What I learned about job hunting after it became imperative that I find a new job.
Some of you might know that I moved to San Francisco recently. Two days ago, really. My lease in Chicago was ending at the end of August so in early July I had to decide whether good stuff in my personal life warranted big professional risk, i.e. unemployment. I decided it did, and submitted my resignation without my next job lined up. I had about 7-8 applications out at the time and I was in early interview stages for a few. By the time I accepted the position I’ll be starting September 8 (more details on that forthcoming!), I had heard back and interviewed with all but one of the positions I applied for—I also received two offers. As tempted as I was to chalk up this job hunting success to “omg this totally means I was supposed to move to SF and cohabitate and be wildly happy 4evr and evr” (I DO feel this way, too), it was also very clearly the result of much job search practice and a few key maneuvers I’ll detail here.
1) Do you want a (new) job in 2-3 years? Start applying and interviewing now. Practice, practice, practice. Practice writing letters, updating your resume, fussing around with your references, puzzling over job requirements. I’ve been applying to jobs here and there for almost the past two years. There was never a sense of urgency, but I know I wouldn’t have been able to push through this process without all that practice behind me. Most important of all, practice interviewing. Especially the damned phone interview. I firmly believe I couldn’t competently pass an initial phone interview until my 5th try. It’s hard. Bring three solid stories (a time you led a project/change, a time you failed, a time you worked with a team) and three solid questions to every interview. Know your shit—about them and about yourself.
2) I DON’T CARE HOW TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT IT YOU ARE, IT IS ALL ABOUT THE COVER LETTER. UNLESS YOUR PARENT OR GUARDIAN OR OTHER PAL PRONE TO NEPOTISM RUNS THE LIBRARY YOU’RE APPLYING TO YOU BETTER HAVE THE BEST DAMN COVER LETTER EVER FOR EVERY. SINGLE. JOB YOU APPLY TO. FLATTER THEM. TELL THEM WHAT YOU’LL DO FOR THEM. DON’T TELL THEM WHAT YOUR RESUME ALREADY TELLS THEM YOU DID ONCE AT SOME OTHER JOB. TELL THEM WHY YOU’RE THE BEST PERSON TO WORK FOR THEM. FIND A FRIEND WHO WILL TEAR THAT SHIT UP AGAIN AND AGAIN UNTIL YOU UNDERSTAND WTF A COVER LETTER IS ACTUALLY SUPPOSED TO LOOK LIKE. NO TYPOS. NO WHINING. WRITE THE BEST COVER LETTER EVER, EVERY TIME. YES THESE ALL CAPS INDICATE MY SHRILL HARPY TONE ON THE SUBJECT.
3. Stalk down some one, anyone who can pass your materials along. This is no guarantee, but it’s better than a stick in the eye. Once again, tumblr got me a job. Through a URL/Tumblr friend, I was able to connect with a wonderful woman who works for my future employer. Every person I interviewed with (all 4 of them) noted the fact that my resume had been passed along by this woman. This woman who I have NEVER met. But, as we have a mutual friend thanks to the Internet, good human nature and trust prevailed, and I had an edge on other candidates. Connections matter, from URL to IRL. If you’re in the hunt, remember this at all time. Yes, LinkedIn DOES come in handy. It’s a way to share/see connections and keep control of your professional profile. Don’t neglect or delete it—you could be one connection away from a dream job.
4) If you find yourself needing advice, or trying to decide between more than one offer, seek counsel from someone who could be your boss in your NEXT next job. Yes, I was lucky enough to have two offers in my lap. And I was badly torn between the two. They were wildly different in almost every aspect, but both appealed to different areas of my strengths and potential (there’s a lot to be said for taking the job that will develop your potential, btw). I asked everyone I trusted, personally and professionally, for advice. I was up at night worrying. One person I asked, which gave me a really unique perspective on my ‘problem,’ was a librarian in a leadership position in a library I would love to work for one day. I asked of the two jobs, which would set me up in the best position to transition into the NEXT job I think I would like to have. I got the answer I suspected, but it was reassuring to get the opinion nonetheless. In the end, the answer came to me after some more self-examination and salary negotiation—but the advice stuck with me throughout the process. Oh and by the way we can repeat this all day and it still should be said again: humans are nice and helpful and you CAN reach out to them whether or not you’ve met in real life. Own your career and your path and ask questions. Someone is likely to help.
If you have any more questions for me on the process, please feel free to reach out. I’m happy to help, too. I’m so excited to begin my next professional adventure and I can’t wait to bring you all along.Your support has been immeasurable. Tumblr comes through again and again. All my thanks.