How I Got the Job: Senior Lane Farrell Says Apply Early and Leverage Your Network

A career fair student host opportunity and a meeting with Ironshore CEO Mitch Blaser, B.B.A. ’73, take Ms. Farrell from job hunt to offer in just two months.

George Washington University senior Lane Farrell landed a job as an environmental underwriting trainee at Ironshore, a global insurance firm led by CEO and GW alum Mitch Blaser, B.B.A. '73.
May 06, 2015

Brittney Dunkins

George Washington University senior Lane Farrell wrote her thesis on the  “Economics of Uncertainty,” so it’s no surprise that the analytical economics and political science major boiled her job search down to one task: increasing the odds of success by showing interest early.

“I didn’t come to college knowing exactly what I wanted to do, but I spent three years taking internships and meeting people to figure it out,” Ms. Farrell said. “By the start of senior year, I started looking at where all of my friends were considering applying. They wanted to be bankers or stockbrokers, but no one was looking at insurance.”

“I liked the odds,” she said.

Ms. Farrell’s instincts and research led her to Ironshore, a global insurance firm with strong ties to GW. The company boasts an alumnus CEO—Mitchell E. Blaser, B.B.A. ’73—and a host of alumni employees.

Ms. Farrell will serve as an environmental underwriter trainee in Ironshore’s New York City office, where she will analyze the risk of potential customers and price insurance policies.

But before Ms. Farrell accepted her offer last September, she looked for a way to get on the company’s radar.

Her path started with a student host position at the Center for Career Services’ 2014 Fall Career and Internship Fair. The opportunity gave her early access to the fair and extra time to make an impression on the Ironshore staff at the event.

“I did a lot of research so I knew a lot about the company walking in,” Ms. Farrell said. “We really hit it off.”

The meeting earned Ms. Farrell a spot at an invitation-only information session the next day and within a few weeks she was on a conference call for a panel interview—all without submitting a formal application.

“I was pretty nervous because I was going up against people who had been in the industry for 10 or 12 years, but I knew that Ironshore had a history of hiring recent graduates,” Ms. Farrell said. “I asked the panel if my lack of experience was an issue, but they said that as long as I had a willingness to learn, I would fit right in.”

Ms. Farrell’s attitude is an example of why hiring GW graduates is a no-brainer for the company, according to Mr. Blaser. They don’t think they need to “start their careers as CEOs,” he said.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with GW graduates, and they have a great desire to succeed and are hardworking,” Mr. Blaser said. “Lane was not an exception. She was a great fit for Ironshore because she has high energy, the right skill set and excitement for learning.”

Ms. Farrell said that networking during her college career was integral to her success in landing a job. "Nothing bad can come from introducing yourself," Ms. Farrell said. 

As a 16-year member and 10-year chair of the GW School of Business Board of Advisors, Mr. Blaser was heavily involved in building resources at the F. David Fowler Career Center. He is also the parent of two GW alumnae—Ali Blaser, B.B.A. ’07, and Heather Blaser, B.A. ’10and chaired and helped launch and the Parents’ Council in 2002. The council has evolved to include the GW Parents Campaign Philanthropy Board

He is known for asking alumni and friends of the university, “Have you hired a GW graduate today?” 

As the final say on Ms. Farrell’s application, Mr. Blaser employed a much-used tactic to see if she was the right fit: He set up an impromptu meeting with her on campus.

Ms. Farrell said she was studying on the Foggy Bottom Campus when she received the email to meet with Mr. Blaser—she quickly replied yes and then made a mad-dash to change from yoga pants to more appropriate attire.

“When you have a conversation, you can really see how plugged in someone is to opportunity, and Lane was bright, inquisitive and enthusiastic, ” Mr. Blaser said.

Remembering the meeting, the self-possessed Ms. Farrell is quick to laugh—“The email was so mysterious!”—But she said that hearing Mr. Blaser discuss Ironshore’s values and support for young employees cemented her commitment to working there.

Ms. Farrell was confident she had the job when Mr. Blaser said he would personally pass on her resume to the Ironshore human resources department. 

“Helping GW students find internships and entry-level jobs is a big focus of mine,” Mr. Blaser said. “Recent graduates have to consider how they get in the game, how they navigate the opportunities in the industry and whether they will have room to grow.”

An opportunity to grow is what made Ironshore so appealing, Ms. Farrell said.

“Have you hired a GW graduate today?”

- Mitchell Blaser, B.B.A. '73 on hiring GW graduates. 

“The first job is important because it teaches you how to think,” Ms. Farrell said. “Ironshore has a young and diverse company culture, and I spoke to alumni who work there who have been given so many opportunities to make decisions early in their careers. I knew that was what I wanted.”

The timeline of Ms. Farrell’s career success story is relatively short—a little over a month passed between when she began job hunting in earnest and when she received her offer. 

She attributes the accelerated process to years of preparation, from attending meet-up groups around the city and tapping into GW’s network of more than 270,000 alumni, to taking graduate classes that focused her interests and setting up coffee dates with people whose jobs or work ethic she admired.

She said her approach is defined by a simple phrase: “Nothing bad can happen from introducing yourself.”

“I took my first internship as a freshman, and it was the best decision I ever made,” Ms. Farrell said. “It can be difficult because internships typically don’t earn you widespread recognition, but they are valuable because they build relationships you will need in the future.”

“When you decide what you want to do, you have to keep pushing yourself,” she added. “It worked for me.”