In my last post I mentioned how I have started turning to less conventional methods of job searching, such as networking, to achieve my career goals. Little did I know just how effective this tactical change would turn out to be. Let me explain…
Frustrated about applying to dozens of jobs and not hearing anything in response, I turned to a fellow graduate student to vent. After listening to the steps I’d taken applying for jobs and following up, she calmly asked if I’d contacted anyone in my professional network to let them know I’m seeking employment. I conceded that I hadn’t really made much progress in that department, focusing instead on jobs posted online. Now, as a graduate assistant working in career services, I really should know better. We tell our students flat out that 80% of jobs are NOT advertised/posted and that taking advantage of new or existing professional contacts is the most effective way of being considered for a job. Why do I refuse to take my own advice? I suppose I’m a bit prideful when it comes to accepting help from others. I’m the kind of person who prefers to be evaluated objectively and to succeed based on my accomplishments, skills, and qualifications (and not because I know someone). But alas, the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know,” seems to have prevailed again.
I took my colleague’s advice and emailed an employer that I had come into contact with through my work at Career Services. She is a UD alum who has eagerly participated in many alumni events/programs that I have recruited her for. She also happens to be working in a high-ranking position for the state. I wrote her a simple email reminding her who I was, stating that I was seeking work experience in the field of public health, and attached my resume for her to consider should any suitable opportunities be/become available. To my great surprise, she both called AND emailed me back the next day. She spoke on the phone with me for 20 minutes, pointed me in the direction of a job posting that matched my professional interests, and provided me with a plethora of helpful information. By the end of the conversation, we had arranged a time to sit down and talk about the job posting and how best to pursue it.
Over the next few days, I met with this wonderful individual 3 times for a total of 5 hours. 5 HOURS!!! She took 5 hours out of her very busy schedule to meet with me – a student whom she had never met and who had nothing to offer in return. During these 5 hours, she worked with me to align my job/education experience with the requirements of the job and fill out the application in a way I could never have done on my own. Her knowledge of the employer, the selection committee, and the types of responses they look for was invaluable. I always knew that you have to tweak your education and experience slightly to represent a good “fit” with the job requirements and the mission of the employer, but she was able to pull information and connections out of me that I never could have articulated myself. Needless to say, my application pretty much rocked when she was done with me. She also made sure I knew how to prepare for the interview…in the event that I was selected for one.
Just over a week later, that “event” materialized, and I was called to schedule an interview. Oh boy! I have an interview! A real life interview…next week. I better start reading over some materials online and prepping for those tough questions 😉
The moral of this story: If you want a job, especially in a less that straight-forward field, you have to pull out all the stops. Use your network, and if you catch the right person at the right time, they might just be able to give you a boost on your ride to the top…or at least help you get in interview! Wish me luck!
P.S. Flowers as a thank you = always a good move.
Stefanie is a 2nd year Masters student pursuing an M.S. in Health Promotion at the University of Delaware where she is studying social marketing, health communication, and health promotion programming for older adults and individuals with physical disabilities. After graduation in May, Stefanie is hoping to obtain a full-time position in public health, health communication, health education or research. She is also a graduate assistant at the University’s Career Services Center where her duties include conducting employer outreach and multi-ethnic and international student programming. In her free time, Stefanie enjoys running, working out, and reading.