Monday, January 12, 2015

New Years Resolution: A New Job

The sky is the limit when searching for a new gig!
I can always tell when the end of the semester or the new year begins based on the number of informational interview requests I receive. I'm also an inveterate extrovert, so when I meet someone on a picnic bench who is working in Lesotho with child health but wants to "break in" to development, I can't help myself. I gave her my card.

It strikes me that some of the things she and I chatted about might be helpful to others. This isn't development related, just a few suggestions I've accumulated after seven years of semesters. Here are a few simple things to keep in mind: 

1) Hone your ask . Something along the lines of “I’m an MPH with a background in maternal and child health seeking a long term position with an international NGO. What kinds of positions are available for someone with my skill set? (refer to attached CV). What organizations should I be looking at? Who should I talk to?” 

Don't start with: "I don't know what I want to do but tell me what to do" It may sound like a compliment, but really this person is asking me to figure out their lives for them. No. Help me help you by giving up some form of direction, even if it is an inkling of an idea. 

2) Start telling people –close work colleagues, professional friends, university professors – that you’re looking for a job. If you don’t know exactly what kind of job, tell them what you’re interested in and ask them what you’re good at, what should you say to professionals in the field you want to get into, etc.  This will help you Hone Your Ask. Once you know what you want to do (domestic or international? program management/coordination or actual nursing? FYI – unless you’re fluent in the language and culture, most expats fall into the former very quickly…) then...

3) Target specific people and companies. Start informational interviewing. Even if you don’t know someone at World Vision, chances are someone in your circle knows someone that does (Yes yes Linked in does this but an email intro from a friend who knows a friend is always so much better…). Intro emails should be short, who you are, how you know them, what you want (to talk with them about them), for how long you want to talk with them, and attach your CV. 

4) Once on the phone/skype, get them to talk about THEM, not you. The best piece of advice (career, dating or otherwise) I ever got was to ask questions about the person in front of me. It works every time. Ask them what it’s like to work there. Ask about how they arrived there, what skills they find useful, what every day work they do. How could someone with your skill set be successful in this company or position? Most importantly - who else in their network do they think you should talk to?

5) Don't outright ask if there are any jobs available (info interview = already code for “please hire me” also you can find this on their website). Trust me, they already know this. Instead, ask if you can add them to your list of professional contacts (LinkedIn or otherwise).

The best thing to do is to leave a good impression and your CV behind with the person you talked with. If something comes up in their org, they will remember you. Keep applying for positions on your own. If you see something in that org pop up on a recruitment website, let that person know you are applying. Many of my colleagues (including myself!) did info interviews but still were hired through the regular recruitment process.  These seeds sometimes take a long time to germinate, but something will turn up.

As I begin my last six months on this contract and start my own job search, I'm ruminating on these subjects myself.  I know it's not an exhaustive list. I've an idea of where I want to go and do after this, but exactly how I'm going to get there is a bit muddy yet. So, I'm going to take my own advice and tell others. I'd love to hear your ideas on what makes a good job search.

Because after all, the single best thing to do is to start.

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