Networking

Chicago’s Most Eligible Singles 2014 – Thank You Chicago

SinglesA couple weeks ago,  I learned that Chicago magazine selected me as one of the Most Eligible Chicagoans for 2014.  What a fun surprise!

First off, a big thank you to Nora and Quiana, the two ladies who nominated me.  I love the support I received from New Leaders Council on this one.

After learning that I was selected, I sat down with the editors of Chicago to do a quick interview at a local restaurant in the River North neighborhoodfrom what I did in Chicago, my community activities, my job, what types of singles I was most interested in and of course, how I do yoga every single day.  They boiled my information down into a short profile and the mixed video with a few of the other singles (3-4 mins).

Last Friday, we also had the annual fundraiser! Previously the event has raised over $100K for patients at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and this event proved no different.  The Chicago History Museum was packed, and we had special VIPs from NBC and Northwestern to honor Chicago Magazine’s to Singles.

Like I always say, there’snothing better than being in great company while enjoying a glass of wine.  Although maybe just one thing, doing that  while raising money for a great cause on the first day of summer in Chicago.  See below for the online links.

Online profile – http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/July-2014/Chicago-Singles/

Video (bottom of the page) – http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/July-2014/Chicago-Singles/

Thank you Chicago for choosing me.

 

Thursday, June 26th, 2014 Networking, Yoga No Comments

2013 World Scholars Gala knows that #EducationMatters

ChicagoGalaLater today, on Saturday March 30, 2013, I’ll join people from all over Chicago in a wonderful event to support one of the most important issues in Chicago today – education.  This evening the event is the Village Leadership Academy Gala.

The 2013 World Scholars Program Gala takes place tonight, March 30th in Chicago.  I’ll be attending with good friend and education extraordinaire, Marquis Parker  who has access to the event as a VP at Aon, as well as a few other  friends and colleagues, including Louis Dobson, SVP at Aon. Most people will bring a special guest to the event.

With the education being such a major issue in Chicago, there’s never been a better time to bring everyone together in the same room. To discuss the issues.  Learn about this organization. And to not only to enjoy the evening but also to eventually work together to have a bigger voice in the education movement today.

There’s never been a more pivotal time to move our country forward through eduction.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the World Scholars Program.

Click here to learn more about our #EducationMatters campaign and HERE to read the education mission.

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Saturday, March 30th, 2013 Education, Networking No Comments

The Connections We Find

meetIn just a couple of years the Internet has changed what is possible. We’ve gone from a world that is largely disconnected to one that connects in less than an instant and have created systems that allow us to actively engage the people we connect with.

MBA programs have long been good at emphasizing the importance of connecting. Connecting with classmates, professors, employers and alumni. But now, it’s easier than ever to find someone’s information, reach out to them, and tell them how you are connected.

In fact, this happened to me and my dad just two days ago.

A few days ago, my father’s company brought in a new CEO.  The CEO was out around the US looking at the locations and a few days ago he was out where my dad works. My dad is known at every company he’s been at for being very social and friendly, and the top guys welcome him with open arms, even though they do not work together.

Well, on the day the CEO came, my dad met the new CEO of the company. He said they had a good exchange and he had a good feeling about the new CEO. Not only was he capable but also nice and extraordinarily friendly.  The day after we met my dad called me up and told me the story. I did not know it at the time, but as it turns out, the CEO went to Kellogg many years ago.  When I found out, I couldn’t believe it. Without further ado, I looked him up on LinkedIn as well as the company website, and it was true. He had a Kellogg MBA. In fact, a few folks from the company did.

After that I look up his contact info on the alumni database and sent an email just minutes ago.  Like I said, it’s easier than ever to find new connections today.

Stay tuned to see where this connection goes.

3/17 Update:

I recently received a return email from the Kellogg alum.  We will be working to set up a time to grab coffee two or so weeks from now once his calendar clears.  This is good news but definitely not a surprise. Kellogg alumni are incredibly friendly and understand the value of staying connected.

Stay tuned for future updates.

Saturday, March 16th, 2013 Networking No Comments

Too much technology

How much time do you spend every day checking email, logging into Facebook, sending text messages, and surfing the web for things you don’t really care about? Probably way too much.  Many of my MBA classmates did too.

But don’t get me wrong, it happened to me last year as well. As a fairly known MBA Blogger who gets as many emails as most people I know, I woke up one day last year and realized I had the same problem.

I’d put my head down on campus sending dozens of texts and emails when I had friends sitting right in front of me.  I’d write multiple blog posts on a Saturday morning and realized I was getting behind on all my afternoon work. And I’d search stories online only to realize 90 minutes went by in the blink of an eye. And it happened often.

One post on HBR put it this way:

The definitive Internet act of our times,” she adds, “is a perfect metaphor for the promise of reward. We search. And we search. And we search some more … clicking that mouse … looking for the elusive reward that will finally feel like enough.

In 1997, one Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon put it this way (also from HBR)

A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” And retention. Taking in endless bits and bytes of information is akin to pouring water into a glass already full — in this case our severely limited working memory.

In some ways, we’re all guilty. Millennials have been doing this for years now–even the President’s campaign is centered around the use of technology.  Emailing friends when other friends are right in front of them. Texting other people, even though they are standing right beside them.  And scanning through Facebook to see the latest news, even though the last ten times you were not fulfilled by anything they found.

What I’ve come to find, is that in high level work environments this doesn’t fly. Not only is it looked down upon but it’s also not as productive. Especially when your job is demanding and in jobs where you are forced to account for your time (i.e. a law firm and consulting firm).

While you don’t have to turn off your technology entirely, at some point we’ll all have to do better. We’ll have to consciously ignore it during times that matter. During your most important projects. In the time leading up to important meetings. During your most productive times.  And of course when you’re with people whose attention you care about.

Of course, if you don’t do it now, life will force you. Friends will notice you are not engaged enough. Jobs will notice you’re not productive enough. You’ll come to find that you’re having a harder time focusing.

All things that have happened to me in the past.

And all things that can happen to anyone.

Friday, October 26th, 2012 Business School, Networking No Comments

SumZero: The Facebook of Wall Street? Bloomberg Interview with Divya Narendra

There is a new entrepreneurial movement taking place in the business world today. Professionals and students all over the world are working harder than ever before to come up with innovative ideas to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems. To tackle some of the most difficult challenges both in business and in law. Well, one of those entrepreneurs is my classmate, Divya Narendra. Over the past 18 months in the JD-MBA program, I’ve watched Divya Narendra work tirelessly to build his financial services social network start-up, SumZero.

Divya is undoubtedly a different type of student. While most people in my class are headed to corporate America for the summer and after graduation, Divya never once considered it. Instead he’s been working non-stop on his company ever since stepping foot on campus. Even as a 1L at law school when everyone else was cramming for final exams, Divya was taking calls from investors and future members during exam period. Likewise, I remember sitting next to him in Constitutional Law. While everyone was ferociously outlining notes during class, he was responding to emails from users on his website in addition to taking notes.

One thing that has always inspired me is people who do things differently. Those who don’t go the conventional route. And people who give it their all to do something novel, even outlandish.

Fortunately, for Divya, all the risk and the work have paid off, as today he’s built one of the top start-ups on the planet. Recently dubbed “The Facebook of Wall Street” SumZero has been featured on CNBC, Bloomberg, and FastMoney. And just this past week, Divya also did another interview on Bloomberg. On the interview he talks about his company SumZero, and what it means to build a social network for the buy side on Wall Street.  See below for information on Divya, SumZero, and the interview.

CLICK HERE to see that interview.
CLICK HERE to go to SumZero.
CLICK HERE to learn more about Divya

Saturday, May 14th, 2011 Business School, Careers, Networking No Comments

Kirkland & Ellis Career Paths in the Law Reception

A couple of weeks ago, law students and summer interns in Chicago gathered after work to attend a networking event downtown at Kirkland and Ellis.  Kirkland has hosted a number of events this summer, in the new building they moved into along with Boston Consulting Group about a year ago.  These events have not only been a great way to socialize with a wide range of people in the legal industry but also a way to get to know some of the various attorneys and recruiters who work at Kirkland.

This particular reception attracted summers, associates, and partners from the firm, in addition to law students from the broader legal community.  It also gave us the opportunity to chat with fellow law school classmates, meet new friends from other schools, and get insight from those who had made it through the law school recruiting process in years past.

First up on the agenda was a mini-reception, which was upstairs on the sixth floor. This is where a lot of K&E mixers take place, and as usual there was an open bar and some appetizers.  A couple of partners from the corporate and litigation groups were there, including a partner I’ve been in touch with from the antitrust practice.  I also had the opportunity to chat with a Northwestern JD-MBA who is working in their corporate group this summer, an accelerated JD from Northwestern that is working in litigation this summer, and with a couple of friends I’ve made who work full time in the corporate group. I specifically ended up chatting for a while with a K&E corporate attorney from the east coast that I met a few weeks earlier at a similar event, along with one of my favorite and smartest section-mates from law school.

After about 30 to 45 minutes of mingling, K&E announced it was time to move to a new room for the highlight of the event which was a panel session. So a few of the recruiters escorted us to a mini-conference room around the corner where there was a panel was composed of former K&E attorneys, a judge from Indiana, a former litigation attorney who now works at a Fortune 1000 corporation, the Executive Director of Public Interest Law Initiative (i.e. PILI), and a current attorney in the IP department.

I sat next to one of the superstar 1Ls from my section last year during the session, and we listened closely as the panel members gave their opinions on the legal industry and the recruiting process.  The panel discussed things such as the impact of the current economic environment, different career paths to consider in the legal industry, and what skill sets are important to develop.  In the process, they also stressed the ability to write quickly and concisely, the importance of networking and getting involved in civic organizations, and the value that comes with working at a big firm, as opposed to starting off in alternative career paths. After all, we were at a K&E sponsored event.

After the panel session was over, the event ended with a bit of informal networking with the panelists and with some of the members of K&E.  In my view, this is often the best part of these events, because it provides the attendees with a unique opportunity to mingle with peers and follow-up on the some of the remarks from the panelists sessions.  In this case, I stayed behind to catch up with a few people I wanted to touch base with and I spoke at length with the former litigation attorney that now works as Counsel at a local Fortune company.  I could tell during the session that he had an interesting professional background and that we a number of similar views on networking and volunteering.  It was definitely a nice connection to make at the end.

We also talked a little bit about OCI.  I mentioned that I am personally excited for OCI, because from a 30,000 foot view, I’m interested to see how the overall numbers will play out as compared to last year and how that will ultimately reshape the legal field.  Based on dozens of talks I’ve had with firms and recruiters, it sounds like the numbers will be a bit better.  But only time will tell, and most students are still a bit nervous since everything is so uncertain.  And understandably so.

Kirkland has had a number of similar events this summer, including an event co-hosted with the Chicago Committee On Minorities In Large Law Firms the following week, which I attended with a few people from my firm, including our head of recruiting, Bo Kim, with my summer mentor from Vedder Price, and also with a firm partner I’ve worked pretty closely with this summer.

Once again, the turnout at the event was good. I suspect that’s because these events have become more important for up-and-coming professionals in today’s economy.  For one, law school recruiting takes place in about two weeks, so students have begun flocking to meet as many attorneys as possible. Second, is because younger professionals are also looking to network more and become even better connected to firms, which may have future opportunities down the line.  In fact, at the event I chatted extensively with a Northwestern alum that I met at another networking reception a few months before.  As it turns out. he had recently moved to a new firm.

This raises an important point. That getting out and meeting people in your industry is important. These events are a great way to start the process.   Not just because you’re looking for a job through OCI or because the economy may be slumping and you want to have future jobs lined up but more importantly because over time people tend to move around a lot, and the legal and business communities in any location are small.  And so it’s good to get to know the people in your field, to share information about trends and emerging issues, and sometimes simply enjoy the success you’ve achieved together.

In the end, this reception was a great opportunity to get to know the local legal community and also attorneys at K&E.  For all those interested in either, it might make sense to attend a similar  future event.

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 Careers, Networking 2 Comments

New Job? Setting Yourself Up To Succeed

Every year, thousands of people start at new jobs. Senior leaders and managers transition from one firm to another. MBAs and JDs graduate and jumpstart their careers at businesses and law firms.  And students head out to start new summer internships looking to secure offers for the next year. And all of them are thinking the exact same thing. How can I succeed in my new position? Even in a typical year, that question is difficult, because starting all over again is tough. But today, in an era where the markets are still uncertain and firms are still recovering from the economic blow of 2008, that difficulty is magnified. And as the sole summer associate at my law firm this year, I had to ponder that exact same question when I started three weeks ago.

Three weeks ago I had my first day at my law firm Vedder Price. As I mentioned in my previous post about my first day, I couldn’t help but keep thinking how exciting it was to finally get started. But at the same time, I also thought a lot about how to succeed there over the summer, especially in today’s current economic context. Because long gone are the day of the typical summer associate experience at law firms. Happy hours three days a week. Lavish lunches. Expensive dinners and boat cruises. And most importantly large classes, most of which who got offers in the end. Instead, most firms today have slashed their classes by more than half, and some firms have cut them entirely.  And without all the firm programming, many people struggle to get integrated at the firm.

Fortunately in my case, I’ve quickly gotten pretty integrated into the firm. I have already been put on a number of projects and so far seem to be making a successful transition.  Because things have started out well so far and because I’m still in the early stages of my summer associate position, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about how to hit the ground running. And in my view, these ideas not only apply at a law firm but also at any company you might be working at.

1. Start early. Succeeding in any job is not only about performing well during your tenure there, but it’s also about laying the groundwork beforehand so you can hit the ground running. That means sending the right message during your interviews, exposing yourself to the organization early, and reaching out to people as soon as it makes sense. On one hand you definitely don’t want to cross the line of being overeager, but on the other hand there’s definitely an advantage to be connected and to have people know about you – about what you’re interested in and about how you work – sooner than later. In my case, I reached out to a number of people before I ever stepped foot in the office, and I’m already working with a number of them in my first two weeks, including the firm Chairman. But even in the cases where I’m not working with the people I met, I’m better-positioned now not only to work with them later in the summer but more importantly to build relationships with them over time.

2. Get early wins. Another important part of a new job is getting a few early “wins” and figuring out how to build momentum in your role. To put the idea in context, consider the  presidential race when Barack was campaigning. His momentum ultimately helped him reach more people in future places. Similarly, think back to when he was newly elected to the role. The same hold true when you begin a new job because expectations are high and perception can be very important. And by the end of the first six months of a new job, or the first couple of weeks of a summer job, it’s good to start meeting a lot of people, to get involved in interesting projects (critical projects that have real impact if you’re at the senior level) and communicate those success to stakeholders at the firm.

3. Get to know the right people. It goes without saying that meeting the right people can be an important factor in shaping our career (or summer stay) at a firm. But by “right” I don’t necessarily mean the “top” people. Instead, I mean the people who are key stakeholders that you need to know. Those people who want to support you. Those who want to get you involved. And those who have the ability and network to actually get you involved. As a new person at any level, it’s important to facilitate early introductions so that you can begin building relationships right away.  And I emphasize the word “relationships” not just knowing people. One thing that business leader Jon Rice likes to say is that”It is not who you know, but instead it is who knows you well and thinks highly enough that they will go to bat for you.”

4. Do good work. It goes without saying, but in spite of all of these tactics above, in the end you still do have to do good work. You have to put in the time, show critical thinking and analytical skills, be both a leader and a team player, and in the end deliver tangible results. This is true for all new employees, but it’s especially true of senior leaders and perhaps more important at services firms, where budget constraints and finding new clients are critical. And this is especially important in the beginning because the work that you do will be what people remember, and it will make an impression. And although proving to be someone who does good work won’t stick forever, the impression that you do bad work can.

5. Make an impression. And if you do all the things above you will be able to make a good impression and manage your perception at the firm. The is critical, when it comes down to decision time for summers, where some of the people may not have worked with you directly but will have an impression of you, not to mention an idea of what other people’s impressions are. Similarly for full-timers, the impression you make is important because it will not only be the one that sticks with you early but it will also guide the impression that stays with you over the years.

Sounds like an impossible set of tasks? Well, that’s because sometimes it can be. After all, when’s the last time you brokered a relationship with the Chairman of your firm in the first week? And when’s the last time you had people really wanting you to succeed as the new guy at the firm, in a depressed economy.  Instead, it’s more often the case that people analyze and test new employees to see what they’re made of, especially now, when job security is not a guarantee and where many people may actually fear for their spots at the firm.

But on the other hand, if you do make to sure to have some early success – build momentum, find mentors and other stakeholders that want to see you succeed, and work together with the people who would otherwise be fearful, then it won’t be a sink or swim approach. Instead you’ll not only have the help of many of your co-workers, but also the real support of people who want to work with you and see you succeed.  And over time they will become invested and will make sure that you do well and make a good impression. Any if you can broker that set of events, then the sky is the limit.  “Summers” will get their offers, and new hires will have the potential to have big impact over time.

And in the end, the things you do in the first few weeks could make all the difference.

Best of luck to all of those at new companies.

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Saturday, June 19th, 2010 Leadership, Networking No Comments

Follow Up Or Fail. A Few Thoughts After Conferences in Chicago and NYC

Have you ever sat at home, waiting by the phone for a call, but found that the call never came? Or what about waiting by the computer for an email, but no messages ever made their way to your Inbox?  I have.  In fact, many of us have.  And it’s especially common after seminars and conferences, where people pass out their business cards but never hear back from the people they gave them to. Sounds disappointing, right? Well, wouldn’t it be even more disappointing if you found out that in a majority of those cases, the person on the other side was also disappointed that you didn’t reach out to them?

In my experience this happens all the time. Both parties pass out their business cards with the intention of staying in touch but then neither actually reaches out afterward.  But the good news is that it’s usually not personal. Instead, it’s usually because the other party becomes too busy or is too unorganized, has too many people on their target list, or simply isn’t in the habit of following up with the people that they meet.  And in all fairness, all these reasons make sense.  But are they still actually good excuses for not staying in touch?

On one hand, most of us are subject to far too much information nowadays and so it’s easy to miss sending a couple of emails or following up with some of the people we meet. On the other hand, though, in a world where finding information and being connected is critical, sometimes it makes no sense why you don’t take the extra step to ensure you reach out to someone after meeting them. And so that’s the premise of the title of this article – a phrase dubbed by networking guru Keith Ferrazzi and not me – that following up is the key to success no matter what field you’re in.

My overarching conclusion is that personal contact matters. That’s because at a conference, you’re all there for the purpose of the conference – to hear the speakers, find a new network, meet people to connect with, and speak to employers; in sum, to make personal gains.  For example, at my recent MLT conference in NYC, I was there to meet the new class of fellows, meet a few employers, see a few employers for a second time since I also attended last year, and mingle with staff members of MLT, an organization that I’m highly active in and intend to stay active in.  As a result, I probably gave my card or email address out to dozens of people, if not significantly more.

But that’s just an initial connection, and my belief is that following up afterward is a chance to make it more personal – to reach out to someone you really enjoyed meeting or to an employer you especially liked.  After all, why go through all the hours and trouble of meeting people, and spending significant time with some of them, if you don’t plan to really connect with them afterward?  And that’s especially true if time and organization do become factors, because then people would still tend to reach out to the employers or the people the enjoyed meeting most.

Granted, sometimes it’s easy to follow up when the number of people you meet is low. On the other hand, you’d be surprised not only how many people forget when it is this easy but also how effective following up still is in these situations. And that’s because following up is a personal process, especially when you can reach out in a way that is creative or that jogs their memory. But that can be tough after a mega conference, where memories are abound and where you have too many business cards to be creative with all of them, or to even find all of them in all of your coat pockets.  And this description is similar to what I just had in NYC, where a couple hundred people and dozens of employers showed up to mingle.

But despite the actual numbers, I believe that it’s still important to keep in touch with some of the people you meet.  That idea is validated by dozens of management studies, one by Marshall Goldsmith for example, that discusses the effects of managers who followed up in an organization. The study showed that managers who were seen as not following up were perceived as only slightly more effective as a group than they were eighteen months earlier. On the other hand, those who did some follow-up experienced a very positive shift in scores, and those who had con­sistent follow-up had a dramatic, positive impact.

Fortunately, following up today is much easier in our super-connected world of texting, IMs, emails, and social media.  I personally like to use these mediums to exchange the information that we talked about at the event.  I often tell people I’ll send them URLs of posts here on my website, other URLs, relevant information related to their careers, or introduce them to someone else.  In fact, I’ve got a couple of those lingering after my last MLT conference in NYC.  On the other hand, though, it’s important to remember that, as you exchange information, following up is not about asking someone what they can do for you or what they might know that can help you. Instead it’s about what you can do for them, and what you can do to sustain a relationship with them.

That’s because the best leaders know that building relationships is critical. That none of us can make it to the top alone and instead that we can achieve a lot more working together. This is especially today, where business is more global, technology more complex, and as the economy steers companies to retain fewer employees.  And so leaders must not only be able to focus on the day-to-day problems at their firms, but they must also focus on building the connections and networks to share information more broadly and as a result create more leverage for change. And in the end, I’m optimistic that doing that will help all of us reach our potential to solve some of the world’s biggest business and social problems.

But if that’s true, then I suspect I should stop writing now. I’ve got some emails to send and calls to make, since I just finished two conferences over the past 1.5 weeks.  Check back for more details on my recent MLT conference in NYC.  I’ll share some details of the actual events and meetings with employers.

Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, June 9th, 2010 Leadership, Networking 1 Comment

More On Mentors: GottaMentor.com

Hey Everyone! As a follow-up to my recent post on networking and finding mentors, I also wanted to pass mentorship resource that helps connect you with peers, coaches, and mentors in the business and other professional communities. The company name is GottaMentor and the up-and-coming internet company is a great resource for finding career information. As some of you may know, I happen to be a new contributor to the site. And while it was hard to start contributing as regularly as I would’ve like during 1L of law school, I’ve picked up the pace recently and plan to contribute much more heavily this summer and after.

If you have not heard of the company yet, you should definitely take a minute to browse the website. For one, I’m a contributor to the site and would love for all of you to join.  Additionally, if you do take a look, you’ll see that the site really does have a lot of pretty interesting career-related information, and also a great platform to ask questions and get new information. Perhaps more important than all of this, though, is that the GottaMentor leadership team is very highly accomplished. And as such, I suspect the company will be around for some time to come, and it’s also poised to really take off in the upcoming months and years.

To see some of the information, you’ll have to register with a user name and password. But that’s an easy process, and I highly recommend signing up.  And the good news is that the site works well for almost everyone. Not only is it relevant for students but it’s also useful for professionals at all stages of their careers and also for those in both business and law. Have a look when you get the chance.

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010 Careers, Networking, Other Blogs 4 Comments

Careers Question: Reach Out, Make Connectons, Find Mentors, Then Do It Again

What if I told you I had the one secret that could help you achieve a world-class level of success. What if I said that Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods became the athletes they are today because they did it.  And that without it, Barack would not be our current president. And that every single Fortune 500 CEO today did the same thing.  Well, the truth is that most highly successful people – athletes, musicians, professionals, speakers, and thinkers – are doing it.  Nowadays, skill and passion can only get you so far.  The most successful people also reach out and find mentors.

It’s no mistake that I said the word “find” in my introduction.  While some world-class performers and leaders did stumble upon their mentors, most people don’t. That’s because the good mentors can be really hard to find. After all, the most successful people in the world work long hours and have limited time, dozens of competing priorities, and goals that they can’t let go by the wayside to help someone who may not even respect their time.

But from experience, I know that great mentors definitely do exist.  And because I was lucky enough to find a SUPER-mentor in my very first job, I wanted to share a few words here on my site that I also shared with a friend – a current MLT fellow seeking out a little advice on networking.

See below for that person’s question, and below that for my response.  I’ll note that I only included selected parts of the conversation, as some of the information might have revealed too much about their identity, and as other parts were less relevant to the content of the message. I’ll also note that this post turned out to be longer than expected.

EMAIL QUESTION

Hey Jeremy,

(Skipped part of question)

1) I’m glad you enjoyed Leading Matters. (And I applaud your participation in the middle of your exams!! you are a rockstar!) It sounds like your Chicago event was really engaging … (deleted part of message)

2) You are awesome for thinking about MLT in your blog. Myself and my fellow b-school prospectives are juggling a few things that you might find relevant to write about:

(Actual list of things deleted)

The biggest thing on my agenda right now is networking. I am nervous about cold calling people in my industry (i.e. social investing). But I know that I have to get over that initial fright if I want to get anything out of this. (I actually just got back from dinner with someone … who a Kellogg alum put me in touch with!) I also wonder how do I extend those relationships beyond just a one-time informational interview? How do I stay in contact without being bothersome? Should I make myself helpful to them?

Good luck with the rest of your finals!

(Name)

MY RESPONSE TO QUESTION

Hey (Name),

Good to hear from you and thanks for your message.  This is a really good set of questions, and now is the perfect time for you to start thinking about them as you go through the MLT process and start to think about new career options, most of which are challenging to break into. But the good news is that once you get used to reaching out and become more skilled at it, it actually becomes a lot of fun, especially for outgoing and high potential professionals like yourself.  Here are a few of my initial thoughts:

As I said above, I was lucky enough to find a phenomenal professional mentor early in my professional career. I concede, though, that most people don’t have that experience.  And for reference, when I say I found a mentor, I don’t take that word lightly. In my case, mentor means someone that I valued highly enough 1. to turn down a job that paid 20%-25% more in salary right out of school and 2. to subsequently turn down a chance to work at a bulge bracket bank to work him at a mid-sized consulting firm that didn’t carry half the level of prestige as the bank, only carried a percentage of the salary, and had me move across the entire US as a result.

That’s because in my view, these types of strong relationships are critical to your career success – my general motto is “it’s better to learn in your 20s and earn in your 30s.”  But most people still don’t invest the time, and they would never consider the idea of foregoing resources to find these strong relationships. In today’s age where internet is king, Google searching tends to be most people’s first option.  And others look for answers in self-help business books on weekends, rely on opinions of friends and family, and give too much credibility to formalized mentoring programs at work.

Sure, these sources can all be useful, but they’re certainly not perfect.  At my old firms, I often saw how people were given “buddy” roles and mentor titles without an ability to perform in the role. Similarly, I’ve seen how many people rely on friends and family members because they tend to give a lot of positive reinforcement, which is not always what you need. But people still tend to default here.

That’s because but finding real connections, let alone mentors, is hard. For some people, it takes months, even years to find someone who understands you and cares for you and your goals.  And so going through the “networking” process you asked about tends to be the best way to do that.  That means continually engaging with new people, getting and giving new information, and over time connecting with others.

Unfortunately, this kind of reaching is no easy feat and there’s a lot of grunt work involved.  It takes a lot of thoughtfulness, as you write emails, make calls, and navigate your way to finding new connections. Similarly, you have to know more about your target industries and have a better sense of who you are as you go out to meet with these people, so you’re sure not to waste their time. And as a result of that, it takes time, energy, and perseverance. But so do all relationships right? Staying in close touch with friends and family during 1L was almost impossibly hard for every single person I knew. Similarly working toward any dating relationship often takes a lot of time and effort. In my opinion, there’s not much difference. Nonetheless, the grunt work involved in networking tends to keep people from really engaging in the reaching out process.

I do realize, though, that everyone is different, and that one person’s propensity to reach out people may be different than mine or than yours.  So in some respects, you have to do what you’re comfortable with, so you can be effective when you do meet new people. On the other hand, I’d also strongly recommend pushing yourself out of your comfort zone just a bit and reaching out more than you might otherwise get in touch with, especially now as you seek information on business school and careers.  After all, if you don’t get comfortable with it now, you’ll be forced to on the first day of business school a year from now, not to mention for years to come afterward.

Now I’ll respond more practically to a few of the things you mentioned. First, my opinion is that there’s absolutely no need to have any initial fright, because there’s a pretty large many people who would be willing help someone in your shoes. Most people that you’d be reaching out to tend to be proud of their institutions, school, and employers. And even if they’re not, they tend to be proud of the advice they can offer. Similarly, a lot of people are looking for ways to give back to their communities and to those who may want to follow in their footsteps.

I mean, consider the reverse. What if someone came up to you and said, hey (name), I’d love to be just like you someday, and I want to go to (name) University and work at (name) Company.  Personally, I’d be really flattered, and I think a lot of people would feel similarly. And as a result, some of them might really take the time to give the information you’re looking for.  And if you’re thankful, keep the modes of communication open, update them on your progress, and then be sure to reciprocate when you can, then you’ve got potential to make a real connection. And here’s my pitch – that in the end, the process becomes something that’s not even networking.  Instead it’s seeking out new ways of connecting forging strong relationships, and becoming mutually beneficial. And personally, I always strive to be more beneficial when I can.

Next, to directly respond to your last question about how to stay relevant.  That’s a tough one because no two people or circumstances are the same. Because of that, my first thought is to focus on the relationship, not on using fancy tactics. Because when you forge those strong relationships, you don’t have to worry about staying relevant. That’s why you always get back to your best friends and to family members when they get in touch with you. Because those relationships tend to be strong.

But from a tactical perspective, here a couple of things that may help.  None of them are rocket science. In fact you could have come up with all of them on your own. Also, none of them are they my original ideas. Instead, they tend to be things that lots of people do and also things I tend to do when I remember.

1. Try Different Methods. You might try using different methods to connect with people, such as email, phone, in person, LinkedIn, etc.  In my experience, relying on a single source can be less effective in some circumstances, especially if your new contact decided to avoid using that source for a short period of time.

2. Return the Favor. If you have managed to somehow stay on a person’s radar, then you might help return the favor by sharing information to them, on relevant topics. In these cases, I tend to default mostly to things that are HIGHLY relevant, sometimes sending news, connecting them with people in their industries, giving referrals, or passing along hello messages from mutual connections.  But you should be careful of overdoing it and be sure that you’re not forcing your way in. I tend to only do this in very authentic ways, because otherwise it’ll likely feel too forced.

3. Don’t Replace Face To Face. I also think face to face encounters tend to be more effective when you’re in the establishing stage. For example grabbing drinks, coffee, lunch, or meeting up at the office all tend to work pretty well, depending on what you’re chatting about. Not only is it a more intimate environment that allows you to discuss real issues and be more open and vulnerable but it’s also more of a mutual investment of time which naturally tends to create a bond.

4. Get Out To More Events. Sometimes the best way to bump into someone, and to actually get the face to face encounters you need, is to go to different types of events where people are out and about. Not only networking-themed events, but also cultural, academic, and volunteer events, where you’ll tend to find people who you have things in common with.

In the end, though, making real strong relationships, is the goal, not finding tactics to stay in touch. Often times for me, I just try to feel it out, since in most cases no two relationships are the same and because time is so limited. But fortunately, there are a lot of smart and successful professional seeking the same thing you are. So once you make a connection, it should be pretty easy to build those relationship.  If only dating were this easy too, right :)

Thanks for writing. And good luck!

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Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 Careers, Networking 2 Comments

Working On A Presentation for Latino Legacy Weekend

Have you ever seen a presentation where the audience didn’t pay very close attention, or where they pulled out their Blackberries instead of listening?  I have, and I suspect you have too.  That’s because delivering good presentations can be tough. They often lack direction, don’t evoke emotion, and don’t truly connect to the audience. Well, just the other day, I found out that I have the challenge to do all those things at an upcoming conference next week here in Chicago.

Just days ago, I chatted with the organizer of the inaugural Latino Legacy Weekend Seminar. The seminar is hosted by my good friend, former congressional candidate, and current US Department of Treasury team member Emanuel Pleitez. Emanuel is a great guy, and like a lot of the folks I know, he’s definitely making things happen, and keeping me on my toes to try to do the same.

The event will host students and leaders from all backgrounds and professions – law, business, finance, policy, arts – and bring them together to think about their passions, ideals and biggest concerns. “The Weekend’s driving question is: What legacy will we leave? It’s an opportunity to step outside of our fields and pause our lives to challenge one another to think big.”

And in my view, this event will not only be a good opportunity to talk about this question but also to share critical information and personal stories with each other.  Discuss our passions, goals, and dreams, and connections. And then stay connected so we can help each other as we’re in pursuit.

I haven’t finished my presentation yet, but I’ve decided that I’ll be presenting on Labor Economics and the state of the labor force in the Latino community.  There’s a lot of good stuff out there. But more importantly, as I continue to say here on my website, I believe that the labor force is the big issue of our time.

I think the key to giving a good presentation will be engaging the audience. And compelling them with interesting information. Fortunately my topic lends itself well to that. But I plan to spend the next week or so figuring out how to be effective.

In a recent article I read that the human body is capable of experiencing over 5,000 emotions. But in the course a single work week, most people only experience a dozen of them. To me, means there’s a lot of opportunity to evoke emotions that people tend not to have because they spend so much time on work, family, and other day-to-day things. Emotions like fears, vulnerabilities, concerns, and motivations. And that’s what the current economy has done to a lot of people. Made them fear being of out work. Become vulnerable to admit and discuss their fears and perceived failures. Feel concern for friends and family who struggle with those fears. And then find motivation to overcome their circumstances. So there’s a lot to work with, and I hope I’ll be able to come up with something good.

Overall, it should be an interesting event. The variety of presentations should be interesting, the rewards of the conference should be manyfold, and it will be a great way to meet a lot of new people.

As always …  stay tuned to hear how things turn out!

PS I’ll also note, that not only do I have this conference next weekend, but I also have another professional conference in New York City in early June. As such, I’ve decided to dedicate a my posts over the next two weeks to the conferences. Before the conferences, I’ll discuss networking tactics and preparation for speaking to attendees and employers. And afterward, I’ll do my best to journal the nuances of the events. I hope that you’ll check  back to read. A lot of people have been writing in recently with networking questions. So I look forward to posting over the next few weeks.

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010 Careers, Labor Economics, Networking 3 Comments

Careers Question: Is It Too Soon To Start Networking?

As a current MBA student, I’ve read a number of management and leadership books. In one example, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, the Master Sun says that “every battle is won before it is ever fought.” Well, if that’s true, then perhaps JDs and MBAs need to think more about that today. The economic crisis has made markets more competitive and as a result made it almost impossible to land a top job. And so the person who starts early and orchestrates the whens, wheres, whos, and hows of the battle before it is ever fought will have a better chance at ultimate success. And in my view, that it not only true in on campus recruiting but also includes internal promotions and moving companies after graduation.

I recently received a question from a reader who was thinking about just that. We’ve traded a few emails in the past, and this questions happens to be a follow-up to a previous conversation. He’s a recent graduate from college and he has been working in the finance industry for a little under two years.  As a “smart” guy with a few years of experience, he’s hoping do some networking and move his way into a new job role that’s more competitive and perhaps a bit more higher level. The dilemma, though, is that he just moved into a new job due to restructuring at his old company and wants to know, not only if it’s too early to start networking but also if he can network with the intent to get a job as soon as possible.

I responded with a few words, which I’ve shared below. As always, I’ll also note, that the real answer is ‘it depends’ and that my answer only scratches the surface because networking is a big topic, and a topic that I have a lot of ideas on.  On the other hand, there are a few rules that I live by and follow deeply when I talk about networking, so I thought I’d share some of those broad ideas. Hopefully this post will be helpful.

THE READER’S QUESTION

Dear Jeremy

Since I asked my last question, I did end up taking the position, and as I anticipated, I am a little unhappy with it (specifically, the level and intensity of work). I have also started to network with alumni from my university.

I have a question though – now that the economy is getting better, companies are hiring left and right (at least compared to 2009), and I think that this is the perfect time to try to network into a junior-level position in trading, investment management, etc. Do you still think that it would be wise for me to show that I want these types of jobs when I’m networking (as opposed to coming off as somewhat passive about it)?

People have told me that it’s best to cultivate these networks over months, or even years, until you want to ‘strike’. But I feel that the time is now (with the influx of hiring), and I don’t want to miss out on any opportunities because I wasn’t being aggressive enough. What do you think?

Thanks.
(Name)

MY RESPONSE TO THE READER’S QUESTION

Hi (Name)

Thanks so much for reaching back out. And I’m sorry it’s taken me a few days to reply. Ironically, I’ve just as busy, if not busier after school has ended, so have been doing the best I can not only to stay up with my schedule now but also catch up on some of the things I put to the side while I was in the “battle” of final exams.  But I’m almost back above water now and suspect that in a week or so, I’ll be just as caught up as ever. And the good news is that 1L is done!

In regards to your question, a couple of things come to mind. As always, though, most of this depends on context, and the answer is probably best articulated orally, because in that mode, I could give the full context of what I’m thinking without have a post that’s too long. But I’ll do my best to lay out a few ideas here, for now.

1. Sincerity. My first rule of networking is that sincerity is king. By that, I mean that sincere connections are always the best connections, no matter how fast you make them and urgent you might need help. For me, they are the only type of connections I make. And the good news is that if can manage that part of connecting with others, than the timing may not make a difference in the end. On the other hand, the more urgent you need the help, the more likely it is that you may come off as desperate and less sincere. And if that’s the case, I suspect that those characteristics will probably be evident to those you’re speaking to. And so if it is the case that you have greater urgency, than I’d say that be transparent about it. Because that way, you’re still being sincere, and you can still build a relationship based on trust and honesty, and as a result maximize its impact.

2. Find the right people. To that end, it might also make sense to ensure that you connect with the most appropriate people up front in order to maximize your chance to get sincere connections.  Because your questions will be related to the things they know best and your interests will be highly correlated with their passions. I’ve read a few books by Keith Ferrazzi [he and I share a uniquely similar background in almost every respect] and one of the main things he emphasizes is that to really connect with people, you have to “find a way to become part of the things that are most interesting to them” or most important.  And relating back to point number one, I personally would be careful not to manufacture that process. Because in the end sincere connections – those built on trust and on honesty – are the ones that will last, but conversely those manufactured for personal gain often don’t. And this may be especially important when you’re networking with the “right” crowd because that crowd may be in your target industry and it’s best not to hurt those relationships in the long run.

3. Channel your aggression. To points one and two, there’s nothing at all wrong with being aggressive.  Being aggressive in your career journey is important. In fact, critical. Being aggressive at a conference or at a networking session is also important. After all, almost everyone who’s made it to the top has been aggressive at some point. In the end though, you have to balance being aggressive in your career search, which includes networking, along with being respectful, showing class, showing respect for other people’s time, and having a real genuine interest not only in the careers you seek but also in the people you meet, speak to, and who take the time out of their day to help you. Because in the end, many of them are busy and are being generous by helping, so you don’t want to simply take up their time without showing patience and appreciation.  So from that angle, I don’t necessarily like the words “passive” or “aggressive” when it comes to networking. I similarly don’t like the word “strike” (I understand you used it as more a symbol than reality but thought I’d bring up here) On the other hand, to be aggressive in your actual search or in your pursuit of knowledge and uncovering of information is the right approach. And this way, your personality – instead of an aggressive person who is self-serving – will truly shine through.

4. Always in context. In context, you have to figure out this balance of timing and aggression depending on your needs. And that includes the need to find a new challenge professionally or the your need to get an opportunity while they are abundant. Similarly, economics are always an important factor in our decision making, and in today’s complex ever-changing society, making moves often hinges on doing things at the right time – sometimes you have to “strike while the iron is hot.” And in the right context, I think quick networking can be okay, though not ideal. If you do go this way, just be sure to maximize your time by doing a few basic things. Be sure to have your resume and cover letter ready. You should also be ready to present yourself to these networking events and most importantly have your story down stone cold.  And be ready to convince anyone that you have not only the experience but also the skills that a company seeks. And trust me, that’s easier said than done if you want to be effective.

5. Wrap-Up. In sum, I agree with much of what you’ve heard before.  That it’s best to cultivate relationships over time, which takes months, even years. That way, you can build them on a foundation of trust. both of you realize the benefit of the relationship, and according to the Master Sun, both of you will win the battle before you ever step foot on the battle field.  On the other hand, context can’t be ignored, and if context is that you have a sense of urgency in getting a new job, because of the economy (that the market is good as it may ever be) and that you have a real shot at landing a role, then it may make sense to consider transitioning. If you decide to go that direction, then from the 30,000 foot view, just be sure of three things. 1. Understand the implications that too many job changes can have on you as a early career professional. 2. Be sure you are up front about your motives and desires to find a new job. 3.  Be sure to respect those you’re networking with, by demonstrate that you did your research about them and their industry (don’t want to waste their time) and also to be genuinely interested in connecting with them, perhaps making a real effort to return the help if you can.

Because in the end, the best networkers aren’t those who can walk into a room, meet everyone, pass out their business cards, and walk out with a job.  Instead, the best networkers are those who are connectors. And not only do they connect themselves with lots of people and enhance their own professional prospects, but they also bring everyone else together and connect them together. And when they effectively do that, they facilitate the flow of information and usually benefit as a result.

I hope this helps. Good luck!

PS  If you don’t know my reference to The Art of War then watch the Investment Banking movie Wall Street – 1987 with Charlie Sheen and Michael Douglas.

Thursday, May 20th, 2010 Careers, Leadership, Networking 2 Comments

MBA Conference in New Orleans

Tomorrow at 5:45am, I’ll be hopping on a plane to head to the National Black MBA (NBMBAA) Conference. The NBMBAA conference is about recognizing the achievements of blacks in business schools around the country. What an incredible opportunity to meet many of the future minority business leaders from all across the top business schools in the US.

As part of the conference there is a 2-day career fair. Over 400 companies will be there (click here for a partial list), including Accenture, American Express, Google, Booz Allen, Pepsi, Deustche Bank, and Bank of America, just to name a few. Many of these companies will be interviewing MBAs for summer internships and for full-time positions. I won’t be doing too much interviewing at the conference because of the nature of my JD-MBA program, but I do have a short list of companies that I plan to chat with a bit and to keep in touch with over the year. I always find it a lot of fun to learn about companies from recruiters, who usually know more about their companies than anyone since they are the gatekeepers. I’m also quite interested in the strategies that companies employ to attract and retain talent and their approaches to increasing diversity, given my high interest in labor issues.

I don’t know how many of you have been to these types of leadership conferences, but they’re usually worth the trip. Not only is it the perfect venue to meet lots of ambitious and talented people and a way to position yourself closer to a great summer job, but it’s also a good venue to enjoy your experience in a new and interesting city. Personally, I’ve never been to New Orleans before, and I’m excited to explore the city.  The good news is that I’ll see a large number of my MLT friends and Kellogg friends at the conference. It’ll be nice to reconnect with everyone.

I’ll be in New Orleans on Thursday and Friday, and I’ll fly back to Chicago Saturday morning, just in time to get back to my reading for law school and finish up a legal paper by Sunday.

Stay tuned for an update on the conference!

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Thursday, September 24th, 2009 Business School, Networking No Comments

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