Manoj Varma Penmathsa is one of the newest members of the Peer Career Coaching team and decided to take a risk at this year’s career fair. The experience he writes about below exemplifies the power of “planned happenstance” in the job search. He took a risk by opening himself up to a new and potentially uncomfortable situation, embracing the uncertainty of what would happen, and taking advantage of the opportunity that presented itself. You can meet with Manoj, and hear how his story turned out, by making an appointment in Jobs4Hawks, or visiting him during his walk-in hours in Hermann Hall 113 on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:15-4:30pm.
I work for Career Services as a Peer Career Coach and I volunteered to help with setup before the career fair this year. During my break, I went to the breakfast area and sat down at a mostly empty table, hoping some employers would come join me. As I was almost done with breakfast and mentally preparing myself to go talk to the companies I was interested in, four people came and sat at my table. They were with Wi-Tronix, one of the companies that was high on my list. I told them that I will be coming to their table at the career fair to talk to them. They asked me if I heard about their new product. Because I did my research beforehand, in preparation for the career fair, I knew a bit about their new product and I told them what I knew. It was just a casual conversation, but I took the opportunity to learn more about their company and their product. They told me I should definitely come by their table later. After calming my nerves by practicing my introduction with a different company, I went to the Wi-Tronix table. The person I was talking to asked me a couple of questions about my résumé and then gave me information to apply for the position I was interested in. She told me I made a good impression at the breakfast table and that I should apply online so they can link my résumé to my profile online, then explained their interview process.
Additionally, I wanted to talk to CTA Architects and Engineers as they were the only company on my list who had locations in Colorado, where I am looking to move out after graduating from IIT. When I went to introduce myself, the first question he asked me was if I knew they don’t have any locations in Chicago. I told him I am looking to move out of Chicago to someplace with mountains as I am also passionate about rock climbing. He told me he was also a climber and asked me what places I have climbed at in the past. The rest of the conversation was about excellent climbing locations very close to his office and other things he is interested in. He told me he would email me the information on how to apply for the position I was interested in.
I sent a follow-up email the next day to everyone I talked to at the career fair and received updates from both Wi-tronix and CTA Group that they passed on my resume to their hiring managers. So the two best leads I received from the career fair were a result of casual conversations with representatives, rather than more formal “interview/pitch” interactions.
The takeaway: building rapport through some casual conversation can be every bit as effective as an end-driven, all-business approach — if not more so.