Washington Post: Time to Hit the Pavement

Time to Hit the Pavement

By Lynn Friedman, PhD.

Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, June 29, 2005; 12:29 PM

After four years of hard work, you’ve graduated. Now, you’re looking for a job. You’re not really sure what kind of job. You didn’t know it would be so hard. You went to an excellent school and you did well. With all of that work, you thought someone would “give” you a job; after all you earned it. Right? Wrong. Here’s the bad news. No one owes you a job. Still worse, the slow call-back practices of many employers are demoralizing. So, what steps can you take to get that job — tomorrow?

Here are 10 steps to job-hunting success.

First, devote yourself to job hunting eight hours a day, five days a week. Schedule at least 15 job-hunt-related interviews a week. Research shows that the more you job search, the sooner you’ll find a job. (So this is a surprise?)

Second, know what sort of job you want. Telling someone that you “just need a job, any job,” can be a turnoff. Why? It leaves people not knowing how to be helpful. Make it easy. Develop a clear picture of what your dream job is.

Here’s how you do it. Take a personal inventory of your skills and, more importantly, your interests. Figure out what you enjoy doing, where you enjoy doing it and what qualifies you to do it. If you are unsure as to how to assess your skills, interests and goals, check out the career section of your local bookstore. Two helpful reads are Richard Bolles’s “What Color Is Your Parachute” and Barbara Sher’s “Wishcraft.” Completing the exercises in those two books, or others like them, will give you a very clear idea of your skills and interests. This will help you to clarify what you might like to do.

Third, write a one-paragraph description of your ideal job. What are you doing? What skills are you using? In what locale are you working? What’s your boss like? Who are your colleagues? What are your physical surroundings? What’s your schedule? What are your hours?

Fourth, does the ideal job that you describe exist? If so, educate yourself about it. See if there’s anything written on it. If so, do a bit of reading about it. Examine relevant professional journals. Join the relevant professional associations. Lurk on the related listservs. Learn about the kinds of skills and preparation that are required. In this way, when you begin talking with people about your aspirations, you’ll know the language. You’ll sound sophisticated and knowledgeable and you’ll be able to enter their club. People will be impressed by your preparation — and they will anticipate that you will display this same initiative and hard work if you are hired.

Fifth, make a list of the skills, interests and attitudes that an employer hiring someone in such a position would seek. Ask yourself, how can I demonstrate that I have the requisite skills and traits? Do I have any work or school experience that reveals my competence in the required areas? Why should they hire you? What value do you add? Re-craft your resume so that your relevant talents are evident. Make sure that your references have a copy of your resume and are aware of what skills they should emphasize.

Sixth, identify the kinds of companies that hire for this sort of position. Make a list of them. Review their Web sites. Request a copy of their annual reports.

Seventh, after informing yourself about the position, talk to people who are in it. How do you find them? Share your job goal with everyone you know. Ask if they know anyone who has this sort of job or anyone who hires for this kind of position. Ask your parents, your parents’ friends, your friends’ parents, your former employers, your professors, neighbors and members of your religious, athletic or community groups. And, ask if they can think of anyone else you should call or if they can help you arrange a meeting with anyone in the field.

Eighth, interview the people in your ideal position. Ask them how they became involved in this sort of work, what they like best about it, what they like least about it and what advice they’d give to someone interested in following in their footsteps. Review the resumes of people in the position that you seek. Do you have the requisite skills? If not, what steps can you take to acquire them? Is there a position that you can use as a stepping stone? During the interview ask them if they can identify three of their colleagues who might be willing to talk with you.

Ninth, write a thank you note within 24 hours. Whenever possible, try to open the door for an ongoing dialogue. If you hit it off, ask if you can remain in touch or if they will serve as your mentor. Why? Because out of sight is out of mind. Keep in touch regularly, but don’t be a pest.

Tenth, join trade-related professional organizations. If you are not qualified for membership, ask if you can volunteer your services at meetings. For example, volunteer to help with registration. At those meetings, you’re bound to encounter the very people who interviewed you. This will keep you fresh in their mind. Display your optimistic and enthusiastic attitude. Introduce yourself as a person who seriouldy wants to learn about and work in their field. The fact that you have taken the time to meet the players, to network, to read and to educate yourself about their craft is bound to impress; and if you remain in touch, when an opening occurs you’ll be a known quantity. Chances are you’ll be hired.

Lynn Friedman, PhD, is a clinical psychologist/psychoanalyst and work-life consultant in full-time, private practice near the Bethesda Metro. She can be reached at drlynn@mindspring.com. More of her work be found at http://www.drlynnfriedman.com/.