Wednesday, June 29, 2011

INTERNATIONAL STUDENT U.S. JOB SEARCH #3 – Two Items Successful Students Control

This is the third part of the compendium. It covers two activities that you can control to better position you in a U.S. job search – planning and conducting quality informational interviews.

Executing to a Thoughtful Plan

  • Implement it early. Don’t wait until the end of the school year to take your job search seriously! “Hope is not a strategy” -- Donald Trump.

  • Construct a substantive marketing plan, similar to what you have already done in business school marketing classes – The Four P’s (Product, Place, Price, Promotion) with Brand, Positioning Statement, Target Positions, Target Companies. Writing a plan more crisply defines you, your strategies, and your blueprint for actions while serving as an effective guide to improve conversations about your career aspirations. See OnCourse GCS PD – Network tools including a Personal Marketing Plan prototype and support materials.

  • Prioritize at least 45 target companies to help allocate time spent on search activities with individual targeted firms. Divide them into categories like High, Medium, and Lo, or, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Obtain lists of companies participating in international career fairs / conferences, even though you may not attend them. Look for companies investing in your country or region, and/or those trying to enter an “ethnic” market related to your country origin in the U.S. Research these companies upfront so they represent true “prospects”, not “suspects”. Replace any companies you have discarded for whatever reasons. Never remove a target company until you’ve validated with a couple company sources that visa sponsorship is out of the question.

  • Diversify connections at targeted firms. Keep in touch with initial connections while still meeting others – preferably hiring decision makers.

  • Execute to a thoughtful off-campus as well as an on-campus search strategy. The odds are approaching even that you will accept an off-campus position. As information, only 54% of students from the Kelley Class of 2010 accepted full-time positions from school facilitated, on-campus recruiters. The other 46% were from student initiated, off-campus opportunities. It appears to be 50% - 50% for recent graduates of the Class of 2011 which is anecdotally consistent with other major MBA schools.

  • Revise the plan as you learn and gain experience. While you should be fundamentally directed with defined job search parameters, keep an open mind when receiving ideas, exploring different job postings, and considering new possibilities within your chosen career function.

Conducting High Quality Informational Interviews

  • Transact professionally-oriented meetings with people who may or may not be in a position to hire you, where you ask questions to obtain information and advice about organizations, industries, job functions and career paths. While these have been known to pre-empt job postings, the purpose is not to ask for a job or hand out your resume, unless requested. In the U.S., “Asking for a job is a favor. Asking for advice is a compliment”.

  • Finish your informational interviews prior to any recruiter conversations to ensure optimal preparation and a foundation of internal company allies.

  • Read industry related publications to keep up with industry trends and ask better questions. These sources may list job openings that are not widely publicized on larger job sites and provide ideas of people for informational interviews.

  • Prepare meeting objectives with questions about the person’s career, company, developmental opportunities, and recommended next steps.

  • Tailor a concise initial contact message:
     Introduction – what that person needs to know about you
     How contact information obtained – set personal hook (mutual friends, alums, hometown, organizations, etc.)
     State specific request – get advice in-person or phone
     Why interested in contact’s perspective / industry / firm
     Offer flexible options to schedule only a 15 – 20 minute meeting
     Thank for time and attention
     Be prepared to have a conversation “on the spot”

  • Demonstrate your best interpersonal skills during the meeting. Listen. Take notes. Be genuinely interested in the other person. Look for common areas. When a conversation is naturally exhausted ask: “Is there any other person you recommend I should talk with?”

  • Thank

  • Follow-up

  • See OnCourse GCS PD – Network tools including “Informational Interviews – and alumnus perspective” by Peter Kuo of McKinsey & Co., and other support materials.

Please add other Plan and Informational Interview ideas to the comments section for potential discussion in subsequent blogs. Next week: Article #4 in this series will cover: Considerations and Resources. See you then.


Hi Kelleys. Nachiket Kale, on behalf of the Asian MBA Association, asked me to assemble some thoughts on off-campus U.S. job searches for international students. While finding career opportunities challenges all students, it seems more difficult for international students particularly when combined with H-1B visa sponsorship issues. This is the first of four blog compendiums covering the search challenges, items to exploit, activities to control, tactical considerations to pursue, and resources to tap. The objectives are to help put these in perspective to better position you for success. They represent my opinions, and not the Kelley School of Business. Part #1 covers some common international student frustrations, employer negative reluctances and hiring reason benefits I have heard.

International Student Frustrations:
• “No” is a common answer to: “Do you sponsor visas?”
• Recruiters screen out non-U.S. citizens
• Different U.S. engagement procedures and considerations other than qualifications
• No responses to hundreds of online job applications
• Firms only talk if desire expressed to return to home country
• Qualifications should speak for themselves. “Bragging” is culturally uncomfortable
• Limited information regarding companies which will sponsor visas
• Competition from many other non-U.S. graduate students

Employer Reluctances:
• Current economy and government bailout money restrictions
• Company policy to only hire U.S. citizens in the U.S. or “experienced” personnel (not students)
• Unclear understanding and/or intimidated by the visa process to legally employ an international person
• OPT (Optional Practical Training – standard F-1 student work authorization for up to 12 month for internship) is too short for full-time positions.
• Many applicants with U.S. work authorizations with similar qualifications
• Risk of applicant not winning the H-1B lottery and needing to leave the country. Note: for FY2010 and FY2011, the H1B quotas were reached late – 2011 was not reached until 1/27/2011.
• Cost-benefit analysis and inconveniences -- sponsoring costs, attorneys, government bureaucracy
• Sub-par written and/or spoken English language communications
• Doubts about students' skills in American-style interpersonal interactions, including assertive conversation, dining, handshake, and eye contact. Note: Research by Thomas W. Harrell of the Stanford GSB showed that these are substantive predictors of post-MBA corporate success – not GPA or GMAT.
• Recruiter is personally evaluated on the quality and retention of the candidates they sponsor.

Employer Benefits:
• Solves a compelling business problem
• Offers unique talents and skills not available with U.S. applicants -- language, cultural business familiarity, license, certification, educational prerequisite, experience, and other qualifications
• Alleviates time pressure to fill a position
• Fills needs in certain geographic locations
• Interests of someone influential at the company aligning with your personal situation including: philosophies, causes, and backgrounds (including alum status)

Please add any other challenges in the blog comments section for potential discussion in subsequent blogs. Without minimizing student and employer challenges, let’s focus on what can be exploited and let go of what cannot be controlled. As you take personal ownership of your career, view the search as being in business for yourself, but not by yourself. Emulate the tactics of successful international students and use the good resources which are available. Next week, article #2 in this series will cover: Two Items Successful Students Exploit.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Go to Lunch with a Coworker or Six Coworkers

For those of you who have been to Bloomington, Indiana, you know it is the quintessential college town. When school is in session, the students are bustling, the campus is hopping, and there is a certain nostalgia in the air. (Of course, the nostalgia could also be due to the fact that I am a proud alumna.)

Part of Bloomington’s charm is that there are so many locally owned restaurants to patron and experience. During the summer, the Graduate Career Service staff takes the lunch hour each Wednesday to visit a new restaurant together. (We also provide a rating on various factors, which proves to be an interesting conversation but is a bit off topic for this post.) Anyhow, this inspired me to use this blog post to offer my perspective on why having lunch with a coworker, or multiple co-workers, will prove to be valuable to you in your career.

1) Get to Know Others: Going to lunch with someone allows you to learn a lot about them. It offers an opportunity for you to learn about who they are as a person. Through lunch time conversation, you will learn about your coworker’s interests, passions, and concerns. Taking time to get to know a coworker better can also help you learn more about his or her style, which in turn helps you work together more effectively.

2) Learn About Your Coworker’s Interests to Stay Connected: Students often ask me how to stay connected with someone after an initial conversation. Going to lunch, or even coffee, with someone and learning about their interests makes this a lot easier. In time, you will learn about common interests and perhaps even different interests that you can discuss with the person over time. This will ultimately help you stay connected and also provide a reason to reach out.

3) Relationships Contribute to Your Success in the Workplace: You can draw parallels between the most successful brands and your personal brand. Just like a brand of anything - if no one in your workplace knows you, that is not a good thing! One way to expand your personal brand footprint is to get to know others. Having lunch, or even coffee, with others is one way to ensure they know you as well as your goals, successes, and challenges. Over time, you need to establish mentors and sponsors and knowing people is a requirement for making this happen!

4) Be Valuable to Others: I think we would all agree that one common way work gets done is through informal discussions. If you are getting to know others, beyond basic work exchanges about what needs to be done, you can really get to the heart of their goals and challenges. You may be able to help them by offering ideas, a different perspective, or even solutions to their business problems. Now that would really make a splash for your personal brand and you’re helping someone else in the process!

5) Get Up From Your Desk – Be Inspired! We often get so focused on our own to-do list and day to day tasks that it is easy to let opportunities to connect with others slip by us. Sometimes people eat lunch every single day at their desk, to me this is a sad state of affairs. I challenge you to get up from your desk and go talk to someone. Invite them to lunch and see what a difference it makes. You may even come back feeling more inspired, more energized, and with different ideas for tackling your work, or even helping someone else!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

How NOT to Get Hired as an MBA

The last two years of working with bright, talented MBA students has taught me a lot about so many different things – from how to kill a case competition, land a dream job, to how to rock a post-graduation vacation. The job market has certainly had its moments over the last two years. While we are seeing hiring trending positively, that still doesn’t mean it’s a cake walk to get a job. Here I’d like to share with you three great tips for how NOT to get hired as an MBA (there are many more, but these three come top of mind).

#1 & #2 – Lack depth and focus on technical strengths

As an MBA, employers expect that you not only come with certain degree of technical/functional prowess, but they also need you to showcase your potential to move beyond. Many MBAs come back to school so they can ultimately move up in the organization (it’s not the only reason by any means, but certainly a popular one). What is often missed during this quest is knowledge of what company leaders actually do. General Managers not only have to run the business, they need to strive for ways to improve operations – which can mean process improvement. In the interview, if you only talk about your past technical successes and show how you can (or better yet, have) improve processes, you are likely to come across as having a lack of depth.

So, how do you overcome this you ask… My recommendation is to be curious and inquisitive. When you see a process that seems out of whack, ask questions to help you understand why it is the way it is or who owns it and what’s been done to overcome it. Ask your seniors what they most love/hate about their roles. The bottom line is this – don’t forget the informational interviewing skills you learned in your 1st year of the MBA program when you were looking for a job. The mission is different, but the concept is the same – exercise these skills throughout your career will pay dividends.

#3 – Be unable to demonstrate leadership capability
When you’re hired as an MBA, the expectations are higher and you are likely to be given more strategic work, which then means you are likely being targeted for future management roles. In order to be successful in these management roles, your employer wants to be reasonably confident that you have the capacity to think and execute at the leadership level. If you need to go back to your 1st year undergrad student club secretary role to demonstrate leadership, you aren’t likely to get hired… And, you might have your interviewers saying – “he could have at least talked about organizing a company picnic or volunteer event. That would have been better than going back to 1st year of undergrad.” (True story by the way – and the candidate had at least 6 years of professional work experience at the time of the interview.)

So, how do you overcome this...? Stretch yourself in your current role, whether it is an internship or your full-time job. Stretch yourself to take on new challenges, especially the ones others think are too tough (highlighting initiative, and potentially stupidity, when completely insurmountable). The short answer is – don’t take the easy way out. The top leaders across all sectors are at the top because they work hard, take initiative, and go above and beyond what’s expected. Now’s your chance – take it!

There are so many things you can do in order to land the dream job - and it will differ for each of you. What's your secret to success? Drop us a line, we'd love to hear from you!

p.s. And one final tip, don’t wear too much of the hotel lotion…it makes your palms feel weird, and it usually has a really strong scent...