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How my friend got a high-power finance job by walking his dog

July 15th, 2009 · 4 Comments

The job market was very bad in 2003 while I was in business school. It was a few days before the end of the school year. My friend Jacob was still without an internship.

The recruiting process had been particular hard for Jacob because he came from an unconventional background and he was trying to make a career transition. After graduating from college, Jacob went to work as an legislative assistant. Eventually he ended up in Washington DC, working for one of the cabinet members. His entire career had been in politics, but he wanted to become an investment banker.

Jacob had a lot of interviews. But, he didn’t get any job offer. Time was running out.

But, one thing about Jacob was that he had great interpersonal skills. He always took a genuine interest in others. He could carry a conversation with anyone.

Once during our study group session, I asked Jacob to offer me some suggestions to improve my networking skills.

He told me three things:

  1. When you’re in an elevator, always be the first person to say "hi" to whoever is in the elevator. You never know who you’ll meet in an elevator.
  2. When Jacob is on an airplane, he would use his business card as his bookmark. You never know who is sitting next to you. The business-card-turned-bookmark will give your next-seat neighbor an idea of who you’re.
  3. Never say bad things about other people in public.

These are very simple tips. But, let me tell you — they’re incredibly useful. 🙂

Let’s go back to my story. Only a few days left before school was over. Jacob was still without an internship. No employer was recruiting on campus any more.

Jacob took his dog for a walk one morning. He lived on the seventh floor of an apartment building. As he and his dog walked into the elevator, someone with a dog was already in the elevator. Jacob always practiced what he preached — he politely said "hi", and started chitchat about the other person’s dog.

The kept talking, talking, and talking. They ended up walking their dogs together for an hour.

It turned out that the other dog owner was a senior president at a large financial institution. Near the end of their conversation, he asked Jacob what he did for living. Jacob said that he was an MBA student at a top business school, but he was searching for an internship.

"Why don’t you come to work for me for this summer?"

That’s how Jacob got a great summer internship.

Never underestimate the power of personal relationship and networking.

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Tags: Learning and Growing · Recruiting & Job Hunting

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bing // Jul 15, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    “He always took a genuine interest in others. He could carry a conversation with anyone.”

    This is so very true. Sometimes, just being a good listener, pay attention to what others said is much more important than “being polite and respectful”. Now thinking back, I remember most people I recommended for hiring after interviewing them was because I like them.

    Honestly, very few people can “awe” me with their abilities in an hour of interview, since I come to the interview with a critical mind. But with some I feel I can connect at a personal level.

    As a job applicant, my problem is that I have a skewed response to the people sitting in front of me. Once I decided whether I like the interviewer, I could become either very warm or very cold. So I think it is a gift people like Jacob have a genuine interest in anyone they met.

  • 2 GeekMBA360 // Jul 15, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    I think part of this is to withhold your judgment about the other person until you finish the conversation/interview. We humans are judgmental by nature. But, I also think that we can consciously withhold our judgment — “give the other person the benefits of doubts.” 🙂

  • 3 Bing // Jul 15, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    “He always took a genuine interest in others. He could carry a conversation with anyone.”

    This is so very true. Sometimes, just being a good listener, pay attention to what others said is much more important than “being polite and respectful”. Now thinking back, I remember most people I recommended for hiring after interviewing them was because I like them.

    Honestly, very few people can “awe” me with their abilities in an hour of interview, since I come to the interview with a critical mind. But with some I feel I can connect at a personal level.

    As a job applicant, my problem is that I have a skewed response to the people sitting in front of me. Once I decided whether I like the interviewer, I could become either very warm or very cold. So I think it is a gift people like Jacob have a genuine interest in anyone they met.

  • 4 GeekMBA360 // Jul 15, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    I think part of this is to withhold your judgment about the other person until you finish the conversation/interview. We humans are judgmental by nature. But, I also think that we can consciously withhold our judgment — “give the other person the benefits of doubts.” 🙂

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