We all know someone who can open doors for us. There are well known statistics that confirm that over 80% of job seekers get their jobs through someone they know. Oftentimes, however, we tend to rush the process. How many of those people land the jobs only to find out a short time later that they again are at the wrong place?
Getting clarity about what you want takes time but is an investment that pays off in the end. The same people that make the introductions are there, just as importantly, to provide us with valuable information about the nature of the job, or the culture of the organization where we want to work. After all, that job that looks so good on paper may not sound quite so hot after you do a little more research.
After I narrowed down my list of career options, I began to talk to people. I quickly learned that the best way to find out if the job is the right fit (short of getting the job), is to do it for a really short time – a day to be exact – the technical name for this is shadowing. Second best way? Informational interviews. The shadowing and the informational interviewing took me to some fun places. I spent time in an elementary school classroom. A few hours was enough time to help me realize I would not survive long in a room full of little kids!
I had coffee with a social worker and a lunch with an HR recruiter. I was attracted to the helping professions and it was becoming easier to visualize myself in those kinds of jobs. The more information I got, the more I understood how my own personal preferences, interests and values would fit in with the various job descriptions. Going through this brought me back to my days as a student-athlete, when my swim coach would have the team lie on the deck and visualize our next race in detail. Seeing the picture of what you want to happen play out in your mind creates laser sharp focus. And there are no better prerequisites for achieving your goal than focusing exactly on what you want.
These were great learning points, and as I got more information, I began to apply for specific positions in the non-profit training and coaching space. I looked at traditional job boards, company postings, but tried to focus much of my effort on tapping my network and, if the position seemed like the right fit, asking my friends, former colleagues and acquaintances to pass on my resume.
In the end, though, I got my foot through the door in a very unlikely fashion. Cold call.