The Importance of Your Alumni Network in Your Job Search

Summer Associate, New York, NY
Trading Systems Analyst, Boston, MA
Investment Analyst, Stamford, CT
General Manager, Seattle, WA
Associate – Oil & Gas, New York, NY

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You’ve probably heard that your alumni network is an invaluable resource for finding a great job or getting your foot in the door at a great company, but has that really sunken in?  Many people turn to a plethora of other resources before they consider hitting up their alumni networks, when this may be the first place they should start looking.

An alumni network is an ideal source to start your search because this is where you have access to the individuals who came before you, and who had an experience as close to yours as you can probably get.  They lived in the same dorms, were a part of the same organizations, took classes from the same professors – in short, they were in your shoes before you were.  Because of this, even if they can’t get you a job, they can give you very valuable advice on where to start looking, or introduce you to the people that can do more for you.  They can also warn you against making some of the same mistakes that they did.

Don’t feel awkward about reaching out – given your similar background, alums will likely feel a strong personal connection toward you, and most will love an opportunity to give back to their school.  The bottom line is, alums from your school will probably be eager to help you, and you should take advantage of this opportunity.

To track down the appropriate person to speak to, start with your college career center.  They will likely have a directory of individuals who are ready to help out.  Bear in mind, too, that any person you find in a directory is someone who has probably given permission for students to contact them, and so they won’t be surprised when they receive your call or email.

Another strategy is to look online or turn to alumni chapters in your city if you are already out of college.  Again, it’s reasonable to assume that if someone’s contact information is in a directory, then they are fine with you getting in touch with them.

When you finally establish contact with an alum, it’s important to treat them with the respect that anyone else deserves.  Remember to be gracious, send thank you notes, and drop them an occasional line to let them know how you are doing and what progress you have made – alums get excited about helping out because they are interested in hearing about the cool things future classes do with their lives!

So go out there and start networking!

The Doostang Team

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Create a Road Map for a Successful Job Search

By Alesia Benedict, CPRW, JCTC – GetInterviews.com

Vice President, San Francisco, CA
Marketing Assistant, Exton, PA
Microfinance Intern, Washington, DC
Associate Marketing Manager, Chicago, IL
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Today’s job searches are taking longer to produce results than even a year ago. But that reality doesn’t have to put a damper on your campaign to land that plum position! Stack the odds in your favor by creating an effective road map that covers all the best job search strategies.

First Impressions

Begin the journey with a professional cover letter and resume. You want to engage hiring managers and build interest in you as a viable candidate. That first impression can become a wave you ride into the interview room. Carry that professional image through in every interaction you have within your network or with any representatives of the companies you contact. Meet every deadline. Arrive early for any type of appointment. Be prompt and courteous. Above all, behave professionally.

Actions Speak Loudly

Follow up with hiring managers to produce results long after the first contact you have with a company. You might call to be sure your resume has been received or to inquire as to the need for additional information. Sending a thank-you note following an interview is par for the course, but also send one to acknowledge any assistance you received, such as to the contact who helped get your resume to the right individual. Even if you don’t land an interview initially, state your intent to touch base periodically. See this as part of your network building. By sharing the latest industry information or just chatting informally, you can turn these contacts into enjoyable social encounters. Your persistence and interest in the company are communicated by consistent actions, which carry much more weight than empty words.

Network Effectively

Take advantage of job fairs, community gatherings, and professional organization events to keep your finger on the pulse of local and national job markets. Not only are these excellent opportunities to network, but also to understand movement in key positions at companies of interest. Consistent networking, even if you aren’t actively looking for work, can lay the foundation for subsequent job searches. Read local business publications to stay on top of regional business news and opportunities. You may discover new businesses before they open where you can submit an early resume ahead of the competition.

Do What You Love

Professional passion and interest in your field of work cannot be overrated. Only you can determine whether this is the time to follow your heart and create a new direction in your career or if it’s better to stick with a sure thing. Though family and financial obligations may be pressing you in one direction, if you are unhappy in your current situation, it may be negatively affecting your overall quality of life as well as your job search. Although it may seem like a bit of a detour, review what makes you happy and do what you can to increase a sense of meaning and satisfaction in your life. Believe it or not, that kind of energy can also fuel your job search forward.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you are continually looking for opportunities and feel stymied by the lack of results. The sheer number of job listings and sites makes the job search feel even more challenging. Realize it is not necessary to mobilize every strategy in your job search road map at the same time. Keep diligent records of your job search and organize contacts so you don’t inadvertently duplicate your efforts. You may also use a spreadsheet for usernames and passwords to various job sites.

Pick Up the Phone

Use the resources available to you. Call the new company in town and introduce yourself. Share your interest in the company, but more importantly, use your elevator speech to broadcast your skills and value. Follow up with a resume. Ask for a meeting. Give hiring managers good directions in identifying your strengths and linking those to the needs of the company.

Work to gain clarity in your job search for greater effectiveness and consistent progress on the journey. Target positions and employers you are interested in and systematically follow your road map for success!

About the Author: Alesia Benedict, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Job and Career Transition Coach (JCTC) is the President of GetInterviews.com, the country’s leading resume writing firm. They provide professionals with customized, branded resumes and career marketing documents. Her and her firm’s credentials include being cited by JIST Publications as one of the “best resume writers in North America,” quoted as a career expert in The Wall Street Journal, and published in a whopping 25+ career books. Established in 1994, the firm has aided more than 100,000 job seekers to date. All resume writers are certified writers. GetInterviews.com offers a free resume critique and their services come with a wonderful guarantee — interviews in 30 days or they’ll rewrite for free!

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Tips for Graduates with the “Wrong” Degree

Investment Analyst, Washington, DC
Analyst, Chicago, IL
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Many of us graduated college with a degree that we were passionate about, only to discover that our area of study was difficult to apply to the job market.  Perhaps you majored in Philosophy or Creative Writing, leaving you to feel a bit hopeless when applying to jobs in the Finance or Technology sector.  But there are always exceptions to the rule, as well as steps you can take to turn yourself into a great candidate.  Read ahead:

Gain Experience

Sure, it’s great to come in armed with the proper knowledge right out of college, but as many will tell you, real world experience is actually more valuable than book smarts.  If you’re gunning for a job that’s out of the realm of your college degree, find ways to gain experience in that field.  This may mean taking a lower level position or an internship (which you may be able to parlay into a career), or even volunteering.

Research

Some individuals lament over their lack of familiarity with a particular subject matter, and consequently rule out jobs before they even consider applying.  But there is nothing to stop you from learning the ins and outs of a particular field on your own – familiarize yourself with the industry, keep up with relevant literature and current events, and teach yourself some pertinent skills.  This kind of self-education will make you more qualified and display great initiative on your part.

Transferable Skills

Don’t dismiss the importance of transferable skills in helping you land your dream job.  There are many skills that transfer nicely from industry to industry, and you should identify yours and make sure to highlight them on your resume. Companies love diversity, and candidates that garnered desirable skills in new and different ways are often far more attractive than the cookie-cutter applicants that companies receive day in and day out.

Network

You’ve heard that it’s much easier to get a job if you know someone on the inside.  One of the reasons this is so important is because this person can vouch for you and cover questions that may arise in regards to your knowledge or experience.  Though you may not have the right educational background for a job, there are probably reasons why you can do the job as well as (or even better than) other qualified candidates – reasons that, unfortunately, may never come up on your resume or cover letter.  If you know someone in the right industry who is aware of this fact, they can advocate on your behalf and inform the company about your talents and qualifications.

Not everyone has the foresight at 18 to know exactly what they want to do with their life and to properly pick a major that will catapult their career.  And some of us stuck more to what captivated our attention than to what seemed practical.  But if you play it right, your unorthodox degree can become a great asset for you in the job search.

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News March 7: Small Things that Make a Big Difference in Your Job Search

Associate – PE, New York, NY
Consultant, Boston, MA
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Sometimes the path to your dream career isn’t about the big moves you’re supposed to make, but rather, is riddled with the little ones.  The great thing about small steps is that you have no excuse not to take them – you can always find a moment to work on your job search.  Here are a few minor things you can be doing to land your next position:

Create an Email Account Designated for Your Job Search

If you haven’t done so already, consider creating an email address solely for your job search.  The first thing you should do is to choose an address that is professional – this will look far better on your resume and when you reach out to employers.  Doing so will also allow you to keep all your job search materials in one place, and will prevent your personal emails from posing a distraction.

Review Your Resume

Take a few minutes of down time to scan your resume and make sure that it’s polished and up-to-date.  You may not have caught all of the typos when you originally put it together, so pay particular attention to spelling and grammar.  Also check that your dates and current contact information are correct.  It’s especially helpful to have an outsider review your resume to catch all the small (or big) issues that you might have missed, so ask some friends for feedback or get a professional critique.

Revise Your Facebook Page

Because so many employers are now turning to social networking sites to see what additional information they can dig up about each potential hire, it’s important to put your best foot (or face) forward.  Make sure that you have appropriate privacy settings in place, and take down any pictures that you wouldn’t want your next boss to see.

Practice Your 30 Second Interview

It’s important to practice your 30 Second Interview, or elevator speech, when you have a moment.  This will ensure that you’re less likely to trip up the next time you’re in a situation where someone takes an interest in your career path.

Network

Take a few moments to find some key contacts that can help you in your career search.  Consider your alumni network or find the contact information of someone at a company you wish to work for.  Send out a quick email to set up a time to ask for some advice, or simply try to establish rapport by reaching out with a question.

Enroll in a Class

If your dream job requires knowledge or skills that you don’t yet possess, enroll in a class that will bring you up to speed.  Once you make that initial commitment to go, you’ll be one step closer to the career you want.

There are a multitude of little things you can do throughout the day that will advance your job search.  So when you have some free time, be proactive and do something small that can make a big difference.

Until next time,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News December 27: New Year’s Resolutions for Your Job Search

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The New Year signifies a shot at a New You – a chance to hit the reset button, so to speak, and realign yourself in a direction that leads to better health, more exercise, or greater knowledge.  The problem is, junk food tastes so much better than Brussels sprouts, you don’t have the time to keep up with all the daily news sources and stay on top of the New York Times Bestseller List, and that one-year gym membership loses its shine in February.  It can be hard to stay on top of your goals, but if you make the effort when it comes to your job search, it really will pay off.  Moreover, if you set short-term, concrete milestones for yourself, you’ll be more likely to stick it out.  Here are some ideas:

  • Resolve to build out your professional network.  Hold yourself accountable and vow to meet a certain number of people – say, two – per week.  You could also decide that you will attend one to two networking events per month.  Picking a number and sticking to it is important, and it’s also a helpful way to track the people you meet and when you met them.
  • Promise to yourself that you’re going to really make your job search a full time job, and set a goal for yourself as to how many jobs you will apply to each week.  If it helps to break it down to a specific number of jobs per day, do that; just make sure you set a goal and don’t fall below it.
  • Decide to have a happier, healthier year by taking up a hobby or volunteering.  It’s hard to sit in front of a computer all day and search for a job, so commit yourself to an activity or join a group that meets once a week, and make it a part of your routine.  It’s important to get out and remain social, so that you don’t get too worn out by your job search and lose steam.
  • Commit yourself to learning a new skill or subject matter.  Use your free time to broaden your mind, and consider taking up something that will allow you to bring more to the table at a new job, so that you can become a more attractive candidate to hiring managers. Were you always hoping to one day learn Spanish or HTML? Now is the time to do it.
  • If 2010 was a rough year for you as far as job search goes, consider seeking the aid of professional services that will look over your resume or coach you on how to perform in an interview.  Perhaps this is something to add to your holiday wish list for those who have no idea what to get you.
  • Make a resolution to build your online presence and leverage social media channels to get a job.  Sign up for various social and professional networking sites, and craft an image that you want employers to see.  Consider starting a blog that serves as an online portfolio of work or as a further networking tool, and make sure that you update it once a week.
  • Perhaps the most important resolution is to find a way to stay positive, even though you may be feeling anxious about not having a job.  A positive person will be more productive, will exude enthusiasm and confidence to hiring managers, and will be more likely to land a job that they enjoy.  Do what you can to keep your head up, whether it’s yoga, a weekly movie night, time with your kids, or anything else that relaxes you and keeps you happy.

Staying on top of New Year’s resolutions isn’t always easy; but if you really think them through, establish small milestones for yourself, and follow a set course, you’ll effectively end up where you want to be!

Happy New Year,

The Doostang Team

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Doostang News December 13: How to Make Nice (and Not Naughty) at the Office Holiday Party

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It’s that time of year again.  Holiday cheer abounds, from the store discounts that start in October to… the infamous office holiday bash!  The office holiday party holds a warm spot in many a dutiful careerist’s heart – those who recall episodes of reckless inebriation, Yuletide meltdowns, or scandalous rounds of Spin the Dreidel.  Let’s face it: the combination of alcohol, holiday stress, and surly coworkers is a recipe for disaster.  That’s why you need to prepare yourself, and make sure you know how to behave beforehand!  Let’s discuss some ground rules:

Make Sure You Go

Thought you could avoid the pandemonium altogether?  Think again!  Skipping out on the office soiree is often perceived as a sign of disrespect.  Even though the invitation doesn’t always say it, assume that company gatherings usually fall under the “must attend” category – so blowing them off isn’t really an option.  Employers often spend big bucks putting these shindigs together.  Why?  To thrust you into precarious situations that could jeopardize your career?  Maybe some do.  But most like to celebrate in order to show their gratitude for all the work everyone has put in, and also to facilitate company bonding.  Take home point: don’t even think about home until you’ve put in at least a good 30 minutes of face time.

Putting the Office in Office Party

Remember:  even though an office holiday party is meant to be a social event, the professional context remains.  This means that your superiors are watching, ever mindful of who is behaving naughty and nice, and who’s going to get the nix, come Monday morning.  Limit yourself to a two-drink maximum if alcoholic beverages are available; or, better yet, don’t drink at all.  Pay attention to the part of the invitation that explains the dress code – formal or casual – and then dress more conservatively than you would normally; office holiday parties are no place for flagrant self-expression.  Finally, behave yourself.  No lewd behavior or forbidden office liaisons – there’s no sense in embarrassing yourself, or, worse yet, getting slapped with a sexual harassment complaint by HR.

Cocktail Conversation

We’ve already established that office conventions carry over into the after-hours office party, but that doesn’t mean that your cubicle chitchat has to also.  It’s okay to talk some business, but this is a social event.  Lighten up and broaden the conversation.  Otherwise, people will avoid talking to you and you’ll get pegged as uptight or boring.  Another mistake is to relax too much, and start complaining about your job, gossiping about coworkers, or discussing your pay.  Avoid any controversial subjects, especially those related to work.  Finally, branch out and talk to some people you don’t usually get to interact with during normal working hours.  Don’t forget that office parties can be a great chance to network, so don’t be afraid to engage with some of your superiors.

Holiday parties at the office can actually be a lot of fun, and bring out a more relaxed, fun side of the people you work with each day.  Just make sure to keep the obstreperous, party animal side of you in check!

Much love,

The Doostang Team

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