How to answer the question “What kind of job are you looking for?”

***DISCLAIMER: The following dialogue is a dramatization, and in no way reflects how much whining my boyfriend did in the early stages of his job search.***

“So, what kind of job are you looking for?”

“Arrrrrrrrrgh!  I don’t know.  Why do you keep asking me that?”

My boyfriend, now employed, told me that getting him to answer that question was the single most helpful thing I did during the months I coached him through his search for a full-time job.

“So, what kind of job are you looking for?”

“I don’t want to talk about this anymore.  I just want to find a job.”

Well, babe, it’s kinda hard to find something when you don’t know what you’re looking for.  More importantly, it’s especially hard for someone to help you find something when you can’t define what it is you want to find.  Continue reading

Networking: Getting Started (Part 3)

Many of us grew up knowing networking was a good thing, and that it had something to do with having or getting a lot of contacts, but what we’re supposed to do with all those contacts may have been a little unclear.

A few months ago I was explaining the concept of informational interviews to my boyfriend.  He was in the midst of a full-time job search, and I had encouraged him to try a networked job search, in addition to doing the respond-to-job postings thing.

I walked him through Part 1, “You have an entire fan club of folks who think you’re awesome and want to see you succeed!” and Part 2, “You just need to let them know what you’re looking for and tell them what specifically they can do to help you.”  Now it’s time for Part 3: how to conduct an informal career chat (a.k.a informational interview).
Continue reading

For undergrads: a mind map to get you started

Last week I did a workshop for undergrads on some basic tips on how to get started with their career search.  I only had about 45 minutes, so I focused on framing up the career search process as Contemplating, Communicating, and Connecting.

A few days later, I realized that what may be more helpful to give them is a template to help them organize their thoughts.  I did a similar mind-mapping exercise with my boyfriend, but wanted to create a tool that had all of the questions and guidance built into it.

I built it out on Mindmeister.com, where anyone can sign up for a free account and expand on the template mind map I created.  Here’s what I came up with (click on the picture to go to the map on Mindmeister.com):

 

Networking: Getting started (Part 1)

My cousin goes back to San Jose State’s college of business every semester to talk to juniors and seniors, and one of the things he stresses to them is the value of networking.

My cousin and I, like many people, didn’t really get into networking until we needed a job.  It’s too bad, because it was at that point that we realized we should have started much earlier.  And so we go back to colleges to tell juniors and seniors to learn from our mistakes and begin to network while still in school.

Many students I’ve talked to recognize that this is good advice, but don’t know how to act on it.

“But I don’t have a network.  Most of the people I know are my age.”

You do have a network.  Remember, a network is a set of interdependent relationships in which people will want to help you and have the means to help you.  I can think of at least one person who will want to help you. Your mom.

I bet there are others who would be happy to help you: your dad, your siblings, your extended family, your neighbors growing up, your old coach, your favorite teachers from high school, your spiritual leader, your current professors, friends from the class that graduated above you, etc.

“But none of those people are doing things I’m interested in.”

Remember that networking is not just about who you know, but who *they* may know. Maybe your dad plays tennis with someone who studied the same thing you’re studying.  Your grandma’s friend from church just retired from being the head of a big company.  My boyfriend’s mom trains in kung fu with a woman who gave me great career advice (true story).

Yet all these people who would love to help you, may not know that you need them to, or how.  You have to tell them.

“So what do I ask for?  I don’t event know what kind of job I want.”

You don’t have to.  That’s why you need their help.  Besides, you’re not asking for a job.  You will be asking your network to put you in touch with people who can provide you with information, advice, and more people to contact. The goal is to have your network put you in touch with people with whom you have a 20-30 minute conversation, often called an “informational interview.”  These informational interviews are a way for you to learn about what options exist for you, and what it takes to get there.

“Ok. But I feel bad.  Why would someone want to take time out of their busy schedule to talk to me?”

Here’s the biggest secret about informational interviews: People love talking about themselves. They LOVE it.  Trust me.  I admit it.  I love talking about myself.  And wow, if talking about myself can *help* someone?  AWESOME.

I hope I’ve dispelled any mental blocks you’ve had about networking, because it’s time to get started.  Next post: How to write that letter asking for help.

For Winnie

Sometime back in 2007, I was out on the balcony of Cheesecake Factory atop the Macy’s Union Square, eating an early dinner.  Sitting across from me was my mentee Winnie, who was a junior at UC Berkeley at the time, and a friend she had brought along.  Winnie had just landed a summer internship at a large cosmetics company.  I was giving her advice on how to structure succinct yet effective communications, something I had learned during my first job out of undergrad.

“Wow, that’s really helpful.  You should totally write a book on this stuff or something,” her friend said.

It’s now February 2011.  Winnie is still my mentee, but now also a good friend.  In the past four years, I feel like I’ve shared a lot of lessons I had picked up along the way with Winnie, and with many others younger than me.  It’s finally gotten to the point where I repeatedly find myself having the same conversation and providing advice on the same topics, so I guess it is time to write these things down somewhere.

I didn’t come up with any of this stuff on my own; much of what I’ll be writing here I learned from others who were kind enough to share their thoughts and wisdom with me.  This is simply a compilation of advice and guidance I have found useful in my life.  I hope some pieces of it can be helpful to you, too.

Here goes.  For Winnie.  And for you.