Career Corner: Don't Search for Jobs; Search for People!

From Meg Busse.

From Christine Schmidt (Flickr/Creative Commons)

All right, all right — the title is a tad misleading. You’ll still have to search for jobs a little bit. But what if you changed your focus so you weren’t doing the constant Idealist/Craigslist/local job board shuffle and instead spent more of your time searching for—and talking with—people who are doing interesting things and who may be able to hook you up with a job much more easily than you can on your own?

I have a friend who has lived in the same town for 20 years and needs to find a new career after 15 years in the same job. Sure, it’s scary, it’s exciting, it’s an opportunity…but mostly, it sure was tough for him to figure out where to start. So he started with what he knows really well: his vast network of friends, family, colleagues, and clients.

He emailed all of these folks (yes, all of them) to let them know he’s looking for a new opportunity. He highlighted a few of his most transferable skills and experiences, and mentioned a few types of roles he’s interested in. It was very similar to my other friend’s Club Laid Off email — short, funny, and direct.

In writing that email, he figured out some of the companies, positions, and industries that interested him. With that self-knowledge, he began doing research.

His People Research included:

  • looking through organization websites
  • reading industry-specific journals (most libraries have a great selection)
  • searching for friends-of-friends through LinkedIn and Facebook
  • Googling keywords to find people who seemed to be doing interesting things in any of the arenas he was looking

From these searches, he:

  • kept a running list of people he wanted to talk with
  • searched LinkedIn to see if he had any connections with them
  • contacted those folks to set up informational interviews
  • looked over their organizations’ websites for job postings that weren’t posted elsewhere
  • followed up with leads he’d been sent by people in his network (there were tons!)

While doing all of this, of course he kept an eye on the job boards in case anything came through that fit his criteria. However, more of his effort was spent searching for people, expanding his network, and gaining a better self-awareness of what he’s looking for in his next job.

By the end of the month, he’d had four interviews, two second interviews, and one job offer. He decided not to accept the offer because he’d gotten tips about two soon-to-be-vacant jobs that he was more interested in. Those tips came from people he’d met over the course of the month and neither of the jobs was going to be posted.

So don’t delete your Idealist/Craigslist/local job board bookmarks quite yet. Instead, maybe put some time limits on your online job searching. Then with the rest of your time, start your People Research (your PR?) in earnest.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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