I’m going to get real honest here – I’m a serial job hopper. I most recently was in the public accounting profession for 3 1/2 years and held 4 full time jobs. Each of the jobs were good to me and allowed me to grow in different ways. Part of the job hopping was my need to get out of the comfort zone and the desire to learn and grow in new ways and meet new people. In hindsight, I don’t think I was ever made out to be a public accountant. But that story is for another day.
My point is that although I’ve had 4 jobs in 3 1/2 years, I’ve only had to officially send in an application and resume for one of them. How, you ask? By networking, and doing lots of it, over and over again. Most people I know (business at least) dislike and even despise networking. Freshmen year Jess would have said the same thing. 25 year old Jess loves it (no joke!). I think one of the reasons why is my enjoyment in meeting new people and getting to know them.
So how can you start to network, and learn to muster through it? If you’re in college, like I was when I started, get started as a freshman. As a freshman in college I went to the business career fair at the urging of one of my professors, and reluctantly I attended. I was a super shy individual, and stood in a corner for a good half hour before my professor ushered me over to a table with a recruiter. My professor introduced me, and I shook the recruiter’s hand and had a conversation with him and which I remember nothing from the conversation.
I’m actually extremely glad I went as a freshman, and here’s why. When I went back the next year to get a potential summer internship my sophomore year, I knew most of the recruiters there. One even remembered me from the year before. I felt more confident in my ability to communicate with them and iterate what I was looking for. I didn’t walk away with a summer internship, but I felt more confident and stronger in my networking abilities.
Now you’re probably expecting me to tell you I got an internship when I went back the third year, and unfortunately you are wrong (sort of). Junior year, I was sitting at a local coffee shop in my college town studying for accounting. A group of three businessmen were sitting near me. When they walked by on their way out, one noticed my accounting CPA book and asked if I was studying for the exam. We engaged in conversation and he mentioned he was looking for an intern – I followed up with him and got my first college internship as an accountant for a renewable energy company.
A few weeks later at the career fair, I applied to a local CPA firm with a manager who I had met and chatted with every year at the career fair. When I went in for the interview, my renewable energy guy was good friends with the owner of the CPA firm – and he was also my top reference for the internship. I got the internship and stayed the rest of junior year and senior year at the local CPA firm.
Sometime in between sophomore and junior year I decided to graduate a semester early, and desperately wanted to be able to say I had a job before graduation in December. This was the only time I had submitted a resume and job application online. I got the job, but left seven months later for a myriad of reasons.
The next job I had was through a family friend, but I had also had a couple of interviews with a different firm. How did I get those interviews? By contacting the Director of HR via e-mail who I had met freshman year at the career fair, and saw every subsequent year. I decided to go with the family friend’s firm, and stayed for a year and a half. Our office was right next to a women’s only gym, and most of my female coworkers and I belonged. We got a free personal trainer, and mine just happened to have a dad who was a CPA owner and was looking for a new associate to hire.
I decided to make the switch. I went in for an interview, not needing any references or an official application. I was hired later that month and once again switched jobs. I was at a CPA event one night and mentioned this to a Partner at a local CPA firm I had just met. I gave her my card and received a phone call from a recruiter a week later. The Partner had given my information to a close friend who was the recruiter, and I got the job.
Unfortunately, that fourth job was also the time I realized I was not made to do public accounting. I love telling the story of my job progression because it doesn’t follow a straight path, and is unique and interesting. I also love telling the story because of my personal growth and understanding of the importance of networking and building strong connections. It also makes for a good story when chatting with other people at various networking events!