The best part of my job is when students share with me a success story of their achieving a career aspiration. This week an international student shared a story of how networking against all odds landed him his dream job. Here’s the story: the student, let’s call him Jose, in his first year, met a very senior alumnus; let’s call him Jack, who was visiting Darden as part of the Career Discovery Program. Jack was a Senior Vice President of Marketing for a spirits (alcoholic beverage) company. Jose’s experience prior to business school was in the spirits industry, and although he wanted a US job in the same industry, he had heard warnings from the Career Development Center that marketing jobs in the US were tough for internationals. Seldom did marketing companies sponsor visas. Yet, that knowledge did not temper his enthusiasm or his networking. For seven months following that meeting, he “networked” with Jack, sending him emails. One email was Jose’s point of view on a recent article about the spirits industry. Another merely continued to express Jose’s interest in a summer internship.
As the end of the year neared, he finally received a call from another person at the company, reminding him that there was no way that they would sponsor his visa, but that they would consider him for a summer internship. By the end of the call, she offered him the summer position.
During the summer Jose performed exceptionally well and created significant bonds with his employer. At the end of the summer the company began talking to him about a full-time offer. The issue of a visa was no longer discussed. Jose actually expressed desire for a specific job, one that would give him broad international exposure. Just a week or two ago, he received an offer from the company, in a role created just for him, at a salary higher than the other interns from Northwestern and Purdue.
So the lesson here: networking professionally is never a waste of time. Attending briefings of companies that don’t sponsor visas and making contact with the employers is never a waste of time. The conversation is not “do you sponsor visas?” The conversation should be about the business, and it should demonstrate your passion for the business. Of course, no one can guarantee the same results as Jose, but networking is about building relationships, and solid relationships lead to good things.