What If the Fit is Truly Wrong?

You do your homework on the company in advance.  You ask probing questions in the interview.  You network with current and former employees of the company.  You believe you have a good read on the company culture and you accept the position.  Now you have been there a few months and you realize you read it completely wrong.  What can you do?  Is it ok to leave after just a short period of time?

First priority is to learn from the experience.  What signs did you miss?  What questions should you have asked?  Figure out what bothers you most about the culture and think about to avoid it in the future.  If you don’t know how you landed in such a poor fit for you, there is a chance you could repeat the error.  Be very honest with yourself and seek to truly learn from this experience.

While job hopping is not the taboo if once was, you want to have a clear sense of what the best next step is for you.  Don’t be so eager to get out of the situation that you jump at the first job that comes along.  Have a priority list of what is important to you in your next position.  Do your homework.

Be prepared to tell your story.  With a short stint on your resume, you are bound to be asked about it in an interview.  Be prepared to address the change.  Own the mistake and show that you are doing something about it.  Try not to bash the other company or your manager in the process.  Just not the best fit for you.

Try to tough it out while you look for another position.  Unless you are in a hostile work environment or are being asked to do something unethical, it is much easier to look for work while you are still employed.  Make a commitment to doing some networking every week.  Build your target list of companies and aggressively work the process.

Early in my career I accepted the wrong job at one point.  It was very quickly clear that there was not enough work to keep me busy.  That is something that makes me crazy.  While I reached out to colleagues and offered to help, there was just not enough work.  I was also concerned about how some of the work was being done.  My biggest concerns were that if I stayed, I’d develop bad work habits, negatively impact my work ethic and could potentially damage my credibility.  I started networking immediately, built a target list of companies and soon landed a new position.  I learned a lot about what is important to me in an employer from that experience and it served me well in the long run.

If you are truly in the wrong job at the wrong company, ramp up your networking and focus on finding a job that is right for you.

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Enjoy the Holiday Party But…

Tis the season for holiday parties and gatherings with both business and social contacts.  These activities can help you advance your career if you use them appropriately.  It is important to avoid any negative impact on your career.

Holiday Office Parties

  • Network like crazy. This is an amazing opportunity to make connections outside the group you with work with every day.  Try to meet as many people as possible and ask about what they do.  Keep track of people you want to follow-up with back in the office.  Use this informal opportunity to make a positive impression and build your connections.  Remember spouses and significant others can be valuable connections as well.
  • Use Every Opportunity to Connect. Resist the temptation to hide in the corner or spend the entire evening with the people you work with every day.  Take advantage of the opportunity to network as much as possible.  Talk to people waiting in line for the bar, the buffet or even the rest room.  You have something in common already so use the opportunity to introduce yourself and learn about what they do.  You may be pleasantly surprised by who you meet and what you learn.
  • Keep it professional. Yes it is a social event but it is still a business event.  You have to face these people on Monday morning.  You do not want to be the talk of the office on Monday morning.  Do not do anything to stand out in a negative way.  This is not the time to overindulge, make unwanted advances, bad mouth the company or take over the microphone for karaoke.  Keep it professional and you’ll have no regrets.  Drinking too much at the party could be a career limiting move.
  • Dress professionally. While it is fine to get in the spirit of the festivities and dress up a bit, keep it professional.  Avoid anything suggestive, revealing or inappropriate.
  • Social Media Considerations. Resist the urge to post FaceBook photos of an out of control colleague at the party.  Do not tweet inappropriate comments.  Even if someone is acting inappropriately it doesn’t make you look good to be the one highlighting their bad behavior publicly.  Keep photos and tweets professional.

Professional Holiday Gatherings

  • Network Constantly. Many professional and business organizations plan holiday events.  These are great opportunities for networking with peers in your field.  Use each gathering as an opportunity to meet new people and learn a bit about what they do.  For those with whom you wish to have a more in depth conversation, ask if you can follow up after the holidays.  Most people like to talk about what they do so just ask and you’ll be surprised by what you learn.
  • Share Your Focus. If you are seriously looking for your next opportunity, let people know what you are looking for so they are able to identify opportunities to help.  They may have contacts at your target companies.  Don’t spend the entire event pressing people for contacts but bring it up as appropriate in your conversations.  You never know what valuable connections may result from a casual conversation at a social event.  Be interested in others by asking what they do, where they work, what they like most about their jobs.  You will be amazed by how much your can learn.
  • Behave Professionally. Make a great impression so people will remember you positively and will want to introduce you to their contacts.
  • Make Introductions. Help others meet people at the event by offering to make introductions.  They will appreciate the connections and they will value your support.

Enjoy the holiday festivities with colleagues but remember, these are still professional events.  Be on your best behavior to avoid regrets on Monday morning.  It is a valuable opportunity to meet other colleagues outside your daily interactions and to meet the interesting spouses and significant others of your colleagues.  Networking is great – just don’t try looking for a new job while attending your company party!!!  Remember, what happens at the party doesn’t stay at the party – it will face you first thing Monday morning if you act inappropriately.

‘Tis the Season: Tips for Networking Over the Holidays

Networking is the single most important thing you to do to support your job search, and the holidays were made for networking.  Take advantage of the holiday season to expand your network and to reconnect with contacts. Whether you are seeking a new career opportunity or are hoping to advance in your current position, here are a few tips for how you can mix a bit of business into the season’s festivities.

Make Networking a Priority – Many managers have a bit of breathing room around the holidays if their job doesn’t require significant year-end activity.  Their phones ring less often, they receive fewer emails, and they are in fewer meetings since many colleagues and customers take time off.  Take advantage of this opportunity to significantly ramp up your networking.  Identify contacts in your target companies.  Reach out to them and ask to meet over a cup of coffee.  They are more likely to take the meeting when things are quiet.  This is an outstanding opportunity to make more connections in a short period of time.  Use the opportunity to make key connections in the companies you are most interested in as a future employer, as well.  Set networking goals for yourself each week and hold yourself accountable.  Find alumni or LinkedIn connections at your target companies and schedule yourself a series of networking discussions over the holiday months.

Consider Low-Hanging Fruit – Not everyone enjoys networking, but it critical to career success.  Take advantage of the many social events during the holidays to network in a friendly and safe environment.  The holidays bring low-hanging fruit – family gatherings, celebrations with friends, social events with professional associations and even the office holiday party.  With little effort, you can meet a large number of interesting people over the holidays.  Be very clear with family and friends about what you are looking for and what companies you are most interested in.  Your family and friends may have valuable connections they can introduce you to.  Simply ask new contacts what they do, and it will often spark an interesting conversation.  You can always ask to follow-up for more details.

Prepare for Opportunities – The key advantage of all this year-end networking is that employers have new positions approved with the start of the New Year.  Perhaps the person you met with will have a need and will remember the positive impression you made.  Maybe the position is in another part of the organization but your contact can forward your resume with a note of recommendation.  Or there’s a chance that you will even be given a heads up about a position that will be opening soon.  While the formal hiring process may slow down a bit with key players on vacation, it is a critical time to move your search forward with some strategic networking.

So what are some do’s and don’ts for networking during the holiday season?

  • What you should do:
    • Be focused and strategic – target the companies you are most interested in and seek contacts in those organizations, particularly people in positions that you can learn from
    • Set goals – identify a target and monitor your progress for number of networking meetings each week or month
    • Be well prepared – research the company and the individual in advance, have questions prepared
    • Keep the conversation going – ask open-ended questions to gather more information
    • Be an active, engaged listener – listen carefully to the advice and information they share, and take notes as appropriate
    • Prepare to share – think about your personal elevator pitch
    • Follow up is key – ask who else they think you should speak to and would they refer you, along with professional associations they recommend
    • Add value for them – find a way to assist them with information or a connection to keep the connection mutual
    • Always send a thank you note – it can make a lasting impression
    • Stay in touch periodically – holiday card with a personal note or even a New Year’s card would be a nice touch
  • What you should not to do:
    • Do not ask for a job – this is about building a relationship, not asking a favor
    • Do not do all the talking –do more listening than speaking, you want to learn about the company and the functional area of interest
    • Do not be arrogant or disrespectful – that goes without saying!
    • Do not stalk the person – if they do not respond after three attempts, take them off your list
    • Do not monopolize their time – steer clear of taking more time than the specified without asking if they can spare a few more minutes
    • Don’t waste their time – if it’s something you could have learned on their website, don’t ask
    • Don’t over-imbibe at events – stay focused on the networking. Eat prior to attending the event so you won’t be starving.  Don’t try to balance both food and drink, always have your right hand available to shake hands.  Never indulge in more than one drink.  Keep your wits about you and put you best foot forward.

You’ve stepped out of your comfort zone and made some great connections over the holidays. But how can you capitalize on these new relationships and keep them going once the holidays are over? Here are a few final tips for keeping your momentum with the job search as you enter the New Year:

  • When you see a position of interest at a target company after the first of the year, reach out to your contact
  • Use your contacts to gather insider information about the position and the team
  • Ask your contact to share your resume with the hiring manager – get in the short pile the manager will review instead of the mountain of online resumes
  • Follow-up with relevant information or a new contact for your networking contact to continue to add value
  • Keep your contact posted on your progress

With a little common sense and a bit of perseverance, you can make this holiday season a memorable one when it comes to advancing your career. Network the right way, and you just may set yourself up for success in the new year!

Fight Your Fears This Fall

For some job seekers, networking can be a very scary prospect.  The thought of speaking to strangers to learn about their companies and their careers can cause some to grow faint.  Networking is so critical to job search and career success that it is important to face those fears.

Start with the Low Hanging Fruit.  Reaching out to a stranger can be very intimidating.  Review your target list companies and identify friends, family members, neighbors, and former colleagues who work there.  Start your networking with people you know and build your confidence with the process.  As you gain confidence with the process, it becomes easier to reach out beyond your comfort zone.  Most job seekers are surprised how many contacts they can identify to provide a safe starting point.

Leverage Your Alumni Network.  Before reaching out randomly to a variety of ghosts and goblins, review your alumni network for contacts in your target companies.  Most alumni are willing to share a few minutes with a fellow alum.  Most alumni networks are a challenge to maintain so look for alumni on LinkedIn.  Use your shared connection to your alma mater to establish a connection.  When you start with something in common, it is easier to have a conversation.

More Listening Than Talking.  Be well prepared with thoughtful, insightful questions to keep your contact talking so you can spend most of the meeting listening and taking notes.  Being well prepared based on your research, makes the meeting much easier and demonstrates your interest.

Reframe Your Thinking.  This is not “trick or treat” networking where you knock on a random door to see what surprise you receive.  Do not think of networking as asking for a job or selling yourself – it is not.  Focus on gathering information about industries, companies and roles that interest you.

Be Prepared to Share Information About Yourself.    Anticipate that you will be asked a bit about yourself and be prepared.  Decide in advance what you are comfortable sharing.  Practice your value proposition.

Take Deep Breaths.  Don’t hyperventilate but do take a few deep breaths will help you relax.  It is ok to breathe as you prepare to ask the next question.  A few deep breaths will help you relax and focus on the conversation.

Be Yourself.  Forget the masks and costumes.  You do not have to pretend to be extroverted in your networking meetings to succeed.  Be yourself but strive to be a well-prepared self.  Preparation helps to increase your confidence.

Celebrate Your Success.  After your meeting, review your notes and consider what you have learned.  Congratulate yourself on the information you gathered and the connection you established. Approach your networking one meeting at a time.  Don’t paralyze yourself with a long list of contacts.  Plan one meeting a time to keep the process manageable and to build your confidence.

Always Say Thank You.  Remember to follow up with a handwritten thank you note to your contact to show your appreciate for their time and their insights.  Make it easy for them to remember you but providing timely and professional feedback.

Leave the Haunting to Halloween Night.  Put your fears aside and enjoy your fall networking.  It will enhance your success.  Don’t be surprised if you come to enjoy the process.  It can be so interesting to learn about industries, companies and roles that you start to worry less about the process.  You may find yourself energized by the interesting people you meet.

The Power of Networking Luncheons

All the data supports the fact that the best path to a successful job search is networking.  Meeting people at companies on your target list helps you learn more about the company, their products and services, their hiring process and career paths in the organization.  While most students will at least reluctantly agree that networking is important, taking the next step to make a connection and book and informational interview can be a daunting task for many.

At the D’Amore-McKim School of Business Graduate Career Center, we make it easy for students to make these valuable connections.  Our full-time MBA students are currently participating in our fall series of executive luncheons.  Up to six students meet with our guests to learn more about the company, the industry and the guests’ personal career paths.  Students come to the session with questions prepared as well.  The result is an informal yet informative conversation over lunch.  Guests include both employers and alumni.

Students leave these sessions with valuable insights into a company on their target lists and a contact within the organization.  While these sessions are conducted for networking purposes, we often see connections made that lead to corporate residency and full-time opportunities.  For students, the comfort of being in a small group makes it easier to talk about themselves and to ask questions of the guest.  They also do not have to do the outreach – we bring the sessions and the guests to them on campus.

Never underestimate the power of a good conversation over lunch.

Focus Your Job Search This Fall

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 2017. Don’t waste time focusing on what you 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, networkThis 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.

 

Be Interested to be Interesting

 Students often ask how they can be memorable when they are networking.  They want the employers to remember them as individuals with unique skills and experience.  I find I often rely on advice given to me early in my career – you need to be interested to be interesting.

It is so easy in a networking to put the focus on yourself.  Students are eager to share their experience, their career goals and why they are pursuing an MBA.  While all these things are important if this is how you start you are not likely to be remembered.

Focus your preparation prior to the event or meeting on the person you will be meeting.  Learn something about their company, their current role and their experience to date.  Prepare relevant questions to get the conversation started.  Asking about them and their career is a great way to start the conversation.  Practice good active listening skills to demonstrate your interest.  Ask relevant follow up questions.  When it is your turn to talk about yourself, keep what you have just learned in perspective.

Once you have demonstrated your interest in the person, their company and their career, it is much easier to make yourself interesting and remembered.  Don’t follow the herd and put yourself first.  Be sincerely interested in the other person.  It will significantly increase the odds that you will be remembered as an interesting individual.