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.

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