Thursday, June 9, 2011

How Your Friends Can Help You Find Your Dream Job (A True Story)

Today’s post is written by CareerSparx adviser Hasalyn Harris.

After seven years as a producer/anchor in broadcast news, I decided it was time to say good-bye to news-hair and hello to a new career. My job search began in an ideal scenario — I was still employed (though my contract was winding down) and had just wrapped up my MFA (Master’s in Fine Arts).

Plus, I had a lot of unique experience to offer the right agency. I was convinced it was only a matter of time before I landed the new job of my dreams. Did I say time? I meant … days. Somewhere along the line, I got the idea that getting a job was easy if you already had a job — wrong!

The truth of the matter is: Finding a job (even if you have another job already) is a tough. It’s a full-time gig in its own right. It takes elbow grease (or finger grease from typing cover letters) and persistence.
Flashback a year: Glib Hasalyn (me) submits her Microsoft Word template resume (which, admittedly, could have used an extra set of eyes or two in the editing department) to every opportunity that shows an inkling of promise.

Months passed … with nary a call. Not even an email. Automated responses were my one glimmer of hope, although they clearly said “DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE.” Was I wrong in thinking I was hirable? Was I going to live out a life sentence in broadcast news?

After the initial shock that I might not be as amazing a hire as I thought I was when I started the job seeking process (or maybe just not amazing on paper … yet), I realized two things:
  1. In my seven years of comfortable employment, the way people are hired completely changed. I was using a spear in my search, when what I needed was a net.
  2. I wasn’t going to get anywhere if I couldn’t talk to a real person. I’m not saying there is no chance of getting hired if your resume is in among hundreds, but it sure helps to be the piece of pretty paper that is handed directly to the hiring manager.
So I got to work changing my approach.

PHASE I : I actually took time to make my Linkedin account unique and interesting (you DO have a LinkedIn account, don’t you?). I removed the stuffy language and used my words to show my personality.

I also poured over samples of good, creative resumes online — and modified mine accordingly. Once it was revised (and revised again … and again) I got it online — alongside my entire body of work. I figured prospective employers could stop looking if they wanted to, but I needed to put everything I had in a visible space.

After creating the foundation, I moved to PHASE II: Employing my friends with the task of helping me find my dream job. Using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn I threw out a wide net (in the form of a status update/tweet):

“Dear Friends in PR — I am looking to make a career change. If you have any insight/ deas on how to make this happen, message me.”
“Dear Hiring Managers: If you are looking for a dynamic, creative person to join your team, check out my resume. You won’t regret it. “

Maybe that sounds like airing dirty laundry to you, like job seeking is something to be ashamed of, but to me, there is nothing wrong with admitting you need help. And I didn’t just post it once, I posted several times a week – often with a link to my online resume/portfolio. And you know what? It worked.

Here’s the thing: Friends/Tweeps/people in general WANT to help YOU get a job. It makes them feel good. I know this to be true, otherwise, folks I hadn’t talked to in 15 years wouldn’t have handed off my resume to their hiring managers or hooked me up with informational interviews with their bosses. Every discussion/connection/interaction prepared me for the next opportunity.

When traffic from prospective employers slowed down, I did the unthinkable, I reached out again — this time emailing friends (in some cases for the second time) and sending messages on Facebook and LinkedIn to people who worked for companies I was interested in. If they didn’t get back to me, so what? I tried. I felt proactive. And when they did — it was so encouraging to talk to a real person who had insight about a company I liked.

I should tell you – I applied for literally hundreds of jobs, and the only interviews I landed were from internal references.

See how the story ends and more advice @CareerSparx

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