Why networking is crucial to internship/job-hunting (and success in life)

By Ker Zheng

The most convenient way to get an internship/job is through on-campus recruiting, i.e. companies that deliberately come to campus to interview candidates. Yet you should not solely depend on Tufts Career Connect for opportunities. Why? In case you haven’t noticed, not that many companies actually come to Tufts to recruit. And when they do, they oftentimes will only hire 1-2 Tufts candidates, depending on the size of the company. Some of the more selective ones may not hire any. Additionally, most of these positions are concentrated in the northeast, which won’t help if you’re trying to get a job in Chicago or in San Francisco. Also keep in mind that Tufts has a large population of economics majors, with economics being the second most popular major behind international relations. Tufts is a liberal arts college; many F500 companies and banks would rather hire from schools with undergraduate business/finance majors or Ivies, though consulting firms tend to have more respect for a liberal arts degree.

To simply put it, there is a lot of competition for these interview slots. And if you don’t have a top-notch GPA, strong extracurriculars, and/or valuable internship experience, your chances are probably slim. (but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try). Additionally, if you’re a freshman or sophomore looking for an internship you may be out of luck since most formal, structured, paid internships tend to recruit juniors. So what do you do if on-campus recruiting isn’t looking great for you? A common method that many new job-seekers utilize is to just apply directly to companies’ websites, or to apply through job aggregator sites such as monster.com. But these methods are oftentimes futile because companies can receive hundreds and even thousands or tens of thousands of resumes, and oftentimes they have automatic screening criteria that will only consider candidates above a certain GPA threshold. It is often said that sending your resume in through online applications is the equivalent to sending it to a black hole; no company’s human resources team has the manpower to go through that many resumes thoroughly and chances are yours won’t get read. This is also why cover letters sent to large corporations don’t get read as well.

So what can you really do? The answer is to NETWORK.

Get someone to refer you for a position and he/she can get you a first-round interview just by sending an e-mail to HR or his/her boss.  70-80% of all jobs and internships are found through referrals, and NOT through online applications, online resume drops, on-campus recruiting, etc. The reason is simple. People want to hire people who they LIKE, especially in industries like consulting or finance where you can spend long hours in an office next to your colleagues, sometimes on group projects that can last for months on end. The fact of the matter is that there are oftentimes many people who may be qualified for a certain position; after all, companies only expect you to know so much coming straight out of undergrad. Interviewers often deploy the “Tokyo test” on a candidate where they ask themselves, “Can I sit next to this kid on a plane to Tokyo for 14 hours or will listening to him talk drive me crazy?” So when recruiting season comes along, referrals often get interview slot priority because the fact that a close co-worker or a senior colleague has recommended him/her has automatically given the candidate a sense of legitimacy in the interviewer’s eyes.

So how does one start the networking process? What you want to do is reach out to people in the industry that you’re interested in. Typically younger people can offer more advice on the recruiting process and insight on day-to-day responsibilities since they’ve recently gone through the process themselves. Older people are less likely to be useful in this regard since recruiting processes change over time and many senior-level people are likely to have broken into the industry through business school recruiting, which can be dramatically different both in terms of the recruiting process and in terms of daily responsibilities one will have on the job. HOWEVER, senior-level people tend to have more clout within the organization and can get you interviews much more easily. The only thing is that if they’re going to put their reputation on the line by recommending you, you better know enough about the industry/position to impress them and show that you’re worthwhile.

Now, how to find these people? It is typically best to first go through friends and family. Maybe your uncle works at a consulting firm you’re interested in or your roommate’s dad is an influential banker. Ask around. Tufts is full of smart kids who, more often than not, were raised by smart, successful parents as well. Your next option is to reach out to Tufts alumni, through Linkedin or the Tufts Career Advisory Network (can be accessed through Career Services’ website or Tufts Alumni’s website). The network is a directory of alumni who have VOLUNTEERED to give out their contact information to undergraduates looking to learn more about an industry/job. To put it simply, they WANT to help people, because in the real world it is likely that they received help/advice at some point in their career as well.  When you reach out to strangers it is best to send out a short, but brief, e-mail introducing yourself and requesting to speak over a cup of coffee or over the phone to discuss their experiences. This is what’s called an informational interview, meaning your purpose is to find out more information. If he/she likes you, you may be prompted for your resume and they may be willing to pass it on to HR or friends at other firms looking to hire. This can be extremely useful if you’re focused on working in a specific geographic location or at a specific company because you can screen for this criteria when searching for alumni.

Networking is one of the most crucial skills that you will learn throughout your career. Here is why. Typically entry-level and junior level employees are stuck doing number crunching, editing memos, etc. This is called grunt work because oftentimes you’re following orders that are passed on from your senior colleagues who are more experienced, tend to be more specialized, and know what they’re actually doing. But as you move up the ranks you will most likely take on more client-facing and sales-like roles where your job is to BRING IN BUSINESS, especially in service industries like consulting or investment banking where you have a client that is paying you to solve a specific problem. And the best way to bring in business is to do it through your network of contacts that you’ve built up over the course of your career. This is another big reason why many people go to business school – because you get the opportunity to build close relationships with the future business leaders of the world, which will enhance your network greatly. After all, most of the work that you do in business school is group work – with the primary purpose of preparing you for working in a business-like environment in “the real world”.

If you have questions or comments, or want to join our e-List, feel free to contact us at tufts.ec.society@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

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