The real world approaches!
May 16, 2009 3:26 PM   Subscribe

This time next year I want to move to Chicago and get a job. Like, a real job. What do I need to do NOW to set things in motion?

Next year I will be a senior at UNC, and I'll graduate with a double major in advertising (through the school of journalism) and anthropology. What I want to do is move to Chicago and get a job. Ideally, said job would be in marketing, hopefully for a nonprofit of some kind. But, basically, I want to get a job, any job, where I use my advertising degree, even tangentially. (Why Chicago? My boyfriend lives there and I intend to move in with him when I graduate.)

I know it's hard out there right now- that's why I want to get my foot in the door early. When the economy recovers I'll be in my mid-20s competing with fresh graduates, and if I've been working at a call center all that time, I will lose out. I don't care about money at this point in my life. I care about building skills and experience I can use in my career.

This summer, I have an internship in marketing at a Chicago museum. I'll be in the city from June through August. I want to know what I can do during that time, and during my senior year, to prepare myself to find a job.

Should I approach it like I approached looking for an internship- by doggedly applying to every place I can think of? Or is there something more I need to be doing? I hear a lot of talk about networking, but how do I approach that when I have no experience to sell myself with yet? How about special skills- is there anything I can learn in a year that would set me apart?

Alternately, if I am unable to find a paying job, I would be willing to do free or low-cost work in marketing on the side if it meant I could keep my skills up- how do I find such opportunities?

I realize this is a fairly broad question, but any advice would be much appreciated.
posted by showbiz_liz to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You are not there yet, so there isn't really a lot you can do. Make business cards, agree with yourself that you won't tweak your CV any more and print about 100 copies on good quality paper and then get to stepping when you get to town.
posted by parmanparman at 3:59 PM on May 16, 2009

Best answer: Congrats on starting as early as you have on your search for suitable employment. The more you plan ahead, the more likely it is that you'll find just the right thing for you.

Networking is, as you've heard, a great step for you to take. Because you're still in college, no one expects you to have any experience to sell yourself with. The purpose of networking is to get yourself known to as many people as possible -- people who can potentially offer or help find you a job.

Your first step is to work the resources you already have. Professors, classmates, and everyone you know (or meet) in the course of your internship. Interning at a museum in the city of your choice (in the career field of your choice) is a great opportunity for you to meet or have occasion to contact people who are wired in precisely where you want to be.

With each person you contact, set up a face-to-face meeting (perhaps treat them to coffee?) if you can; hold a phone conversation (at their convenience) otherwise. Explain to every one of them what it is you want to do and where -- pretty much as you have in your question.

Ask each one you contact what advice they have for you. You're not asking for a job, just advice, so there's no need for any embarrassment or feeling as though you're imposing. People love to give advice. People love the people who ask them for advice. People want to help the people they love because they were asked for advice. It's really very easy.

You might hear some really good ideas this way, plus you have an opportunity to impress each person with your presence, sincerity, ambition, etc. -- all the things an employer would want in a potential employee. Be prepared to give these people a copy of your resume if they ask for it.

Finally, be sure to ask each and every person you network with for a recommendation of who else you should talk to. This is a trick that many people forget when they're networking.

Take notes when talking with these people. Keep a diary with their business cards or contact information, plus your comments/impressions/etc. If you promise to send them something or call them in the future, be sure to do it. Follow through is key. Nothing creates a negative impression like not following through on what you said you would do.

Good luck!
posted by DrGail at 3:59 PM on May 16, 2009 [3 favorites]

You could set up informational interviews this summer with contacts at any place you might be interested in working next year. The informational interview is just a way to find out about an organization or a field without any pressure of applying for a job. You're in exactly the right position to be doing these -- you're not looking for a job right now and you're not entirely sure what you want to do. Poke around online or in job searching books for more specific advice about how to contact people and what kinds of questions to ask.
posted by wsquared at 4:13 PM on May 16, 2009

Before you come out here, get in touch with the alumni association and find out if there is a Chicago group. If there is, start getting in touch with the members who are up for being contacted by new grads now. Otherwise, DrGail has said in 400 words what most career coaches charge $200 an hour to tell you.

Oh, and stop by a meet-up. I have a couple friends who work in nonprofit marketing and management.
posted by crush-onastick at 4:23 PM on May 16, 2009

Best answer: Networking is nothing more than making friends with people who share your interests. Don't think of it as selling yourself or as a step towards employment; people will sense if you're trying to use them, and it's a turnoff.

Go to places (happy hours, lectures, book parties, etc.) where people who share your interests will be. Then, do what you would do in any situation where you're trying to make new friends. Be nice, smile at people, tell good stories, offer your insight or help if someone asks a question, and show interest in their lives.

These new friends may be helpful to you later on when you're looking for a job, but don't think of them as steps toward getting a job just yet.
posted by decathecting at 5:07 PM on May 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yea Chicago! Congratulations on your internship.

I work at a museum here in the city, and I think you are in an absolutely great position to gain some valuable experience and contacts. So already you're ahead a bit. I'm sure you've seen this great list of how to be a good intern. I don't know if all museums are like the one I'm at, but budgets are tight, staff is a bit short, so interns have the chance to help out quite a bit— or as much as they want to put into it. Ask questions, meet people from all the different departments, ask what they do, be friendly, enthusiastic, inquisitive, dependable, all those good things. They make a difference. Don't be afraid to speak up if you have ideas, don't think the way things are done are the best way. Institutions sometimes get set in their ways and fresh ideas and perspectives are valuable, don't think your ideas are any less valid, you just have less experience.

It sounds like you're in the right mindset already though, so work hard, meet people. Be natural about it though, don't be network-schmoozy, people want to be around hardworking folks who they like working around. When you get back to school for your senior year, keep in touch, let them know how you're doing, what your plans are. Hope that helps, good luck!

(And—of course you get to catch Chicago only during the best months— booo!)
posted by Sreiny at 5:09 PM on May 16, 2009

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