Navigating Post-Grad Life: Networking & Job Searching

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Post-grad life is never as romantic or cool as the movies portray it as. 
Over the past few months, I've found myself texting my friends about what our post-graduation sleep schedules have become, why we get mistaken as older than we are, how to be money-savvy (still trying to figure this out!) and if that morning Starbucks coffee is really worth it. More often than not though, my time is spent figuring out how to be an adult, navigating the space that exists now that people are going towards different things in life, whether that's to another country, graduate school/professional school, the other side of the country or work.

In the past couple of years, one of my favorite things to read are the articles where people share their career trajectories and how they’ve gotten to where they are. Since I know that by now, many people who’re reading this are either post-graduates or in college, I thought I’d ask my friends who’ve been there to share their advice. 

I met my friend C late one winter evening two years ago at our mutual friend’s apartment, both a little sleepy after a late-evening session of food. That following summer, she lived down the hall from me and I’d catch her in business-wear headed downtown at the bus stop to her finance internship in the peak of summer heat and humidity, which we both tried to avoid by being out the door by 8am. I’ve watched C go through the job hunting process, from start to end, and I’m so incredibly happy that she’s scored an analyst position at an asset management company in NYC, where she’s from. While she’s in the business field, these tips are general enough for any industry. I hope you find something helpful, insightful or interesting.

If you could change something about how you tackled the process, what would it be?

C: To not be so timid. That would be number one. I used to be very timid in expressing my strengths and how I would be the best fit for the position/firm. Second, know myself better. Through the process I gained a better understanding of what I’m good at and what skills/qualities I’m lacking. Really, the best advice I can give: be confident in what you’ve been through and be confident about who you are as well as what you know. It’s cliche but this mentality really works and potential employers can see right through you, when you’re confident but without substance. Prepare behavioral/technical questions depending on the industry, firm, and other extenuating circumstances. Understand what you’re talking about, DON’T BS it. They will know if you do. Make sure you really know your resume. Really. If you read people and know what they want to hear (they don’t want to hear about your miserable day on the phone with a broker) then you will do swell. Don’t be nervous - these are also all people and whether or not they’ve gone through similar processes/interview standards, they were all at where you are, right now, once upon a time.

Networking

J: I think you’re better at networking than I am through the conversations we’ve had about job searching and you’d always be like “Talking to so-and-so…” How do you network? I know that you found your high school alumni network to be helpful, more-so than our college network.
What really helped for me with networking is having mutual topics that I researched the day before (LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn… though, based on your industry it might be Facebook groups; my friend who studied Theater Arts says it does wonders for her) and connecting with the employer/employee using those mutual interests.
C: This, actually, more than you may think, ties in with cold-calling and coffee chats. Networking can come to happen from the most insignificant of places, such as brotherhood events for your local business fraternity (proud AKPsi member here) or community service events with a local branch of the firm that maybe you’re dying to be part of (I’m looking at you, Deloitte). My friends did the community service events and networked well with a few employees and later got the practicum/co-op with the firm. What really helped for me with networking is having mutual topics that I researched the day before (LinkedIn, LinkedIn, LinkedIn… though, based on your industry it might be Facebook groups; my friend who studied Theater Arts says it does wonders for her) and connecting with the employer/employee using those mutual interests. SPORTS. Even though I only follow tennis, most people like baseball or football. In my industry, it’s good if you know what happened with the team the day before. Just google it. It actually kind of works, surprisingly.

In the case of alumni networks, I did go to a private high school and the AR, or Alumni Relations office, may have opportunities for fellow alumni. That said, one such opportunity unfortunately did not work out and was incredibly frustrating. It was a dark time for me then. Watching almost everyone else in my grade and class get job offers while it was zero, zilch, zip for me. NEVER give up! You never know where you will land. Fall hard, then get right back up.

Job Searching

Looking at my Excel worksheet I compiled while searching for employment, I applied to over 200 firms. I had a set schedule where I would only apply to at most 10 places a day, and only in the morning. 
J: Job searching and crawling through job listings is so tedious. How did you cope with that that?

C: In fact, it was very tedious. Looking at my Excel worksheet I compiled while searching for employment, I applied to over 200 firms. I had a set schedule where I would only apply to at most 10 places a day, and only in the morning. I also had a bit of help! My father is retired so I got him to look at Glassdoor for available jobs and I contacted headhunters/recruiters and applied to jobs from Monster and Indeed, and later LinkedIn (I only furiously started applying to jobs on LinkedIn after Jessica recommended it to me… Thanks, Jess). The rest of the time I spent honing my skills and knowledge. I was unemployed for a little over 2 months doing this because the right job that was best fit for me didn’t come right away. 

Being a Woman and Asian in Business

J: I know you told me how during interviews you were asked why you’re trying to work in finance as a woman. How’d you deal with that and what’s it like now that you’re working?

C: I have a lot to say about this but long story short, it made me stronger and the woman I am today. I didn’t tell many people about what happened and this only happened at this firm that I no longer remember the name of. The analysts on the floor were all men who were Ivy grads. It’s true that New York is a tough city but if you can make it here, you can make it almost anywhere. Needless to say, I wasn’t offered this opportunity and later dealt with this as one does, by eating a lot of ice cream and crying. The following semester, I threw myself into my studies and school and got straight A’s that semester for the first time since sophomore year, but this time I was taking 7 classes a semester.

My motto now is that all good things that will happen, will happen. It’s not good to always be stressed out even if everyone around you has a job offer already and is starting in July/August while you’re basically unemployed. DON’T think like this, like I did. If you work hard, it will happen. Believe in yourself. (Cheesy, but true). You can do it. I believe in you. Now that I’m working, it’s nice to be able to learn new things while I work (and make money! WHOO! Haha, sorry too excited about the gains). The MD [Jessica's note: Managing Director], who hired me, is excited that I joined his team. I didn’t have connections in my current firm unlike my fellow coworkers who have either connections from previous internships or have worked at the big banks like JP Morgan or Big 4 like KPMG and Ernest Young. I think what really helped is that there was an opening for the current position I’m in and my summer internship in Cleveland (thanks SOTC) directly correlated with the day-to-day tasks and overall job requirements. Now that I think about it, I applied to this job on the company’s website through a portal I saw on LinkedIn from LinkedIn email job suggestions.

Back to this position I’m in, surprisingly enough, there are a ton of Asians at the firm and at financial firms in general. There are women all around, and our CFO is female as well so there’s that. The culture is good, my manager is satisfied with the work I do, my lunch is paid for by the firm and I can use the company’s gym so I would say there are great perks to be had (we’re going out for dinner and an escape room outing next month - MD’s treat, so wish me luck! I suck at these things).

I’m happy where I’m at right now in life but I know there’s always room to move up, but who knows? If I can do it, you can too. Good luck!

What’s one advice you’d give to yourself?

C: Keep going! Keep doing what you’re doing. Good job so far but this is just the beginning. You don’t have time to relax right now (though occasional R&R is good for the mind, body and health). If you work hard now, it’ll definitely pay off in the future.

This is another thing, but I think it's good to mention: exercise is extremely important to keep up your health. Health good, work good. Managers don’t like when you’re sick constantly and not at the office. Depends on your industry and firm as my friend L has unlimited vacation days but just a general rule of thumb.

Who do you admire right now?

C: I admire you! [J’s Note: aw, thanks!] It’s true and not only is that a great question, but also it’s a loaded one. I know that a lot of young women like to answer “my mom”, but I have always admired my father for his successful career. He came from China with only $25 and climbed up to VP as a senior programmer at Merrill Lynch. Along with admiring my father, I like to read articles about brilliant female traders and businesswomen because I support intelligent, creative and innovative female figures, not justin my specific industry. I was introduced to Mei Ping Yang as someone to look up to in particular, along with other women, that I can list below, for reference. Someone whose life has been recently scrutinized is Molly Bloom (also another female figure I admire), who’s currently being portrayed by Jessica Chastain in a movie called Molly’s Game. Bloom seems incredibly empowering and tenacious, especially as she didn’t back down in front of the media from multiple lawsuits. My high school also churned out actresses, and it’s nice to be able to see how far they’ve come in the dog-eat-dog business of Hollywoof Hollywood.

Edited for clarity and length. Photos from Death to Stock

What are some of your tips? What other advice would you like to see in the future?

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