The business, economic, and career landscape has changed dramatically over the last six months. For those currently engaged in a job search or considering starting one, these new and uncertain conditions require new-found adaptivity and agility. As part of the Lifelong Learning Speakers series, the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business recently hosted a panel event featuring four notable MBA alumni providing advice to more than 200 members of the community on career search strategies, as well as industry outlooks and perspectives during Covid-19 and the current economic downturn. Here’s their advice:
1. Networking is more important than ever.
At a time when opportunities are more limited than usual, knowing people in different job roles and industries is key.
“It’s an opportunity to learn about yourself and learn more about your industry or the industry you want to pivot into,” said Jacquelyn Renée Schneider (MBA ’18). founder, CEO, and career strategist at Aigu Consulting. She also emphasized the importance of the Scheller alumni network, where many grads are willing to help out fellow alumni.
Katie Baldwin (MBA ’15), senior manager of capacity planning at Amazon, mentioned the importance of networking with everyone regardless of title. “A network is just the people you know, not necessarily what level they are at. By changing your view of networking so it’s not dependent on career level, you open yourself up to more opportunities.
2. Do your research.
It is important to be thoughtful in finding a company that has a culture that fits you well. Do background research on the companies and roles you are most interested in to determine fit.
“There’s not a company out there right now that is not examining their culture and their cultural journey. The people who stand out in interviews are the ones that ask probing questions about where that company is going,” said Jacob Gelbaum (MBA ’18), senior program manager of Azure global expansion at Microsoft. “Make sure there’s a fit before jumping into a new career.
3. Be prepared to share how you’ve grown during Covid-19.
While the answer will differ for everyone, having something to show for your time is very important. Being able to articulate how you’ve grown or what you’ve done is a good way to show companies you are dedicated to self-improvement.
“Think of areas within your career portfolio that you’d like to grow. Whether it’s programming languages or new technologies, this is a great time to brush up on those skills,” Schneider said. Be prepared to explain what you accomplished and what you learned during the pandemic.
“You need to be able to tell your story within the digital transformation pivot that so many companies are going through right now,” said Denise Smith (MBA ’14), senior director of product management at Cox Automotive.
Because of the increased importance of metrics and measuring success, investing time into learning programs like Ruby, Python, or Tableau will be very helpful. Additionally, using YouTube and LinkedIn Learning to bolster knowledge of analytics as a practice and how that practice is exercised in day-to-day business operations will prove valuable.
4. Connect your varied work experiences to professional growth.
If your career experience spans many different industries and functions, the most important thing to emphasize is what you have learned and how it connects to the role you want. Companies want to see professional growth, so being able to convey what you learned from each experience is very important.
If your work experience spans different roles and companies, Baldwin advises framing it positively. “Were you looking for different experiences and you were able to get your toolbox fully built and can solve X, Y, and Z now?” Before an interview, make sure you can articulate what you learned from each role and how it prepared you.
Additionally, resume gaps are not inherently bad. By taking the time to explain the time between jobs in your resume, your interviewer does not have to fill in the gaps by themselves and can understand the full picture.
5. Focus on positivity and authenticity.
Each panelist recommended focusing on telling your story with authenticity, honesty, and positivity.
Baldwin focused on the importance of staying positive. Specific to interviews, she recommended avoiding speaking negatively about your previous employer. “Try to keep that positivity. Focus on what you learned and how you grew and developed where you were.”
“What is the position you’re looking for now and how is that the next step in your journey?” asked Gelbaum. By connecting and making sense of your career path, you can communicate clearly why the job you’re interviewing for is the best fit for you.
Additionally, Smith noted the power of being authentic. “From my perspective, being authentic, showing your integrity, and showing your resiliency is something that bodes well for a candidate,” said Smith. “If you’re authentic, it shows your values.”