On December 9, 2010, I walked into the Barclays Capital auditorium in New York to find professionals and students gathered for an ALPFA event. After a few hours, I walked out with a handful of business cards and a sense of motivation and inspiration.
ALPFA stands for Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting. Their annual event, Encuentro took place at Barclays last year. My brother was involved with ALPFA for some time and told me to come to the event. I attended the event and listened to professionals enthusiastically talk about diversity and its importance in corporate America. When ALPFA’s CEO Manny Espinoza spoke at the event, I could sense his passion and pride in the organization. At the networking reception afterwards, I immediately connected with professionals and students. I heard stories of students who received job offers at the ALPFA convention and professionals who switched jobs through their ALPFA contacts. I was impressed to hear their ALPFA stories.
ALPFA’s New York Chapter includes 13 student chapters, and is the second largest professional chapter in the country. The chapter is led by 14 professionals, who volunteer their time to develop and execute events and programs that realize the mission of ALPFA for Latinos in New York. In the last few years professionals from a variety of fields other than finance and accounting have joined the organization. Although I have a marketing background, I have been involved with ALPFA since that event at Barclays.
In today’s competitive job marketplace, there are multitudes of avenues one can take to get a job. In my opinion, the most effective one is networking. Networking is a two way relationship; it will not work if you only consider what’s in it for you. Although it has become a cliché that it is not what you know but who you know, this sentiment is still very true. The popular job avenues such as online job posting sites do not distinguish one’s unique skill sets and background. It is important to get noticed and the best way to do that is to get in front of people. Whether this means going to job fairs, networking events or attending conferences, it is crucial to meet people who can hire you or help you in your career. Professional organizations such as Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA), Ascend and the American Marketing Association (AMA) are some of the best avenues to professional development. They help expand one’s network as well as increase industry knowledge.
I encourage students to become involved in professional organizations early in their professional careers. Students can join various professional organizations at a reduced fee while in school. If your school does not have a student chapter for a professional organization, take the initiative to start one. Besides putting that achievement in your resume, you will gain valuable experience that will be beneficial in the long term. Various professional organizations also have an annual convention where professionals participate in panel discussions and presentations. Some of those conventions also have career fairs and this is a major opportunity for students to meet professionals in the field, learn more about their career interests or even get a job offer.
Upon attending a career seminar, I learned that one of the best ways to stand out from the competition is to take the initiative and ask professionals or senior personnel to have a conversation over coffee. A majority of the time, it might not come to fruition because senior professionals are very busy or they will refer you to HR but it does not hurt to try. I have taken that step and met a few professionals over coffee. Once you have a chance to meet someone face-to-face, you can learn more about the company, talk about your background and unique skill sets and impress the professional as much as you can. Who knows the next time a position opens up at the professional’s company, you might be the first one to get that call.
Your next job might only be a coffee away, so go ahead and keep networking.