Seriously! Companies should be knocking your door down. Universities should be bending over backwards, begging you to accept their tenure offer.
Ok, that’s a little much. Wouldn’t it be nice though? Becoming a hot commodity on the job market is not inconceivable. All it takes is a little confidence, and a lot of NETWORKING…NETWORKING….NETWORKING!
You may have heard this all before, but it’s really hard to do naturally when you’ve been in a classroom, nose to books for the last……Oh we won’t say how many years. It’s an essential part of any career. Even once you get a job, networking within your field and department, guarantees you keep it.
For optimal results, the sooner you begin the better. The goal is to enter your final year of graduate school and already have a position secured.
Here are some of the facts…
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires every company to advertise job openings, even when they already have a candidate in mind.
Representatives at job fairs see hundreds of applicants a year. Their job is to pre-screen people BEFORE the CV’s are sent to the hiring committee.
Hiring committees already have a specific type of candidate in mind when they begin searching, if not a specific person.
Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to embed your name in their head before the advertisement is drafted. “How do I do this?” you may ask. It’s really pretty simple! Let people know who you are. Yep, that’s it! Thanks for reading… Ok, you need a little more. Here are some great ways to start getting your name out there.
1. Conferences! Whether you are a 3rd year graduate or an undergrad, going to conferences and meeting people is essential. You will find, that most people LOVE talking about themselves. No…..YES! Especially their research. I don’t know one person who doesn’t, in their own way, light up when asked about their research. Your job is to ask, then listen. You won’t believe how attractive mutual interest and curiosity is in a potential employee. There are endless regional, national, and topic specific conferences that can be easy and cheap to get too. Not only will you meet great people with similar interests, but the potential to learn from experts in your field is endless.
2. Always look for an opportunity. One great one I tell people is to come up with one good question. That’s all it takes to start up a conversation. Now, “How’s the weather?” is not always appropriate, but sometimes “How’s the soup?” is. Now if you can construct an intelligent question about a talk you just heard and the presenter is the head of a prestigious research institution, what could be better. But you don’t need to dazzle them right out the gate. Sometimes, “I’m really interested in ‘fill in blank’, how did you get started in this field?” will go a long way. (That’s a good one to memorize, just in case your brain freezes under the pressure.)
3. Stalk your mentors. Ok, not really, but if you admire someone in your department, you can always join them in a conversation with an influential person. Or, if you have heard a person you would love to work with, find out where they will be and put yourself in close proximity until the opportunity arises. If it doesn’t, they’ll ask who you are, and you just tell them you’ve always wanted to meet them but were just too nervous.
4. Leave them with something to remember you by. Business cards are very inexpensive and can highlight your major activities while providing a concise presentation of your contact information. Ask if you can e-mail them if you have any other questions. Head shot and full CV not required. Doing this opens the door for further communication and makes sure they know how to spell your name.
5. Volunteer. While summer internships are a great way to learn and network, not everyone has that opportunity. Many have teaching, family, qualifying exams, or research obligations over the summer. You can always volunteer! Now volunteering at the ASPCA is a wonderful, fulfilling experience, but it won’t get you a job. Volunteering at a related lab at your university, or at a hospital, or even just with another professor in your department can open opportunities you couldn’t imagine, and because you are volunteering, your hours are much more flexible and you can stop anytime you want.
6. Be approachable. Smile, talk to people. Show people you are the type of person they want to have around. Then, they will want to have you around. While this doesn’t come naturally for everybody, it is a skill that can be practiced. Listening and being attentive also makes you an approachable person. Keep the discussion about yourself to a minimum, smile and nod. In other words, be the kind of person you would like to work with.
Now while these are relatively simple things, the idea is to let as many people know who you are as often as you can. That way when a position comes open, you are the person they have in mind, before the advertisement is drafted. Your first job is the hardest one to get. It’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to do, or where you want to be. The more people out there that know how talented you are and what you want to do, the better the chance you will find one person who thinks of you when they hear about a position. All you need is one.