Are you going all-in with your job search?

I’ve been fortunate to have many opportunities to learn about, practice and reflect upon career search activities during my time in Goizueta’s Evening MBA Program. Along the way, I have switched jobs and careers, as well as have failed and succeeded. And if I could do it all over again, the following thoughts are what I would tell myself. I hope they will inspire current and prospective students as well as anyone looking for career opportunities.

Successful job searching is people-centered first. Positions are hired by people, and people are not likely to seek you out if they don’t know you (unless you have a special situation such as rare or specialized expertise). Taking a passive approach to job searches will, at best, drag out the process much longer than it should take. For example, at one point in my career, my strategy was to look for open positions on online job search engines and then look up whether I had a connection at that company on LinkedIn, then either reach out to that connection or (gasp!) proceed with an application where I had no connection. But as Goizueta’s Career Management Center has taught us, the real job seeking rock stars know that many jobs are landed before they’re ever posted. Therefore, a better approach is a proactive one in which you first build your network of people in the functional area, sector or company in which you want to work, make your interests known, and when the right job for you comes up, you’ll be recommended for it long before it shows up in that search alert feed. Even when hiring managers conduct an external search, it is only natural to first ask themselves whom they already know in their network to reach out to for a particular role.

People are also not robots. We are, biologically speaking, social creatures. You probably shouldn’t “cold call” someone you barely know, send your resume and ask for a recommendation. There has to be some relationship there. What does that mean, exactly? Even if you’ve met them only once before, reach out every now and then, share an article, grab coffee — anything to show that you care about them first so that when you are asking for something from them, they are more motivated to help you.

Conquer networking just by being you. I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone who told me they enjoyed networking. It is especially hard for introverts and/or shy people, but as one of you I say to those who struggle: You can stay in your comfort zone, or you can have the job or career you want. Your choice.

So, go all in. Have those conversations. Not the ones you think you are supposed to have, but the ones you want to have. You’ve worked hard to get here, and you deserve only the best. Also, don’t undervalue the importance of just being yourself, because when you are, those who value your personality and skills will be better able to find you. I personally think this is so much more important than having a good elevator pitch. Don’t get me wrong — being polished and prepared is absolutely essential, and Goizueta will prepare you well for this. But once you’ve done your homework, it’s like any public speaking engagement or performance: just relax and be you. (Here’s a great article for one innovative idea on how to stand out.) Last, but not least, take full advantage of the opportunity. A lot of people have put an intense amount of time and effort into putting networking events together for you, so make the most of them!

Like anything in life, finding the right job or career takes work, practice and time. People are not born knowing how to write a stellar cover letter or answer behavioral interview questions. Give yourself some credit when it doesn’t go well. Debrief and figure out what you can do better next time and know that it just means you’re one step closer.

Most of all, don’t forget to enjoy the journey. The day will come when you say goodbye to your classmates and you stop coming to campus. The question is, will you be proud of the next step of your journey?

Ashley Freeman

Ashley Freeman

Ashley Freeman is an 18EvMBA student and full-time manager in Emory’s Department of Orthopaedics under the School of Medicine. She is a leadership coaching, talent development and employee engagement enthusiast. In her free time, she loves crocheting, painting, traveling, playing cello, teaching French and music, and spending time with her husband and pet bird. Connect with Ashley on Twitter (@AshleySFreeman) or on LinkedIn.

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