The story of Vatsal Nahata’s determination begins at the peak of the Covid pandemic in 2020. Although excited to complete his education at Yale University in April 2020, the uncertainties surrounding his employment kept him anxious at night.
“I shudder every time I recall this (the story of how he got his World Bank job),” the then-23-year-old began his lengthy note on LinkedIn.
The first half of 2020 was a difficult time for everyone. People were already having a tough time dealing with adapting to the pandemic, but the employment situation was the hardest. After Covid was declared a pandemic, many organisations were looking to cut costs and let many employees go. “Every company was preparing for the worst, and it made no sense to hire. A historic recession seemed looming,” Nahata said.
He was ready to get his Master of Arts degree in International and Development Economics from Yale in May 2020, but the future seemed bleak. It was the same year, former US President Donald Trump had made his thoughts about immigration policies clear.
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Nahata was one of the many Indian talents in the US who found it difficult to find companies who could sponsor their visa. He would reach the final rounds of interviews in many companies only, and was later rejected as they couldn’t sponsor his visa. “Trump’s stance on immigration made it very uncertain for companies to navigate and predict US immigration policy. Everybody wanted to play it safe and hire US citizens,” the Yale graduate wrote in his post.
His Yale degree started feeling like a piece of paper as he was ready to graduate in the following two months, but did not have a job at hand. “I thought to myself, ‘what was the point of coming to Yale when I can’t even secure a job here? It became harder to sound strong to my parents when they called and asked me how I was doing.'”
But, Nahata – who is currently working at the International Monetary Fund as a Research Analyst, didn’t want to give up this easy. Two things he knew for sure – Returning to India was not an option, and his first paycheck would only be in American dollars.
And, he made one of the most crucial decisions of his life – he decided to stop filling out job application forms or scanning job portals. He decided to try out ‘networking’.
For people who haven’t tried networking yet, it involves sending out numerous random emails and making calls to strangers hoping to get a positive response from one. Cold-emailing is considered to be one of the harder types of communication because you don’t know the person on the other side nor do you get any feedback which can be used to improve your approach the next time.
Nahata spent two months building his network. He sent over 1500 connection requests, wrote 600 cold emails and got on 80 odd cold calls with strangers in that period. “I was clocking close to 2 cold calls per day and faced the highest number of rejections I’ve ever gone through. I developed thick skin by necessity. And I was getting nowhere.”
The desperation to find a job got to him. The Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor’s soundtrack ‘The Gentle Hum of Anxiety’ from the 2010 film ‘The Social Network’ became his most-played song on YouTube. He was eating, drinking, sleeping and dreaming of ‘networking’.
“You could wake me up at 4 AM, and I could smoothly network and sell my skills to the most seasoned American executive, all while knowing that this call is probably going nowhere. Things became so desperate that I would often cold-call people in my dreams,” his post read.
After knocking on several doors, Nahata’s strategy paid off. He landed four job offers by the first week of May, and World Bank was one of them. They were willing to sponsor his visa after his Optional Practical Training. Moreover, his manager offered him a co-authorship on a Machine Learning paper with the World Bank’s current Director of Research (none of which was known to him at that time). And, he decided to go for the World Bank’s offer.
The intense two months taught Nahata lessons of a lifetime. As he understood the ‘true power of networking’, it became his second nature. This experience gave him the confidence that he can survive in any given situation and figure out my way as an immigrant in the United States.
He also realised that his Ivy League degree could only take him so far. “Times of crisis (Covid and Trump’s immigration policies) were ideal grounds to metamorphose into a more evolved person,” he added.
By sharing his experience with the world, Nahata wanted to encourage people to never give up. “If you’re going through something similar where the world seems to be collapsing on you: carry on – do not go gentle into that good night. Better days will come if you’re learning from your mistakes and if you knock on enough doors.”
How has networking helped you grow as an individual?