Question: My networking efforts have fallen flat, so what else can I do to get in the right doors?
I recently came to this country from India. I am working on getting permanent resident status and am ready to start looking for a job. I am an engineer with an MBA from a top Indian school. In India, I was managing an offshore software development center, but, being technically inclined, I played the role of software architect/technical project manager for several large projects. Most of these were fixed-time projects and resulted in repeat orders.
I am now looking for an opportunity in the Philadelphia area with firms that are thinking of outsourcing their development work. Since I know some of the pitfalls inherent in this business, I feel that I could play the role of technology architect/project manager to ensure that the project meets business and technical requirements.
I was wondering how I could network and meet people in the industry. I have joined Women in Technology International, as well as TechRepublic, and other such forums, but I feel that I need to have more face-to-face meetings with technical/business people.
Answer: Persistence and innovation are needed for success
This column is a bit out of the ordinary because I wrote it after several e-mail exchanges with the woman who submitted the question. She has come to this country to be with her husband; he has been here for three years getting projects done for the company he works for. She said that the first year here went by “in a blur” as she was getting adjusted and making sure her children did, too.
In my first e-mail, I suggested she attend some of the local mixer meetings of Women in Technology. I know the woman who heads the Philadelphia area chapter and gave her that person’s e-mail address. It turns out the TechRepublic member had already met my contact and nothing much had come of it.
I understand that it’s difficult to make contacts and to network, especially these days when so many people are overworked. They have little time to attend the get-togethers and meetings, and meeting the many other people who are also looking for jobs can also be discouraging. The key, I told the member, is to be innovative and persistent.
I suggested that she take a course at the Wharton School of Business or a local university or college that has business classes related to what she wants to do. She said she had even considered taking a new MBA at Wharton until she had discovered that many of the recent graduates were still without jobs.
Since she is able and willing to wait to get a job, I then suggested some other tactics that take a little more time to work.
Start a mailing campaign
One tactic is to look through any local area publications that cover businesses in the area and identify companies that might need the kinds of services she can provide. Once this member has developed a list of prospects, she can write to the companies, include a copy of her resume, and see if they have any opportunities now or in the near future.
The member has to make sure to send her letter directly to the person in charge of hiring in the department in which she is interested in working. Sending these kinds of letters to the human resources department is a waste of time and money. HR doesn’t know what to do with them and usually files them away or discards them.
Keep in mind that such an approach will have a low yield even in good economic times—the member might get a few responses back for every 100 or so letters she writes. Still, something is better than nothing, and you never know what doors you are going to open up with this tactic.
While she is working on this tactic, she can start another one with another list of companies. This second list is of the companies that sell software, (project management, tools, tracking) to the kinds of companies she would like to work for, along with any consultants who cater to these companies.
With this list in hand, she can write, e-mail, or call to see if anyone is willing to take the time to give her an informational interview. As she indicated, she is seeking more information as well as outright job opportunities. Talking to these folks could help her better understand how the outsourcing process works in this country. Perhaps there are other ways she can use her experience.
If she wants to expand the list of prospects for this second tactic, a good way to find more names is to search trade publications and sites looking for articles related to outsourcing. Many times the people who are quoted in the articles are open to talking with readers, and even the article’s author might be able to contribute some useful ideas.
Building a track record of success
If she stays active on the local scene by continuing to attend industry-related get-togethers, lectures, and other activities, she will eventually get a sense of what is happening in the local labor market. Combining these efforts with the other tactics I’ve outlined, she will get a very good look at how outsourcing is done across the country.
She may not be able to find a staff position at a company in the area, but she might be able to get work on a short-term basis. That would help her build a track record of success in this country and could pave the way for a full-time, permanent position down the road. She might also decide that she wants to work on her own, taking on short-term projects for several different companies in the area.
The reader is correct in her gut instinct that she needs to learn all she can and talk to as many people as she can. Doing so will help her build a solid foundation for a career in this country.