How do professionals find jobs

by Broke Professional on April 2, 2011 · 5 comments

An employment search is different for a Professional than an employee in other fields.  Professionals sell services rather than goods, and therefore you are often selling yourself rather than a product.  For this reason, employers want to make sure you are an individual who fits in with the company/firm/office atmosphere.  This is true to some extent for every job search, but it is likely more so in the vast majority of professional job searches.

It goes without saying that you have to possess the proper credentials/degrees, have the right types of experience, and be very knowledgeable in your field–but oftentimes the position will still go to the person the employer wants for the job.  This is generally the person the employer likes the most.  How do you become that person?  For Professionals in particular, the answer is not looking in the newspaper or applying for 1000 jobs a day on Also, it should be noted many professionals may be geographically constrained by their profession.  For example, most professions require some type of licensure which is often-times state specific.

As I wrote in my last post, I have undertaken two extensive job searches in the past one-plus years.  I was constrained to a specific area.  The first search I conducted was as a student.  At the time, I hardly knew anyone in my profession.  This of course was my fault because I did not think to network as a student.  The closest thing I had to a network was my professors.  The search was difficult and in many ways embarrassing.  (Soul-Sucking and Dignity Destroying may be more accurate terms).

There is nothing more obvious than someone who is only attending meetings/reaching out to other people because they need something.  I eventually was hired, but only for a one-year position.  This meant that the second I started my “new job” I was already starting another job search.  However, this time I had a little bit of time on my side.  I realized this time around that I needed to “plant my seeds before I needed to harvest.”  I became active in several organizations which genuinely interested me.  Although I was seeking a job, I was involved for a long enough period of time that people did not question my motives as much.  Once I obtained my second job, I continued to be active because: 1) I was genuinely interested/grateful; 2) I wanted to prove I was not using everyone; and 3) I learned my lesson that: You must always have the mindset of someone on a job search.

There is no doubt that so long as you are employed, and particularly employed by someone else, there is no true job security.  Despite your best efforts, management could misuse resources, a big account could leave, or you may be in a profession where people are either “up or out”, and politics plays a role.  Today even doctor’s offices and law firms merge like major corporations. It is depressing, and it seems almost like a foreign concept when you consider our parents/grandparents who often worked for one company their whole careers, but nobody today really has true job security.

That means the below advice/thoughts largely apply whether you are looking for a job or not.  In fact, the below is easier to implement if you currently are employed.  (And the more happily employed you appear to be, the better).  Below are some of the things you should consider doing (I will not be focusing on immediately obvious examples like craft a decent cover letter, update your resume, visit career services if you are a student, etc):

1) Be a Joiner.  It is not always fun, it can cost some money, and it may make Boy Scouts seem cool in comparison, but it is important to fit time into your schedule for “Being a Joiner.” This means everything from local clubs/service organizations like United Way, etc., to joining the company softball league, to being active in your professional groups.  People hire who they know.  Additionally, people refer to people they know.  And if you bring in business that only helps keep you employed.  As I said above, the better situated you are professionally the less people will question your sincerity.  That said, try to join clubs/activities you are actually interested in.  Although even the most wholesome charities do consist of some networking, people will know if you are there to use them or the club simply to make contacts or try to derive some type of economic or personal benefit.  Being a part of the community is important for professionals.  I would rather go to the dentist I know from my church than someone I picked at random.

2) Accept the Strange Phenomenon that Acquaintances Generally are More Helpful than Friends or Family.  I know I am not the first person to point this out, but for some reason it is true.  Perhaps because there is just enough removal from outright nepotism that it will not be obvious.  I got my current job because a colleague I knew from a professional association called me out of the blue with a job lead and put in a good word for me with the employer, who also knew me (although to a lesser degree) from the professional association we were all active in.  After one brief interview I had the job…and I never even was asked to provide my employer with a copy of my resume.  People hire people who they know and people who they like.  If people do not know you it does not matter how likeable you are.

3) Stop sending out unsolicited Mail/emails – I have a friend who is an attorney.  He sent out letters/resumes to every firm in the northeast.  He did not even receive replies to most of his letters.  He said he later learned there was about a 1% chance of an interview from such a job search technique, even in a good economy.  Aside from the fact that this would equal $42.00 in postage for every interview (100 letters x .42 cents per letter = 1 interview or $42.00), it is also a waste of time.  Of course it is possible you are looking for a job and have not sought connections.  In that case I commend you doing whatever it is you have to do to get a job (It is what I had to do to get my first job)- Still, a more effective method would be to reach out to people who you know and ask them if they have any connections, then attempt to:

4) Set Up Mock Interviews – Professionals are busy, and almost nobody really wants to take time away from billing to meet with some unknown student/unemployed individual.  However, if you have a connection, or use an alumni network, etc., you may be able to get some employer to give you a mock interview.  This will help you learn how to interview and reach your Prime Interview Number (The number of interviews it takes for someone to give a top-notch interview; this number is different for everyone, for me it felt like this number was somewhere north of 30).  Also, sometimes these mock interviews will open up doors.  Treat the mock interview like a real interview.  In certain fields, like accounting, people are known to hide behind the term “mock interviews” when they are in fact actually looking to hire.  Of course  this is the exact opposite of the sad reality in other fields, such as in advertising, where sometimes “real interviews” are actually mock interviews used to gather information/ideas, etc.

5) Do not be afraid to let people know you are looking for a job if you are.

6) If you are happily employed, try and help other people with their job searches, etc.  Sometimes people will forget who helped them, but often times they won’t.  And it shows confidence in your own abilities.

7) I think it is best to avoid organizations which exist simply to discuss job search strategies, etc.  They are often filled with people who are unemployed and therefore it is unfortunately not the best place for networking.

If you focus on “planting the seeds prior to the harvest”, you should have a good group of friends/colleagues who will return your telephone calls if you ever are in professional distress.  The difference for me between my second job search and my first was a world of difference.  (I even started to get back a small portion of my dignity….maybe).

Did I leave anything out?  Have you found the above advice to be right?  Wrong?  Boring?  Does anyone even read what I post?  Does anyone have a more embarrassing job search story then the time I went to an interview with my suit collar accidentally popped up so I looked like Dracula and that was the first thing the unimpressed interviewer pointed out?  Let me know….


*this is our second post ever, which was never read by anybody because of the newness of the site.  I have a lot of friends who are struggling finding jobs as professionals right now, so I thought this would be a good time to re-run this post.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nicole April 2, 2011 at 9:34 am

Very good advice, except I have a slight clarification/disagreement with #7. For people who have been out of the labor force for a while or who are unclear on say, what an up-to-date resume and cover letter should look like, some of these organizations can really help a lot. Especially the formal non-profits that are set-up to help specific segments of the population. Even after doing #1-6, usually you still need to have to show a resume and professional feedback on that can help a lot. So some of these organizations are useless time-sucks, but a few hours with one specifically targeted at specific things (say, a professional going over your resume) early in the job search can help.


2 Practical Parsimony April 2, 2011 at 5:50 pm

I arrived early for a job interview for a position as a department head at a junior college. Out of hundreds of resumes, I was one of five who met the qualifications. However, I had a limp from a job injury that required surgery. Since I limped when I first got up and had trouble rising from any chair, I chose to stand and peruse the walls of the college near where I waited for my turn.
This was in interview where eight people would be seated, questioning me, AND it was the first time I was subjected to a video of my interview! I was nervous. I went to a water fountain for a sip of water. The fountain sprinkled the front of my blouse under my nice black jacket. I went to the bathroom to look at the damage. It would be horrid enough to have water sprinkles, something I normally could laugh off. But, the be forever on video in this condition was horrifying.
The hand dryer was the solution. I am tall. It was low. So, I was bent over, trying to twist myself so the dryer would point to my chest. It was an old dryer that only pointed down!
So, here I am, bent and contorted, when someone comes in the door. The woman looked at me too long. She was puzzled. I laughed and commented that the water fountain got me, straightened up and showed her. A strange embarassement came over me because I feared she was an interviewer. She was. Once in the interview, before the cameras rolled, I smiled at her and noted the hand dryer worked. She was nice and smiled back.
I did not get the position, but the mishap had nothing to do with my failure.

NEVER, EVER, get water from a fountain. Bring a bottle of water and discard it before the interview, or stuff it in your purse or bag.


3 Molly On Money April 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Being flexible has saved my job. A few years ago when my department was disappearing because of lack of funds I was willing to move to a different department. I used the same tactics with a valued employee. The position disappeared but I didn’t want to get rid of them. Because they were willing to try something new I got to keep someone who worked hard and they got to continue working!


4 LaTisha @FSYAonline April 3, 2011 at 4:47 pm

These are really good tips. I would say that the best advice is definitely joining the organizations. As a recent graduate, my network only extends to my professors and my managers from internships, but I’ll bet if I had more contacts in organizations I would have an easier time getting a job.


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