In response to my post How can you get leverage on submissions in Consulting ? Networking ?, Surendra asked “What you suggested is good, but how come we improve the network if we are new to one place like US. During working with first project, we don’t know all these difficulties what you mentioned in this post. As per my knowledge it would be good to give some more guidelines about ‘how to improve network’ instead just giving message”.
What Surendra asked is a very valid question and I will give you some guidelines what I have used in the beginning of my career. You could be here in US in two situations, one as a student or just on H1b to work.
If you are Student:
Your biggest asset is being a student is you can be part of Student Organizations. There are many student organizations on campuses like American Marketing association, College Entrepreneurs club, International Student Association, India Student association, etc. There are some with national chapters. Join as many as you can and get to know people. Once you have a network. Don’t hesitate to go to coffee or bar to meet up and create a circle. You cannot ask someone directly for help without know them and you. So, take time to socialize. Second thing, interact with seniors. Typically all the juniors hang out together and take little time to hang out with seniors. Take time to hang out with them. Ask them what are you doing for job search ? How are you building network. Ask him to introduce to previous seniors. Get their number and call them. I had the greatest seniors network and they helped me a lot. As you get info from your seniors, call your super seniors and ask them. Stretch yourself and ask honestly, “I am graduating in a semester or two and I want to work in consulting, can you help with info on which is good, which is bad, can you tell me any of your friends in the same area”. It doesn’t hurt to ask. I talked to many people. It works ! Most of the people will help you.
If you are on H1B visa or out of School :
If you have come to India and do not know anyone here, you have some choices. Firstly think about all the people you know in US. Try to call them and ask them. Secondly, when you come into a consulting place, there will be a group of students with you in the same boat. Your best bet is to talk to them. Ask them to help you with contacts. They are indirectly your seniors or peers to help you. Second thing, go talk to your sales people or marketing folks in your company. Ask your company owners or secretary to tell you the info of previous good consultants. This helps a lot. I talked to many people and some of them are still very good mentors of me. I have never seen them, but we talk on phone.
Think outside your circle:
Many of us try to just focus on meeting people or getting to know someone we already know or through someone we know. But, the reality is, it can be hard if you do not know anyone good. What can you do ? There is a lot you can do, first search for professional organizations around your city. Just Google them ! There are many organizations, you will not believe how many you will find. There are organizations focused on IT careers, Marketing , Job search, etc. I hardly know many people who do these kinds of things in internationals. We try to confine ourselves. Some of them will have membership, do not hesitate to pay like $50 or $100. It is worth it. You will know people. Once you go to those meetings, network with people. Socialize and gather info. Call them once you know them and ask for help. Many will be able to help you. If they know a job that fits you, they will forward you. What you need here is communication skills and you have to be sharp and convince the other person you are good by being bold and expressing yourself.
Final word, I totally understand the situation of a Fresher in US. Honestly, it could be very challenging. Most of the stuff I mentioned might be outside of your comfort zone and you may have never done it. But, you have to do it now. Because, you cannot survive in consulting without good network. Keep trying, worst case if you have hard time succeeding, you at least get some good communication skills and how to interact with people !