that’s the least you can do. It can be as simple as:
"Do you mind if we start with a few questions about your career, in general, and then more specifically to projects you are currently working on? My goal for the call is to learn ___."  
From there, just go with the flow. Have a list of open-ended questions prepared ahead of time, but be open and flexible to how the conversation progresses. If your conversation partner says something interesting, it’s okay to deviate from the list and ask a follow-up question.

Jane’s story has a happy ending. She developed relationships with several people Cindy put her in touch with, and she ended up with not one but three offers before graduation. Once the alumni got to know her, they knew Jane would represent them well and they would look good for bringing in such great talent, once again proving networking isn’t as one-sided as you might have believed. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of getting out of your own way to help both of you out.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Don't Sell Yourself Short: 5 Things to Do Before Signing on the Dotted Line

Written based on the expertise of Kendell Brown, Associate Director of Alumni Relations – Kelley Graduate Career Services.

You’ve had your eye out for this job for months, endured multiple rounds of interviews, and waited weeks in agonizing silence to hear your fate. The day has finally come where the silence has broken and the offer is yours!

After going through this long and arduous process, the temptation to sign on the dotted line and make it official is attractive. But this is 2017. You owe it to yourself to take a long hard look at the deal in front of you and open up discussions for negotiations. According to a 2013 CareerBuilder survey, nearly half of workers accept the first offer given to them. Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University asserts that by not negotiating, employees are costing themselves anywhere from $1 million to $1.5 million over a lifetime.

With so much at stake, why is half the population so hesitant to even bring up the conversation? The most obvious reason that comes to mind is the fear that the offer will be rescinded. The probability of an offer being taken back is extremely low, especially if the discussion is done in a respectful manner. Negotiations are an extremely normal part of business, and there’s no reason to feel bad to engage in one. That being said, we do have a few words of advice for when the time comes.

1. Identify your values.
As strange as it may sound, your values are at the heart of every piece you will negotiate. Asking for a higher starting salary isn’t so that you can stockpile your cash, but so that you’re able to do what’s important to you. Whether it’s a trip to a foreign location, a bigger house for your family, or the ability to be able to leave at 5 pm every night, what’s most important to you will be displayed through your asks.

2. Be specific in your requests.
By being specific in what you ask for, you give the company something to react to. Ask for more than you’re willing to settle for, and work in a bit of wiggle room for when they counter. On that note, don’t make outrageous suggestions. (i.e. asking for a $200,000 salary when the offer says $150,000.)

3. Have evidence to support your demands.
Asking for more money “just because” isn’t a very effective way to get more money. Hiring managers are bound to have much more empathy if you’ve gone through and added up rent, student loan payments, and the cost of living in a city like San Francisco. And if you have other offers with more alluring benefits, don’t be afraid to bring that up, too. They want to know!

4. Ask for everything at once.
The hiring process is drawn out as-is. Don’t lengthen it by piling on request after request. Chances are, your HR contact isn’t the one who has the authority to approve the changes, so project a put together image by making all of your requests at one time.

5. Be prepared to accept; It’s not a game.
Simple as that: be professional, and don’t waste anyone’s time if you know that no matter what agreement you come to, you don’t want the job. Go in with the mindset that you’ll accept if your “bottom line” is met. 

While negotiating can seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Come in with a game plan but know that if you’re asking your employer to be flexible, you should expect the same of yourself. Most importantly, come armed with the courage to let your voice be heard – the employer isn’t the only one in a position of power.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Secrets to Interview Success from a Former HR Professional

Written based on the expertise of Nicolette Johnson, Associate Director of Consumer Marketing – Kelley Graduate Career Services.

Is it the things you said or the things you didn’t say in an interview that come back to haunt you? As a former HR professional who has sat through 200+ interviews, Johnson would point to the latter. She made the transition from the employer side of the table to the person coaching the interviewee two years ago, and she has advice for applicants when it comes to what they miss.

They don’t explain their unique value to interviewers.
In order to describe what they bring to the table, candidates must understand three very important and connected pieces of the story. First and foremost, successful applicants understand who they are. They know their brand and can confidently communicate that to an employer. Secondly, they point to what sets them apart. 

Side note - if you’re struggling to come up with qualities that make you stand out, take time to dig deep and reflect. What have other people told you that you’re good at? Because of how often you’ve heard it (especially if it comes from mom), it can be easy to brush off and look over. But the family, friends, and co-workers who know you best can be great help when it comes to identifying what sets you apart. Another option is to get a fresh set of eyes on your resume. Something that seems trivial to you might be really interesting to someone else.

Finally, and most importantly, what’s in it for the company? Be sure to be clear about how your particular skill set will contribute to their goals in the future.

On a similar note, connect the dots.
Having passion doesn’t mean a darn thing unless you tell the interviewer how that passion will help you be better at your job. Does it mean you’ll dig in more because it’s a topic that interest you? That you’ll be more creative? Or that you’ll work harder? The same goes for experience. If you have ten years under your belt, great. So what? How will the skills and capabilities you’ve learned serve your new employer well? Don’t leave them guessing – be explicit about how your skills connect to what they’re looking for.

When they ask why this company or role, have a real answer.
Real in two forms. First, Do. Not. Be. Vague. You come across unprepared, as though you haven’t done an ounce of research on the company. Not a good look. Secondly, don’t sound packaged either. Dig deep – every company has something interesting. Find that nugget, and run with it!

Under no circumstances should you use the job description as your answer to “what are your strengths?”
Please. Don’t pretend to be the perfect match for what the company needs. Determine your unique strengths first, and then see how you align with the job description. A recruiter can tell the difference between someone who's being genuine and someone who's giving all the right answers to get a job. 

Not preparing for the interview so that it’s “conversational.”
It doesn’t allow you to be “more conversational,” it makes you look like you didn’t take the time to prepare for the interview (because you didn’t). By doing the research ahead of time, you’ll be more conversational because you won’t be flustered when they ask you a question. 

We get it – there are a lot of things to keep in mind when you go into an interview. But take our advice and set yourself apart. And if you do use these tips in an interview, send us a note to let us know! We’d love to hear about your progress. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

2 Keys to a Successful Job Search

When deciding on a business school, the quality of companies who choose to recruit on campus makes up a large part of the criteria students evaluate. The Kelley Corporate Relations Team pulls through in big ways, bringing in names like 3M, Bain, and Amazon that most students will end up working for. It’s an ideal situation: these companies are looking for potential employees with a certain skillset, and these students are looking for companies of the highest caliber with meaningful work.

But for others, the big names either don’t hold as much allure, or they have their hearts set on something else. Whichever the case, some students find themselves recruiting off campus in a situation that more accurately replicates a job search, outside the bubble of Kelley recruiting.

Sumedha Makker, MBA ’17, came to Kelley with a desire to change careers and a passion for fitness. When she decided to get her MBA, combining the two was non-negotiable. She landed her dream internship with Glanbia Performance Nutrition and had an incredible summer working in an environment she loved… so how did she do it? At the core, there were two things Sumedha did that made her efforts a success.

It started with using her resources – she first reached out to Ray Luther of the leadership academy, and he provided her a connection who had previously attended Kelley. She was also proactive in her search. Using the powers of LinkedIn, she discovered she had a mutual connection with the CEO of Isopure, Chris Hickey. She reached out to her former classmate, and he introduced the two.

The self-identified factor that made Sumedha most successful in her job search was her genuine interest in Hickey and the company. When she talked to Hickey, her only motive was to learn about his career and how he got where he was. She knew that they didn’t have a program specifically for MBAs and wasn’t expecting it to turn into anything. During the conversation, they connected well, and her passion for fitness shone through. Hickey liked her so well that he connected her to the human resources department at Glanbia, the nutrition giant who was in the process of acquiring Isopure.

When she arrived at Glanbia, Sumedha says it was the MBAs within the organization who helped create the norms and expectations for the position. Looking back on her time there, something she wishes she had done differently would be to sit down and have a formal conversation before jumping straight in. “I ended up working a lot over the summer, which was great, but by the end, I was exhausted.”

For others looking to recruit off campus, there are a few qualifications Sumedha would give. First, be okay with not knowing what to expect. Most companies don’t know what they’ll be hiring for as far out as companies who specifically set out to hire MBA’s. There will be extra waiting time and likely a lack of organization. The extra waiting applies on the back end as well; these companies participate in more of a just-in-time strategy, so you have to be okay with not having a full-time offer when it’s all said and done.

She would also advise students to feel like they are able to negotiate. “It’s challenging when it feels like the company is doing you a favor since they don’t normally hire for MBA-specific roles, but balance that with the fact that you are bringing value to the company and should be fairly compensated for it.”

In the midst of the search, it’s easy to put those blinders on and focus on the task at hand. Resist that temptation and use your resources – particularly those within GCS as the launching point for your next career move. Kendell Brown serves as the associate director of alumni relations, offered to all Kelley alumni at any point in their career. Reach out to her for more information or set up an appointment.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Stop Tripping - 5 Actionable Steps to Get Out of Your Own Way

Based on the expertise of Christina Schmidt, Associate Director of Business Marketing – Kelley Graduate Career Services

Getting a full-time MBA requires a lot of sacrifice, but you already know that. If you’re uprooting your life and taking two full years off of work, I bet you’re willing to do everything within your power that will help you succeed. No matter how great your academics are, how many extracurriculars you participate in, or even how many people you meet, the one thing that will sabotage your efforts (if you’re not conscious) is you. Take a look at the following list and make a note to be mindful: these are things coaches see happen on a regular basis.

Not saying thank you. Kelley career coaches cite this as the number one blunder students commit. As incredibly simple as it sounds (and the minimal effort it requires), not saying thank you is one of the most foolish and quickest ways to make people turn away. It doesn’t matter if it was “only” an informational interview; anytime someone willingly gives up their time in an effort to help you, a small gesture like a thank you goes a long way in communicating what you think about them. If you want to take it a step further, The Muse has three tips on writing a thank-you note people won’t forget. 

Coming across unprofessional. Recruiters are used to corporate environments where many people are vying for their attention. In light of that, be sure any written material that you send uses proper English – spelling and grammar. When going through a pile of resumes, glaring errors make it an easy decision as to which ones will be tossed out first.
Unprofessionalism can also come across verbally. Particularly for those whose first language is not English, practice is key. Although it can be a challenging language to learn, if recruiters see you’re making progress with each interaction, that sends them the message you’re willing to make the effort to be a better employee. On a similar note, when you are having a conversation with someone, be conscientious of things like personal space and cultural norms.

Taking the summer off. Yes, you may be back in the working world, but this isn’t just a time to apply your new knowledge from the classroom. It can be easy to jump back into old habits, but don’t slide backward; continue networking the way you did when you were looking for a job. As GCS Director Eric Johnson would say, never eat lunch alone. 

Being timid at your internship. We hear you – being the low man on the totem pole can be intimidating, but being too nervous to speak up or ask questions sends your boss the wrong message. Use your words to figure out the details of your project, but don’t stop there. Go beyond the objectives and ask questions that will clue you in as to how the office operates. Your offer is likely contingent upon whether or not you know whom to impress. Figure out the office dynamics and get a feel for who the key influencers are.

Only talking to companies you’re interested in. It may seem counterintuitive, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. By holding a conversation with someone from a different company, you just might hit it off. And even though that might not change your mind about their company, it makes them much more inclined to leverage their network and reach out to a contact they have at a company you are interested in. Everyone has value, and by writing off someone who isn’t in your “plan,” you’re closing yourself off to opportunities you haven’t yet imagined.


These five helpful hints aren’t earth-shattering – we totally get that. But we do promise, they happen a lot more than you’d think. Whether you’re getting an MBA, applying for a new job, or are just out in the working world, make a conscious effort to be mindful and put these into practice. It might open up a few more doors than you’d expect. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pack your Bags and your Briefcase: Six Essentials you can't Afford to Forget

Based on the expertise of Megan Alwine, Associate Director – Kelley Graduate Career Services

Have you ever packed for a road trip, loaded up the car, driven away, and then remembered all of the things you forgot to bring? Networking can be like that, too. “We had a good conversation. I sent a LinkedIn invitation. We’re getting together for coffee next week… Uh oh! Did I send a thank you?” So many times, it is easy to forget the little things when it comes to networking. And these are the little things that can go a LONG way. Here’s what should be on your mental “do not forget” checklist.

Things you might forget:

#1. Toothpaste: Talk to everyone
Forgetting your toothpaste can make you shy away from any conversation. Unfortunately, that timidity, when not from a lack of brushing, can yield missed opportunities. If you’re at a networking night, and [company] is only recruiting for their marketing department, do not write them off. This particular person might work in the marketing department but might know a good contact in the department you are interested in. If you make a good impression, they’ll probably pass your name on. In other words, you are always making an impression, so make it a good one.

#2. The GPS: Make it easy
Have you ever been on a road trip where your GPS has failed? When you don’t provide context for your connector, they’re forced to bust out the old-school map; it’s possible but not preferred. When you are asking someone to reach out to a contact to you, make it easy for them! One of the best ways you can do this is to write your email explaining exactly what you want. For example, “Hi Megan. I saw you are connected to John on LinkedIn. I’m extremely interested in [industry] and would love to get in touch with him to talk about [topic]. Would you consider introducing me to him?” By using this format, Megan is able to forward the message with minimal effort to connect you with John. Bonus: John sees you’re prepared and intentional about why you want to speak to him.

#3. Your itinerary: Define the ask
The planning and effort you put into your itinerary make the trip run smoothly. While networking, the ask clearly outlines who, what and when. A word of advice: when you’re requesting someone else’s time make it as simplistic and clear as possible. If they have to work to get time with you, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot. Make suggestions to take out any extra steps. For example, rather than email back and forth about times that would work, acknowledge their time is precious, ask for an allotted amount of time within a larger time window (i.e. Would you be available for a phone call between 3 and 5 pm this Friday?).

#4. Confirmation number: Maintain control of the follow-up
Without your confirmation number, all you can do is hope the hotel got it right. Print your confirmation number in formatting your follow up. In The Two Hour Job Search, Steve Dalton gives many great pieces of advice, but one of his best pertains to the follow-up. The template given in the book is as simple as this:
“I know time is a resource, so if we are unable to connect by email, I will try to reach you next week to see whether that is more convenient.”
By structuring your follow up this way, you give yourself an opportunity reach out (next week) if you haven’t heard anything back within a certain time. And, you know what? You’re actually showing the recipient that you’re accountable. You said you would follow up in 1 week, and then you do!

#5. Paying your credit card bill: Send a thank-you
Just like forgetting to pay the tab from your vacation can damage your credit score, don’t let forgetting to send a thank-you damage your reputation. Although sending an email to thank them for their time will protect you from damaging your reputation, does that convey how valuable you consider their time? One effective but often forgotten art is that of the handwritten thank-you note. While this doesn’t replace the email for the sake of a timely follow-up, it does speak to the receiver and sets you apart.

#6. Phone charger: Give an update to your connector
Your cell phone charger is just a small piece of equipment, making it the easiest but arguably the most important thing you can forget. Without your phone charger, you’d be cut off from the outside world (and Google maps which would be a disaster on a road trip). When you leave your connector in the dark, they might feel cut off, too. Someone you know generously agreed to tap into their network for you, something they were absolutely not required to do. (But luckily most people are super great and love helping others out.) Here’s the kicker – they want to know about what happened after they helped you out. Did the contact they set you up with work out well? Awesome! Let them know. Was it kind of a dead end? That’s too bad it didn’t work out this time. Still, tactfully let them know. Regardless, make sure they know you didn’t take their contact or effort for granted.


There you have it – six things to add to your mental networking list. Talk to everyone. Make it easy. Define the ask. Maintain control. Send a thank you. And give updates. These seemingly small changes might just have the biggest impact. 

This is the first in a series of blogs entitled The Career Life Cycle. Join us every other week as we cover a different aspect of the cycle. Stay tuned! Our last post includes a chance at an exclusive giveaway with one of Kelley's certified graduate career coaches.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Job Seeker’s Guide to Dealing with Rejection

Based on the expertise of Christina Schmidt, Associate Director of Business Marketing – Kelley Graduate Career Services

Clich├ęs like, “It’ll all work out”, or “Everything happens for a reason” are a whole lot easier to say than to hear, aren’t they? But at some point or another, failure is inevitable, and you won’t get exactly what you had hoped for. The supportive, caring people in your life will listen, sympathize, and then throw out something along those lines intending to cheer you up. Often those phrases can have the opposite intended effect, but don’t let a bitter reaction tarnish the truth in those words. Remember, you always have a choice – even when those choices aren’t about which job opportunity to pursue. When your only choice is how you’ll respond, consider the following before reacting.

You’ve built a network. This is extremely valuable, so work to maintain it. Maybe there was someone just *slightly* more qualified for that job. But what about your dream job they’re just about to post? Chances are, employees on the inside know of roles coming open before everyone else. By working to maintain your network, your internal contact might be able to 1) tell you about the position before it’s made public, or 2) say they know someone who would be a great match for the role.

It’s a chance to improve. Around Kelley, we call this an after action review: figuring out what went right and what went wrong. The key to this one is honesty. You have to be honest with yourself or whomever you’re talking to about why you truly didn’t get the job. There are a million and one excuses in the book. Don’t be someone who makes excuses. Be someone who takes responsibility for what happened and takes action to never let it happen again.

Use the opportunity to take a break. Sometimes we can get so focused on the job we applied for that stepping back from the situation to get yourself in the right frame of mind will do much more for you than hours of interview prep ever could. What’s your favorite escape from reality? Listening to a TED talk, working out, reading a book? The important thing to realize is it’s only a break. Don’t quit. When you’re ready, come up with a plan of action in how you’re going to move on. Don’t go it alone, either – this is a great time to bring in a coach, industry professional, or mentor you trust to bounce ideas off and hold you accountable.

Rejection’s never easy, but don’t let missing out on one opportunity lead to squandering two. By using rejection to fuel your progress, you’ll end up in a place better than you ever imagined!