In the past five months, I undertook a job search. During this time I implemented many of the strategies and techniques that I encourage others to use in their searches. In past posts, I covered my decision process of whether or not to leave my job, how I put together a group of advisers (a Board of Trustees) and how I communicated with those board members. In today’s installment, I want to share how I found and applied for opportunities.
As I entered the application phase of my search, I decided on some criteria to help filter the job opportunities that came to my attention. Geography was a consideration, but not a deal breaker. I ideally wanted to be closer to family, avoid the I-95 area between Philly and Boston, and find a city where I could envision living for at least the next 5-10 years. These factors ruled out many opportunities – but left me with opportunities that were a better fit for me.
Another filter I put on my search was the type/size of school I would consider (as you may have guessed, I was looking at positions within institutions of higher education). I avoided large universities (20,000+ students) as well as state schools. I have no experience at such large institutions nor at publicly funding schools. Because of this, I decided it would be a better use of my time to focus on institutions that were of a similar makeup of Notre Dame as I would be more appealing to those employers than most SEC schools.
Finally, I focused on schools where I felt the academics were strong. In my business, I want to work with students who are passionate about learning and their futures, not students who consider college a four-year party. As with applying to college, I applied to a couple of job opportunities I thought I would get an interview based upon my experience/background as well as a couple of jobs that I thought were a “reach” opportunity. With these parameters, I began my search.
Contacts: As I entered into a search, I reached out to individuals who were in the field as well as recruiters whom I had corresponded with over the past few years. I spoke with these individuals about what I was looking for with respect to geography, size of employer, type of student population, etc. I tried to be as specific as possible so as to not waste their time or mine with opportunities that were not appealing to me.
Professional Associations: In addition to contacts, I would periodically search job postings from professional associations and other niche job boards. Since I was looking for positions at a university, it made sense to look at sites like Chronicle.com (online version of the Chronicle of Higher Education paper). With a focus on career center roles, I made sure to make a weekly visit to NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers). Finally, I set up a few search agents on job aggregate sites such as CareerShift.
In the end, I decided to apply to six schools. Of these six opportunities, there was a mix of how I found them, if I had a contact or not, was a search firm involved, etc. Having only six applications allowed me to focus my application materials to address the needs of the particular role and school. In my hiring experience, I have found generic applications are a quick turn-off, and so I was committed to ensuring a personal outreach for each opportunity.
Outreach: With each opportunity, I dug around the internet and/or used contacts to find out to whom the position reported (or who was the next person above). With sites such as LinkedIn and university websites, I was able to uncover the information accurately. I understand that an application to large corporations make finding this information very difficult, but for any small/medium-sized firm, I encourage candidates to find their future boss online.
With this information, I was able to discover a bit about the supervisor and in two of my applications, this altered some of the wording in my cover letter. Additionally, for four of the applications (the three searches that were not being conducted by a search firm and a fourth where the recruiter indicated I was very late in the process to apply) I sent each future boss an email introducing myself and indicating my strong interest in the position. Three future bosses responded by email, one offered to take a phone call, and the last did not respond but I was offered an interview (even though I was late to his process according to his search agent).
In the end, 5 of the 6 schools offered me an initial interview. I do not share this information in order to brag but rather to show that this method does work. Persistent, professional outreach demonstrates that you are serious about the role. A tailored application communicates you have thought about the opportunity and you understand some of the needs of the position. This type of approach to applications takes time, thus I only applied to six schools, but it does generate results.
Next: The Waiting Game