Special career snowflake needs advice.
September 22, 2012 9:16 AM   Subscribe

Graduating in December. How do I market myself to employers? Special snowflake details inside.

I have several related questions, so please bear with me.

I'm an English major in the professional/technical writing concentration at a large, lower-tier 4-year university in the USian South. I will graduate in December with a 3.6 GPA, having written an undergraduate thesis and with membership in several Honor societies. I am an adult student and a single parent, in my late twenties. I don't have a minor, but I've taken a basic computer science course in programming. We used Alice to create very simple object-oriented programs and got a broad overview of the agile software development process.

It is extremely important to me to get the best possible job in my field that I can, so that I am able to support myself and my kid. I do not have a security clearance, but I would probably qualify for one, as far as I know. (Many jobs in the field seem to require that the applicant already be cleared; I presume these jobs are geared toward ex-military.)

I am working at a remote internship that has given me some specialized skills. I'm rewriting medical software manuals from Word into structured PDFs/HTML. We're writing to DITA standards and single-sourcing as much as possible. I can use FrameMaker and oXygen XML author. By the time December rolls around, I'll have about 8 months of part-time experience at this.

I have rewritten and polished my resume and cover letter. I have a professional website and a blog. I have either scrubbed or completely locked down all of my social media accounts, and I've polished my LinkedIn. The professional website, which I made using a popular WYSIWYG editor, has impressed at least one hiring manager already. I upgraded the website so that it shows no advertisements and has its own domain. This upgrade came with credits toward ads on Google and Facebook.

*Should I use these credits to market myself to possible employers, or is this weird/tacky? If I should use them to advertise, how?

I have begun applying to entry level positions. One employer in another part of the South has expressed strong interest, to the point of proposing to fly me out for an in-person interview. My skills match up with this job very, very well. However, I don't want to move to another part of the South. I want to leave the South entirely, and would in fact be happy to leave the US entirely. I would like to live in a place that is more friendly to my politics and values (very liberal).

*Should I accept the offer of an in-person interview when I am 80% sure I don't want this job because of location? I'm hesitating, because... what if this is the only offer I get? We have discussed salary and it sounds reasonable for the location, although not great. The company is mid-size.

*How can I make myself more attractive to employers on the Northeast or West Coasts, or in Canada or Europe? I speak very basic French.

I've discussed the fact that I'm looking for a job with professional contacts, friends and acquaintances, and asked them to keep an eye out for possible jobs that fit my skills.

*What else should I be doing to market myself to potential employers?
posted by woodvine to Work & Money (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Go for the in-person interview. Even if it's not what you want, it's good practice for future interviews and, if you get the job, you have an offer in hand to negotiate with if/when you get other offers. Just don't let on that it's not your first choice.

I don't understand what you mean by "what if this is the only offer you get?" Some employers talk, but they don't conspire to ensure that you only get one offer out of an industry. If it's the only offer you get, then you really need to keep looking for something you want.

I've never seen people using Google or Facebook ads to advertise themselves. To be honest, the odds of a potential employer seeing your ad given the limited free credits you get seem low. On the other hand, it does strike me as rather innovative, assuming you do it tastefully.

You can make yourself attractive to far off employers by emphasizing your willingness to move and interest in other cultures.
posted by Mercaptan at 9:25 AM on September 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nthing everything that Mercaptan states; go on the interview. You will learn how to interview well, more info about your industry, etc. Also, (stating this as a person who went on fly out interviews even though I wasn't quite sure if I wanted the job or wanted to live in that location) --you may find things that you really like about the potential job. Perhaps they work in a desired industry, offer great opportunities, or the city is a better match than you thought. At this stage, it is an interview, not an offer or agreement by either party.

Wait until you have a few job offers on the table before turning down interviews.

A few things that I did not see on your list as ways to approach employers:

• Find companies that you want to work for - you can try googling [industry name] plus emails and ...you may find something. Or, use LinkedIn well; there is a search feature that lets you specify industry and location. Look very carefully at the potential companies (i.e. go to the website, do they list things that you have done or have an interest in?). Now pick your mode of communication (some people call, I email, whatever works best for you) and tell these companies that you are interested in a job- do this even if you do not see a job listed. As a freelancer, I've gotten projects (and call back for jobs) this way -- I've had quite a few friends get jobs in their desired industry this way. But it can pay off because you select most of the criteria that you want in a job and if they need someone right now, there will not be much competition.

• Does your industry use recruiters? If so, talk to other colleagues from your internship. Who is the best and whom do they recommend? Alternatively, on your polished LinkedIn, as an entry at the very top do write that you are looking for employment. (Seriously, recruiters/headhunters/VPS are all over it and if you are a fit...they will find you..but sometimes they can't tell if you are looking for a job now, etc.)
posted by Wolfster at 11:47 AM on September 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


*How can I make myself more attractive to employers on the Northeast or West Coasts, or in Canada or Europe? I speak very basic French.

In Canada, your chances aren't great. For most positions, employers will have to advertise the position locally or even nationally and find nobody before even considering you (part of acquiring their Labour Market Opinion). Considering you are entry-level and a non-skilled (not to say you don't have skills, but things that are credentialed or rare) employee with very little experience, Canadian employers will have a tough time justifying that the job cannot be filled in our labour market by a current citizen.

My advice would be to take a job (even in the South), get some experience and some specialized skills/certification and then apply to come to Canada if that's what you want. In the current economy, turning down a job because it's not the perfect fit for you with no experience can leave you un or underemployed for a year or more. If you have a reputable employer interested in you before you are even out of school, my advice would be to give it some serious consideration even for a year to pad your resume.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 2:01 PM on September 22, 2012


Mercaptan, as Rodrigo Lamaitre points out, I'm concerned that this job may be the only offer I get, and that if I turn it down, I'll end up unemployed.
posted by woodvine at 2:36 PM on September 22, 2012


I see what you're saying, you're more concerned about what you should do if you happen to get that job. I agree with Rodrigo that you should take it even if it's not exactly what you want now. That way you'll have that experience which will make you more attractive in other markets.

But if you end up turning it down and being unemployed, then you're in no worse a spot than when you started. It's better to have the option.
posted by Mercaptan at 3:03 PM on September 22, 2012


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