Casting your Net

I had a recent chat with an old classmate, Beth Evans, about our post-college lives and how things have quickly changed in less than six months. One of the things she pointed out was, “I can’t believe you go travel, come back and land a competitive job so fast. I have friends who have been looking for months and haven’t found anything. Consider yourself lucky.” I am extremely fortunate and grateful, but I have to chuckle, because timing wasn’t everything. More than anything, what helped me land a job at Weber Shandwick was persistence. I’ll explain:

In the fall of Senior year, I started to seriously think about what cities I may live in after graduation. Nothing was set in stone, but I did want to have my options open and give myself the opportunity to get to know the market. I decided that Seattle was a huge candidate and that it was wise for me to start looking into different agencies. I started doing research on global agencies, local firms, and unique niche companies. Anything I could find that seemed relevant and appealing. I delved myself into research and got a strong grasp on the PR scene in Seattle. Along with researching, I tapped into current resources. I asked friends for references, asked my professors Kelli Matthews and Tiffany Gallicano on who they would suggest contacting, contacted the local PRSSA pudget sound chapter, and Twittered any employees I could find from respective agencies.

By early November, I had a list of the top 10 places I wanted to further investigate. I spent time and “email pitched” myself, referring to my experience, stating my goals, and presenting my current situation. I explained that I was a senior still, but was interested in their firm and would love to set up an informational interview. I spent part of my winter break having more than 8 informational interviews. It was tiring, but well worth it.

Throughout the spring, I kept in touch with everyone I had met and updated them on my current status. I would send links or news articles relating to their clients, I would fwd. along things relating to the industry and would also ask for further explanations of particular case studies or campaigns that were of interest to me. I had maintained a relationship and showed that I was taking the time to research their clients and was eager to learn more.

After graduation I decided to travel. I informed all of my contacts of my plans, but that I was returning to Seattle mid-September. I sent postcards to my contacts throughout the trip and again, reminding them of my arrival day. About a week before my arrival, I again scheduled more informational interviews. Even if the agency said they currently weren’t hiring, I told them I was still wanting to meet with them and hopefully progress the relationship.

On the Monday of my week of info interviews, I get a call from Weber Shandwick (an agency I was meeting with that Wednesday). They informed me that they had a job opening and were wondering if I’d be interested in applying. Because I already had an informational interview set up, they changed my appointment to be a full day of interviews!! It was an amazing opportunity and timing certainly worked in my favor.

What was extremely apparent is that they had noticed my persistence and dedication. They commented on things like, “Wow, we notice you’ve been twittering with a few of our colleagues!” and “You came here last year for an informational interview! That’s great you’ve been dedicated and shown deep interest.” Those small details made a difference. To them, they thought if I was willing to put in the extra work and invest personal time into their agency, the same mentality and work effort would be put into their clients.

So just remember, who you know is important, but don’t be discouraged if you feel like you may not “know” many important people. The beauty of the situation is that you can create those relationships! Now be careful, because this is the important part. Creating a relationship is easy, but the key is maintaining it. Employers and professionals meet people like us every day. Eager young professionals eager to delve into the professional world, but few of those contacts maintain relationships, show appreciation and take the extra time to return the favor.

Here are a few important take-a-ways:

  • Even if you don’t know of specific future plans, reach out and tap into your resources (students, professors, PRSSA)
  • Set up informational interviews early and often. Even if you meet with someone does not mean you can’t stop by again. If you’re ever in that city again, let them know and suggest meeting for coffee!
  • After the interview, send a thank you letter to everyone you meet.
  • In that waiting period, send emails updating them, sending relevant news articles or studies that may be of interest to them or their client
  • Lastly, be persistent and hopeful even if they may not have a job currently available. Timing works in miraculous ways.

So just remember, things do happen for a reason, but with a little bit of effort and dedication, things will start to unravel before you.

The people who helped me and showed encouragement through this often emotionally draining process were wonderful and I’m so thankful I had their support. I couldn’t have done it without you 🙂

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10 thoughts on “Casting your Net

  1. Jessica,

    What a great post!! Thank you for sharing this. Would you mind if I shared this with current students?

    GREAT WORK!!!

    Bil

  2. Hi, Bill! Thanks so much for your feedback 🙂 Feel free to pass along to current students. I hope they will find it helpful. If they have any further questions, tell them they can reach out to me as well!

  3. Jessica,

    This is a fantastic post and I’ll certainly share it with my contacts. I remember keeping up with your tweets and travels over the summer. Best wishes to you there at WS – you certainly worked smart in order to get where you’re at now!

    Amybeth AKA “Research Goddess”

  4. I know it wasn’t all luck :). I knew you did informational interviews last year, but I didn’t know how extensive your approach was!

    This is a textbook case of how to get a job; no wonder you did so well. This method is much more reliable than mine – getting a randomly assigned roommate who just happens to have influential contacts in Beijing’s art world.

  5. Of course it wasn’t luck, silly 🙂 You are intelligent, articulate, and hard-working, which I have learned through working with you over the years. In your post, you are so on the ball – info. interviews are a great way to get your name on the table. I did the same before I came to LA, but I thought your idea of postcards from your travels was genius; wish I had thought of that while I was traveling! 🙂 Best of luck to you at Weber!

  6. I’m so glad you bring up informational interviews. It’s not all about searching job boards to see what comes up. It’s about reaching out and building relationships. In my case, this helped me “create” a job that hadn’t existed before. Congratulations!

  7. Jessica

    I really appreciated this post. I am currently in the process of “casting my net” as I prepare to graduate and take the next steps in my life. I am going to put your advice to good use in the next few months as I plan informational interviews. I especially like what you said about building and maintaining relationships. It is not enough to simply meet with someone once, you have to prove to them that you are dedicated. Thank you again, hope you are doing well.

    Ali

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