Forget everything you have ever heard. Nobody wants to hear from you on LinkedIn. Nobody really wants to meet you for coffee. In particular, nobody wants to hear your sad story about how you may be getting laid off because the multi-million dollar project you had been working on was suddenly canceled.
That is how I felt four months ago, in the midst of an extensive job search. I have had umpteen phone interviews, participated in numerous in-person interviews, and sent many a thank you letter. I am often asked how do I find good opportunities, what do I do to stand out during the interview process, and how do I continue to be persistent. Here are some of my lessons learned from the past several months:
- Engage your network: I found several job leads through people I know. Start by contacting your university alumni group online, sending emails to former colleagues or previous boss, and reaching out to friends who work in the industry you are targeting. Keep people updated throughout the process, so they keep you in mind next time they hear about an opportunity that might be of interest.
- Keep it social: Use social media to participate in relevant online discussions and let people in your network know where things stand jobwise. There is no doubt that prospective employers are looking at your online presence, so you should aim to make a good impression from the get-go. Through social media, you might also learn about organizations doing interesting work in an area you might have not considered before. Also, do not underestimate the support you can have from your social network. A tweet wishing you good luck right before your interview could be just the last-minute confidence boost you need.
- Meet in person: Do not underestimate the power of meeting in real life. I had lunch with people I met at conferences, coffee with someone who needed help with their cover letter, and drinks with former colleagues. If you have not kept up with people, now would be a great time to do it. You never know who is going to say “I know someone who’s looking” or “actually, my company is hiring.”
- Understand that people are busy: Learn as much as you can about your target industry or specific organization’s hiring practices. In my case, I know that academic medical centers, for the most part, have long lags between interviewing and next steps. When talking to employers, try to get a specific timeline. If they tell you two weeks, hold them to do that and contact them after two weeks have passed and not a minute sooner.
I have come a long way from where I was when I started my search. I was recently offered a job at another institution. However, I am happy to report that after networking within my own organization, I have found a great opportunity I will be starting soon.
Roger Knight has a decade of experience in academic research settings working on grant-funded projects in a variety of fields from civic engagement and political participation to educational outcomes and public health with a focus on reaching underserved populations. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a B.A. in sociology and of Boston University with an M.S. in health communication. Currently, Roger uses social media to actively involve people in health-related research and disseminate research results directly to patients, providers, and community stakeholders. In his free time, you can find Roger riding a bike along the Chicago lakefront, planning his next trip or tweeting @chicagopana.