Monthly Archives: April 2012

Busting Career Search Myths

From guest blogger Jessica Newcomb.

At some point in your career search, you are likely to struggle with some kind of negative belief or mindset. Sometimes, negativity about the job search stems from beliefs that are based on incorrect assumptions, but they continue to bog down progress toward securing an internship or full time opportunity. Below are 3 examples of statements I often hear from job seekers followed by an explanation of why they should be disregarded as myths.

  1. Myth: “The person I want to contact will be upset if I find their email or phone numbers online and reach out to them.”Contact information is floating out there on the World Wide Web, business cards, directories, and company websites. If you use an aggregator like CareerShift as a research tool, the program cannot access anything behind a firewall. Again, the information is out there in the public domain. Networking only works if people engage, and you can’t engage without being found. A community grows stronger when more people connect, and as a result of that dynamic, most people are receptive to networking communication. When in doubt, mention how you found their contact information.
  2. Myth: “I should treat business contacts differently than personal contacts.”There is a personal element to getting to know business contacts because 90% of job seekers are people. If you didn’t laugh at that, it’s ok, but as a side note, you have to stay upbeat in your search. Laughing is one of the most important thing you can do in a job hunt and helps put others at ease. There has to be a foundation to every relationship, and the basis for forming a connection starts by making contact (as we discussed in #1). You have to reach out! After you jump start a relationship by reaching out, you should seek to develop the relationship. Most people don’t want to provide access to their network to someone they don’t know—to someone they don’t yet trust. Relationships are strengthened through the building of trust, and you will learn about the other person while sharing something about yourself.
  3. Myth: “I don’t have anything to offer in return, so professional contacts won’t want to help me.”   This myth is a very damaging and limiting mindset. Relationship building in both personal and professional contexts (as we discussed in #2) is all about generosity. There is an abundance of success and helpfulness in this world, more than enough to go around, and people for the most part want to share. Helping others provides a sense of satisfaction, and people love when their opinions are valued. As a job seeker, don’t underestimate or disregard what you have to offer. By allowing others to help you—in conjunction with helping others during your search—both parties benefit. If you operate from a position of generosity in your networking effort, contacts are glad to connect more often than not. It is when you lead with your need (i.e. “I need a job.”) that your messages might be ignored, deleted, or declined. Before reaching out, consider what you have to offer—a compliment/praise, solution to a problem, answer to a question, contact suggestion, etc.

What is a problem you have encountered in your search or have seen others face in their career search? Please leave a question to be answered or advice you would like to share.

Jessica Newcomb is the Assistant Director, Graduate Business Career Services at Texas A&M University.  Please follow her on Twitter @JessicaNewcomb.


How Do I Build a Network from Ground Zero?

This is a very popular question from people just starting out in their careers or those seeking employment in another country.  Here are two questions I receive often:   “If I do not know anyone in my geographical area, profession or industry of choice how can I network?”  “If networking is the number one way in which people find professional employment in the US, then how does a person build a professional network in the first place?”  These are, in fact, valid questions.  The good news is that everyone has a network.  Some networks are a bit more indirect than others.  The six degrees of separation from anyone in the world is true.  Nearly 80% of the potential jobs available are hidden.  They never hit the Internet job postings sites.  And whether you think you have a network or not, anyone can tap into this hidden job market and be successful.  Here are three simple resources to uncover your unrealized network so you can increase your chances of tapping into this hidden job market everyone seeks.

1.  Your college alumni network:  Alumni from every college and/or university in the world is at your fingertips.  Fellow classmates are now working in a myriad of professions, companies and industries, and these people can provide you more information than you think.  There are people all over the world who might not know you personally but share a common bond.  Allegiance to our alma maters run extremely deep.  Conversations concerning collegiate sports, traditions and experiences are the source to beginning many strong business relationships.  Reach out to these people through your campus alumni database, LinkedIn Groups and clubs.  Texas A&M has an extremely strong former student connection through our Association, local A&M clubs and LinkedIn groups.  Thousands of people are waiting for you to just reach out.  Will 100% of these people respond to you?  No, but don’t forget that famous quote from Wayne Gretzky:  “You will miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

2.  Your professional resources:  As I stated above, LinkedIn is an online resource that basically serves as a electronic professional network and rolodex.  It allows colleagues to connect and stay connected.  It providse a platform for business related exchange of information.  A job seeker can tap into this service by simply reaching out to experts in various professions, companies and industries.  Professional associations typically have LinkedIn group connections to provide networking opportunities and information exchange.  Engaging in a professional conversation is an ideal way for job seekers to connect with hiring managers and begin building a professional footprint and reputation.

3.  Your home country connection:  Each year, we have numerous international guests joining our academic programs with the concern of their lack of network.  I argue that this network can sometimes be the strongest of all.  We have thousands of internationals working in our country who can provide the best advice to those just starting the process of searching for sponsorship and employment.  Look to your undergraduate institutions and seek alumni who are currently working in the US and especially those who are working at firms on your list of top companies.  These people have already been through the experience and can provide the best advice on best practices and worst mistakes.

Everyone has a network.  Some networks are more obvious than others, of course, but each and every person has people ready and willing to provide solid advice and direction. The key is to ask and think creatively and not immediately ask for a job.   Realize your value proposition to business and market that message to a targeted audience with clarity and passion.

Please share with me your thoughts and experiences.  I am sure my readers would be interested to see how this has worked for others.


Successful Communication Strategy for Job Seekers

From Guest Blogger Jessica Newcomb

When you were a child, what did you say when you met someone you liked? My 6-year-old self probably said something like, “Hi, I’m Jessica. Want to be my friend?” Asking this question was a risk. Certainly, the other kid could walk away or stick her tongue out at me, but more often than not, we went off together to swing or play on the monkey bars.

As an adult, I sometimes get caught up in worrying about a potential negative reaction that I avoid reaching out in the first place. I also forget that at the core of my request, I was offering something because the other person also benefitted by having a friend and playmate.

The same principle holds true for forming professional relationships. Generosity—offering something to the other person—is one of the best ways to gain someone’s attention.

What are you currently saying or writing when you reach out to a contact? As a job seeker, do you lead with your need? Do you lead with asking for a job or internship? Read the example below and think about what the writer is asking.

Hello Mr. Jones,

I am a first year MBA at ABC University and wanted to introduce myself and ask for assistance in the form of an introduction. I would like to meet John Smith who works for XYZ Corporation for career networking and was hopeful you would make the introduction for me.

Thanks for your time and assistance, and I look forward to the upcoming conversation.

The writer is asking someone he has never met or spoken with previously to provide access to his network and make a recommendation. Why would this contact be compelled to meet this request? In a short statement—he wouldn’t be.

Instead, the writer should lead with the attitude, “How can I help you?” There are lots of ways to give as you build and strengthen your network: offer compliments or acknowledge success and accomplishments, connect people with a corresponding need/ability, send relevant articles, or give your time by volunteering.

Even if the contact does not offer you a job, you as the job seeker still benefit by gaining a professional relationship that you can expand, practicing relationship building and communication skills that will be useful over your lifetime, and growing personally and professional by engaging with others in your functional area or industry.

Jessica Newcomb is the Assistant Director, Graduate Business Career Services at Texas A&M University.  Please follow her on Twitter @JessicaNewcomb.

Does Networking Really Work in the Job Search?

Does networking really work in the job search?  Absolutely, positively and without a doubt YES!  Just go to Google, and you will find article upon blog upon statistic proving that networking is the number one approach to job search success.  Nearly every resource you uncover will state that networking is the key to at least 75-80% of all jobs secured today and many resources note a higher number than that.  I would say that networking shouldn’t just be in the top five strategies you incorporate into your job search; it must be NUMBER ONE!  Here are three examples that prove networking works and is the most vital component of any job search and future career management success.

1.  Networking uncovers the hidden job market:  Only a fraction of available job opportunities are posted online.  Many opportunities are either still in the development stage within the departments or within the signature and company red-tape process.  By the time those positions are posted, if they ever make it online at all, a candidate has already been chosen.  Has that ever happened to you?  Isn’t it frustrating?  Wouldn’t you love to be the person the company choses?  How, you ask, does a person find out about these positions that are filled before being posted online?  NETWORKING!  The candidate chosen capitalized on drive, creativity, great communication skills and savvy to connect with the hiring manager and close the deal.

2.  Networking provides word-of-mouth marketing you just cannot buy:  Hiring is a cumbersome process.  Reading resumes, idenifying candidates for interviews and conducting interviews is rarely on the job description for most hiring managers.  Direct referrals or recommendations from colleagues is a far more appealing approach for those who have a need for talent.  Anyone who can facilitate the process and make the job for the hiring manager easier will be the squeaky wheel to get the oil–the job.

3.  Networking estatiblishes you in your chosen profession:  The more established your reputation is within your profession for a career, the more likely you will be noticed and recruited when seeking employment.  It is your profession, say marketing, that will appreciate your skills the most.  Your profession is where you will be remembered for your talent.  And when seeking employment, the hiring managers within that profession are those who will make the hiring decisions.  Company departments consistently look to their professional associations and organizations to post positions or “put the word out” for talent.  The search for talent is more targeted within associations.  Active association members knows the major contributors within the profession.  A well established reputation within your chosen profession will provide you the most effective network available.

A effective and successful job search campaign cannot be successful without marketing.  And networking is the number one marketing strategy towards a successful career.  When seeking a job ask yourself where is the source or creation of the positions available today, who within your profession can provide you the best advice and direction, and where can you connect with the most influencial people within your profession.  You find all of the answers through networking.