Career Management

I was in business school at a very bad time. Whereas alumni who graduated years before me had job offers, sometimes up to five of them, in hand before graduation, my class was not as lucky. In fact, we were going to graduate right at a time when companies were laying off people.

It is discouraging to find out that companies who were planning to visit the campus cancels at the last minute. For the remaining companies that are hiring, some of them are hiring locally or only US citizens to save on costs. Most have also drastically reduced hiring levels.

The economy was not on my side. I knew then that if I were to get a job offer by the time I graduate, I need to pound the pavement. I need to be resourceful and smart about my job search process.

I did what many other people will tell you. I submitted so many resumes and covers letters I have honestly lost count. I attended company information sessions and networked my ass off. The problem is: everybody else was doing this. How do I stand out among a crowd of hungry job hunters?

I wanted to share with you some guerilla-style steps I undertook for my job hunt. It all paid off. By the end of the year, I had 3 job offers in hand: Google, Microsoft, and Standard Chartered Bank. I was ecstatic. It was not easy but my job search strategy obviously worked!

1) Get real life experience:

During a downturn, companies become more conservative when hiring. Because companies hire less, they also become more careful and don’t want to hire the wrong candidates. As a result, the more signs recruiters have that a candidate will succeed on a job, the better the chances of that candidate in getting the job .

This is where real life experience comes into play. All of my classmates and I have solid academic credentials. However, not all of us will have relevant experience especially for those looking to change careers.

I did two things that helped me in my job search. I was part of a student-run business on campus that sold MIT-branded retail items. This experience was valuable in demonstrating my entrepreneurial spirit and self-starter mindset. I can say this definitely helped make a great case for me when applying to tech companies such as Google.

The second thing I did was to intern at a tech startup called AllTrails.com. Before this, I had zero tech experience. By doing business development for this startup, I gained valuable tech experience and have stories I can talk about during my tech interviews.

Whatever industry you are aiming for, you can definitely follow this step. Go out and find an internship or part-work in the area you are interested in, whether it be sales, engineering, or something else. Having such experience will strengthen your application for a full-time job.

2) Make trips to Silicon Valley:

I really pounded the pavement. I hustled like there was no tomorrow. Whereas some classmates would visit the Bahamas or Cancun on long weekends, I had flights scheduled to the locations I wanted to work in. Specifically, I made my way to Silicon Valley on a couple of occasions to visit companies and meet people.

Here’s what I did: before arriving at my destination, I would reach out to people I knew working in my target companies. For example, I would talk to alumni from Google, Facebook, eBay, Apple, etc and schedule time for when I’m in town. I would browse each company’s job board and familiarize myself with the different teams as much as I can. Finally, I have prepared questions to ask the people I’m meeting. These are busy people with busy schedules and I don’t want them to feel that I am wasting their time.

There are a few benefits to visiting the companies I wanted to work for. First, it sends a strong signal to recruiters and hiring managers that I am serious about my application. Second, my trips arm me with stories that I can share during my interview. This helps connecting with interviewers easier. Third, being there gives me a better picture of the culture and environment.

If your target company is relatively close by, try to make that trip down to their office and meet people. People will appreciate the effort you put it. It is an investment but who knows, it may pay off in the end like it did to me.

3) Browse other school’s job boards:

My goal was to find a job in tech. Because of the recession, many tech companies based in Silicon Valley were cutting back on trips to the East Coast. MIT is in Boston which meant that some companies are not flying to my school to meet students in person.

This was bad news. It limits the companies and recruiters I get to meet. It also meant that there may be openings that I won’t know of. As this is the case, I knew I needed to be resourceful. If tech companies are hiring locally, they must be reaching out to students at Stanford and Berkeley, both based in the Bay Area.

I asked around and identified friends who were students in both Stanford and Berkeley, including some in the business school programs. I asked if they can share with me the companies visiting their campuses and roles they are hiring for. I came upon a gold mine! I found names of both big companies and small startups actively recruiting in Silicon Valley.

Armed with this list, I reached out and introduced myself to recruiters. Most of them welcomed my outreach. Why wouldn’t they? I was another potential candidate in their hiring process! I made their job easier for them.

I was so grateful for my friends’ help. Of course, in return I shared with them names of companies hiring in the East Coast in case they were interested. There were many of them especially in the biotech, finance, and consulting industries.

The takeaway here is to be resourceful. If companies are not coming to you, you should be the way to reach out to them.

Final thoughts:

How well the economy is doing will always affect your job prospects. It will determine how easy or difficult it is to get a job. But as you seen in my case, you should not give up.

I challenge you to start now. Continue to hustle. Go above and beyond what is required. Be resourceful and creative in your job search. Your efforts will pay off in the end!

Author: Sally is the founder of eggheadjob.com, a blog where she shares stories and tips on how to get a job and advance your career the smart way. She currently works at Google and is a graduate of MIT. She is also known as “Get the Job Girl” and you can follow her adventures on Twitter.


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