Finding a job is a piece of cake!

From mylifestream.net

From mylifestream.net

Take it from an unemployed person who’s never had a career position – it’s a piece of cake to find a job!

Irony aside, I wanted to share what I’ve been learning about how to find a killer job. I’ve been searching for one since January, and it’s slow going. The economy isn’t making things easy, and the fact that I have so many interests and can’t drill down to a single job category makes it a challenge to know where to look. (The closest I have to a job description is “something blending film or video with politics, social justice, or gay rights, in New York, San Francisco, or DC.” It can’t get any shorter…)

I just spoke last night with Josh Mandel, a friend from college, asking him for tips on how to land the job I want–and his advice was killer. I realized that applying for a job requires the same kind of aggression as anything else in life – diligently applying to job listings isn’t going to cut it. When you applied for college, did you fill out an application or two and mail them in, hoping for the best? No! You were aggressive.

Most of it you could figure out on your own, but I find it useful (and motivating!) to see it all laid out. So from my experience, how finding a job can be just as fun as shoving delicious cake batter into your mouth!

  1. Start big, drill down small. What cities? What industries? Then, what positions?
  2. Make a spreadsheet. This was the big change in my strategy, and it makes all the difference. You can use my sample spreadsheet – it contains their name, location, job/company, source/contact where you found the person, phone, email, previous contact you have had with them, notes you have from discussions, and the next step you are taking. Then, include a field that is a ranking – 1 for somebody who is important to contact and might have leads, 2 for somebody who is not as helpful, has no leads, or is not as interesting, and 3 for somebody who isn’t going to help much for now.
  3. Contact everyone you know who might know anyone. Friends, relatives, acquaintences. Find projects you want to be a part of, and add everyone involved to your contact list. Tell them you are doing a job search, explain what you are looking for. Offer to buy them breakfast or coffee and meet with them for five minutes. Face to face meetings are golden, phone is bad, email is terrible.
  4. When contacting people, have questions that you want to ask them. Some that have worked for me include:
    • was this always your career goal? what else did you consider? what path did you take to where you are now?
    • asking them to compare different industries, sub-industries, or companies. “What is the difference in corporate culture between MTV and NBC?”
    • Can you think of any companies I should be applying to / have not thought of?
    • Do you know anyone I could talk to who would be helpful?
  5. If they know people you can talk to, ask how they want to go about it – usually, sending them the resume to forward to their friend is the default means.
  6. In every meeting, have a goal. End by confirming the goal – if it’s sending your resume along, or getting you the name of a person, or scheduling a meeting. If your meeting was on the phone try to schedule another quick one in person or shadowing them.
  7. Mark in your “next step” column to follow up on the goal.

My biggest difficulty is being this aggressive: asking straight-up for someone to make an introduction, make a phone call, etc. But think of what you, yourself would do if someone said “do you know anybody who would be useful to talk to?” Unless you’re a real douchebag, the person asking is so embarrassing to introduce to friends, or you really don’t have the connection, you’d help out.

Some tips I’ve learned:

  • Facebook is gold. Use it to find employees of the places you want to work for. Send them facebook messages or, even better, find mutual friends and have your mutual friends make introductions.
  • Use your family. Your uncles and cousins do things in the world…give it a try!
  • Don’t restrict yourself to people in your industry. Anybody you know who has been in the working world for a while may not have a job for you, but might know somebody who does.
  • offer to work for free – if you have to take out a second mortgage on your DVD collection, do it. Not at a company that offers internships, but at one that expects you to work for pay. It’s hard to say no to that offer!

So be bold young peers, and happy job hunting!

If you have any thoughts to add, please do so in the comments!

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