should include strategies for networking and mentoring and a realistic assessment of your career goals and the path most likely to attain them. He also recommends examining external and personal obstacles that could possibly derail your plans.
Work your network. Effective networking can raise your profile and put your name in front of influential people who can boost your career. As a student, Richardson worked in the business school dean’s office and took advantage of the access she enjoyed there. “I was always in someone’s office or delivering something from here to there,” she says, which led to informal networking with professors and administrators. Consequently, when opportunities for added exposure arose, she often got the call. “A lot of times I didn’t even really have to go out and seek out opportunities,” Richardson says. “Because I made myself well-known in the school of business, my name would come up.”
On several occasions, the Fayetteville, North Carolina, native was one of five or six North Carolina A&T business school undergraduates invited to attend dinners with visiting executives. She used those opportunities to ask questions and learn more about the finance industry.
Request an informational interview. Most trade publications profile executive promotions, appointments, and achievements. In another form of effective networking, Mason recommends calling such executives who are in a position you’d like to achieve and asking for career advice. Not asking for a job takes the pressure off and may allow for a freer exchange of information. “It may not be germane to the moment, but the key is you got another name of a person that you never had before.”
That strategy has widened Jeffrey D. Powell’s network and raised his profile in his industry. Powell, a 29-year-old assistant vice president in the personal financial services group at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. in Houston, has created a monthly “target list” of executives culled from several publications, including BE.
“Every month I’m going to meet someone new,” says Powell, who manages about $160 million in assets for about 200 affluent clients. He also keeps a record of executives’ birthdays and/or hobbies and is meticulous in following up and creating new opportunities to interact.
Make the connection. Mentorship is another opportunity to not only expand your network, but to understand the unwritten rules of a corporation and the industry. Giscombe recommends that professionals rely on a diverse slate of mentors–a personal board of directors, of sorts, that can provide career counseling, act as sponsors, and make recommendations for high-visibility positions within your company on your behalf.
Watson agrees. “People of color should have all types of mentors,” of all races. “The real value of mentors is the knowledge and information that they give you that allows you to make better decisions in your place of employ.” Powell’s mentors have schooled him in everything from corporate codes of conduct to grooming. Financial services executive James Graham, who Powell credits with his present status, got Powell his first financial services internship and taught him the importance of aligning himself