From Applying to Acing The Capitol Hill Internship

scarlett ho in front of capitol

Posing in front of the Capitol

This guest post was written by Scarlett Ho, a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science, with a minor in Law and Public Policy.

For any Political Science major, working in the nation’s capital is an once-in-a-lifetime experience. Getting an internship on the Hill while still in college is not only useful in helping you decide if public policy is your niche, but also helps you get a foot in the door in other federal-related jobs in the field. This past summer, I had the fortunate opportunity to intern for a member of Congress in Washington D.C., and here are a few tips I would like to share to help anyone who is thinking about interning on the Hill.

1) The Application Process and the Interview

Most congressional internships require a standard resume and cover letter, followed by an interview. Sounds like a pretty easy process, but how do you stand out among hundreds of applicants?

  • Email etiquette: Most people think that all you need to do when you email your application package is just to attach the files. But from my personal experience, crafting a short and sweet paragraph in the email containing your brief bio and objective will make your application more personable. Remember, small things matter, so make sure your resume and cover letter are free from typos and grammatical mistakes. One way to ensure that is to ask your professional network, professors and friends to proofread them.
  • Interview: So you have received an invitation for an interview, how should you prepare? Research the office, know your objectives and why you want to intern there. What are your passions, and how is this internship going to contribute to your goal? Since most interview questions always revisit your past internships, be sure to be able to explain every detail you have put down on paper. Rehearse, do mock interviews, and feel confident. Remember, the secret to interviewing is: it’s not “what” you say, it’s “how” you say it.

2) Working on the Hill

Everyone has to start somewhere, and you should come to any job with the mindset that you are starting from the bottom. With that, it means mundane and trivial administrative tasks, such as answering and transferring phone calls, photocopying/scanning, and running errands. But on top of that, you should seize this wonderful opportunity to benefit the most out of it too:

  • Attend briefings/committee hearings: Fortunately for a Hill internship, because you’ll be at the center of politics, interns get the chance to go to different hearings and briefings and take notes. It is a great opportunity to learn more about the issue; and any memos that come out of it will be a great writing sample for the future.
  • Ask questions: Remember: no one knows the answer to everything. If you have questions or doubts, ask your fellow interns or supervisors- they will likely be able to answer them for you. Asking questions demonstrates that you’re proactive and thoughtful- something every employer would value. Additionally, ask for more tasks or offer to assist others in their work when you have completed yours. Your willingness to help others proves that you’re collaborative and are inclined to take initiative.
  • Networking: It’s all about connections, that is the truth. Be active in seeking out intern networking events, or receptions near the D.C. area to talk to people from different fields and offices. Seek out interesting people from LinkedIn, through friends and ask for informational interviews either in person or over the phone. Be flexible and respect people’s time because they are busy but are generally willing to help.

3) Ways to Take your Hill Internship To The Next Level

  • Keep a journal: It is important to keep track of your daily or weekly tasks, because at the end of your internship, you need to have talking points that summed up your responsibilities on your resume. Even if you don’t keep a journal (which is mostly for writing about your feelings and what you have learned), have a small notebook that jots down your tasks to make it easier to keep track in the future.
  • Recommendations: I was advised by a Capitol Hill staff to ask for the letter the last week of your internship, so that you will have the letter in hand on your last few days. By creating a time constraint for the recommender, they will most likely craft a more thoughtful response because you can read it when you are still there. After your internship is over, connect with the staff on LinkedIn and ask to be recommended.
  • Thank you note: A small thank you note for each staff in the office goes a long way. A nice hand-written note makes a lasting impression and you never know who will help you down the road. Therefore, this is a critical step that should not be skipped.

Interested in working in government? Career Development is hosting a Non Profit and Government Careers Forum at 5:30PM, tonight in Raytheon. Also, Thursday, October 16th at 5PM in 12 Stearns: Demystifying the Federal Job Application.

Bio pic_scarletthScarlett Ho is a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science, with a minor in Law and Public Policy. She is a former Capitol Hill intern and will be interning at the European Parliament this fall with NU’s study abroad program. As a trilingual, she is interested in foreign affairs and diplomacy, and is an avid globetrotter. Connect with Scarlett on LinkedIn and follow her on                                                                                            Twitter.

 

Good luck everyone!

Leadership Development Programs: Your Questions Answered

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Leadership development programs are being established around the country as companies invest in the new generation of leadership. These programs are diverse – they offer specific workshops, classes, site visits, and sometimes even a Masters degree. As varied as these programs can be, each one focuses on the personal and professional development of each employee.

Why do Leadership Development Programs exist?

Employers recognize the importance of developing their employees. According to Carolyn Barton of TJX, their number one goal is talent development: “Our agenda now is to recruit talent, develop it, and identify the best track for our entry-level employees.” TJX has been a supporter of early talent development – their merchandising development program has been in place for over 20 years.

Leadership Development Programs often expose students to multiple departments and areas of the company. The Optum LDP includes two rotations on a specific track. General Electric has several different leadership programs in almost every function of the company, including engineering, manufacturing, IT, HR, and finance. The LDP at General Electric is built around a rotation program – depending on the program, an employee can complete 3-4 rotations in two years. According to Erica Wotzak of GE, LDPs are crucial for building well-rounded leadership: “We find a lot of value in allowing people to see different parts of the company. It positions the employee and the employer to place them in a role where are interested and where they excel.”

Why is this better than an entry-level position? 

“So many people switch positions throughout their career,” said Stephen Uram of Optum. “[In an LDP], you have the opportunity to understand where you fit best and where your strengths lie.” The LDP at Optum invests in new employees through mentorship, knowledge sharing, and exposure to senior leadership.

As a participant in a Leadership Development Program, employees can see every side of the company. According to Katie Maillet from Constant Contact, “students in our programs want to explore the company before they decide what they like. They finish the year with a good understanding of the organization as a whole and how they contribute to it.” Because of the exposure to multiple sides of the company, participation in a LDP will better position you for leadership positions.

Another benefit of a LDP is the network you can establish. “It’s a balance,” says Stephen Uram. “You have the camaraderie of a group of peers in your age group as well as access to senior leadership.” In a Leadership Development Program, you are placed into a community of peers, which allows you to grow your network and exchange knowledge. For example, “With the [TJX] Merchandising Program, you join a large organization with lots of people who are in the same stage of life. It’s about connecting and finding your community a little more easily within an organization.”

How do I make myself a more attractive candidate for a LDP?

To start, try to meet with an alum who has completed the program. According to Carolyn Barton, “this shows, from a recruiter standpoint, a bit more drive and ambition.” Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or send a LinkedIn request to hear firsthand about their experience in the program.

If you find a LDP early you like early in your college career, apply for an internship or co-op at that company. At GE, “students with meaningful job and internship experience on and off-campus are strong candidates for our programs.”

Finally, Katie Maillet says, “make yourself a well-rounded human being.” Pursue your interests outside of the classroom – teach, contribute to Hackathons, lead a club. These extra things make you stand out to recruiters, so make them known on your resume. According to Stephen Uram, the most important part is having a diverse set of experiences you can draw upon during the application process, and understanding how to adapt and market your skills to new situations and new industries.

How do I learn more about LDPs?

To learn more about the Leadership Development Programs at TJX, GE, Sun Life Financial, Optum, and Constant Contact, come to Cultuvating Leadership: Leadership Development Program Panel and Networking Night tomorrow, October 7th in the Visitor’s Center from 6-8PM.

Lindsey Sampson is a junior International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and tweet her @lindseygsampson.

5 Pinterest Boards To Boost Your Career

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Can mining social media be beneficial to your career? You heard it here first! Social media outlets like Pinterest can provide career guidance and inspiration for the visual learner.

Brooke McKee’s Resume Design Board: If you’re starting from scratch or just want to give your current design a quick renovation, start with this board for inspiration.

Follow Brooke McKee’s board Resume Design on Pinterest.

The Prepary’s Common Interview Questions Decoded Board: Step into the interviewer’s shoes with a few of these common interview questions and how to approach them. Co-op application season just became a breeze!

Follow Prepary’s board Common Interview Questions Decoded on Pinterest.

UNL Career Service’s Men’s Professional Attire Board: This board will teach you everything you need to know, from how to fold a pocket square to how to roll a suit.

Follow UNL Career Service’s board Men’s Professional Attire on Pinterest.

Professionelle’s What We Wear Board: Looking for inspiration for your fall work wardrobe? This board is the perfect resource for identifying key workplace looks that never go out of style.

Follow Professionelle’s board What We Wear on Pinterest.

Long Beach Public Library’s Best of Business/Career Board: Build your fall reading list with some of the best books for your career including Outliers, The Power of Habit, and the $100 Startup.

Follow Long Beach Public Library’s board Best of Business/Career on Pinterest.

From creating your fall reading list to building your fall co-op wardrobe, Pinterest can be a stellar resource for young professionals and workplace veterans alike.

Lindsey Sampson is a junior International Affairs major with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Writing. She enjoys writing about Millennials in the workplace and social media as a marketing tool. Follow her blog here and tweet her @lindseygsampson.

Thinking Ahead: An Approach to Getting Your Dream Internship

internship post-it pic

This guest post was written by Scarlett Ho, a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science, with a minor in Law and Public Policy.

Securing your dream internship- that is the highlight of your college career- can be daunting. It takes years of planning and preparation as well as numerous rejections. Regardless of what stage of the search process you are at, a couple words of advice to heed throughout your search are to be aggressive and to think strategically. With that in mind, below are my tips for being an efficient internship seeker.

1. Plan early

It is never a bad thing to plan early. If you know what your ultimate end goal is, or even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do after graduation, you should at least have a rough idea of the parameters of the areas you want to explore. Thus, it is crucial you create a bold action plan to make the most out of your time here.

As an International Affairs and Political Science major, I might not know precisely what I want to do after I graduate (e.g. lobbyists, diplomat, Hill staffers, think tank analysts, etc.), but I know that these are roughly the options I have, and the goal of an internship is to try out all these areas during my undergraduate years to test the waters and explore my passion. You should have a list of organizations and companies that you are interested in organize it well and create a timeline.  Try jotting down your dream organizations just off the top of your head and see how many you can come up with, then do some internet research to find more organizations that may have internship opportunities and add them to your list. Set deadlines for yourself and hold yourself accountable for meeting them.

2. Create a Comprehensive Internship Database

Although Northeastern has a sophisticated myNEU Cool database that offers numerous co-op jobs, if you are bit more ambitious and are interested in more internship opportunities, sometimes you have to look outward and create your own personalized database. The reason you should do that is being 1. some jobs are not listed on the system/you are not authorized to view them because of certain settings; 2. the school has not yet developed a relationship with the organization (but you should not limit your options because of that). Take note of outside internship search engines like InternMatch.com, HuskyCareerLink and broader search engines like SimplyHired and Indeed to aid your search and build up your database. Also, check out the Internship Guide on the Career Development website for more ideas.

3. Stay Organized

Once you find a list of internships and organizations you are interested in, how do you organize them in an effective and easy-to-read manner that would serve as a roadmap for applying? For me, I create a Google Doc spreadsheet because it is easily accessible everywhere, and I can share the file to multiple accounts. Moreover, I can also make changes easily and invite people to contribute to my list.

Within the document, I categorize the different job natures and put as much information as possible. Using my career interest as an example, in the excel document, I created tabs for government jobs, campaigns, NGOs, think tanks, etc and provided other details such as time of internship, application period, deadline, compensation, location, materials needed (such as recommendation letters, transcript). I would also put a column where I gauge my chances (just like college applications) – safety, match, or dream; and note what year of students the organizations are looking for. And so, even if you were a sophomore, you would be aware of the dream internship that only takes rising seniors, and you can strategize accordingly.

4. Connect with People and Ask Questions

I’ve found that from the objective internship description that organizations usually offer on their websites, it is hard to get a sense of what the job entails and envisage whether or not it aligns with your interests. To save time from applying and interviewing for a job that you might not like, the best way is to ask former interns and alumni who worked there before. Through searching on LinkedIn or Facebook (if you are friends with them), you can target those people and send them a message to meet up for coffee or for general questions. In my experience, it is likely that people would offer help or a piece of advice. The informational interview will help you understand the following things: tips on application process, a day-to-day work schedule, and whether he/she can introduce you to people you should know. Be sure to write a thank you message to the person as a professional gesture afterwards.

Creating an internship database in the form of a timeline goes a long way in helping you navigate the tedious internship seeking process. Be sure to connect with alumni and existing connections on the way to find out about more opportunities and whether or not the job would be a good fit for you! Good luck.

Scarlett Ho is a third year student majoring in International Affairs and Political Science, with a minor in Law and Public Policy. She is a former Capitol Hill intern and will be interning at the European Parliament this fall with NU’s study abroad program. As a trilingual, she is interested in foreign affairs and diplomacy, and is an avid globetrotter. Connect with Scarlett on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.

Photo source: Culpwrit via HeatherRHuhman.com

Living Proof…that finding a co-op is not impossible

frustrated student head down

This guest post was written by Samantha Palmer, a 3rd biology student who just completed her first co-op at the cosmetic company, Living Proof, Inc.

Finals were approaching and anxiety of acquiring my first co-op job was growing. It was mid-December, and I was distracted by the consuming thought of not receiving a co-op offer. Checking my emails became an obsession and every email I received unrelated to co-op was a bothersome. Even more upsetting was that no one had told me getting a co-op could be this difficult, it seemed as if they were just handed to you. Sure, I had a few interviews, all of which I thought went rather well. It’s just that I applied to SO many jobs that I thought at least one would work out. I had good grades, and I aced my co-op class…why on earth had I still not received an offer? While many students had already accepted jobs, I did have a few friends in the same position as me. We were all a bit confused and frustrated, forced to register for classes the following semester.

As a Biology major I applied to many positions, mostly in research labs. Clinical opportunities were usually limited to health science majors. I would have loved a clinical experience, something I should have pushed for earlier in the co-op process. However, I did come to terms with myself that a lab experience would be beneficial for my studies, that is if I could get one.

I kept my thoughts positive while also accepting the possibility of being in classes next semester. Then one evening, I was having dinner with a few friends, one of which mentioned she was finishing up her chemical engineering co-op at a cosmetic company. It sounded cool and aligned with my interests. The idea of working with a science that is relevant to my feminine life was intriguing. She continued to tell me that she had sought out the position herself, and that they would definitely need someone to takeover for her. I was a little nervous since I was not a chemical engineering major, but why not try something new?

I ended up going in for an interview, learning about the position, and meeting the four members of the product development team. By the time I finished my last final, I had accepted the job offer and would officially begin working at Living Proof, Inc. for my first co-op. Looking back, it was as if all those other jobs didn’t work out for this very purpose. My experience at Living Proof was everything I could have asked for and more. I consider myself lucky to have had such an amazing opportunity.

Although I am not studying to be a chemical engineer, I gained great laboratory insight. As a science based hair product company, my main task consisted of batching. I followed recipes to produce shampoos, conditioners, styling products, hairsprays, etc. Overtime I became familiar with raw materials and how they contributed to each product. Sometimes I even got to take home a small sample of whatever I made that day. Batching was always satisfying because after a long day of measuring, mixing, heating, and cooling, you were left with a beautiful end product. Another fun task was tress work. This consisted of testing our hair products on hair strands to see how they performed, especially in relation to competitor products. Of course I also had to perform more tedious work. The stability of new possible formulas needed to be checked constantly. The color, odor, and consistency were measured to see how stable the product is over time. Keeping the lab clean is also important and a lot of my time was spent sanitizing equipment and organizing. My favorite part of my lab experience was helping with the actual formula for a new product. I got to test different raw materials and see how each performed in the salon. This was definitely frustrating, but now I can look forward to seeing a product on store shelves that I had a part in.

In addition to the lab experience, Living Proof has an awesome office environment. Due to the small size of the company, I sat among colleagues from various departments. I made friends in finance, marketing, and HR. We had an office kitchen where people could gather, and on Fridays the entire company came together for a group lunch. I got to see how the company ran as a whole, and it allowed me to make lifelong connections. Living Proof proved to be a place that had some of the smartest scientists, an amazing culture, and an exceptional learning environment. I looked forward to co-op every morning; my next one has a lot to live up to. What was my favorite part? I could say it was preparing for Jennifer Aniston’s visit, or the frequent product launch parties, or even the quiet, relaxing, lab atmosphere. However, every part of Living Proof seemed to make my experience worthwhile.

Make the job you want quoteThrough my first co-op process, I learned that acquiring a job or an internship is not just handed to you. You have to work hard for it. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and use whatever connections you have. Once you get where you want to be, it’s important to continue to make connections, even if you’re not looking for your next co-op or internship for another year or so.

Samantha is a 3rd year student at Northeastern, originally from NY. She’s seeking a bachelors degree in biology, with minors in psychology and business and plans to pursue a career within the medical field. 

How to Navigate Career Centers, LinkedIn and Recruiters

find job buttonYou’re preparing for your senior year of college and thinking about what’s next. What to do? How to start? It can begin to feel overwhelming quickly, but job searching doesn’t have to be a stressful process. Start thinking like a hiring manager, and save yourself a lot of time and energy. Here are a couple tips to jumpstart your search.

  1. Complete your professional resume and have it reviewed by minimum of 3 people including family, friends and Career Development personnel.
  2. Cross-check your paper resume and make certain it mirrors your LinkedIn profile. Yes, you should have a photo on your profile which can help to accelerate the pre-screening process. Don’t many of us view the hotel before we make a reservation or look-up the vacation rental photos before we confirm a week? Your photo should be a professional image that a Hiring Manager can view before they engage in communication.
  3. Google stalk yourself and clean up your collegial online history (i.e. Sorority Party)
  4. Register with a minimum of three staffing agencies. They are a great resource and can help you find a job. – Just do your research!

Work on that resume early. Career Development is a free resource and we strongly urge students to take advantage of this unfamiliar department and make it as familiar as the local pizza joint. This department is the first honest set of eyes that will critique your resume and help you begin your “job searching journey”. This department will provide you with opportunities to meet Hiring Managers who man the tables at career fairs which become future contacts that you can network with or may become clients. Additionally, by attending Alumni events you will be obtaining another group of future contacts to add to your “rolodex” which today is called LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a free networking tool. Every time you meet an alum or a Hiring Manager, immediately connect with them because they will be able to help you navigate complex industry roads, salary negotiations and offer tips on who to contact to learn more about open jobs. There’s a lot of free advice out there. Do not get frustrated, it’s FREE.

Additionally, we highly recommend “google-stalking” your own name and cleaning up your public profile (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, etc.) before you apply to any professional job. Try Googling yourself in a browser you don’t use (so that it doesn’t automatically sign you into your accounts) and see what pops up. What you see is what a recruiter will see; make sure it reflects what you want. It is perfectly fine to have “fun” photos of you “in the cloud” (i.e. family party), but an image or comment that may be judged or viewed as unprofessional, we recommend deleting.

There are many misconceptions about the recruiting industry also known as “headhunters”. The staffing industry is not a regulated business, so anyone can say they are a recruiter or a staffing firm which means it’s crucial as a job seeker you do your research on the agencies and make sure they’re legitimate. Take control of your job search and keep track of which agencies and which jobs you have applied to.

We’re confident if you take advantage of Career Development, get on LinkedIn, register with three agencies, and find 3 professional and expert recruiters your job search will be that much easier.

There’s a lot of different advice out there and when it’s free you absolutely should embrace it!

Image Source: www.resumeactivator.com

Deirdre Parlon is the founder and CEO of Black Oak Staffing Solutions. At B.O.S.S., Deirdre has 18 years of experience working in the staffing industry. She began her staffing career in 1996, immediately after graduating from NU. Her long career has honed the natural intuition she has for placing the right candidates in the right positions, and gives her clients and candidates the security of knowing that they are in the hands of an expert who has their best interests in mind.  Deirdre resides in Boston with her family. When she is not working or volunteering, she can usually be found golfing or spending her time with her husband, children and her large family of brothers and sisters.

Help, My First Job Is a Disaster!

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True or false: The major you choose in college will dictate what you do for your entire career.  Did you choose true?  Well consider this: a certain actor, prankster and ex-husband of an older woman majored in Biochemical Engineering in college. Would you have ever predicted Ashton Kutcher’s career from that major?

Don’t misunderstand: I am not saying that what you learn in college isn’t useful. It just may not be useful in the way you anticipated. Sure, in many cases the content of your major provides theories, facts and techniques that can be directly applied in the workplace. Often, that content is supplemented and enhanced on the job as a new employee is taught an employer’s way of doing things.  In many other cases, the content of what you learn is not as important as the skills you develop in the classroom and the lab, like critical thinking, logical writing, oral presentation or working on a team.

The same principle applies to your first job.  Obviously, it’s insanely great to be hired by your dream company for the perfect position right off the bat. But it is not a career-ending catastrophe when your first post-graduation gig is far from the ideal you envisioned.

Maybe another quiz will help make my point.  Consider the following list of jobs: Lion tamer, paralegal, congressional page, accountant, special needs teacher, mortuary cosmetologist, hair salon receptionist, high school drama teacher, party clown.

Who do you think held which job before the start of their “real” career? Christopher Walken, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Ray Romano, Sheryl Crow, Whoopi Goldberg, Beyonce, Jon Hamm, Hugh Jackman.

(Answer: jobs are listed in the same order as the people who held them.)

It’s not too hard to imagine the transferable skills these rich and famous folks may have developed at their early jobs. Courage, patience, and humility come to mind; public speaking, relationship building, and detail orientation do as well.  After walking into a cage with a lion, or being responsible for applying makeup for a deceased person, a job interview might not seem that intimidating.

The reality for most new grads is that student loans are due, rent has to be paid and food put on the table. And even if you’re happy moving back to live with your family for a while, it’s a good idea not to leave a sizeable gap on your resume between your graduation date and your first job.  So don’t hold out indefinitely for the perfect job, and don’t stress if you need to take one that is second best.  Instead, challenge yourself to learn all you can while you’re there, even if your work wardrobe includes a red nose and floppy shoes.

Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2013. Email her at s.loffredo@neu.edu.

Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: Let’s Go Steady

Image source: tower.com

Image source: tower.com

So many of my clients have heard that networking leads to a job, but still many of them don’t understand how. My last four posts got down to the nitty gritty of networking and how the etiquette is similar to dating somebody new or making a new friend. So what happens next? Sometimes something great and sometimes nothing comes from it. Similarly, you go on a couple dates, and initially it’s great and then it kind of fizzles over time. So why do all this work if there’s a possibility that nothing happens? Because, like dating, it’s a necessary evil to secure something long term.

So what happens when it does lead to a job, what does that look like? It can take many forms and you could be the initiator or you contact could, but it’s always beneficial to be proactive. After that initial conversation or two, keep checking the company website and reach out when you see something that you’re interested in. You can frame you language to sound something like:

“Hi Amelia, I hope all is well with you. You gave me some great advice and insight a few months back and as you instructed I’ve been checking the company website every few days looking for entry level positions that fit my experience.

Something just opened up in auditing and I was writing to see if you had any insight on the position or could connect me with somebody who did. I am eager to get my application in, but I want to make sure I’m an attractive candidate. Thank you for your help.”

Amelia will hopefully write back with some advice and say that she’ll “put in a good word for you”. This generally (not always) guarantees that the hiring manager will at least give your application a closer look. You’re one step closer to “going steady” with that company. It’s important to recognize that despite all your networking, the job may just not be a good fit for you, but at least you got a shot. In many cases however, it tips the scale greatly in your favor.

The best case scenario is that you’ve been keeping in touch with your network and a contact sees a position that, based on your conversations seems like a great fit, and reaches out encouraging you to apply. This will almost always get you an interview because it is safe to assume that you contact already sang you praises to the hiring manager.

Regardless of the scenario- the benefits to networking far outweigh the cons and the understandable “uncomfortable” feeling that comes with the process. Even if you don’t consider yourself a dating connoisseur, I’m confident you can master the simple rules of networking etiquette.

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: The Courtship

image source: comefillyourcup.com

Old School Courtship image source: comefillyourcup.com

Courtship [kawrt-ship, kohrt-

noun

  1. the wooing of one person by another.
  2. the period during which such wooing takes place.

In other words: the period of a time you spend dating, trying to figure out whether or not you think that the relationship will go long term. The courtship is the most exhilarating and exciting part of the dating timeline, but it can also be filled with confusion and anxiety. Similarly, when trying to cultivate a networking relationship with a dream employer, it’s difficult to navigate the social niceties without shooting yourself in the foot.

Let’s go back to the dating example. It’s the day after a successful first date; there was great conversation, delicious food and most importantly, a connection. You sent a text that night saying that you had a great time. Now what? “Should I call him/her? Is it too soon? What if they think I’m annoying?” Not surprisingly, these are similar to the questions I get from clients after they have a successful informational interview. “When should I follow up? Will they think I’m annoying? I don’t want to come off too needy.”

Since my last post, we know that the first step to keeping the networking relationship alive is to send an email thanking the person (scroll to the bottom of the link) for their time and citing conversation bits you found especially helpful and/or interesting. I would also suggest including a closing sentence that says you’ll update them on your progress over the next few weeks/months. Like dating, it’s easier and feels less awkward to follow up with somebody when you have a reason to and it confirms that you were actively listening at the meeting.

Dating example: “Hey Kelly, Are you free Thursday night? You said you love 90’s movies when we met and they’re playing Terminator 2: Judgment Day at the Hatch Shell, want to go?” Why yes, mystery man, I would (but seriously, I would).

Networking example: “Dear Amelia, Thank you again for taking the time to talk to me a few weeks back. I took your advice and followed up with Fred in accounting. He gave me some great insight on how to navigate the finance job market at some of the larger firms and much of what he said complimented the advice you gave me. I’ll be certain to keep in touch with you as I continue my job search and I appreciate all of your help thus far. If you have other suggestions for me or hear of an opportunity that may be a good fit, I’d appreciate it if you kept me in mind. Thanks again!”

While the thank you email should be sent within 24 hours of your initial networking meeting, your follow up is dependent on you. If you met with Fred just a week after meeting with Amelia, it’s fine to follow up with Amelia after speaking to Fred, and in fact, I’d highly suggest that you do, even if it’s only been a week. Use your common sense and just don’t be a stalker. Follow up with Amelia in 4-6 weeks after your Fred email to update her on your progress from there. It doesn’t have to be a long email, just a short, check-in.

Image source: www.condenaststore.com

Image source: www.condenaststore.com

Although it may seem slightly redundant and simple, following up is the most important part of the networking relationship for a few reasons. First, it keeps you fresh in their mind in case something opens up or if they hear of anything elsewhere that they think you’d be a good fit for. Second it demonstrates politeness and professionalism. Now that you’ve had a solid conversation and a of couple email exchanges, they’ll feel more comfortable vouching for you. Finally, it gets the person to care, even just a little bit more, about your career. People generally like the feeling of helping out somebody else- thanking them and following up confirms that they were helpful. The goal is to get them invested in your career so you have them as a lifelong contact. Amelia is probably feeling pretty good about herself at this point.

All in all, the key to the courtship phase of the networking/dating relationship is to follow up! Just use your common sense and don’t be rude about it. You wouldn’t ask somebody to be your boyfriend or girlfriend without going on multiple dates first, so don’t expect that your contact is going to go out on a limb for you and hand you a job right away. Like any relationship, it takes time to foster and grow. Your network should serve as an information resource and it’s important to be patient and know that not everything is in your (or their) control when it comes to the job market. Embrace Forrest Gump-esque serendipity and know that most people are willing to help, but you need to do the work.

Going to the chapel and we’re going to get married. Final post of the series next week: Let’s Go Steady.

How have you followed up with your networking contact? Has anyone ever connected you to somebody that’s helped land you a full-time position or internship?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.

Why Networking is a Lot Like Dating: The First Date

 

Girl: "I like you" Boy: (after pushing her) "You smell like dog poo."

Girl: “I like you”
Boy: (after pushing her) “You smell like dog poo.”

Your phone buzzes, and yes, you got a response from that online dating inquiry. “Sweet, now what do I do?  Do I text back right away?  Maybe I should wait a few so I don’t seem too eager, wait, or maybe he/she will think I’m ignoring him/her?”

We have come to the most exhilarating and frightening part of our journey down the dating/networking path: the first date.

The first date, full of mystery and anxiety… luckily in the networking world, it’s a little more straight forward. Unlike dating, if the person you requested to informational interview writes you back, you should respond promptly. Keep in mind, they’re doing you a favor, limit the back and forth scheduling emails. If they suggest a time/place, try to accommodate them, if that time/place doesn’t work, suggest a couple alternatives. Do the work. I can speak from experience, it’s annoying going back and forth five times trying to schedule a meeting with somebody with whom you’ve never met.

“So this weather we’re having…” Getting ready.

You’ve set the time and location, now it’s time to get ready. It’s going to be slightly awkward, just accept it – they’ve already agreed to meet you, so you’ve got that going for you (you go Glen Coco).

"Uhh..." image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/5BmShfY6bqOvm

“Uhh…”
image source: http://giphy.com/gifs/5BmShfY6bqOvm

Let’s start with the conversation prep. It is essential that you prepare questions to ask. Again, they’re doing you a favor, so you need to go in there with multiple conversation starters. Similar to a date, we want to avoid as many awkward silences as possible. You always know that it was at least a decent date if you left having good conversation- the same goes for the initial informational interview. People, as a whole, love talking about themselves, so asking questions about their career path, their current position and what their success tips are is always a good way to start. It’s an easy way to break the ice and connect with them. Similar to a first date, you want them to like you and feel a connection (or dare I say, a spark), so that down the line they feel comfortable recommending you to their superiors and/or think of you when a job opens up. Feel free to answer their questions as well- this is a two way street, and you need not pretend you’re not looking for a position if asked, but NEVER ask them for a job- it’s rude and they may not be in a position to offer you one. Cue the super awkwardness.

Let’s talk about dress, baby.

First rule of thumb, whatever you do, don’t roll in to the meeting looking like a slob-ka-bob. First impressions matter. I once went on a date where the guy showed up in a baseball hat and gym shorts. Glad you cared enough to dress up.  Know your industry. If we go back to the Google example from last week, you probably don’t need to rock your designer suit, but looking like you care about the meeting and you put some effort into your appearance is important. If you’re info interviewing somebody that works in a profession where suits are commonplace- wear a suit.

Additional tid-bits.

These are the things you learn only through experience. One, don’t show up too early, but don’t show up late. If you are going to be late, send a quick email, just like you would send a text to your date.

Two, once you’ve hit the designated time marker, stop talking. If you asked for twenty minutes, but are having awesome conversation, stop at the twenty minute mark and say something along the lines of, “We’re just about at 20 minutes, I don’t want to take up much more of you’re time, I’m sure you’re really busy.” Let the employer determine if they can stay and chat longer.

Three, isn’t nice when get a lovely text message after your date that says something along the lines of, “hey, I had fun, let’s get together again soon”? Super sweet right? Same goes for after you have an informational interview- send a thank you email and let them know that you’ll keep them updated on your progress. We have samples on our site.

image source: http://giphy.com/

image source: http://giphy.com/

Finally, keep the goodbye as normal as possible. The dating world makes goodbyes uncomfortable and weird and I honestly believe that it has scarred our interactions with others. Ask for a business card, say “thank you for your time”, and finish off with a firm handshake. That is all.

Just like dating, some interviews will be good, and some will be eh. Being prepared and making a good impression will set you up for future success.

Do you like mind games? Because next week we’ll be discussing the Courtship.

What advice do you have for those conducting informational interviews? Are there any other parallels you can pull from going on a first date?

Kelly Scott is Assistant Director of Career Development and Social Media Outreach at Northeastern University. A social media enthusiast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about workplace culture and personal online branding. For more career insight, follow/tweet her at @kellydscott4.