16 – Creative job search strategies

16 – Creative job search strategies

Creative Job Search

When young professionals are hitting the job market, traditional strategies include using University Career Centers for on-campus recruiting, attending career fairs and sending off resumes to companies with open postings. But what happens when those methods don’t work – or when the company you want to work for isn’t looking or using those channels?

Today’s podcast will discuss creative job search strategies. We’ll hear from business experts who have taken a less traditional path to find the right job.


Melchiorre: Start thinking about what you want to do, start thinking about the type of experience that you want to have.

Tatum: Networking is one of the most important things that you can do.

Belsky: So even if your ideas are horrible, the people who you’re working for will be really impressed by the fact that while everyone is just doing what they’re being told you are coming up with some proactive ideas that may be a little off but they’re still interesting .

Kristen: Welcome to “Sound Advice” – the brief audio download that brings the best of eClips to you. I’m Kirsten Barker.

When young professionals are hitting the job market, traditional strategies include using University Career Centers for on-campus recruiting, attending career fairs and sending off resumes to companies with open postings. But what happens when those methods don’t work – or when the company you want to work for isn’t looking or using those channels?

Today’s podcast will discuss creative job search strategies. We’ll hear from business experts who have taken a less traditional path to find the right job.

We’ll start with a comment from Cheryl Melchiorre, Manager at Deloitte Consulting. She stresses the importance of not waiting until your senior year in college to start thinking about what you want do after graduation. Start your career explorations early and allow yourself to take advantage of summer opportunities.

Melchiorre: Start early. Your job search starts junior year and it starts not at the end of junior year, it starts at the beginning of junior year. At the beginning of your junior year, start thinking about what you want to do, start thinking about the type of experience that you want to have. Do you want to work for a small company, medium size or big company? Do you want to work here in the US, do you want to work abroad? Start thinking about those things and then look at the companies and see if they have what … well at Deloitte, we have something called Summer Scholars but do they have a program for folks between their junior and senior years. I made the mistake of looking at my junior year summer as a way to make money when it should have been a way for me to go check out if I really wanted to go do consulting, and when I came around senior year for the interviews, I was left shorthanded. It didn’t discourage me and obviously it worked out in the end but it was a much more harder road to take than if I had started thinking about things much earlier on.

Kristen: So why are we talking about internships? This podcast is supposed to be about finding the REAL job… Well, the advantage of an internship is that it can help you determine what you want to do and more importantly, what you don’t want to do. Listen as Alison Paskert, a recent grad and analyst for Morgan Stanley shares her internship experiences.

Paskert: So I had two internships before taking a full-time position both in two different areas that I’m in currently, and I think through both of those I learned a lot. The first was with a retail consulting firm and it was a very small shop and I kind of realized that while consulting is very interesting and thought provoking and offers a lot in terms of just growth and diversity of assignments, the smaller scale of the business that I was in, I wanted a little bit more action I think, and you know it was analytical and it was more qualitative and I was interested in something a little bit more quantitative as well. So, then in the following summer I interned at an investment bank in sales and trading and learnt a lot. It was really exciting, a great atmosphere to be in, in terms of always being stimulated, but at times I almost felt like it was too much and it was almost too much going on, too much for me just to focus on learning. I mean I sometimes felt like … it was kind of like a backwards process, like I’d execute something before I really understood what I was doing and then have to learn it after. So I realized that I kind of wanted something more academic, but stimulating, innovative where I could learn a lot and so that kind of brought me to investment management where I am currently.

Kristen: Another interesting comment on internships comes from Scott Belsky, who worked at Goldman Sachs and then went on to start a company of his own. He comments that his full-time job at Goldman was a result in great part from the initiative he showed during his internship in the organization.

Belsky: The question is internships, you’re doing tons of tedious stuff from getting coffee, making copies, going over reports and you want to have a good experience there, you also want them to give you a good experience, you know, where do you start, how do make this interesting for summer certainly. For me, what I did is I thought of a few ideas that I would run by the people that I was working for at the end of the day and as I said if any of these are interesting I’ll be happy to follow up with them and usually some of them weren’t interesting to them but occasionally one of them was… that’s interesting Scott. Go talk to so and so about it and suddenly my next day was really more interesting because aside from all the kind of meticulous stuff I was doing, I was going and speaking to somebody about this idea that I had and getting information back for the person I was working with. So that is… it’s purely … and also by the way it shows initiative. So even if your ideas are horrible, the people who you’re working for will be really impressed by the fact that while everyone is just doing what they’re being told you are coming up with some proactive ideas that may be a little off but they’re still interesting and that will make you stand out from the pack. So enrich your internship with proactive idea generation and then talk to the people you’re working for to get their feedback and see if there’s any traction on them.

Kristen: But how do you get your foot in the door – whether it is for an internship or a job after graduation? Joe Benevento, an associate in Thomas H. Lee Partners in Boston, Massachusetts, has some suggestions. He shares how he got his foot in the door at his first job by working for free…

Benevento: I actually just called blindly Merrill Lynch and just called up like random numbers, 1-800 numbers I was able to find and asked if they were looking for anyone that was basically willing to work for free and I eventually after a lot of calls and a lot of you know, going in and meeting people finally I found someone who was able to use an extra hand in the office, making copies for the most part, answering phones for a little bit but it was something that just got my foot in the door and got me into that type of environment working for a big you know, Wall Street type of company where you know, coming from my background, I had no connections, and I happened to have any friends or an uncle that worked in a company already that could help me you know, get my foot in the door. So that was my first I guess, taste of the real… kind of the real world or Wall Street myself and I found that I really liked it and I was able to take on some more responsibilities after the first month or two over the summer and ended up talking to some clients and doing some kind of portfolio management work for the financial consultant I had worked for and found out that I continued to like it, I continued to like sort of the stock market and picking stocks and investing and that sort of thing, which led me to my next internship.

Kristen: Patricia Warner also had an experience working for free. Warner is the founder of Global-eze Inc and previously had various management positions with Corning. She shares how she took the bull by the horns when she wanted to gain experience in the television industry. Not only did she work for free…but she also focused on solving a problem for the organization.

Warner: So I talked to the television station WQLN and I said I want to be in television. And they said, well what do you do? And I said, well nothing, I guess. We don’t hire people who can’t do anything and…but I will learn, I really want to learn how to do this…I think combining that with my other interests would be helpful maybe. So…well we just don’t have a spot. I said, well are there any problems that you have that you can’t solve? Well we can’t get our sales up in those little catalogs they mail every month to subscribers…they have sales in there…they have ads…they get revenue from the ad space and they said they’re just…its failing. And I said, well let me…how about if I take that on for free? Give me a month and if I do well with that, will you take me on…maybe an internship or something to do camera work and production and everything. And they said, well okay, right, right, all right, well do that…I said okay, we’re your tickler file? Do you have any way to know who you’ve called on and who…well not really. Do you have any target groups that you go after? The demographics match with your viewing audience? Well, no we haven’t thought about that. Now I don’t know the first thing about…I had no formal education in sales or anything but its logical that you don’t call on everyone in town. So I got the yellow pages out and I picked out the people I thought had the best match for advertising in WQLN and I went around and I talked to them all and said, I’ll give you an exclusive. Well, okay, I’ll take out a full-page ad…I said, you don’t need a full-page ad for your company, you need a smaller ad. Do you have co-op advertising, what do you mean? Well if you’re a photo studio maybe Kodak gives you advertising dollars. Let’s combine them and save you some money. The word got out that I would work collaboratively and I…they tripled…they had to hire a new graphic designer in to cover all this ad space that we were bringing in. Well, they gave me the internship. They gave me two and then wanted to hire me full-time.

Kristen: In certain highly competitive industries – for example, the fashion industry – even working for free can’t get you an entry ticket. Peggy Earle is a children’s clothing designer who founded her own company, Hartstrings. She shares a creative approach that a friend took to gain entry into the Polo Ralph Lauren organization.

Earle: Somebody gave me – I thought it was a really clever idea of how to get your foot in the door. She wanted to work in Polo, and she went through the normal routine of right out of school, I think, and didn’t get in, and she decided to find out which temp service they used a lot. And, so, she went to work for them, specifically telling her she would like to be put in Polo. So, that’s what she did, and whatever the job was it lasted a lot long enough for them to get to know her, and they hired her. I thought it was really a great idea.

Kristen: The best piece of advice from all of our experts regarding creative job search strategies is network, network, network… Mark Tatum, Senior Vice President for Marketing Partnerships at the NBA shares the importance of using your network to gain a better understanding of the industry which will hopefully lead to getting hired by a company in the industry

Tatum: Networking is one of the most important things that you can do, particularly if you want to get into the sports marketing industry. It used to be only who you knew in the industry, and that was how you got in. Today it’s definitely being in the right place at the right time and meeting the right people, and having the opportunity to come up when you’re right there. But it’s also what you know, and I think the key to networking for me was really getting to know people, really doing my research, really going out and figuring out who the key people were in a particular organization that I wanted to work at or investigate more about, really understanding everything about that business before I made the phone call and really trying to understand how my skills could match up with the organizations needs. I did the majority of my networking to get into this industry when I was at business school, and there, there was a tremendous network of Harvard Business School alums who were willing to talk to students at the time, so I pulled up that list, I did the research, and I called them up, and I asked them real relevant questions. And my first call was not a, “Hey, I’m a sophomore at Cornell and are you guys hiring this summer.” It was a, “Hey, here’s my background, here’s my skills. I want to get into the sports industry, but I’m trying to learn more about it,” and have some real pointed questions as to what you need to do to be successful in the industry, and then continue to follow up. Stay in touch with people, and you’ll be amazed at how people with kind of take an interest in you if you take that approach. And then over time, as you’ve built a relationship and an opportunity comes up, then you become top of mind. So, I would start with really just trying to ask some questions. View it as more of an informational kind of interview type of thing, where you kind of say, “Hey, I want to get some information on what I need to be doing in order to be in a position to get a job in this industry,” and I think that’s pretty effective.

Kristen: Robert Waldman, Managing Director & Head of Corporate Bond Research at Citigroup, discusses networking from the perspective of the person being approached. He believes that cold contacting someone in a broad alumni network for an informational interview can prove that you have determination and aren’t afraid to take risks.

Waldman: Use the alumni network to tap into their experience. Okay. Let me tell you. I’ve gotten some calls, not a lot over the years from students up here who will call and say, I’ve heard you talk. Or I ran into you. And I’ve got a question. Can I talk to you about it? Can I stop by your office? Can we do it by e-mail? And I want to have a sense for how I should handle this. Or how do I approach a particular situation, because I am trying to get a job. Or I am trying to distinguish what I do versus others out there. I give huge marks to somebody that is willing to pick up the phone and get in contact with me for something like that. Think about it. Okay. You don’t know me. You don’t know most of the other people. All you know is they are alumni. Okay. Or they are connected to Cornell in one way or another. To pick up the phone, or e-mail them and seek out their guidance, or help, or advise shows a lot. And it not necessarily is going to turn into a mentoring situation. But the good way to get the connectivity and develop a networking.

Kristen: Building on Waldman’s suggestions, we’ll return to Scott Belsky who shares that while a network of older professionals is important, it is also critical to remember to maintain the network of your peers.

Belsky: I was involved with the Cornell Entrepreneur Organization on campus. And there were a ton of people who would come to the events we would have with alumni. And they would come just for those events. And none of the other meetings that we would have just as a group. And they would come to these events. The wouldn’t talk to any other students. And then right after they would go up and they would meet the person who just spoke who was maybe 20 or 30 years older than all of us. And that was there perspective on how to build the network. And I was always perplexed by that because you know, that person you know, in 10 or 15 years when you know, we’re you know, — students when we want venture capital, and we want you know, to work with people, and we want partners in our dream team to make our ideas happen you know, those people are going to be retired. And the people that are going to be our dream team, then people that are going to be the people who invest in our ideas and give us the feedback and support we need, they are around us. They are our age. And I just you know, I have always taken the approach you know, you build your network you know, organically from the people that you really respect and get to know from the very, very start.

Kristen: Of course, sometimes you’ve done the internships, offered to work for free, and networked your heart out but still the offers aren’t happening. That’s when it is time to get creative. We’ll close with a comment from Ron Vos, founder of Hi Frequency, an independent music-marketing firm. He shares an anecdote from how he got his first client to hire him…

Vos: I got this guy to take my call and they said submit a proposal. I didn’t hear back from them. I am calling them and calling them and calling them and they are not taking my calls anymore. So, okay, what do I do. So I called up another mentor person that sort of helps me get around little obstacles and it was a lot of fun. Together we wrote this telegram and it said that, oh, one of the objection that I got from the assistant was that they can’t hire me because nobody at the corporate level had ever heard of me so here is the catch 22, right. We can’t hire you because you are not already working for us. So, all right, so how do you get around that? I mean for me the answer was writing this telegram and the telegram something along, I am paraphrasing but it said Dear So and so, I won’t give you his name, once I successfully complete promoting and marketing Charlie Hunter project, actually no, it said, I am still remembering from a long time ago. It said, the opening line was remember the year the Miami Dolphins won the Super Bowl with the no name defense? Well when I successfully get done promoting Charlie Hunter and he wins a Grammy, you will be my guest at next year’s Super Bowl. It was just an off the wall kind of thing. The phone calling wasn’t working. If I kept calling, they wouldn’t have taken my call. They just would have gotten annoyed with me so, okay, so here was the moment, right. I sent the telegram, gave him one day to receive it. The next day I called them up. He took my call right away and he said, “Ron.” I said, “Yeah, how is it going?” He said, “Great.” And then all of a sudden there was silence because I wasn’t quite sure where to go, how to handle this. So I said, “Did you get the telegram I sent you?” He said, “I did. It scared the hell out of me. I thought somebody died in the war.” So my response was, “Well, I just wanted to show you I had a great sense of humor.” And he said, “It worked, you are hired.” And that was it. So that was the way I broke in. But the point is not to brag about the way I broke in. The point is to if something is not working, look at that as okay here is an opportunity to really, really sit back and figure out a creative way to get somebody’s attention or to knock down another barrier.

Kristen: Thanks for listening to this segment. If you are interested in hearing more from any of our featured speakers, or would like to hear more advice from our experts on how to successfully navigate the job search process, please check our website at eclips.cornell.edu.

That’s E-C-L-I-P-S. cornell.edu.

And remember, if it is a business topic of interest, eClips will bring you “Sound Advice”…

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