On October 10th, we held our All About You panel with Microsoft speakers Thomas Bressler and David Chin. Thomas is a Senior Technical program manager working in the Team's product division and David is a Senior technical program manager working in the legal division under cyber crimes. They discussed all their tips and tricks for networking, interviews, and personal branding and shared many personal experiences, stories, and advice.
In summary, here is Thomas and David’s advice for the three key aspects: Networking, Interviews, and building your personal brand.
Networking + How to put yourself out there
Thomas, going into the work world, didn't have anyone in his network or know anyone in the tech industry. He started off working at Microsoft as a consultant, but like many people, he wanted to get a full-time employee position. That’s when he saw David. He was taking a moment to talk to everybody, spoke with respect, and Thomas felt that his core principles aligned with his own. In any case, at this point, you can reach out and ask about their journey and potentially if they have any advice. Make sure you know what you want and why you want it. For Thomas and David, they stayed in touch and built a relationship that went past the office.
David recommends using Linkedin as your resource to ask for coffee chats or zoom meetings. These can be cold messages but even when you don't know the person, make sure to shape and be sincere in terms of what your intent is and why you are reaching out. Meetings such as these are meant to be informal and hopefully break down the barriers between the two individuals. Be clear on what you need, what you want, and be deliberate on the questions you ask. You want to be respectful of their time so be sure you aren’t just asking those surface-level questions anyone can answer.
Practice your networking like how you socialize. Create a human connection and build this authentic real relationship over time. You never know what’s going to blossom out of it until you try. You will get rejected and ignored but don't get discouraged and stay persistent. Thomas kept messaging and messaging until he got a response. Continue to make those connections because anyone within or outside of your network can be of help to you. So don’t hesitate to reach out!
Keep in mind the triple A’s. Ability. Authenticity. Accountability. Ability is what makes you qualified for the role. You have your resume that can help guide this conversation. Next up is authenticity. Don’t be fake! Be your true self and let those colors shine through. Lastly, we have accountability. For example, if you worked on a project but it was past the due date, over budget, etc, how did you respond to this? Could you have done a better job planning, maybe you could have communicated with the other parties. However, don’t ever blame anyone. Hold yourself accountable.
Now you might be wondering, what is the hardest question in an interview? Both speakers agree that “Tell me about yourself” is the toughest question because of how broad and how many directions you can take with it. Their advice is to keep it short (1-minute max works the best). Keep this part a little personal and a little professional. If anything stands out from what you say or in your resume, they’ll ask questions to drill into it.
The whole interviewing process is a 2-way street – you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. So, just as they ask you questions, you can also get a feel for what the people at the company may be like. Ask questions relevant to you and regarding values that are important to you. Don't take a job that doesn't fit your nature. The end game is to find a role where you can be your genuine self.
Another topic they dived into was Hunter vs. Farmer. The hunter is like a salesperson, working on the next deal, and the next deal. They thrive off this stress when everything is on the line. On the other hand, we have the farmer who cultivates existing relationships to build long-lasting relationships. Try to consider which one represents you more and see if your answers align with these personas.
One question students had was where to start when asked an open ended interview question. Their advice is to start with something basic most people wouldn’t know. You can then go into the reasons you’re interested in this company and the role and even ask more about the opportunities available. You can also start off with a story and what you learned or got out of it. As long as you put your best effort forward and keep trying, your opportunity will come. Thomas said to think of it like it is part of a game and it's up to you, how you respond to it.
Lastly, one thought they kept emphasizing is “If you're not getting rejected you don’t want it bad enough.” Failure is not failure unless you walk from it and make the same mistake again. You should step outside of your comfort zone and learn and grow from all your failures and figure out what to change.
Personal Branding helps you make decisions in which way you want to take your career. In other words, your personal brand elaborates on what you can bring to the table and why companies should hire you.
Thomas talked about his personal brand FOCUS. This reflects that although he may have a hard time focusing, this helps to tell him to bring it all in. And while in the job searching process, these are all aspects that he looks for.
FUN - he’s someone who needs to have fun since he’s always full of high energy
OPPORTUNITY - always stay on the lookout for opportunities and always willing to give opportunities as well
CHALLENGE - looking for things that challenge and help him grow
UNITY - very into team environment and is always a team player
SERVICE - always looking to be of service to people around him and in his role, he is hired to provide a service
David likes to think of it from an interviewer's perspective. This gives you a chance to tell the manager or recruiter what differentiates you from others. Again, use this chance to tell a story. Don't regurgitate what is on your resume. Instead, talk about problems you’ve faced in a project or such and how you responded.
One student question about personal branding is what important aspect outside of experience can someone bring? Well, you got through the recruiter for a reason. Next steps can be discussing how you will make the job better and what you can bring that's different from others. Empathy is also super important. You should have a deep sense of empathy of what the manager is looking for and/or going through.
Lastly, they left us with this quote “absorb what's useful, discard what's not, add what is essentially your own” which is a great way to summarize. Use these tips and tricks about networking, interview, and personal branding to your advantage to help yourself stand out to recruiters and managers. Thank you for reading and we hope to see you next week at our alumni panel!