Dana Hill is a large law firm attorney who is transitioning to an alternative legal career. Dana has practiced for 10 years and has been in transition since early 2009.
Early on in my job search I applied for an attorney position with the federal government. A friend of mine also applied. Through her networking, she met a friend of the open position’s supervisor. The supervisor reported that the same position had been posted in 2008 and 300 people applied. In 2009, 1,600 people applied.
How do you get a job with an applicant pool that large? Using networking and informational interviews to meet the people who can tell you about jobs when they open up, recommend you for positions, or are actually doing the hiring is key. Even so, with people who have jobs getting multiple requests for help from job seekers (a federal government attorney friend of mine said she’s met with six different informational interviewers so far), how do you stand out?
One strategy I’ve used is after the meeting to send a handwritten thank you card. I ordered personalized note cards from an on-line stationary store. Each person who helps me with my search receives a handwritten note, usually including my personal business card. People rarely receive these kinds of notes anymore, especially through the mail, so it stands out. If the person doesn’t already have my resume, I also sent that via email.
My job coach suggested sending a small gift, like a CD or book. Early on, I sent a thank you card with a Starbucks gift card to someone who bought me lunch (I invited him to lunch, yet he paid). I quickly realized this would get expensive. Now I generally try to meet people for coffee, which eliminates the “who pays?” issue.
Another strategy is to stay in contact after you meet. You can do this by following up with them with information, which might be useful to them, such as forwarding a news story or connecting them with someone else. For example, I matched two non-profit organizations that I thought could help each other.
I have been keeping a list of all of the people I have met though networking. I include notes on what I learned from them, how we met and other personal data. I also use it to confirm that I’ve sent thank you notes. In reviewing this list each time I update it, I think about how I can re-connect with people I haven’t talked to recently.
It’s a lot of work making a new contact – getting an introduction, setting up a meeting, and conducting an interview. And the work doesn’t end with your meeting.