Instead of Thinking Outside the Box, Get Rid of the Box
By Katie Ossman and Lisa Rosenthal, Second-year Career Advisors | march, 2013, Issue 1
Katie Ossman and Lisa Rosenthal
"Instead of thinking outside the box, get rid of the box" – Deepak Chopra
From day one of business school, the presence of eager investment banks, consulting firms and large corporations on campus is tangible, and it is difficult to ignore. As throngs of classmates accept internships and full-time positions, it is hard to follow the road less traveled. Sticking to your off-campus search and staying motivated is hard to do when "senioritis" is in the air, but this is the time when a lot of great opportunities start presenting themselves. Every off-campus search is unique and there isn't a tried and true script, so "get rid of the box" and come up with a plan that works for you.
Networking is far more important for off-campus opportunities. The off-campus search moves at your own pace, so you have time to be thoughtful and creative about how you network. There are great alumni, student-run and other events offered through Booth, but also think about other routes outside of school. If you are focused on a particular sector or function, make an effort to find relevant industry conferences or professional organizations, and attend their events. Although getting a job is at the forefront of your mind, the primary goal should be strengthening and expanding your network. People are often more likely to respond to an inquiry if you show genuine interest in their firm, the role, etc., and while this may not lead to a job today, you never know how your network will help you in the future. It's been said many times before: the job search is a marathon, not a sprint.
Keep in mind that unlike networking on campus where the next natural step is often an interview, this isn't necessarily the case when networking off-campus. Therefore, don't be shy about selling yourself and your achievements. You want someone to walk away from a coffee chat or phone call with a clear picture of how you could benefit their organization. Even if there isn't a job opportunity, impress them enough as they could be a great reference.
Don't be afraid to be honest about your objective and to ask for help along the way. Alumni, professors and people in your network all want to see you succeed. Their references can turn cold leads into warm ones, which greatly will increase your odds. It can be hard to check your ego and ask for help, but referrals have led to some amazing off-campus jobs. You don't have to, and shouldn't do this alone.
Without the peer pressure of everyone around you in full-on recruitment mode, it's easy to fall off the wagon. To keep yourself on track, you should set tangible weekly goals for yourself (i.e., make X number of calls, follow-up with Y contacts, etc.) and hold yourself accountable. Some other ways to keep yourself on track include meeting regularly with a Career Coach or joining a job search crew.
Although Deepak Chopra's words were likely not intended for business school students, they do ring true: by forging your own path and "getting rid of the box," the breadth and depth of opportunities are endless and with time and effort you will achieve success.