Recently, I wrote about having quit my day job to pursue a career in food media. If you were kind enough to read (and even "like") my post, you might be wondering what progress I've been making in the 30 or so days since then. Or maybe if you're also job hunting, you're curious how I've been going about this search -- and hopefully, my two cents will be helpful to you. So far, I've applied to about 30 jobs. In addition to that, I wrote to about 10 companies inquiring about possible opportunities or asking if I could help in any way. Only about five companies bothered to reply, "thanks but no thanks."
I've devoted myself full-time to the job search, utilizing my existing research and social media skills. Here's what I've been doing:
I use various job posting sites and take full advantage of my LinkedIn connections: Anytime I apply for a job, I check whether any of my connections know someone at that hiring company. My job sites of choice: LinkedIn Jobs; GoodFoodJobs.com; MediaBistro.com; Eater Marketplace; Indeed.com; SimplyHired.com.
I do broader research: Job hunting isn't just about looking for what's obviously available. My boyfriend noted that now's a great time to do research about the food media industry in general. I started considering trends in the industry -- what has been popular, what's becoming popular, and where the most growth seems to be. I track companies in an Excel sheet, dividing them by category (e.g. food publications, recipe websites, etc), adding links to their pages, and noting which ones I've applied to or inquired for opportunities. I also keep this information in mind when I'm composing a cover letter or interviewing for a job -- communicating what you know is a good opportunity to be a stand-out candidate.
I stay organized and use a calendar: My organizational skills aren't perfect but I make the effort. Aside from that obsessive Excel document, I track when I've applied to/inquired companies in a calendar. This makes follow-up easier and at the very least, serves as a reminder of my efforts when I'm feeling less hopeful on a bad day.
I take notes: When I have a phone interview, I stay at my computer to jot down what my interviewer is saying, and after the call I note what we've discussed and how I felt the interview went.
I write fan mail: If I see a blog or website I genuinely like, I write a brief email to tell the writer/creator I admire their work. I don't expect that they'll hire me but I see it as a good networking opportunity.
I try to help friends whenever I can: Trying to help people keeps my self-centeredness in check, and is an exercise in thinking outside of myself, thinking bigger. After having dinner with a friend who was also job hunting, I started sending him relevant and interesting job openings. He also helped me; in fact, while we were having dinner, he took out a small notepad and started jotting down people and companies he knows in the food industry.
As I began writing to friends and former co-workers asking for help, I realized more than ever, how important my network is. I had also turned to a lot of advice from The Start-Up Of You (Disclaimer: my boyfriend is Marketing Director of that movement), which emphasizes, among other things, the importance of your network. (Also, the chapter about risk is one of the best chapters in the book.)
(Preachy alert:) Remembering the importance of your network means not only considering who you know, who your connections know and how they can help you, but also how you can help others.
The last point is important to keep in mind because 1) it's just awesome to help people especially when they deserve it, and 2) selfish as it may sound, they'll be more inclined to help you later on should you need the assistance.
So be nice. Help people. Support their goals. But most of all, don't be phony about it; recognize the value in what it is they might be doing. Otherwise, what reason do they have to support you?
For instance, when you ask someone to like your lame Facebook page, have the foresight and decency to like their lame Facebook page.
That brings me to another point: The importance of gratitude. If there isn't a specific way you can help someone -- or if they don't currently need your help -- you can at least be grateful for their help or support. Maybe you send a nice email with a link to an interesting article as a thank-you gift. Or maybe it's as simple as shooting them a quick Facebook message to thank them for liking your lame page. It's just good manners.
Plus, there's been evidence to show that expressing gratitude makes you a happier and better person, improves your relationships, and helps make other people's lives better.
It's all too easy to focus on the immediate goal of finding a job, and to forget to consider what else you can be searching for that not only can help you get that job but can also build knowledge and credibility in your field of interest.
Have my tactics been effective? Arguably, no. You could take note of my 20-something rejections. But, like relationships, job hunting is essentially a numbers game, and it's only a matter of time and attempts before you find the right fit.
On the other hand, yes. I have some news on the job front. Stay tuned for the next post.
What do you think? I'm certainly not preaching that I have all the answers -- I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Do you have any suggestions on how to look for a job?