How do you find a job in education publishing or technology?
Recently I was asked for my thoughts on entering our industry by a mid-twenties alum of my high school. In the course of the conversation I found myself getting re-excited by all the great prospects in our industry. It also spurred me to turn my own experience over and reflect on what worked for me 25 years ago when I was in his shoes.
I’m grateful I was asked to help because it brought my focus back to why we do what we do.
My thoughts on this fall into two categories. Today I’ll share a couple of timeless ideas for a job search that I’ve seen work. In the next installment I’ll delve into where the interesting opportunities are today and where I’d look if I were just starting out.
Any Job Search – Any Time
Odds are you will find a great job through networking. Monster or more traditional means can help you frame a search but the best jobs surface inside of networks of influence. Your focus should be on accessing those networks. The following tips are the most essential to this process.
Focus on Skills Not On Job Title
Take the time to look at where your particular talents are and have ready examples for proof. Don’t say “I want to be an Editor.” Do say “I enjoy bringing order to chaos – and here are two examples of how I’ve done that…”
An interviewer knows you want to be in their business – you are looking for a job after all – what they want to discover is how you will add value to the organization. You do that through your unique talents and your challenge is to bring those into high relief.
In my case I’d taken an eclectic path (street musician, camp counselor, entrepreneur, credit manager, sales, trainee). Early on most of us have this kind of wandering profile. Teasing the common threads out so that you can articulate them takes work.
We are usually oblivious to our greatest talents because we just see it as “how I do things.” It wasn’t until I’d sat down with “Where Do I Go From Here With My Life” that I learned how to do this. I wrote a 100 page “job autobiography” and then went hunting for common threads. When I was done I’d baked it down to three key bullets that showed how I had added value in every situation I’d been in.
Most people try to cast a wide net in search of “a job.” The problem is that most companies don’t have “jobs” lying around – they have problems they need to solve. To solve them they want people with the right aptitude and skills to address them. Which leads to the next point.
Be As Specific As You Can Be
The more clarity you have about precisely what you want to do the more successful your search will be. This sounds counterintuitive to many job seekers – which is part of why it works. You will stand out.
The truth is that other than industries populated by sociopaths* most people empathize with those looking for work and want to help. But you need to give them a clear idea of how they can help. A general statement that you want to be employed doesn’t help them. The more specific you can be the easier it is for them to understand how to tap their network of influence to assist you.
How should you be specific? If you are doing a informational interview know the industry and general problem set you are interested in. If you are interviewing for a particular job don’t focus on the job title – focus on the problems that the person doing the job is expected to deal with and how you are suited for that. Don’t say “I’d like to be a Sales Rep.” Do say “As we’ve discussed I have a passion for helping kids learn which is why I want to leverage those skills to reach more learners through education technology. My classroom experience gives me a leg up on the real problems teachers are wrestling with…”
What’s The Worst They Can Say – No?
A job search is fundamentally a sales job. When you have your product knowledge down (see above) it then becomes a numbers game. The more people you talk to the closer you get to finding the right opportunity. But reaching out to strangers takes some guts.
Even when you know or think someone has a position I recommend asking for an informational interview. Until you meet them and vice versa the fit remains unclear. If you are not right for them but they are impressed with you they will direct you elsewhere in their network.
A respectful request for help in your search will meet with a wide variety of responses. Some will ignore you completely, some will refuse, but enough will make 30 or 60 minutes available to chat with you that it will work over time.
It is hard not to take the rejection personally – but the reality is that the people you want to be talking to are often extremely busy and your approach just didn’t rise above the radar level for them. It really isn’t personal so don’t take it that way (or find a another way to reach them).
And remember – victory in any interview is at least two more contacts. Reward yourself when you accomplish this.
Putting It Together
Developing a clear idea of how you add value with a precise statement of what you want to be doing will add jet fuel to a job search. Your clarity of how you add value and the precision of your goals will make you stand out in a very crowded field. The reaction of people you meet will be along the lines of “wow – this person has some great skills and a strong sense of purpose and I’d like to help them – I know how to help them.”
Finally – Go Outside And Play With the Dog
I love the prayer “God – make me half the man my dog thinks I am.” A job search can be a soul leeching experience. In my time I’ve found that 5-6 hours a day focused on it is all I can productively handle. A little of the lemonade you can make from being out of work is finding time to enjoy your family and hobbies. This will recharge your batteries and keep your focus on what is most meaningful in this world.
Exercise is important – those endorphins make you feel better and you need all of that you can get. I’ve been in the best shape of my life when looking for work – largely because I spent 90 minutes at the gym mid afternoon 3-4 days a week. It was essential to my sanity.
Where would I look in Education Publishing and Technology if I was starting out today.
* Investment Banking and Politics come to mind….
Image credit – Jessica Hagy at Indexed