Jobseeking advice from someone who landed her dream job in the middle of a pandemic

The someone is not me. I am perfectly content where I am!

As a higher ed marketer, I sometimes interview students and alumni to get a feel for the different programs my college offers. In most (but not all) cases, the students who are sent to me are already experiencing some measure of success in their professional or academic lives; I’ll grant that my pool of interviewees is a selective subset of an already selective population of graduates entering the job market with an Ivy League degree and more connections and resources than many other institutions (like my alma maters) can offer. That said, the market is tough for everyone–particularly candidates who aren’t men, who aren’t white, who aren’t native English speakers, who work full-time while finishing their degrees, or who are the first in their families to complete a degree–and many of the students I interview can claim some or all of the above.

So apply a grain of salt as needed, but I wanted to share this insight from the alumna I interviewed today. She graduated last May, having finished her final courses remotely. At the time, she said, she couldn’t find a single job opening in her field. But by August, she was hired for an entry-level role, at an organization she admired, in the precise industry she wanted. She emphasized that the advice she had to offer was first given to her by other alumni, so it’s only fair that she pass it on. This is what she said:

  1. Remember that it’s not if, but when. You will eventually get a job.
  2. Use everything you can. In her case, the student meant that she made the most of the opportunities she had while in her master’s program–conferences, internships, events, etc. Good advice for grad students, but I think it could still work for those of us who are long out of school. So many of my same-age friends have developed fascinating hobbies, started volunteering, and have cultivated rich and interesting lives outside of work. Because we do these things for pleasure, we tend not to think of them in terms of transferable skills–maybe gag a little bit when we think of it that way–but hey, jobseeking isn’t forever. Just for a little while, your special interests are now special skills, ok?
  3. Keep gaining skills while you’re job searching. My interviewee nabbed a summer internship while pursuing full-time employment. Again, volunteer and community activities could work here, or literal skills-building by taking Coursera classes or whatever.
  4. Use your network. This requires some unpacking. This student reached out to alumni of her master’s program on LinkedIn, and found them responsive and eager to help. This is what the help looked like: the alumni offered to chat about their own jobs, talked about their own job searches, and shared names of organizations in their field that were doing good and interesting work. This gave the student some vocabulary and points of reference for what entry- and mid-level work sometimes looks like in her preferred field, what the hiring process sometimes looks like, and who in the industry she might like to work with.
    The alumni were not able to offer information about job openings (they had no way to know anything the job seeker didn’t already know), internal contacts in their organizations (not useful if there is no job opening), or tips for landing a job in other organizations outside their own. (I’ve been asked for all three at various points, and while I’d love to help, I can’t offer those things either.)
  5. Locate some employers you’d want to work with, and keep. checking. their. websites. This was the final piece of the student’s solution after she’d done everything else. She also checked job boards and aggregators, both general and relevant to her field, but ultimately it was a listing from a specific organization’s website that led to her current employment.

To recap: the student polished up her resume, continued working and learning, and talked to other professionals about respected organizations in her field. And then she went to the official websites for those organizations and checked their jobs page regularly until the one she now has appeared. I told you to do this years ago, but I’ll try not to gloat.

Anyway, to those of my friends who have been searching: it’s not if, but when. Good luck.

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