Note: When I wrote this article there was no pandemic, obviously attending events at this time is not recommended, but we will get through this, and the advice in this column will definitely be helpful then.
This may fly in the face of the customary “fill your resume filled with key words” so that it will somehow make it through human resources and not be tossed aside. I still feel it is important to make a killer resume but, in my experience, that isn’t the fast track to get the position you need, as soon as possible.
You know the old saying “it is not what you know but who you know.” I don’t agree with the first part. You must know your field and the requirements of the specific career that you are applying for, but I heartedly agree with the “who you know”. This is not where I tell you to brainstorm your contacts, friends, and family as to who they know that might help you. Not everyone has connected people in the career of your choice so you need to make your own contacts and there is no better way than to utilize your nearby colleges and community special events to do so.
When I was the Academic Advisor at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute I took it upon myself to find a way to help my graduating students to get a great job. I instituted a lecture series where I invited the Chief Information Security Officers from the major large companies such as Google, Ernst and Young, Cigital, NSA, FBI, and others. Getting speakers to come to Johns Hopkins wasn’t a tough sell so it was no surprise that they came. The surprise was that after their talk I would put them on the spot by asking them if the students could give their resume to them instead of having the students sending their resumes to Human Resources. That way if the speaker found an outstanding resume, they could hand it off themselves to Human Resources. When that happens the Human Resource office is almost required to bring the person in for the first interview.
I am not suggesting that you go back to school to follow this strategy you can do the next best thing. Google a nearby college as close to you as possible. Then call the department that is close to the career field you want to work in. For example, if you are interested in accounting then the business and finance department (of not only the main college but also the continuing education area of the university is the number you want to get. Call a professor in the department to see if they have any kind of public speaker series. You can also ask the same professor if they have any closed speaker series. You might be able to gain entrance to those presentations if you convince the professor that your interest lies in this area and you would like to pursue (for this you may not want to talk about your job search). Do not get in touch with the administrator running event as they may not want someone outside of the college or university attending. This isn't always true, but I believe getting in touch with the professor works much better.
Once you have gained access to the event, you must wait until the lecture is over and the lecturer has ended his question and answer period. That is when you have a window of opportunity to engage the lecturer in an aspect of the talk that aligns with your idea of a dream job. That is also when you ask the lecturer if he or she would be amenable to looking over your resume. Have the resume on hand and pass it on to him or her. If the lecturer says that you should send it to personnel, you tell him or her that you are more interested in the lecturer's opinion of what your resume lacks or where it could be improved. Remember, the speaker is there because he/she likes to teach. Capitalize on that fact to get your resume looked at. One thing to remember, I would never ask you to feign your interest in a presentation. The speaker will know if you are sincere and if you are "just making it up" to get a job. Remember, this is a possible entry into your career. Dress the part.
Now that you have the basics of how to gain admission to a college event and approaching the speaker, you can expand this knowledge to looking for events in the community. Stay in touch with the events that are happening in your community that revolve around some aspect of your career interests. The major take away from this article is to think "out of the box" when you are looking for a position. Utilize the colleges, universities and community events in your area. Don't waste your time focusing solely on cold sending resumes to Human Resources. Remember, it can be "who you know" that gets you the job of your dreams.
Deb has worked in mental health as a social worker helping her clients transform their lives.
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