When I first got to college I was very GPA oriented. My parents advised me that my goals in college should not just be about achieving classroom success, but also about meeting people. But, like most things your elders say it passed right over my head. I was a social person. There were tons of people on campus. Obviously, I’d meet new people naturally. Why would I make that a goal? But, as a 4th year I can finally admit that they were right.
Networking is important. When my parents told me that I should be continuously meeting people they were really encouraging me to network. Networking sounds intimidating, but the word is multi-purposeful. It’s not just a recruitment term. Successful networking happens when you meet new people and you use your web of resources and their web of resources for both of your benefits. It should always be mutualistic. It’s important to network throughout school for academic success. When you study with a new classmate, you’re successfully networking. The knowledge you bring to the session is different than the insight your classmate will bring. But, by the end of the day you’ll both possess the same knowledge. Many people don’t realize that at a base level the skills we use to form study groups are the same skills we’ll use one day to get a job.
I realized this when I first began recruiting for internships. Anyone who knows anything about public accounting recruiting, will tell you networking is the most important skill you need to get your dream internship. The process consist of three weeks of “social events.” Every person you meet and every interaction you have matters. Don’t let the casualness of the climate fool you. These events aren’t just social they’re your interview. By the time I got to office visits, because I had successfully networked I didn’t even get asked any interview questions. They already knew which students they were interested in hiring by then. This climate is exactly why one of your biggest goals in college should be to “learn to meet new people.” It’s the practice round for the real world. College is important because it is the only rehearsal you get for learning how to quickly make connections. So, the next time someone invites you to a social gathering, info session, or new study group say yes. It’ll help you in the present and the future.
An ocean of students in suits and pad-folios flooded UT Campus this past week. Career Week. The partially heat-related, partially nerves-related sweat could be smelled in the air.
Career week is nerve-racking for a number of reasons:
The recruiters you talk to could be the people hiring you.
Everyone wants an internship or job.
Saying the “correct thing” can be daunting.
Standing out is difficult.
“Set yourself apart from everyone else.”
This is a piece of advice that gets tossed into the mix every second or so. The ironic thing is that it’s cliched advice. Of course everyone wants to stand out. We all want to be special so that we can be the candidate our desired company wants to hire above everyone else. However, this is easier said than done.
McCombs has a strict standard for how its students dress to events like the Career Expo. There’s even a bouncer at the door to stop any “sloppy dressers” from entering. It makes sense that McCombs does this; UT wants to exude professionalism. Walking into Career Expo is somewhat akin to walking into a zoo and seeing flocks of penguins gathering at different feeding stations. (Don’t we sort of look like them in our suits?) So the question remains: how do you set yourself apart from the pack? How can you be the canary in a flock of penguins? These are a few non-dress-code related things that I tried.
Ask Unique Questions: One of the recruiters I was talking to at the expo told me that at the end of the day, he tallied how many students had asked him to “please tell them about the finance opportunities offered at the company” (approximately 150 times). Not only can this information be found online via a quick Google search, the same question get annoying. We have to realize that much like us, recruiters are human. They get bored after repeating the same thing over and over. Research the company and come up with questions that will get the recruiter talking about things that he or she enjoys. If the person enjoys the conversation with you, chances are you’ll leave a positive, lasting impression.
Follow Up: Very often, we will talk to someone and then never follow up. Even if you made a good impression, it might not last because the recruiter will forget who you are. Take the recruiter’s business card and thank them via email or even a quick phone call for talking with you. Recall specific parts of your conversation to include in your thank you so that they will remember you.
Use humor: We often forget that recruiters are human. Humans like to laugh. It’s okay to crack a joke once in a while, and it can actually be quite refreshing. I actually got an interview last week because I let my sense of humor loose. I’m not saying to make inappropriate comments or try your best stand-up comedy lines. I’m just saying that sometimes being too serious is actually a hindrance. There are hundreds of students in the room that are also seriously gunning for a job. Smile. Laugh. Be confident enough in what you’ve done.
Hopefully these tips help. If you have any of your own, feel free to comment! Remember: even if you have to look like a penguin, it doesn’t mean that you’re not actually a canary.
During the recruiting season, it is very tempting to check emails and see if I get first-round interviews, replies for thank-you letters, invitations to events, second-round interviews, offers or not. I am often surprised by the “updated three minutes ago” message that shows up on my screen, so I refresh and update again. As a result, my phone usually dies by midday. But more importantly, my productivity level drops because I no longer focus on the task at hand. It takes longer to produce lower-quality work.
Human are curious animals, especially for things with high stakes. How do we make sure our curiosity does not ruin our productivity? My answer is to learn to live in the present by practicing meditation. In my experience, meditation helps me to focus and combat temptation of checking emails more than necessary. By teaching you breathing techniques, guiding you through the practice, and introducing you to others who struggle to concentrate on one task at time, meditation practice group may help you improve your focus.
At UT, there is a weekly, free “Mindfulness Meditation Group,” which meets from 12:15 pm to 12:50 pm every Tuesday on the fifth floor of SSB (Student Service Building). You do not even need to stay for the whole session. Drop by someday and see if it works for you.
You might have heard the phrase, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” What I learned from my prolonged and exhausting trip last week while traveling for an AICPA workshop is my attempt at making a cup of tasty lemonade.
My original plan was to fly from Washington DC to Chicago to Austin. I would be arriving around 10 pm on Saturday and the next day I could study for a Monday exam. Everything was great.
But it did not go like that, at all. I ended up arriving in Austin at 10 pm on Sunday night and cramming at the last minute before the exam.
What happened was the flight from Washington DC to Chicago was delayed, so I did not catch the flight from Chicago to Austin. The flight was rescheduled to 11 am on Sunday and I end up staying in Chicago for one night. Next day in front of the gate, I found out the rescheduled flight was cancelled. After calming myself down, I called and booked the earliest flight available, which was on Monday afternoon. When I asked the agent for a hotel voucher, she said there was none but she offered to fly me from Chicago to Nashville to Dallas to Austin, arriving at 10 pm on Sunday. Weighing costs and benefits, I went with the latter choice (already thinking like an accountant!).
Things I learned:
If you are traveling for a job interview, keep the interviewers’ contact information handy (both in your phone and on paper), in case you need to inform them unexpected delays.
Always be nice and calm when talking to agents (especially when you wear a longhorn shirt). Being mad at them does not mitigate the problem. First of all, delays and cancellation are not their fault. More importantly, your emotional arguments could distract them from finding the optimal solution for you.
Be firm on your rights.Know your rights and the company’s obligations in unexpected flight delays or cancellations. Reading the company’s official website or 3rd party forums could be helpful.
Technical side: download the documents you want to review on the laptop when you have internet, in case you cannot find access at the airport. Also, buy a portable battery charger for your phone. Outlets can be hard to find and you might forget your phone in the charging station.
The bottom line: prepare for everything, expect nothing.
If you were already a student of McCombs prior to entering the MPA program, you are probably already very familiar with the dress standards of McCombs and the degree of seriousness to which these dress standards are taken. If you’re like me, you joined the program from another university and had never dressed Business Professional in your life. I hope that you were able to blend in better than I did on orientation. I believe orientation was Business Casual. I wore white jeans. JEANS. I thought my sheer-ish chiffon shirt and heels were nice enough that a pair of hole-less white jeans were formal enough. Needless to say, I didn’t blend in very well amongst my peers of already-well-acclimated-McCombs students who all looked interview-ready in their blazers and slacks. I learned later that week in BA 101 that I had broken more than a handful of professional dress rules. The good news is that I think even the most lost souls have an understanding of these expectations by recruiting season (if you don’t feel like you’re there yet, go see Merri Su Ruhmann and ask her for one of her pamphlets, it saved me). The truth is, 3rd years typically live in Business Professional during their Spring semester. Because Business Casual is essentially Business Professional without a blazer, do yourself a favor and have more than one outfit on hand, and keep one clean at all times. If you’re a woman you are typically expected to wear heels. Please don’t kid yourself and think you will survive in heels all day. BRING YOUR TOMS, Nikes, bunny slippers or whatever it is that saves your feet. Just make sure you don’t hobble into your big interview on clearly suffering feet. Take your pants off as soon as you’re home and don’t put them on all weekend if you don’t feel like it, but your appearance really does matter significantly during that interview window. You will feel that you have been lucky to have been trained to look like a professional when you come across someone at a recruiting event who hasn’t been so lucky. This program really prepares us to be professionals in a way that will benefit our careers for years to come, if we allow it to.