CCD’s Holiday Job Search Guide
The winter break is right around the corner and soon enough you will have free time to dive into your job search process. Now is the time to plan to maximize the winter break for your holiday networking activity. Read CCD’s suggestions below to get you started, and feel free to comment if you have anything to add.
- Finding your Focus: If you are still curious about where your experiences fit into the marketplace, you should be using the library’s electronic resources to help find your focus. We recommend that you target 1-2 career paths that fit your profile so that your networking conversations are focused and concise. Some of our favorite electronic databases that can help with this part of your research include:
- The Vault: Find lengthy career guides (by industry) including interviews with practitioners, a day in the life, industry structure and the state of the industry.
- IBIS World: With access to thousands of US industry research reports, students can obtain information including industry jargon, performance, outlook, competitive landscape and more.
- Preparation: Being prepared always wins! While we commend networking rookies for reaching out to strangers (takes a lot of guts!) you should absolutely do your homework on the person and their place of employment prior to meeting. Come prepared to a networking event or informational interview with some solid questions. We suggest the following step-by-step process for narrowing in on a target contact list and then getting prepared for the informational interview:
- Target Contact List: From your industry research, use the keywords (or industry jargon) when searching through LinkedIn. Know the specific companies that offer careers in your field of interest. Look for people whose profiles include some of those keywords or companies. A nice place to start is the Babson College (undergraduate) University Page and the Babson College – F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business University Page (to search specific industries, companies, and/or skills) or some of the Babson LinkedIn Groups (i.e. Babson College Community and Babson MBA Alumni). Now, choose the top 10 people you’d like to get in touch with.
- Get Organized: Create a networking log with each person’s name, year of graduation (if a Babson alum), place of work, job title, and a couple of specific bullet points about your reason for talking with them. Getting organized in this manner will help you when you’re finally conducting the meeting. This will also force you to dig deeper into each profile, observe the career paths each person took and learn about their interests and extracurricular activities. This research is also so important to learn about additional things you can do for your job search (i.e. join professional associations, and thought leader conversations).
- Outreach: How you intend to reach out to your set of contacts can either make it or break it. We recommend sending a short yet impactful email/LinkedIn message that includes the following: who you are, how you came across their profile, and why you’re interested in speaking with them. Make the latter piece specific to each person so your email does not look like a copy/paste for all. For example, if you’re interested in consulting and have a background in engineering, perhaps you’ll come across a profile of an MBA alum who went into consulting after business school but also holds an engineering undergrad degree. We’ve included a sample email below but do not copy this exactly – they will know immediately, if you did. Let your ingenuity shine through:
- Sample Outreach Email:
Dear (Person’s name),
I found your contact information through (Alumni Network, personal referral, etc.). I am currently a (class year) Babson MBA student, and was hoping to connect with you to learn more about (function/industry) in which I understand you have experience. I’ve done some research in this area and believe it will be a good transition for me given my background in X, but would love to hear about your experiences in the hope of confirming my (fit or interest) in this area. I am specifically interested in learning about your transition into the consulting field. I am also a former engineer and I’m interested in leveraging my analytical skills for a career in consulting. I hope that you might have 20-30 minutes to speak with me via phone or meet in person to answer some of my questions. I can send you my resume as a means of introduction to my background, if that would be helpful. I look forward to speaking with you soon.
At this point you’ve sent out a number of networking emails, followed up with those who may not have answered (usually after one week) and received answers from some willing to talk. How many times do you try before you decide they are just too busy to help? We suggest three times over five weeks.
- The Meeting: As soon as you have a time scheduled for your informational interview you should immediately start preparing for it! It is preferred that you meet in person but a phone conversation is fine. Make sure you do the following in order to prepare:
- Research the Company: It is so easy to learn more about any company these days through both social media (Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Facebook) and news (Wall Street Journal, Business Insider, etc.). In addition, you can use CapIQ (another library resource) to access any public company’s 10k report. Read up on the company where your contact is employed so that you can show you’ve done your homework, are curious, and eager to learn from them.
- Research the Person: By now you will want to revisit your contact’s LinkedIn profile to learn more about them. Do you know enough about their job function, though? The Vault includes career guides for lots of functional areas and is a great resource for you when conducting this preparation! With some understanding of what the person does, you can ask more specific questions.
- Come with Questions: We recommend having a set of at least six questions to ask during the informational interview. If a conversation grows organically, you may never even refer to these questions and that’s OK. But you always want to be prepared and spending the time to think up some questions will also help shape your objectives for the meeting. Asking questions and engaging in informational interviews can also help validate your own experience and potential contribution to the company and industry. Here are some sample questions to ask during the informational interview:
- What do you like most about working in this field?
- What is the career path that you took that led you to this job? Is this a typical path?
- How do you spend a typical day/week?
- What do you consider to be the necessary skills for this position?
- What is it like to work in your organization? What is the culture?
- What are your toughest challenges now and in the near future?
- What are the most significant trends affecting your position/company/industry?
- Could you give me advice on how to break into this field?
- Are there any Professional Associations that I should join, or any journals that I should read?
- Are there activities you participated in or classes you took during your MBA that you would recommend for someone interested in working in your field?
- Please describe a day in the life of a person in your position.
- What are the major issues facing you in the future?
- What are the three most important criteria on which your job performance is evaluated?
- What are the two biggest challenges/projects you face in the next six months?
- Last question: Do you have any other suggestions for me as I continue my research about careers?
- Be Authentic: Be friendly, polite and above all be yourself! While you should always act professional, being authentic and likable is very important. Sometimes, informational interviews end up leading to a job. Be yourself and have fun with this!
- Follow Up: “Networking is like dating.” Certainly, many of you who have networked can relate to this statement. It takes a lot of effort to develop these relationships. You will have stronger “chemistry” with some and that’s OK. Part of the process is finding commonalities in order to ease the relationship-building process! Here are some smart strategies to use when following up during the holidays:
- Holiday Card: The holidays present an excellent opportunity to follow up with friends, family and your professional network. Send a holiday card via e-mail or snail mail. It’s always a nice treat to receive! Don’t forget to mention something memorable about your meeting with the individual you are writing to and thank them for sharing their time and expertise with you.
- Holiday Update Letter: Some people send holiday wishes via a lengthier update. An update letter could include a summary of things you learned during the year/semester at Babson. For example, were there specific courses you took that you’d like to mention? For example: projects, internships, and extracurricular activities? Thanking those who helped shape your academic and future career goals is a nice move here. Perhaps it was something someone said during an informational meeting that led to your decision to take a global management elective? Tell your contact how they helped shape your experience and don’t forget to share your future goals. For example, what are you planning to do in the spring that can help you accomplish your internship or full-time job goals? Be clear so that people can help if they have the means to.
We hope you will take advantage of this time off to follow up with your network and reach out to new contacts. Lots of parties are being held during the holiday season, too! Don’t turn down invitations to these. You never know who you’ll end up meeting! Be open to speaking with lots of people. Finally, reach out to Grad CCD for tips and advice regarding any of these steps. We can help with your networking strategy, mock informational interviews, outreach emails and more.
Last but not least, use Career Outcomes (on the Grad CCD Hub page) to research hiring companies, recruiting timelines, and salaries from Babson and schools nationwide. Happy holidays from all of us at Grad CCD!