I had a nice conversation with Adelin Cai ’05 recently for an upcoming alumni profile for Colby magazine (summer 2010). I wrote the piece but because of space limitations had to summarize some of what appears below. But I think it's too important to let it go unsaid.
Now a policy specialist at Google, Cai was a strong student at Colby. Native of Singapore, international relations with an strong interest in human rights. Three months after graduation she was at Cornell getting her masters in public administration. Internship at the United Nations. But when Cai hit the nonprofit job market in NYC, she didn't get far. She's fine now, loves her job at Google. But she was disappointed at the time and spent some time wondering what she could have done differently.
"I was somewhat idealistic in thinking that I could get a job in the nonprofit world without doing a lot of networking," Cai said. "It was this stubborn thing where I thought, I can do this on my own merits. I don't need someone to point me toward someone who will read my resume. I realize in hindsight that that was a little bit too idealistic because that's the way it works in the nonprofit sector.
"I guess I was also a little proud about the fact
that I thought my resume was very strong and I should havebeen hired on the merits of my resume.
That’s really not how it works. I think that's something that not everyone realizes. I thought, I'd gone to grad school. I'd done my internship at the United Nations in a very relevant field. I had great internship experience from being at Colby. I had a lot of funding to do internships in London and New York. So I didn't think my resume was that bad. But unfortunately you do need someone to be your cheerleader internally in the nonprofit world."
"For me, I thought networking was kind of like brown-nosing your way into a job, but it's not really about that. For me now, networking is getting to meet people and talk to people and getting your resume out there."
She's helped a couple of people get their resumes looked at at Google, she said.
"I don't see it as them being a brown-noser or trying to get some favor out of me. I actually and really excited when I meet someone from Colby or someone from Cornell who says, 'Hey, I don't know you but this is my resume and someone else referred me to you.' I take a look at it and I say, 'Yeah. You're a really great person and I'd like to have you in my organization.'"
Cai's advice for undergrads?"Definitely leverage that network."