Maybe he is my way in?
June 24, 2009 6:28 PM   Subscribe

The research director at an institution where I applied for an entry-level research position happens to be an alumnus of my university (same school, too, except four decades earlier). In our alumni career center, he has indicated that he would not mind being contacted. Should I contact him? How?

I am a girl who graduated a month ago, with no contacts in this city, and I've been unsuccessful in my three-week-long job search so far, even though I remain convinced that I am a terrifically qualified candidate for all the positions I applied to. By the way, I applied to two other positions at this place, and was not called back for either.

He is more than 30 years older than me, holds a PHD, and appears to pretty much run the research department at an institution I would absolutely love to work for. In our limited-access, opt-in alumnus career network (separate from the alumni directory), he indicates that he would like to be a mentor and gives his home phone number as a preferred way to be contacted. He was hired on less than two years ago, so he has taken the time to update his contact and professional information in the directory. I could probably easily track down his email address, or find out who his assistants are.

I know that I have nothing to lose by contacting him, but I realize that he is incredibly busy, and I want to approach him the right way. Any advice, hive mind? Should I call or write? Or try to contact an assistant of his?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can email him, explain you are an alumna, and ask him when a good time to call him would be, and verify his phone number.
posted by jabberjaw at 6:46 PM on June 24, 2009

Contact him already. He gave you the invitation. Send him a letter and follow up with a call one or two days after its arrival. Be prepared to sell yourself: arm yourself for the conversation like it were a formal interview, with documents and contact information, questions etc., etc., ready at hand. But take your cues from him. If he's informal and chatty, be informal and chatty. If he's businessy and formal, be businessy and formal. Most of all try to make a human connection -- it's far more useful than asserting the entry-level of competence he is already assuming you have.
posted by mr. remy at 6:51 PM on June 24, 2009

If he gave you his home phone number than he doesn't mind being contacted. So go do it.
posted by theichibun at 7:06 PM on June 24, 2009

So go do it.

This. Don't forget to send him a thank you note after you meet him.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 7:24 PM on June 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

You should contact him and do so by his preferred method. Since he gave a phone number use it, don't look up an e-mail address. If he wanted to be e-mailed, he would have provided the address. Good luck and as YoBananaBoy says, send a thank you after.
posted by Pineapplicious at 8:15 PM on June 24, 2009

Dear Heavens what a grammatical nightmare that post was. Do over.

Lots of us love to encourage people just getting started. It makes us remember why we do what we do. I'm younger than the gentleman you'll be contacting, but he offered to help. Why not accept him at his word and ask.
posted by 26.2 at 10:15 PM on June 24, 2009

Contact him by phone, and NOT by email...unless you get it proofread.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:47 PM on June 24, 2009

You only asked the easy questions -
Should I contact him? YES How? Phone

You forgot to ask the hard one - What do I say??
Of course the subtext is you want this job, or some other job at this center, but what do you actually talk about? What you are embarking on is an informational interview, and there has been a lot of askme about it before. In this case, in particular, consider asking about-
- new directions or developments coming out of this center
- how he started his career, and what led him to where he is now
- anything he might recommend you do if you were serious about getting into that center, and other people you might talk to.

In my experience, this will usually take an hour or so conversation. The first phone call may just establish a relationship and give you a chance to set a time/date to call again or meet up. When you do that, you might work in if you could send him a resume or something, so he knows more about you. Beyond that, polish the story about who you are and why you want to be in this center. The more you tell that story, the better it gets. If you have time, and this position is really important to you, you might even do a practice conversation with someone else in your field.
posted by whatzit at 3:34 AM on June 25, 2009

Yep, if he says he doesn't mind, then feel free to give him a ring!

I list my contact information in our university's alumni directory, and am genuinely happy when students contact me to learn more about the field I work in. If they live in my city, I'll even invite them out to coffee for an informal meeting.

It might be a bit forward to ask for a job or an interview at his company, so try to phrase things as if you're just looking for help on breaking into the industry or learning more about his company and other similar places of employment. You'll learn a ton more being open-minded and friendly!
posted by gushn at 9:16 AM on June 25, 2009

When you do meet face-to-face, don't fixate on the job, just ask for advice.

Three weeks is nothing for a job search. I looked for about six months before I found my current job. It was the umpteenth job that had a posting that seemed like it was made for me. What made this one different was that a good family friend was on the board and willing to vouch for me. No matter how fabulous my qualifications, I never would have gotten an interview if it hadn't been for him. It helps to have a great education and some killer experience under your belt. It helps more to know somebody on the inside.

Phone the director immediately. He is your ONLY way in by the sounds of it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 1:22 PM on June 25, 2009

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