Two weeks after my contract at Edgenuity officially ended, I have a new job offer in hand. I don’t want to be laying down platitudes about the right way to look for a job, because:
-this job offer was 4 months in the making.
-I never actually applied for this job.
-I got this job because my old manager introduced me to someone at just the right time.
That being said, I’m really pumped about this new role, and I know that seeing how job offers really come together can be insightful. Forgive me if it seems a bit indulgent to rehash the details that brought me to this offer, but before I had to find a job, I couldn’t recognize what it looked like to be close to having a job.
As I have mentioned before, for the last year I have been a Curriculum Writer on a project-based contract. This is fairly typical in publishing, where a full time force is required for a publication cycle, and the success of previous publication cycles determines the next budget. Although I was optimistic that I would be asked to stay, over the summer, it became clear that the department’s budget would be shrinking, and that I needed a job. My team felt bad about this, and really went out of their way to help me find my next job. They connected me with other teams who need freelancers, sent me other leads about interesting projects, offered to be references, and made some introductions.
One of those early introductions was to a woman who administers a large Department of Labor grant to develop Health IT curriculum at the post-secondary level. My supervisor introduced me, and I followed up with a “sounds like an interesting project that I would love to know more about” email and my resume. She responded with a vague, “Nice To Meet You” email and I moved on to other promising leads.
Then, a month and a half later, she emailed me again, asking if I had time to talk on the phone. (By this time, my supervisor was happy to let me disrupt my work day with interviews because he was anxious for me to find a new position, so I didn’t have to be secret about my search.) She finally told me more about what her department does, and the types of people on her team. She mentioned that she expected there would be some positions opening up soon, but that she wasn’t sure how HR would let her hire for it. As a state institution, there are usually specific requirements for opening positions both internally and publically, and the hiring manager is not supposed to influence this process, to avoid nepotism. I could tell she was being very careful with her words talking about this, so I asked that she let me know if the position did become open, because I would love to apply. She asked me for a sample of my (independent) curriculum development.
I polished up a syllabus and a teaching guide I had written, paying particular attention to the learning objectives (If this is something you are interested in, I highly recommend Mager’s Preparing Instructional Objectives for a quick, clear introduction to how to write effective learning objectives.) She thanked me, and said that they would be opening this position internally first, and would notify me when the position was opened to the public. Again, I tried to find other opportunities.
My contract ended. I took a week off to visit family. I came home and tried not to think about how long it took me to find my last job, and how scary that was. I made a schedule for how I would spend my days as a job hunter, and resigned myself to being a full time job hunter.
On the second day of my full time search, this woman emailed me with a draft of the job requisition to ask if this was still something I was interested in. I emailed back, “Yes! How do I apply?” The assistant director emailed me back asking me to come in and speak to her. I suited up, went to her office, and we had a brief chat about the position. She told me about what they needed this person to do. She told me about the benefits for this position. She never really grilled me on specifics, or my qualifications, but I tried to bring them up conversationally as appropriate. She did ask about my PhD in molecular biology, and gave me a chance to clarify that I wasn’t taking this job until a tenure track opportunity opened up. She apologized that the director, who I had been in contact with, was out of town, but that they would get in touch with me in a couple days. It felt like a short networking meetings. I tried to go back to looking for other jobs.
I told a friend that it didn’t really feel like an interview, since she couldn’t have learned that much about me. But I was very excited about the position, and very encouraged by their response to me.
Before I had a chance to send a Thank You, Nice to Meet You email, I received an email from the assistant director I has just spoken to. She wanted me to come back and chat with herself and the director. I agreed, and set out a different set of interview clothes. At this point, I was optimistic about my prospects. They had been very positive in all of our discussions, but the job was not posted and I was starting to wonder if I could do anything to speed up the process or determine where I stood.
I thought surely this next meeting would be the interview, so I continued to prepare responses for the types of questions I might get. I had basically run out of questions about the role and the employer, but I made a note to ask what they expected the hiring process to look like. This meeting started to feel a little more like a friendly interview; I was asked about my experience with community colleges, and my interest in curriculum development. Then I was asked if I had any questions. I asked what the next steps would be, should I apply for this job? The women smiled at each other, and quickly agreed that Yes, they would like to offer me the position. I accepted on the spot.
The rest of the conversation turned into a flurry of start dates, information about my references and other formalities of taking a job. I got to see my new desk (in an office with one officemate and a window) and meet the rest of the team. I tried to keep my smile from bursting my head, and managed to save my victorious air-guitar until I was safely in the parking lot.
It’s hard to feel like I had much influence on this process. Sure, I did the work that makes me generally capable of doing this job. But I got this job because I knew someone who knew someone who was hiring, and got on their radar at just the right time. I have no control over that stuff. However, I like to think I did a few things right. Here are other factors that I believe positively influenced this job offer:
-I did my best to prepare for every phone call and meeting, including having questions to ask and succinct narrative answers to common questions.
-The version of my resume they had still had my PhD at the top, which was good since this is an academic institution.
-I own multiple sets of clothes that are appropriate for interviews.
-I was carrying my lucky coin.Really, you never know which email introductions will lead to drinking coffee with strangers for hours, and which will lead to the opportunities you are looking for. Best of luck out there.
Sandlin Seguin, Ph.D. earned her doctorate in molecular biology in 2011 from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a Curriculum and Faculty Development Specialist at the Life Science Informatics Center at Bellevue College. She is the Executive Director of Education at HiveBio, Seattle’s new biohackerspace and DIYBio Lab. Support our fundraising efforts here.