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From a reader:
Any advice on standing out? I’ve been on the job hunt since the beginning of the year. As I already have a (very) part-time job, I have the luxury to wait for the good jobs that really fit what I need. Since January, I have put in ~60 applications for jobs I am a good candidate for. Of them, I’ve gotten movement on just three, two gave interviews, and all went with other candidates.
I’ve tried networking but I don’t know anyone who isn’t in (more or less) the same boat as me. I’ve tried a few networking events, but they seem mostly haunted by people who are in the same boat as me—looking for a position, going to these events hoping for a break. I’ve tried getting a hold of people on the inside of businesses but having personnel listed seems to be becoming a rarer thing. There is a local museum for example that I’d dearly love to work for. I have a background in education, a decade in customer service, great computer skills, and a degree in communications. Their turnover for the front office is pretty high too, so there are positions opening up constantly. You’d think that I’d be a shoo-in. Instead, I haven’t gotten a single response on any of my applications.
The couple of times when I’ve gotten a hold of actual people (as opposed to the firstname.lastname@example.org), they are inevitably far too busy to do an informational interview. Every time I’ve asked, it’s always a very quick (though polite) no. So, I’m at a loss. I’m doing everything that I should be, unless I’m really missing something obvious. Yet I’m ending up just spinning my wheels. Thoughts?
Dear Standing Out:
You are absolutely right; setting yourself a part from the throngs of other job seekers is goal number one in the process of landing your dream job. And, it’s probably much less daunting than you think…if you follow a few key steps.
First, before you completely throw your current network overboard you have to remember that your network isn’t just about the people you’re connected to; it’s also about your network’s network, and their network, and so on. Six degrees of separation is more than a Will Smith movie, it’s the key to finding a great new job.
For example, start by identifying your first level connections. Maybe your college roommate is connected to someone who is connected to someone at one of the companies you’ve been targeting. Ask, her to make an introduction for you. LinkedIn is a terrific tool for identifying who is in your extended network.
Another way to get your foot in the door and stand out from the crowd is to volunteer with the organization. I’m sure the museum you’ve set your sights on has tons of opportunities for highly engaged individuals to volunteer their skills. Someone with a background in education and customer service, such as your self, would probably make a great docent for a museum. Once you start volunteering with the organization, you’ll begin building relationships with staff. These relationships will not only give you early access to positions but they’ll allow people to see your talents in a way that just looking at a resume doesn’t allow.
Finally, consider joining industry groups or professional organizations, but don’t just show up for the wine and cheese socials; volunteer to serve on a committee. Once again, this is a great way to build relationships with individuals who are already engaged in the work that you are interested in. The Smithsonian website lists tons of professional organizations in the museum industry. I’m sure there are a few local chapters near you. By building relationships with people already doing the work you are interested in, you can ask them directly what the key is to successfully getting your foot in the door of their organization.
So, try these tips and let me know how it goes!