Networking, and Launching A Career, In Sustainable Enterprises

Editor’s Note: SEMBA’s goal is to launch its graduates into a deep and tightly connected network of people and companies dedicated to building sustainable enterprises, and to an ethic of disrupting, innovating, and reinventing business in a world that demands it. As part of this effort, SEMBA gives students a myriad of opportunities to meet, network with, and be mentored by sustainable business leaders and entrepreneurs from around the world, and around the corner. In our first event of the academic year, SEMBA students will be connecting with our Council of Mentors on the evening of October 4, 2016.

In light of that event, Caroline Hauser ’16, offer insight and tips on successful networking — and job hunting — in the world of sustainable business.

As a former recruiter and an experienced job searcher, I know a few things about networking, and building careers — it takes a lot of time, a lot of grit, and a lot of hustle. I don’t have all of the answers, but wanted to offer some tried and true advice to job seekers, in hopes that it helps to get someone at least a bit closer to landing a position in a sustainable enterprise that is fulfilling and exciting.

Go to events that draw people you want to meet

“Networking Events” feel forced and awkward. If you’re a total extrovert and love approaching strangers, then by all means, attend every networking event your heart desires. For everyone else who doesn’t love striking up conversations with multiple people they’ve never met, I recommend attending an event that might draw the kind of people you want to meet. Whether it’s a hobby, an interest, or something that you want to learn about, there are tons of meetups and events that bring people together around something besides simply “networking.” At a social gathering with a theme other than networking, you will have more in depth conversations than the redundant, “What do you do, where are you from, what do you want to do, etc.”

Look up business organizations in your area, university events, nonprofit fundraisers, and documentary screenings. You don’t have to be a computer whiz to go to a tech meetup, and you don’t have to be a policy wonk to go to a city council meeting. Do some research on interesting things happening in your area and get out of your comfort zone. Inevitably, some events will be a little disappointing, but keep trying — you are bound to meet a number of interesting people that are outside of your usual network.

Build a network of people that you find interesting

I used to think that networking meant meeting as many people as possible who work in important positions. As it turns out, that’s a pretty boring (and difficult!) way to network. Sure, it’s helpful to know people in leadership roles, but great people exist at all levels of any organization. Instead of focusing on title or team, keep in touch with people that you find interesting and with whom you feel a genuine connection. When people tell you to keep in touch with them, do it! It makes you stand out, I promise. I worked as a recruiter for a while and I’d estimate that only one out of every 200 candidates to whom I gave my business card ended up actually getting in touch. And if someone doesn’t offer their information, don’t be afraid to ask for a business card or email address. Either way, follow up! My typical follow up emails are short and simple, and include some variation of:

“It was great to meet you at ________. I enjoyed our conversation about _________. Did you see the news story about _____? It made me think back to when you said ________. Are you free for coffee in the coming weeks? I’d love to meet and chat more about _______. I look forward to keeping in touch! Take care.”

You never know where a relationship might take you. Inevitably, you will come across people with whom you just don’t click. Don’t force it, regardless of how powerful or influential you perceive them to be. Your time is valuable, and there are too many pleasant people in the world to waste your time on the unpleasant ones. And odds are, if you think someone is a jerk, other people probably think so too, and we are unfortunately judged by the company we keep. By maintaining relationships with people that you genuinely connect with, you’re more likely to get into an organization that shares your values.

Stay organized

Find a system that works for you to keep in touch with your network. Some find spreadsheets helpful, others have a stack of business cards on their desk. I like Google Inbox’s feature of “snoozing” emails. It allows you to snooze an email to a date and time that you select, and on that chosen date, it will pop up to the top of your inbox as if it were a new email. I frequently snooze emails for 3-6 months, and when they pop back up, I’ll check in to say “hi,” talk about what I’ve been up to, and ask what’s happening on their end.

I like to use Google News Alerts to follow companies and topics that interest me. It sends a digest every day of whatever news topics you specify. For example, an executive at company I follow recently won an award. As it turns out, I’d met this executive at an event I attended a few months earlier, so I had her contact information. I reached out to congratulate her and to check in on what’s happening in her organization. I asked if she was free to meet for coffee in the coming weeks, and we have a meeting scheduled to chat soon.

On the topic of organization, keep a resume updated and a email elevator pitch handy. You never know when someone might ask you to send along a resume, and you don’t want to delay them receiving it because it hasn’t been updated since your most recent role. I keep one resume as my “master resume,” including basically everything I’ve ever done, and then when I apply to positions or send it to people I’ll tailor it down to be relevant to the role or the company. I also save all of these tailored resumes so that in the future, if I’m applying for a similar position, I can go back to an already tailored document, update it, and get it sent along more quickly.

Tell stories about what you’ve done and what you’d like to do

Humans love stories, and telling good stories makes you more memorable. I actually have a document on my computer called “Cover Letter Stories.” It is a collection of stories, tagged with descriptors such as “leadership,” “organization,” and “teamwork,” that I can draw on when I’m filling out a job application and need to write a cover letter. This allows all of my letters to be customized to the role, company, and requirements, but also saves me time because I don’t have to start from scratch for each new application. Whenever something happens that I think would be useful to tell a future potential employer, I add the story to that document and tag it with the appropriate keywords so that it saves me time in the long run.

Stay optimistic and open minded

Even if you don’t have that “dream job” in mind, it helps to think about past roles and what you’ve really liked about them. What kind of things do you pay attention to? What news stories can you simply not resist reading about? Take note of these things, and craft stories about what kind of problems you like to solve. This will help you to narrow your focus, and give others a good idea of where you might fit into their organization. Don’t rule anything out from the beginning. Explore every opportunity that even sparks a bit of interest, you don’t want to turn down a great job just because it’s a company you’ve never heard of or the job title isn’t quite perfect.

Above all else, stay relentlessly optimistic. You’ll land somewhere great, you just have to hustle to get there.