By Emily Wiseman, eLoft Careers Blogger, Bachelor of Commerce Graduate (University of Ottawa, 2016) and current Manager, Operations and Technology at Scotiabank
In the days of social media where more likes on your posts and followers on your various channels validates your social success, it is easy to translate this more-the-merrier concept over to your LinkedIn account and professional networking approach. However, the corporate world is a competitive and busy place - simply having a connection with someone online is not enough to have them take time out of their day to advocate for you and your career. In this post we will be looking at the importance of honing in your networking efforts to those individuals who can, and are willing, to help you take that next step closer to landing your dream role.
First a little bit about myself, I graduated from the University of Ottawa’s Bachelor of Commerce program with specialties in Finance and Accounting. In my final year I landed a summer position with Scotiabank and have now been in my current role as Manager, Operations and Technology for a bit less than two years. The titled concept of this blog is one that I believe was a key factor in my landing of the summer job that led to my current position shortly after graduation
Research and Select Employers of Choice
In the Canadian Accounting and Finance fields there are quite a number of big players, not to mention the medium sized firms who also present wonderful career opportunities. All of these firms market themselves towards business students as post-graduate career-launching pads and are actively seeking to hire. With such a large selection, one approach could be to try to connect with as many of these companies as possible with the hopes that one will see the potential in you and take you on. While these firms may all appear quite similar, I would advise looking deeper into the characteristics that make them unique and selecting your top choices to pursue. Some great starting points are to read up on company histories, mission statements and core values. Look into what really matters to you, for me this meant; corporate social responsibility efforts, a focus on advancement of women in leadership roles, international opportunities and support of inter-departmental transfers. By narrowing down the pool and really getting to understand your top choices’ culture and stories, you will be able to convey true interest in these firms rather than a “please anyone, anyone at all, hire me!” attitude. Firms want to hire people who will be dedicated to them as it is a large investment to hire and train an individual; they want you to be envisioning growth within their company - not simply wherever a paycheque can be found.
Find Key Contacts Within Your Employers of Choice
Once your research and selection phases are complete, your next mission is to get in front of some key people. You want to be able to make a connection with someone who either has the ability to make a referral to a job for you or can introduce you to someone who can. With job postings receiving sometimes hundreds of applicants, having a referral behind you can help you stand out and hopefully land an interview. Following your preferred companies on social media and LinkedIn can be a great way to catch upcoming local events being held near you. Some typical in-house events that present great opportunities to network are; speaker series, office tours, lunch and learns and alumni events. Beyond company-hosted events, industry events are another great source for connections – keep an eye out! In the following sections I will look at some isolated topics with specific advice on how to best leverage your surroundings.
Your first year of University comes with so many new hurdles and adventures, probably not one of your first year bucket list items is learning how to network. However nerve-wracking it may seem to attend a networking event, I hate to break it to you – the nerves will only go away with practice, not time! The sooner you take the leap and start finding your networking groove the better. Landing a summer job whilst in school can be a great way to ensure you have a job lined up post-graduation – so long as you perform well in the four month trial you are given!
Everyday contact potential
You never know who in your circle may know someone, or know someone who knows someone, that works or has worked at your dream company. Let it be known to those around you what companies and roles you are interested in so that if there is a potential connection in your existing network, you find it. Having someone who is further along in their career or even a retiree from the company can be an incredibly valued opinion to have backing you. Think of your Professors, family, family friends, co-workers etc.
How to approach and solidify a connection
First meeting is in person...
Should you be so lucky as to first meet your potential connection in person, ensure that you highlight the following in the time you have with them:
Someone in your circle has been able to give you a name and contact details - fabulous! Start by sending them a formal email:
Advice for the classic conference style networking event
Particularly common with University and College Business Faculties, these events gather together numerous firms looking specifically at hiring students for both summer and post-graduate positions. These events are the holy grail of networking opportunities and should not be approached frivolously. Typically each attending company will be represented by some recent graduates who have done well in their first years and by their Talent or Recruiting Managers.
Often the attending companies of these sorts of events will be posted online weeks ahead of time, take your time in reviewing their company profiles and research their typical entry-level jobs. Hopefully your top firms will be in attendance and if not, look into some of the lesser known companies to see if you could have the right fit and would like to learn more about them. Prepare for these types of events as you would for an actual interview.
e-Loft Careers – be a step ahead
In this post we have strategized how one can meet and impress a valuable connection in the hopes of securing a job referral. However, the preparation for an interview is a much larger topic than what can be covered here. While you can find many articles and YouTube videos online that go over the typically expected questions, I have found that for myself such exercises still leave me full of nerves that I am not adequately prepared. Luckily, if you are looking to take the interview opportunity seriously, there are more fulsome options available. Personally I prepared for my interview by taking the eLoft Careers Interview to Land course and I cannot recommend it enough. The course is designed by HR experts with long careers in the field who share the ins and outs of what employers are looking for throughout the interview process, helping you craft personalized responses to all of the key underlying topics that can be expected. The course walks you through all aspects of preparation; from what to not do two nights before an interview, what key experiences you can draw from, strategies for every type of interview style, to the perfect follow-up approach. This company also offers one-on-one sessions for a coaching session catered to you!