Hi, my name is Abbie Goulet. I am a graduate of GBDA Class of 2017, and I recently got hired as a User Experience Designer for the exact company I wanted to work for. This was a job I never applied for and a position that was never publicly posted. How did this happen?
No, I didn’t go to every networking event in KW/Toronto area. I can honestly count on one hand the number of people I’ve given business cards too. I built my network a different way. I had a really great internship last year, and a month into that job I knew I wanted to work for that company again. I spent the remaining three months building connections at two of their offices, and then spent the rest of 2016 and most of 2017 making new connections, keeping up with old ones, and constantly connecting with everyone I met until I was offered a job. I built my network strategically, and as a result I now have a job that I really wanted.
Here are five real tips to building and maintaining a network that could get you a job:
1) If you’re meeting someone important, RESEARCH
This is one thing professors and career advisors will tell you about in school, but not many people actually take the time to do it. Take my advice and research, ESPECIALLY for networking events and interviews where you have a very limited number of minutes to talk to someone. Don’t ask these people about their company or where they worked in the past — research it! A quick LinkedIn profile search will tell you a lot of what you need to know. Come up with questions that will catch these people off guard and break them away from their more rehearsed answers. It’s fun! You’ll probably gain valuable information and actually get to know the person behind the big name.
2) Networking events are a stepping stone
Professors and career advisors will make networking events sound like the ultimate dream. If you go to one of these events, you will get the job of a lifetime, or at least give out like 50 business cards. The problem is, 99.9% of the time that doesn’t happen. Best case scenario you will have a great conversation and a LinkedIn connection. The great part is that this result isn’t bad! It just means there is a little bit more work involved, but still a lot of potential. Keep the connection strong, share things with this person that relate to your conversation or to work experience they have, and you never know what could happen.
3) Be a stalker (ish) and win the email game
One thing that professors never teach in business class, personal branding lectures, marketing, or any other class in school is… the email game. The email game is about strategy and quick thinking. Your ultimate opponent is the person who can hire you. This could be the manager of a team, a VP of a department you want to be in, or even a CEO. These opponents are powerful, but very hard to contact. They get hundreds of emails a day from people who are way more important than you. As you read this you’re probably thinking “this game sounds impossible to win”, but I promise there is a semi-easy, yet mostly unknown strategy to winning — be a stalker (ish).
To be a stalker (ish) and win the email game, the trick is to watch the times when your opponent emails you. Because your opponent gets many emails throughout the day, there is a good chance that they have a regular time when they check their inbox and respond. Use this to your advantage. If you find that your opponent tends to email between 1:00-3:00PM, send your next email to them around that time. I’ve found this to be very effective in getting quick replies, and I had an opponent that was very similar to the one I just described. They were a VP of a team I was really interested in working for, and it was REALLY hard to get ahold of them. I would go weeks (even months) with no replies. I stressed out many times thinking they were just going to forget about me. It was after a few months where I discovered that my opponent never emailed on Monday or Friday, and usually sent me replies back between 2:00-3:00PM. I started to email during this time, and I got replies minutes later, instead of days later. Answers to my questions came faster as I discovered that this strategy worked for many people I was talking too. My stress level went down, and my email inbox number went up.
Side note: This isn’t a fool-proof strategy, and there were many times when I still had to wait, or times when I emailed outside of the ideal range, but this strategy helped me feel less stressed and generally got replies a lot sooner than before.
4) Work really, really hard, even when it doesn’t feel worth it
In second year, I thought networking started at my first networking event. As I think back on it now, however, I realized that actual networking started in my first year of GBDA. It was here that I learned that if I worked hard to please people, people would like working with me. I spent extra time accommodating peoples work habits, and took the lead many times when it came to organizing deadlines and responsibilities. I ALWAYS got my part of the work done and would stay up all hours of the night to finish anything else that was left, even if it wasn’t originally my responsibility. All of this led to people wanting to work with me, and more importantly, people that I LIKED working with wanted to work with me. “Pick your groups” went from a semi-terrifying experience in first year to the phrase I wanted to hear. In a nutshell, I learned that hard work impresses people. So even if that GBDA project feels stupid or your group isn’t that great (GBDA’s you know what I mean), work hard anyway. The work ethic and skills you learn to impress people go a really long way in the work place.
5) Keep up with people, don’t give up, and (if you do this) pray
Job hunting is a long road, and for your first job, you’ll spend A LOT of time networking. This past summer there were many times where I was frustrated, tired of emails, resumes and cover letters that never felt like they were going anywhere. Rest assured, all the times I spent networking at the company I now work for were pieces to a puzzle that was leading me to the job I have now. They say the first job is the hardest, and it is, but it’s nearly impossible alone. Have your network help you by connecting with them, and get the job that isn’t posted. And if you pray, do that a lot too.
Abbie Goulet, GBDA '17
Abbie Goulet brings ideas to life through digital media and excites users by surpassing expectations. She is a user experience designer with a diversified skill set in user experience design, graphic design and video production/editing. She has been a valuable member on many cross-functional teams that have created videos, video games, websites, mobile applications, and even an app for expectant mothers and supporting partners in the maternity ward waiting room. Abbie graduated in June with a Bachelor's of Global Business and Digital Arts, where she received the Distinguished Academic Achievement Award for being the top performing student in GBDA Class of 2017. Abbie currently works as Canadian Tire Innovation's sole User Experience Designer where she helps to create new solutions that will improve the Canadian Tire customer experience. She also designs various digital and print assets and edits videos.