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Networking: Key to Transition!

By Connie English-

Alumni Career Services Featured Success Story,
Danica Hunt Harrahy (MBA ’96)

Career transitions can be stressful in the best of times, but conducting a job search during the 2009 downturn was particularly challenging for many. Darden alumna Danica Hunt Harrahy (MBA ’96, pictured) experienced these challenges first-hand when she left her employer of 13 years (Capital One), in the summer of 2009. By following classic, time-tested job search techniques, Danica turned her challenge into a quick success story and landed a position as Managing Director with Markel Corporation in Richmond, Virginia.

Danica contacted Darden Alumni Career Services (ACS) when she first anticipated the exit from Capital One. She needed to quickly understand the search process, how best to take advantage of the outplacement services she had been offered, and where to focus her efforts for the most impact. The earliest phone session with ACS focused on Danica’s job search objective. ACS encouraged Danica to first think through her goals, assess her strengths, and clarify what she wanted to achieve in her next position. Her clearly defined and articulated objective became the cornerstone for a solidly executed search.

The first and most daunting hurdle was to construct a great resume. Since Danica had not needed a resume since graduating in 1996, she basically started from a blank sheet of paper. She decided to tackle the iterative process of writing and editing her resume herself in order to be closely involved with the final product. Marty Speight, with Darden ACS, reviewed and provided detailed and constructive feedback throughout the writing process. Danica then used elements of the updated resume to take advantage of the new social media tools (primarily LinkedIn), ensuring a cohesive message throughout.

Looking back on her rapid search success, Danica told us “the ACS advice on my resume was critical and made a huge difference. I could tell from my early conversations with each company that they found my resume compelling and impressive. In this economy, getting in the door is the hardest part, and my resume was the critical marketing piece I needed to break through that barrier.”

The other key element of Danica’s search success was to intently dedicate herself to networking. Focusing primarily on former colleagues and business associates, Danica let her network know what she was looking for and why. Ultimately she uncovered four key opportunities through her personal network, none of which was “posted” or being actively recruited for. Although the outplacement firm sent out over 700 solicitations on her behalf, none of these developed into interviews. And equally compelling was what Danica didn’t do during her search. She didn’t use any of the myriad of job postings boards, she didn’t blog and she didn’t tweet. While these can be effective avenues for some, all the evidence shows that personally engaging with your network is the most effective means for finding the best and ‘hidden’ job openings. The network she developed and cultivated over the years when she was not in the market for a job became a key asset during her search. That asset, combined with a clear objective and flexibility, meant a job offer within 12 weeks of starting the search. “A huge part of my success was my willingness to be very open in my search and find where the market was strong,” said Danica.

How can Darden Alumni Career Services support you? ACS’s mission is to provide quality career management assistance to all Darden School alumni throughout their lives. ACS counseling services are free to all alumni of the Darden MBA, PhD and MBA for Executives programs no matter where they are located. Please contact us for more information.