Guest blogger Emmeline Whitcomb
Growing up as Susan’s daughter, I’ve heard her ‘preach’ networking over and over again. At 17, I tried some of these techniques for myself and, no surprise, found them to be successful. Here’s the story of how I landed my first job as a Marketing Intern. There are lots of details here, which shows that networking to land a job isn’t a straight, simple line. And if you just want to jump to the end to hear what I learned about networking, feel free!
The process started 6 months ago. Back in March of this year, I was on the Southern Methodist University (SMU) campus interviewing for a prestigious scholarship. During the two-day interview event, there were multiple panels featuring different types of programs and activities on campus. One panel in particular included the Career Center, represented by the director and one of his employees. After the panel and open-floor questions, Susan pushed me to meet with the director immediately after the session. I asked if it would be all right to come in the next day and meet with him to ask a few questions. But my main goal in setting up the meeting was simply to make a connection with people at one of the most important places on campus.
The next day Susan and I met with him. It was a little uncomfortable for me due to the fact that I was still a senior in high school and not very far along on my career path. Still, I was glad to be able to ask him questions about what employers wanted from college students. At the end, I gave the director a signed copy of my book, Wisdom Without the Wrinkles, full of inspiring bits of insights and wisdom designed for tweens and teens. A few days later, I sent him an e-mail thanking him for his time and connected with him via LinkedIn with a personal message, rather than the LinkedIn default message. Nothing happened immediately, but it was a connection I was extremely grateful to have later on.
Fast-forward three months to June at the 2013 MBA Career Services Council Conference in Washington D.C. During my time attending as an intern (and daughter) with Susan and The Academies, I was able to connect with multiple people in the career and recruiting world. While sitting down with two recruiters from national companies during dinner the first night, I asked if they had any advice on how to be exceptionally successful during my first year of college. One recruiter mentioned that it would be good to look into a work-study job at the Career Center because, in addition to the experience, I might also be able to get a first look at new jobs and meet recruiters.
Later during the conference, I was able to meet several people working at SMU in their MBA program, including the Career Center Director for SMU’s Cox School of Business. Now, it might have been normal for me to think, “She’s so high up on the academic ladder. How could she possibly be interested in talking to me?” But, I didn’t let that scare me into not talking with her. I told her I was planning on majoring in Marketing, which is in the SMU Cox School of Business.
She was gracious enough to offer to connect me with the Associate Director in the Cox Business School who specializes in coaching marketing students. At the end of that same day, I sent the MBA Career Director and other helpful people I had connected with a follow-up e-mail thanking them for their advice.
(By the way, I followed the tips in Jaymin Patel’s book, The MBA Guide to Networking Like a Rockstar. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it—and it’s not just for MBAs!) Here I am on the right with Jaymin Patel.
I made sure to ask the MBA Career Director about connecting me with the Associate Director. About a week later, I received an e-mail from the Associate Director saying that the MBA Career Director had told her about me. I replied professionally and promptly to set up a time to meet with her in-person when I was going to be on campus for Orientation at the end of July.
During my Orientation, I made sure to go back to the undergraduate Career Center to ask about job opportunities, as suggested by the recruiter I met over the summer. I walked in and stood in line for only 30 seconds before I noticed the Career Center Director, whom I met with back in March, casually walking down the hallway. After we exchanged “hellos” I told him I was exploring internship opportunities at the undergraduate Career Center. He quickly responded with a friendly “Well, sit down!” for an impromptu meeting, where he told me about all the positions available for students. He mentioned a Marketing position (my intended major!) and said I could come in the next day to talk about the job with him and some of his colleagues.
That next day, I first had a meeting with the Associate Director for the business school (the marketing expert), whom I had been emailing with over the summer. Before I said anything, she showered me with praise over my e-mail skills. (Mostly because I had made sure to be prompt and professional—again, thanks, Jaymin!)
When we met, I made sure I had a few on-point questions prepared—asking for her advice on the things she specialized in. Other than that, I allowed the time to be a period that I could simply make a connection and get to know her. At the end of our meeting, I told her that I had previously looked her up on LinkedIn and found that she had worked at the undergraduate Career Center where I was headed next for my informal interview. Once I mentioned that I was about to go meet with the Director and a few of his teammates, she immediately became excited for me and said that she would send them a short recommendation via e-mail as soon as we were done talking.
I then went straight from the Associate Director’s office to the undergraduate Career Center for my informal interview. Before I could even sit down, they mentioned that the Associate Director had just contacted them with a positive reference of me! When the three interviewers at the Career Center asked me if I had any questions, I made sure to ask some! I stayed engaged and inquisitive during the entire conversation.
Three days later, the formal listing and written application for the job would be available. By the fourth day, I got an e-mail from the Career Center asking me if I would like the student marketing position. My obvious answer: YES!
To me, the amazing part of this story is that it happened because I forced myself to be courageous and talk to successful people who I thought were “too high” for me. But, that’s exactly what got me the job: a trickle down of references.
So here’s a recap of what I learned about networking:
- Take initiative and look for opportunities.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to people, even if they are far above you in rank or position.
- Ask people for their advice—be willing to admit that you don’t know everything.
- Keep up with people over time. It takes more than one email to build trust.
I hope my networking success story will encourage the job seekers you work with!
Emmeline Whitcomb is currently a freshman attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, pursuing a Marketing degree as a Hilltop Leadership Scholar, a Hunt Leadership Scholarship Finalist, a Career Development Ambassador, and for personal enjoyment, a member of SMU’s well known a capella group! At 16, Emmeline wrote a leadership book designed for teens called Wisdom Without the Wrinkles: A Teen’s Insights on How To Be a Successful Leader, Earn Respect, and Create an Amazing Life. Emmeline highly values joy and accomplishment in life and has dedicated much of her time to mentoring others. Her message that perspective changes everything has inspired teens to find confidence and success despite life’s challenges. She is also a co-author of Girls Lead, written by Julie Marie Carrier and the BeYOUtiful Club and will continue to write and speak at events to be able to share inspiring and positive messages to young teens around the country.