We had a panel of speakers, all of whom have navigated the "Great Recession" and landed jobs in which they are extremely happy. New titles for this group of OCA alums range from Web Marketing Manager to Marketing Director, Advertising Strategist to Sr Marketing Coordinator, and even a Lean 6-Sigma Facilitator. Over the course of a 1-hour plus Q&A session, the panel of speakers did a great job providing current OCA members with a wealth of advice, lessons learned, and anecdotes from their own personal, successful job searches.
The event was also a great chance to catch up with friends, practice our networking skills, and I'm sure a lot of new connections were made.
"Lessons Learned" from the panel:
- When interviewing, establish parity - why you fit the qualifications and experience required for the job - but get past that, and provide the hiring company with a reason you stand out above the others. What is your difference?
- All interviews are informational. You're interviewing them as much as they're evaluating you.
- All informational meetings are interviews. Treat every 'casual' coffee session as you would a real interview. Someone doing you a favor by providing information in a more casual situation is still, at the end of the day, checking you out. Could I work with this person? What would they have to offer, if a position opened up? Make sure you don't provide a reason for them to not hire you later.
- There's a danger to being too wide or too narrow in your job search focus. If you're trying to be all things to all people, companies don't get the sense that you know what you want to do. At the same time, if you're too focused on exactly what it is you're pursuing, you may miss out on many other opportunities. At the end of the day, it's about finding a balance and knowing what you want.
- Network, network, network. And then network some more.
- When writing cover letters, drop names of people you know (due to all your networking. See above.)
- Fit your resume to the job description. Make it easy for anyone screening your resume to see how you fit the requirements for the job.
- Be prepared. It's not just the Boy Scout motto; it applies to interviewing, too. Do your homework and go in knowing yourself, the position, the company and with whom you're interviewing.
- "Don't be a 'fanboy,' be a peer." Enthusiasm is key, but don't go in so over-the-top that your excitement could be a turn-off. Remember, if you fit the requirements, after that it's a cultural fit.
- Take contract jobs, if you can get them. They keep your skills and your resume up to date, they provide another source for networking, and they pay better than unemployment.
- When you are hired (and you will be), try to get some time between the offer and your start date. While many of us have had several months off work, job searching is non-stop and not relaxing. Having just a bit of time that you can spend as you want, knowing that a paycheck is coming, is time that you can truly enjoy.
- When you do start work, keep track of all that you're doing and document your accomplishments. You never know when you might need to update your resume again.
During the panel discussion, it was quite clear that many of our alums had similar experiences during their job search. In most cases, they each:
- Built up visibility within a small community of some sort (engineering, operations, advertising). This is key.
- Volunteered for industry activities that helped them gain visibility.
- Had timely and specific skills that an employer needed.
- Were focused and crisp about what they wanted to do.
- Targeted smaller firms, not necessarily going after companies that are on everyone else's wish list.
- Encountered some good fortune. All were ready and in the right place to take advantage of an opportunity.