Last week, I accepted a new job that I am very excited about.
Of course, anytime you can wrap up a job hunt is deeply gratifying, but this time in particular, I am thrilled with the outcome. I am taking a role as an eLearning Specialist at Tableau Software. That’s a job title I’ve never heard of as a grad student, with a company I’ve never imagined would hire someone like me.
This role will give me some opportunity for growth at a company with a very positive work culture, and on a team that I know I will gel with. How do I know this? Half the team members are people I used to work with. Let that be the case for the power of networking.
But, I would also like to attribute some of my success in this job hunt to my work with a career coach. As I mentioned in a previous post, I opted to start working with a career coach when I felt stalled and paralyzed in my job hunt. I was looking in the same places for similar jobs I was not excited about, and not getting a response about them anyway. My career coach helped me develop and implement a plan to get a job offer that had a three pronged approach: leverage my network, apply for existing jobs, and refine my search.
My coach encouraged me to spend more time working with my existing network. She has me contacting people with specific requests to review a resume, or make an introduction, or just to ask for ideas about how to proceed.
In particular, she encouraged me to adopt the attitude that any time I am talking about my job hunt, I am job hunting. Even if I am just talking about what I am looking for with my mother, that process helps to refine my vision and my message.
I was assigned to contact one person I already knew every day, which is not too daunting. It allowed me to reconnect with one of my references well in advance of him being contacted to reaffirm the direction I am taking my career. His enthusiasm for my direction gave me a lot of confidence. If you are hesitant to ask for help, just remember that most people are flattered to be asked for advice. You may feel like you have nothing to offer the other person yet, but we all need career help eventually.
Second, my career coach encouraged me to apply to 5 “cold” openings a month, specifically, openings I didn’t learn about from my network. This is still a lot of work, but not the overwhelming quantity that I imagined I should have been putting out there. I know some folks advise never to apply for an opening posted on the web because the chances of success are so low. I can’t say they are wrong about the odds, but the first real job I got was as a result of applying to an opening posted on LinkedIn. If nothing else, this helped me track trends in hiring: What are the key words? Who is expanding? What roles look interesting?
The third approach involved growing my network to learn about new or novel roles. I was supposed to meet folks who could tell me about specific employers, or different types of work. I was on the verge of feeling like my current job was sending me the wrong direction, too much project management and not enough analysis.
In addition, in my current field, there are a lot of buzzwords in job titles that I needed to parse a bit. Is an instructional designer very different from an instructional technologist? Do I have the skills to be an eLearning specialist? Would I rather be a curriculum developer or curriculum manager? And, of course, I was open to making a complete switch to something very new, so I was listening to learn about jobs that would combine my transferable skills in a novel way.
My career coach also helped me with very specific tasks as well. She read and edited my resume for clarity. She listened to the way I introduce myself, and helped me refine my message. She asked me why I kept applying for jobs I wasn’t interested in, and helped me refine for myself what I was looking for.
She connected me to Seattle and King county specific resources for salary information, and let me practice negotiating a salary. She helped me craft a cover letter that could address my peculiar situation (I have a PhD, I work at a college, and I don’t want to be a professor) without killing my overall message (I would be great at the job you have open). Meeting with her regularly helped me commit to actually doing the above.
In the end, the three pronged approach was very effective for me. It prevented me from being overwhelmed with any one task, it helped me explore at the same time I was engaging in applications, and most importantly, it got me a job. I asked for, and received, much more help that I’ve had in previous job hunts.
Most encouragingly for me, in my explorations of the types of roles I would like to be in, I found I was able to focus on specific traits that I wanted to engage in my next role. I was looking for a role that would allow me to be more analytical, that would allow me some growth or leadership, and might give me a chance to do some public speaking. Knowing I was looking for these things helped me avoid jobs I knew I would find boring, or would not propel my career.
Sandlin Seguin, Ph.D. earned her doctorate in molecular biology in 2011 from the University of Pittsburgh. She recently accepted a job as an eLearning Specialist at Tableau Software, in Seattle.