I want a job with you, just not right now.
August 24, 2009 6:24 PM   Subscribe

I want to have a coffee with some potential employers, but they might think it is a job interview. How I can eloquently backstep this sticky situation?

I seem to have gotten myself into a rather sticky situation.

I am an advanced grad student in field X. In a week I am taking a trip to Los Angeles and staying for an entire month (for my boyfriend's job). To make the trip worth my while, I asked a close friend if there was anyone in field X in LA that I should meet while I am there.

Without my knowledge my friend then sent out about a dozen emails to people in field X in LA basically claiming that I am graduating in a month and am looking to meet with people in LA. The email implies I am looking for a job.

The thing is, while I will definitely be looking for a job in LA eventually, I am only graduating in two years.

A few people have already emailed me about meeting "for a talk", and I am worried they are considering it a preliminary job interview or something.

I would love to meet these people, and knowing them might get my foot in the door so I can get a job in two years, but I certainly don't want to start our meeting with them thinking I am looking for a job right now.

How can I still meet with the people while politely taking back my friend's claims about looking for a job right now?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why would you worry about this? Just meet with them, get to know them, and help them to get to know you and your situation. If you're communicating with them before you meet, just start of with "I'm not sure what my friend told you, but my current situation is XYZ, and I'm looking forward to meeting with you because ABC."
posted by The World Famous at 6:33 PM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

E-mail them back with the facts.

"I'd be delighted to meet with you. I'll be graduating in 2 years, and am looking forward to getting to know some of the people in LA, because I eventually plan to sett there."

Or whatever. It's networking. It's all good.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:36 PM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

posted by SLC Mom at 6:37 PM on August 24, 2009

You're worrying too much. Your friend was mistaken. Nobody will mind.
posted by rokusan at 6:41 PM on August 24, 2009

I would take this as a gift from your friend... you're getting a jump on what, i'm assuming, will be the same field that you'll be post-doc hunting in, in the correct area. In your replies, gently correct the mistake your friend made about the timing, and if any of them still bite for a meeting, go the heck for it.
Take it as a job interview-lite sort of excercise, yes, you're meeting them casually/quasi-socially but prepare before hand regardless.
1. Have your research summary spiel down cold with all the interesting parts highlighted and clear.
2. Do your homework on their stuff, and have the usual 1-2 prescient questions ready for when they spiel to you.
I made a mistake back before I went to grad school, in that I had friends/mentors set me up with meetings at various grad schools months before I began applying. These were not technically formal interviews, but really they were. I didn't do very well in describing my own stuff and motivations because I hadn't considered them real interviews. I look back with regret sometimes at those meetings.
Consider this: were it not for professional interest, you wouldn't be meeting with them at all. If not for job hunting, this would be of no consequence... BUT it is of professional interest and for job hunting regardless of the time scale. And from my experience, knowing, in the last two years what your next step might be does a world of good. Also it lets you sort personality issues before you get too involved at the formal interview step.
Good luck.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:32 PM on August 24, 2009

Besides, you may well want an internship or job at some point in the next two years and these people are good contacts for that as well. If they are interested in hiring you full-time and you're continuing your graduate program, you could easily say "well I'm committed to my studies until X, but I would certainly be interested in working with you guys this summer and getting to know more about your operations." If you like it, you'll be a shoe-in for a full-time position in a couple years. Just because you aren't job hunting right now doesn't mean you may not want work in the future.
posted by zachlipton at 7:38 PM on August 24, 2009

This sounds like you are looking at an "informational interview"

Let them know your time frame and back story, and position it as an informational interview.
Everybody loves to talk about themselves and their field (as long as they have time)
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:05 PM on August 24, 2009

Yeah if someone is suggesting to "meet with you" or "chat with you" its probably not a job interview. Generally the wording is pretty strictly "Come in for an interview at n date" with a potential "and make sure to bring x" if applicable, even for very small/informal companies. Lots of different fields (no clue what yours is) involve plenty of meet and greet just in the case that later you will become an asset.
posted by shownomercy at 8:24 PM on August 24, 2009

As some have said, this is a great networking opportunity, and don't stress over the crossed wires.

1. Do treat these meetings as interviews, without being formal about it. You'll want to leave a good impression with them. Show up a bit early, be clean, smell good, be ready to speak intelligently about topics in your field.

2. Clarify the mistake early. "Hi, it's great to meet you! By the way, I'm not sure if it was clear in the email, but I'm only going to be on the market here in a couple of years. But hey, how are things in the business?" Odds are good that the other party will be gracious and still want to know about you and your skills for future reference. If they don't, use this opportunity to (gently, politely) pick their brains about challenges in the field, real-life opinions on the relevant tools, etc.

3. Remember that they're also people, and try to make sure that you both enjoy yourselves, even mildly. Make up for the lack of immediate recruitment potential with, "well, at least I had a nice coffee outing with anonymous." That will linger and make them pleasantly receptive to you in two years time.
posted by Billegible at 8:32 PM on August 24, 2009

Keep an open mind, you might be offered a job anyway. Be confident and sell yourself. You're an advanced grad student, you probably know what you're doing even if you haven't graduated.

My good friend was offered jobs multiple times when he was in grad school in a technical field, because they could see that he had the skills and that's what they wanted. The degree was secondary. I'm not sure what field you're in, but if it's anything design, tech, if you have a portfolio, if you've managed projects, if you know what you're doing and can show it--you have a chance.

Of course, you don't have to take any offer and if you want to keep going to school, that's great. But now's as good a time as any to shift your mindset from student/supplicant to professional in demand. If you don't get an offer, you're right back where you started.
posted by kathrineg at 10:35 PM on August 24, 2009

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