So, you’ve recently graduated from college. Or, maybe, you’re considering a career change. Whatever the reason, you want a job and aren’t sure how to get one.
This was me, a few months ago. For two months I reached out to people via LinkedIn, my alumni network, e-mail, even Facebook (they didn’t always love this… but they did usually respond to re-direct me to their professional email or LinkedIn, which was still a door opening).
In my mind, sending your resume via company website won’t get you anywhere if you don’t find a way to get a reference, too. But your dad doesn’t have to own the company, and you don’t have to have any second-cousins in the industry, to get one. Here’s what you can do instead.
So let’s say you want to work at Company A. Step one is to type Company A into LinkedIn’s search engine. Click the link “See all 84 employees on LinkedIn” (this link will become your best friend).
On the right side, you can filter people, and I suggest starting with this. Check to see if you have any 1st or 2nd connections, or any fellow-alumni who might be willing to help you out. Don’t know anyone? That’s still fine. Here’s a few other options:
a). Find ‘Talent Acquisition Specialist’ or ‘HR Director’ or anyone with a title that might suggest he/she is doing the hiring.
b). Find someone in the department you want to work in… Want to work in the Creative department at a Marketing company? Make sure you figure out who the Creative Director is, or a Copywriter in the Creative dept. at the company. Maybe start with the company website to see Team Members, and then type names into LinkedIn. Feel free to treat this mission like a detective–get creative!
c). Worst case (and, honestly, this might not be the worst), find an intern at the company.
Once you’ve found a connection (or six or seven, depending on how much you want the job), send them a version of this message:
I’m a (Elon University) graduate who just (returned from teaching English in Thailand) and am now pursuing (writing) opportunities, particularly in the (Marketing) industry. I am writing to ask if you would be willing to speak with me about your career path, Company A and your experience as Copywriter?
Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you!
A quick dissection of why this message works: As my dad once told me, “Everyone loves to talk about themselves. Ask someone a lot of questions. You’ll make them feel special and needed, and for that, they’ll like you.” Starting with an informational interview means cracking the door open. By asking them a few questions about themselves and their personal career path, you’re doing two things: First, you’re figuring out if this is the career path and industry you want. And second, you’re making a connection with someone who can help you in countless ways. Sometimes, I’ve had phone calls or coffee dates end with people suddenly “remembering” they’re hiring for a role, and would I like to come interview for it? Other times, they’ve either ended with a suggestion of someone else to reach out to within the company (“My friend Rebecca works in HR. Want to talk to her?”), or within the industry (“We’re not hiring, but my boyfriend Jack works at this cool start-up and they’re hiring. Want his info?”).
It’s like the foot-in-the-door phenomenon, for those of you psychology nerds (essentially, a psychology theory that assumes agreeing to a small request will increase the likelihood that someone will, later on, agree to a second, larger request).
Whatever the science behind it (or lack-thereof), it works.
After the person has gotten back to you and you’ve spoken to them, either on the phone or in-person (coffee dates are great–it’s kind of like interview practice, and usually if someone offers a coffee date it means they take you seriously as someone they want to help), you essentially have all the “ammo” you need to keep networking within the company (and you never know who’s going to help you!). Reach out to other people within the company, and this time, at the beginning of your message, say: “John Smith suggested I reach out to you.” I’ve rarely had anyone ignore me when I can show them that I know someone they know, even if it’s only via phone or e-mail.
Finally, there are two major reasons to change your LinkedIn message slightly:
1). If the person works for the company you’re interested in, but is in the wrong department, you could add: “… and your experience as Copywriter, and/or if there is anyone you suggest I reach out to in the Creative department regarding entry-level positions?” Usually, a staff accountant doesn’t want to waste his time if you’re interested in filling a design position, so he will probably (hopefully) say, “Yes, you can speak with Brittany, head of Design.” Now, when you write to Brittany, you can add that, “John Smith (the staff accountant) suggested I reach out to you…”
2). If the person you’re reaching out to is an intern, they understand you probably don’t genuinely want to know about their career path (seeing as it’s about as long as yours is)… Instead, add at the end of your message, “… and your experience as Intern, and/or if there is someone in the HR department you suggest I reach out to regarding fall/spring internships?”
Good luck! Remember, you’re probably going to hit a million and one dead-ends. That doesn’t mean you wasted your time. You’re learning how to communicate like a professional, how to articulate what it is you want, how to re-define what it is you want, and you’re making connections that can help you in the future (a year after a phone informational interview, I reached out to the girl again and she gave me great suggestions for companies I should look into… and I felt like she was an old friend!).
Need more career advice? Check out our other posts.