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.