For all you Smith seniors, graduation is looming large, and many of you will be using that shiny new degree to secure gainful employment. And as you’ve been told many times, the Smith network is available to help. Terri Tierney Clark ’81, former investments professional and current career specialist, is creator of The New Careerist, a website for young female professionals and the author of Learn, Work, Lead: Things Your Mentor Won’t Tell You (Peterson’s, 2014). Here she has some tips to keep in mind as you set out to conquer the world.
Work the Smith Network
You are much more likely to get an interview if you have a connection. As a student or recent grad, you may not think you have developed many contacts for finding jobs; however every Smith alumna, every relative and friend of a friend is part of your network. Persistence is also critical in gaining interviews. Don’t assume that because you didn’t receive a return email your contact is not interested. Politely email again, attaching your previous message, and ask them if they have had a chance to consider your request to meet.
The first step in networking is to realize that you have something to offer, even to those who are older and more experienced than you. Try to talk to or get together with senior officers or email someone you met at a conference. You may have to go out of your comfort zone. To keep your networking goals on track, pledge to connect or reconnect with a different person each week. Once that becomes easier, increase it to two a week.
Practice Makes Perfect
The overall impression you make in an interview will determine whether you land the job. You have to have poise and confidence—both of which you can acquire through practice interviews with another person or even by yourself. If you have a more reserved personality, do a little play-acting in your practice sessions to become more self-assured. Studies show that if you act as though you are confident, you will begin to feel confident.
As a young professional, you will most likely serve in some sort of support role. The more accurate and polished your work is, the more useful it will be to your manager and the better your manager will look to clients, colleagues and superiors. So fulfill your individual goals for your job, but remember that the better you make your boss look, the more invaluable you become.
The types of projects you work on will have a bearing on how you are viewed at your company. Ask for the tough assignments so that you can learn new skills and solve problems for your manager and your company. Also, make it clear to your boss that you care about your salary and professional progression. You can talk about these topics in a regular review or, once you are there awhile and have proven yourself, schedule a separate meeting to discuss your performance and future.