Applying for jobs, going to job fairs, opening multiple career portals, visiting the career center, are indeed familiar struggles for any student entering the job market. As an international student, it gets even trickier with talent competition, language barriers, working visa requirements, and even just fair luck. All of these became additional layers of barriers in gaining a professional experience.
I myself experienced a really tough time in getting an internship. My story is a bit more complicated because I plan on changing fields from my previous employment as an organization development consultant into the financial industry. I had this simplistic expectation that pursuing a graduate degree at NYU would somehow open that door for me. In reality, it took me more than 6 months, 100+ job applications, and uncountable rejections. I applied the traditional way, going to my career center website or the company’s website and applying. Of those 100+ applications, less than 10% became actual opportunities.
Having my ego and self-esteem dipped from these rejections, I started to look back on what I did, which I realized I was not having a strategy that works with my background. I basically threw darts at a target that is very vague, I applied to multiple financial firms, from investment banks, private equities, consumer banks, financial advisories, rating agencies, etc. At that time I thought to apply as many as I could and probably get a few calls. I did get a few, barely a few.
I reflected and evaluated on my efforts and found two major flaws:
- First, my professional background was too far of a jump to delve in certain fields of finance
- Second, the cover letters I had sent did not sufficiently highlight transferable competencies that would be appreciated in the financial industry
Realising that my existing strategy did not work, I contemplated ways to improve my job-application approaches. I had to find what I was good at, why I am valuable to a process/firm, and how I could add value to the firm and industry in general.
Synthesizing what I’ve done, what I have experienced, what I have been exposed to, and what the current situation is, were the key strategy in applying for your dream position.
- What have I done? This questions more refers to what I have done to pursue my interests. Have I read a certain book? Have I followed the research of a relevant and notable professor? What am I really interested in?
- What have I experienced, personally and professionally? This examines good and bad experiences, understand what you like and dislike, and built competencies in acquiring these experiences.
- What have I been exposed to in my past career and academic experience? This elaborates the breath of actual knowledge which are transferable to increase the learning curve and the capability to analyze with different points of view.
- What is the current situation? This refers to the market situation. As I am currently in the slow growth economy of America, there is an increasing opportunity to find firms that have expanded their focus of intellectual and monetary capital in emerging markets (especially Indonesia). How can we capitalize this situation?
With these thoughts in mind, a focus should be directed in finding prominent firms that would acknowledge our aspirations and past experiences. Now, as we go back venturing to the traditional applications, I would highly suggest to reconsider the approach to applying jobs. As we would say, “banyak jalan menuju Roma.”
One situation I could not change is the intense level of competition, furthermore I wanted to work in New York. So how would I cut through the time consuming and unpredictable factor of initial HR screening?
- Networking. As simple as your friends, your professors, or even extended contacts. Get to know them and make sure they get to know you. Absorb and exchange information to collaborate, maybe not today, but someday soon.
- Cold Emails.Of the 20 cold emails I sent out, 5 became actual leads, which means a 25% rate of high potential engagement. My advice on sending cold emails:
- You could start of from finding these people from your past reads and find their corporate contact/linkedin profile on the web
- Explore linkedin profiles of people that have worked in your previous employed firm (in example you work for a global firm) that have successfully secured another position that interests you
- Conduct thorough research of this person, how is their past and upcoming ambitions
- Introduce yourself politely and state clearly your appreciation and aligned interests
- You could then move to ask of their career advice or ask to discuss the certain topic of aligned interest; start building the relationship
- Move your way up and get recommended to work at the firm
Now, I am an associate intern at 32 Advisors for its infrastructure advisory practice. Robert Wolf (ex-CEO of UBS Americas) developed this consulting firm to assist both the government and public sector. Moreover, 32 Advisors has been actively advising emerging markets and catalyzing the financing of infrastructure projects. I work closely with Michael Likosky, the principal and head of the firm, to advise multiple multilateral agencies in infrastructure public-private partnerships. Well, this internship is not necessarily the perfect or straightforward continuation to my educational background in real estate finance, but the characteristics of the asset are the same, and infrastructure-real estate investment goes hand in hand. That is my justification, but overall I am very fulfilled to be learning so much in an environment where there is constant intellectual challenge with very bright people are always alongside to provide guidance.
My last words for all job-seekers reading this article: connect the dots, and know what you want to do. Reach out to the right people, invest in relationship building, and prove yourself academically/professionally. At the end of the day, your value is your experience and network.
Content Edited by Artricia Rasyid
Photo Credits: Author’s Collection and Websites of Stern Urbanisation Project and 32 Advisors