You are new on the job and you want to ensure your success. You are taking notes, asking insightful questions and listening carefully in all the meetings. With each passing day you are growing more comfortable and competent with your new responsibilities. It is exciting to be making progress.
The big question is when and how do you find your voice? When do you start to offer your insights and suggestions in meetings? The answer most likely is “it depends.”
- Start by listening– No one in the meeting appreciates the “new kid on the block” coming in and dominating the meeting with how something similar was done in a prior company. Don’ t assume you know all the answers until you listen to understand the true problem and what solutions have already been tested. Demonstrate your commitment to success by listening to learn the organization.
- Observe meeting protocol – Different companies have different meeting styles and philosophies. There may be significant differences depending on who is leading the meeting so you need to be a keen observer. Does the level of participation in the meeting vary by the level of attendees? Are there meetings where you only speak if you are formally listed on the agenda? Are there expectations that you must be a certain level or above to speak in the meeting? Is there an open sharing of ideas?
- Take Notes – Takes notes during the meeting. It shows your level of engagement, It also provides valuable information for future reference. When they are discussing something you don’t understand it is easy to jot down questions to ask your manager later. Because you are already taking notes it not obvious that you are capturing questions.
- Sanity Check Your Observations with your Manager – Share what you have observed about participation in meeting and ask for confirmation or clarification.
- Test an Idea with Your Manager – If an idea comes to you during a meeting, make a note of it. Discuss with your manager and ask if it would be appropriate to share such ideas in future meetings.
- Share with Confidence – When you are ready, share your ideas with confidence. Do not be timid. Identify the problem and offer a possible solution. Do not be arrogant. Demonstrate that you wish to be part of the solution.
As I am wrapping up visits with the students currently out on corporate residency and their managers, the most common feedback this year has been helping the students find their voice at the table once they’ve settled in on the job. If they can hone this skill while on residency it will serve them well throughout their careers.
Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business is hosting a Career Expo for our students and alumni. These events can be a valuable source of contacts but to be successful, the job seeker must prepare thoroughly in advance. This advice applies to all career fair events not just our upcoming Expo.
Research the Companies
Do your homework in advance. Identify the companies participating and see if they align with your target companies, industries or positions. If yes, research each company you plan to visit. Learn what they do, who their competitors are, what recent press coverage they have had, etc. Check their online postings to see if there are specific jobs which may interest you. Know something about the companies you hope to meet and have specific, thoughtful questions prepared for each one. Obviously if there are no companies of interest, don’t waste your time but do some research before jumping to that conclusion.
Prepare Your Materials
Have clean copies of your resume with you. Also have business cards available. Be prepared to share them when asked. You also want to be sure to have a notepad so you can jot down appropriate notes after each conversation. Have a calendar available in case you are asked to schedule a follow-up interview. Use one pocket for your own business cards and a separate pocket for those you collect.
Put your Best Foot Forward
Dress as if it were an interview because it could be. You are certainly making a first impression on the company representative so you want to appear professional. Some companies have the flexibility to do on the spot interviews if they are impressed so you want to be ready. When it is your turn to meet the representative, make eye contact, shake hands confidently and introduce yourself briefly.
It’s about the Relationships
This is about making connections. You can apply online all day and there is no guarantee that a human ever actually looks at your resume. At the career expo, you are meeting a representative from the company. They have committed their time and resources because they want to meet our students and alumni. Let them know you are interested. Demonstrate your interest by being well prepared and asking insightful questions. Even if they don’t immediately have the right job for you, if you make a positive impression they could bring your resume back to the office and share it with an appropriate hiring manager. Make a strong connection.
For the people you had conversations with at the expo, send a handwritten thank you note within 24 hours thanking them for their time and reinforcing your interest. Few people will do this so it helps you stand out in a very positive way. If they don’t have a card, jot down their name and company before moving on to the next table. Saying thank you makes a very positive impression.
If you are going to take the time to attend a career event, invest the time in your preparation so you can maximize the benefits.
Often the job search process involves an interview over lunch or dinner or networking at a reception. Candidates do not want to be remembered for displaying poor etiquette in a business dining situation. To help our students succeed, the MBA Career Center at Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business requires all full-time MBA and MSF students to participate in business dining etiquette events. Your professional etiquette becomes an important component of your professional brand.
The Basics and Beyond – Some of the basics are things you learned from Mom and Dad or maybe Grandma. Don’t speak with food in your mouth. Don’t put your elbows on the table. Don’t pass food across the table. While the event includes fun reminders about these basics, it goes much further. We talk about how to hold your drink during the cocktail reception to avoid a clammy handshake. We explore how to pass items around the table, how to identify which bread plate and water glass are yours and we tackle the daunting issue of which piece of silverware to use when. Students have an opportunity to practice throughout the session and are able to ask specific questions as well.
Professionalism What to order from the menu at a business meeting is discussed as well as how to handle the check. Students learn how to make a toast and when it is appropriate to reciprocate. Proper manners are a demonstration of your personal brand so building a solid understanding of professional behavior serves you well in your job search and throughout your career.
To be remembered for positive reasons after an interview or business meeting, be sure your professional etiquette is on target.
Does your resume position you for success? This is the time of year we review many resumes with new students joining us on campus. One trend I have observed is the tendency to leave off the summary to make room for more job-related bullets. This could have serious consequences.
Most hiring managers or HR professionals make a decision on your resume within the first 30 – 60 seconds. If you do not capture their attention in those initial seconds, you will lose the opportunity to be considered for that position. Starting with the bullets of your current job is not a recipe for success particularly if you are hoping to change industries or fields.
Capture their attention immediately with a strong summary at the top of your resume. This will entice them to take the time to read the rest of your resume and you have provided a lens through which they review the remainder of your resume. Use your summary to define your personal brand and to highlight you key transferrable skills.
“Experienced finance professional with a successful track record of timely and accurate monthly, quarterly and year-end closings. Leverages knowledge of the business and natural curiosity to identify, explore and resolve variances from plan. Attention to detail supports comprehensive account reconciliations, process improvements and in-depth analysis.”
“Supply chain professional with experience in procurement, logistics and operations. Implemented new software solution on scheduled and within budget. Process improvements identified and executed to save money and to improve supplier relationships. Successfully implemented and monitored supplier scorecard.”
“Innovative marketing professional with experience in new product launch, marketing communications, definition and implementation of digital marketing strategy, and product life-style strategy. Creative problem solver with track record of successful product introductions to meet customer needs.”
Tell the reader who you and what skills you bring to the table as you explore opportunities with their company. Capture their attention with your summary to encourage them to read your resume for more details. To be successful in a competitive job market, you need to capture their attention quickly to stand out from the crowd.
Summer is behind us, and the kids are back in school. As life settles into the fall routine, this is the time to get serious about ramping up your job search if you hope to be in a new job in 2015. Don’t waste time focusing on what your should have done over the summer, give your search a fresh start with renewed focus and energy. Finding a job takes some time, effort, and focus so it’s critical to define a plan and get started sooner rather than later. Here are some suggestions for “falling” into some good job search habits this season:
- Create a plan – Define specific goals and an actionable plan of how you will go about achieving them. It’s the old, “You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going.” First, start by assessing your skills, strengths and interests. Then, think about the type of work you enjoyed in current and prior roles, as well as internships, part-time jobs or even on-campus work or volunteering. Next, think honestly about your core competencies and in what industries and roles those skills will bring value. Document your plan and measure your progress against it. Set weekly goals and hold yourself accountable – and reward yourself by doing something you enjoy once you’ve accomplished your goals for the week.
- Prepare your tools – If you are planning a trip, you pack your bags, right? Well, as you embark on your job search journey you also need to make sure you have the appropriate tools. Do you have your resume up to date and ready to go? Have someone else proof it for you, just to be sure there are no typos or errors. Practice writing customized cover letters and ask for feedback. Consider developing a networking profile to share during networking meetings. Think about whom you could use for references and collect their current contact information. Of course, remember to ask their permission to use them as references, and tell them you will notify them when you share their information with a hiring manager so you can brief them on the job. Having the right tools won’t get you a job, but it can get your foot in the door so you have the opportunity to sell yourself for the job.
- Develop a target list –What companies and industries are of greatest interest to you? Start your wish list with current preferences, then so some research to identify other companies or industries that are similar and require your same skill sets. Consider company size, location, corporate culture, etc. while building your list of approximately 40 – 50 companies. Prioritize them by first ranking on a scale of 1 – 5, based on your interest. Next, check job boards to see if those companies have posted positions in your field within the last six months, and rank accordingly. Finally, search your alumni database and LinkedIn to identify where you have possible connections, and do another round of ranking based on connections. Start your research with the companies ranked the highest across all categories, and work your way down the list. This will not only help guide your job search efforts, but as you learn more about these companies, you can continue to refine your list.
- Network, network, network – This is the single most important thing you can do to be successful in your job search. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly 80 percent of all jobs are filled through networking. Online postings often receive hundreds of resumes in response, so to stand out and be noticed, you need an internal contact to pass your resume to the hiring manager. Networking helps you build and identify those internal contacts. Networking is NOT asking for a job, however; it is meeting someone at the company to learn about the company, the industry, the types of roles they offer, the skills they value, etc. This involves a significant amount of listening. Wondering how to begin? Start with friends and family and explore who they know at target companies. Do your neighbors or your friends’ parents have any connections to those companies? What about former co-workers or classmates? Sign up for the alumni network at your school, and leverage the alumni database to identify contacts. Most people will give fellow alums a few minutes, if asked. Sign up for LinkedIn, and identify contacts there, as well. Consider preparing a networking profile to help contacts see what you have to offer and the companies that interest you. Ask each networking contact for at least three other contacts. Always thank the contact and keep track so you can follow up when you see an opportunity at that company. Challenge yourself to make at least five networking connections each week. It does make a difference: It is the single most important thing you can do to find your next opportunity. I tell students they should spend 10 times more time networking than they spend reviewing online job boards.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare – When you are invited in for an interview, be sure you thoroughly prepare. Practice, and ask for feedback. Use your career services office at your alma mater or rely on trusted friends and colleagues. Think about how you would respond to frequently asked questions. Research the company thoroughly, and prepare questions in advance to ask your interviewers. Demonstrate your interest and passion for the job by coming in well-prepared.
- Always say ‘thank you’ – Interviewers remember which candidates sent a hand-written thank you note, so stand out from the crowd. If the timeframe is quick, send an email thank you, but follow it up with a hand-written note. I‘ve seen a handwritten thank you note break the tie between two finalists.
- Protect your social media presence – Some potential employers will check applicants out online before making an offer. Use good judgment on questionable photos or descriptions of activities you might not want an employer to know about. Put your best foot forward on all fronts to maximize your chances of success.
Your job search is a journey, and with a little advance planning, you can make it a smoother, more successful ride. Get out from behind the computer, and start networking your way to a more effective job search. Being competitive in this job market is NOT about how many online applications you can submit; it’s about building relationships in your target companies so you have advocates there when the right job opens up. Use this fall season to invest in your future career success. This advice is also featured in Career Attraction!
One of the most common resume errors is to focus on responsibilities instead of accomplishments. In doing so the candidate significantly reduces their odds of standing out in the mountain of resumes. To increase your likelihood of success you need to focus on your accomplishments and quantify them where ever possible.
Responsibilities are the laundry list of tasks that are part of job description. That is not relevant to a hiring manager. The hiring manager wants to know what difference you made for the company by being there. What happened because you were there doing this job? Accomplishment statements demonstrate your successful results.
To effectively create accomplishment statements, identify the Situation, Task, Action and Result (STAR) for each experience. Then, transform this information into a bullet for your resume. Where possible quantify the result. Begin each accomplishment statement with an action verb.
Situation/Task – Describe the situation you encountered or the task for which you were responsible. Think in terms of the business problem that needed to be solved.
Action – What did you do to address the business need?
Results – What was the result of that action?
Consider the following examples as transforming the “before” responsibility statement into the “after” accomplishment statement.
Before: Managed contracts and change orders for each project.
After: Managed contracts and change orders on projects to ensure timely completion within budget.
Before: Managed all online adverting billing.
After: Managed $7 million of receivable for online advertisements.
Before: Helped promote financial products through direct interaction with clients.
After: Promoted financial projects to clients, resulting in 30% increase in assets under management.
Put you best foot forward in your resume by focusing the hiring manager’s attention on what you accomplished for past employers to help demonstrate your ability to add value to their organization. Accomplishment statements with quantifiable results will help your resume stand out from the crowd.
Beginnings and Endings
This is an exciting and busy time on campus in the MBA Career Center at Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of business. In the same week we were orienting new students and celebrating the graduation of others. With significant beginnings and endings in the lives of our students it was an important to time to reflect.
Welcome Class of 2016
It is exciting to welcome the MBA Class of 2016. We are delighted that they have chosen Northeastern. They have made a major decision to invest the next two years of their lives in our full-time MBA program. They are seeking a significant return on that investment in terms of their careers. They will take many exams, write papers, prepare case analysis and complete group projects over the next two years. While developing their knowledge of business disciplines, they will also be learning how to advance their careers and prepare for their job searches.
The new class will be busy this fall preparing for their corporate residency job searches next year. Through both their weekly career management classes and their work with their career advisors, they will develop professional resumes and cover letters, enhance their elevator pitches and their networking skills and they will practice interviewing. In addition, they will hear from professionals in a variety of companies to help them learn about a wide range of career opportunities.
Experiential learning in not just about the six month residency. We will also give students valuable opportunities to practice and enhance their networking skills in executive luncheons, Insider Insights sessions, networking events and mock interviews. They will be expanding their professional networks while they prepare for residency recruiting.
Class of 2015
Our MBA Class of 2015 students are not on campus right now because they are all out working on their six month residency assignments. I’ve been conducting residency check in visit the last several weeks and continue to be impressed by the work our students are doing. Their managers are sharing very positive feedback about the value they are bringing to their organizations. Students are gaining valuable work experience while applying what they learned in the classroom. Employers gain a six month resource for critical projects and they value to fresh perspectives the students bring in addition to their strong work ethic.
Congratulations Class of 2014
What could be more exciting than watching our students walk across the stage to receive their diplomas at graduation? They have successfully completed all their requirements for an MBA. Studying is over. It is rewarding to watch them take the next step in their careers moving on to leadership development programs and other exciting new roles. Their hard work has lead them to an important next step in their careers. We enjoy celebrating their success with them and their families. We now have the opportunity to work with them throughout their careers as alumni. I look forward to seeing many of them back on campus in the future hiring students for their organizations.
In the circle of life we celebrate both the beginning and the endings and wish the students all the best throughout life’s journeys.