Need help with job search techniques
September 17, 2010 2:01 PM   Subscribe

I was laid off from my job almost 2 years ago, and while it was depressing, I was unhappy and was starting to explore a new industry, anyway. In the past 2 years, I have spent a year and a half going back to school full time for a more specific degree that supplements my BA. I also took on a few internships along the way. I graduated in January and have been looking for a full time position without any sort of success. Clearly I am going about this in the wrong way; what should I be doing differently? More details below.

I feel like I have been doing all of the typical things that job seekers are supposed to be doing. I have been doing volunteer work. I have taken on freelance work in my industry. I have joined several professional associations/clubs and have been actively volunteering at their events. And I have been networking and informational interviewing as well - activities that I like doing (I actually genuinely enjoys meeting new people), but seem to mystify me, as it isn't really something that leads to a job.

In case you're wondering, I have been working my contacts that I've met through freelancing and interning and that is not going anywhere, either. My boss has already expressed that she would like to hire me full time but can't afford to (she's right, because I can see the state of her finances).

What other things do you suggest I do? All anyone ever tells me is 'networking' - an infuriating suggestion because it's what I keep doing and it has gotten me nowhere.

Oh, and in case it's helpful: I am in NYC, have a BA from a well known liberal arts university, an AAS from a very well known institution here in NYC. I am looking for marketing positions and some of the groups I belong to are CEW, FGI, and alumni associations from both colleges.
posted by saturn25 to Work & Money (16 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
you make it tough to give you better advice than 'networking' as long as you are so vague. what exactly do you want to be doing? there is lots to do in marketing. you could be talking about joining an ad agency or working client-side, you could be into production, wish to become an account executive or a brand manager. who knows?

be precise and you'll have a much better chance for people here to give you direct pointers. there are loads of opportunities in this field in nyc, even though the job market for talent is worse the lower you are on the totem pole. at least that's what I've been told.

have you analyzed how you behave in meetings, how you come across?
posted by krautland at 2:08 PM on September 17, 2010

Just want to suggest one thing: you may not be doing anything wrong, you're just stuck in an extraordinarily bad job market. To me it sounds like you're actually doing everything right. I think you need to just keep going. I just watched an incredibly smart, well-qualified friend of mine go through something similar. It took her two incredibly difficult years to land a great job, but she did. These are just very, very tough times.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:10 PM on September 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

Just to echo what blahlala said--you sound like you're doing everything right, but this is (hopefully) the worst economic period any of us will know in our lives. It is really shitty, even for great candidates.

Don't lose faith--keep up the great effort.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:14 PM on September 17, 2010

As krautland says, it's hard to get a sense of what kind of networking you've been doing. But from my own experience of what I've done that has been useful vs. not, a few thoughts.

Try working through your alumni career services coordinator to get in contact with more senior alums who are established in your field. An unfortunate fact of professional association/club events right now (especially ones for young professionals) is that while they may be billed as networking events, you're often just networking with other job-seekers - which does you no good. A good alumni affairs person can put you in touch with folks who aren't looking for work, and unlike your current boss, might actually be in a position to hire someone full time. Those are the folks you want to target for informational interviews.

You can do the same thing with the folks who actually work for your local professional organizations -introduce yourself as a new member, ask if they have any members who might be interested in mentoring a recent grad with experience in marketing. Above all - even if the person you're talking to doesn't exactly match up with your career goals, thank them for their time, and ask if they know anyone who they'd suggest you get in touch with to learn more about [interest or company X].
posted by deludingmyself at 2:18 PM on September 17, 2010

My main advice is to be patient and to keep doing what you're doing. Keep networking (sorry!) and keep taking freelance projects. Are you making ends meet? If not, try to find more side projects that help you pay our bills. Raise your rate just a little bit with every new project.

I am not in the marketing profession but I imagine that competition is tight in NYC for marketing positions. This is especially the case if you don't have many many years of experience in the field and just got your degree a year ago. All that means is you have to be patient and persistent. The more freelance work you get, the more experienced you become and the more your name gets around. It is totally normal for that to take a while.

Another suggestion, even though I know you didn't ask for it: make sure you have something else in your life that you love doing outside of networking, job hunting and freelancing. Whenever I've been dissatisfied with my job situation, having even just one dumb hobby has kept me from feeling like my life is pointless and going nowhere. Hobbies, unlike careers, are things you can pick up and be successful at right away.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:19 PM on September 17, 2010

Is it possible there is a problem you're unaware of like your CV is terrible or not geared for marketing or presents you as a recent grad or... ?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:26 PM on September 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses so far. I can offer some additional clarification:
I am looking in the cosmetics marketing field. CEW and FGI are organizations dedicated to the beauty & fashion industries. My typical sound byte goes something like this: "I am looking for a full-time marketing position within a fragrance, color cosmetic, or skincare segment. I have experience in CRM dB work, Strategic Planning, and launching new brands, and I'm looking for a position where that kind of background can be useful." I am also fluent in French, so I have actively sought out French companies since I would think I have a bit more to offer.

As for how I'm networking: I am really trying to meet people via a variety of channels. I have gone through the Alumni Offices and Career Centers of both alma maters. I have been introduced to people through some wonderful counselors, professors, and Deans, and have kept in touch with them. I have met people at an event, where I exchange cards (I have biz cards made up for myself) and usually send a follow up "nice to have met you" email the next day, invite them to LinkedIn, and try as best I can to stay in touch. I have also stayed in touch with professors with whom I had a good relationship, and they have also made introductions for me. I have done more of the same: ask for an informational interview, meet/speak, send a written thank you, email to stay in touch. I have kept my family members and personal friends in the loop about what's going on and have met people through them. In certain cases where a contact is willing, I have also asked for specific resume advice and implemented their suggestions.

My big problem is that nothing ever surfaces. I have gotten only 4 interviews, and they all came from me submitting applications through advertised openings on company websites - not from actually knowing someone.
posted by saturn25 at 2:47 PM on September 17, 2010

Are you looking all over the US, or just in NYC? It seems like NYC is a particularly brutal place to be seeking entry-level work in marketing.
posted by elpea at 3:47 PM on September 17, 2010

Best answer: Make sure you're actually good at the job, or have the right skills, for the jobs your networking for. I am constantly getting tackled at networking events by people who want to enter my field, who ask lots of questions, give me business cards, follow up with a thank you or a connection on LinkedIn, and i swear 3/4 of the time it goes no where. Why?
- Because the questions they asked made them seem ignorant instead of thoughtful
- Because they didn't respect my time or my space or the fact that i wasn't at the event purely to serve as a scratching post for them
- Because they expected me to think they were AWESOME just because they walked up and chatted with me
- Because they were wrong for the job
- Because they were so overeager that i found them annoying, and couldn't imagine having to deal with them every day

There's this weird attitude amongst younger job seekers that "making an effort at finding a job" is part of the interview. I don't give a crap about how good you are at job hunting (so impressing me with your ability to schedule an informational interview isn't going to work). I care about finding someone who is going to be good at a job. Start focusing on sounding smart about the job, instead of smart about job hunting, and you might have more success.
posted by Kololo at 4:21 PM on September 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

What are the differences between you and people who have recently been hired into positions you're qualified for? Sounds to me like you're doing everything right... but sometimes in a terrible job market you need "more" right things.

However, if career services staff who have good experience with your field can't articulate to you the difference between you and a successful candidate, then it's either (a) you have some problem in your interviews, CV, etc., or more likely... (b) there are just so few marketing jobs in NYC you have to be very lucky to land one, and you haven't gotten lucky yet. In which case you just need to hang in there, or broaden your search (although I have no experience with where it's easier/harder to get marketing jobs).
posted by _Silky_ at 4:26 PM on September 17, 2010

Best answer: I read your response after i posted my message, and i have some added advice. (Also, i'm marketing strategist, currently working as the Director of Strategy at a digital agency, so hopefully my perspective is relevant.)

"I am looking for a full-time marketing position within a fragrance, color cosmetic, or skincare segment. I have experience in CRM dB work, Strategic Planning, and launching new brands, and I'm looking for a position where that kind of background can be useful." I am also fluent in French, so I have actively sought out French companies since I would think I have a bit more to offer.

This is not a great introduction. If i was sitting across from you at my desk, or standing next to you at a networking event, and you said this to me, my reaction would be that all you're doing is telling me what you want. And frankly, I don't care what you want.

Here's what I'm interested in hearing:
- If we're at a networking event, engage me in a discussion about an issue or topic that demonstrates to me that your a smart, strategic, thoughtful thinker. Even just chiming in with one comment, or even just nodding your head and actively listening while a group of senior people chat will show me that you are intellectually engaged.
- If we're in an informational interview, ask me about my company, my industry, my opinion on some relevant topic. Respond to what i tell you with an interesting relevant opinion (or at least, express that its interesting and that you understand), and demonstrate for me that you have what it takes to really apply your skills to whatever it is i'm telling you about. (The 'informational' part of the interview means that you give me info that shows that you would provide value to my department, that you are smart and trainable.)
- If you're at an interview (informational or otherwise), show me that you've done your homework. Read the company website, or blog, or press releases, and show me you have an opinion or at least knowledge. If i ask you a question about something you would need to be mentally engaged in on the job, show me you are already engaged. (So, if i worked for a cosmetics company and i said "what are some fragrance campaigns that you like? what do you think makes them effective?" don't say "hmm... i don't know if i've really seen any... i don't really shop for perfume... " that would basically be the end of the interview for me.

All in all: you are looking for the kind of job where the #1 most important skill you can have is being a curious critical thinker. Show people you're that, and you'll find a job.
posted by Kololo at 4:52 PM on September 17, 2010 [9 favorites]

Forgive me if I am wrong, but is this a really small market you are looking for jobs in? I mean, yes the cosmetics industry is worth blah blah billions per year, but how many jobs in marketing in that field does that translate to? (Honestly, I have no idea, but you have segmented it down to what could be a fairly small pool).

It might be worth thinking laterally and looking at where you could get experience that would be ultimately useful in your desired career area.
posted by AnnaRat at 5:05 PM on September 17, 2010

OP: your job search isn't just Manhattan, is it? Even in fragrance and beauty, corporate marketing departments aren't typically located in Manhattan. For the brands of the big consumer conglomerates, they're together with the corporate headquarters wherever those are in the country ... and you'd be surprised how many of the Manhattan-(US)-headquartered elite brand owners post most of their marketing staff in cheaper real-estate in the suburbs.
posted by MattD at 5:51 PM on September 17, 2010

Response by poster: Everyone - thanks so much for taking so much time and care into helping me with my question. I appreciate everyone's perspective. As I go forward, I will definitely be keeping these ideas in mind and make sure that I'm applying them.

MattD: I am currently based out of Manhattan, but no, my job search is not limited to Manhattan. You are correct - many/most consumer products companies have a more significant presence in NJ or Long Island and other nearby suburbs. As it happens, these areas are quite accessible for me.
posted by saturn25 at 6:57 PM on September 17, 2010

Kololo said almost everything I wanted to say - you can be a great job searcher, but if you don't appear to be a good fit for the job I won't hire you.

Here's something to think about that might reveal a weakness in your search: why aren't your freelance gigs providing enough work to keep you busy (and paid) full-time? If you're kicking butt on your freelance jobs and advertising that you're kicking butt, then more freelance jobs would probably be coming in. Do you treat them like a chore in preparation for a real job? Do you give them the attention and effort you would to your dream job? If your current gigs amount to a series of begrudgingly-done tasks, hiring manager will expect you to do the same in a full time job. Or maybe you're doing great, but aren't effectively communicating that out?

I ask this because I used to save my energy for the projects that I thought were "important enough," and let others stagnate. Prioritization is important, but it can also be a way of not working very hard at tasks we don't like.
posted by Tehhund at 10:13 AM on September 18, 2010

Results, results, results. If you can introduce yourself as the successful architect of xyz marketing campaign that resulted in x% of growth for $n of new revenue, then you've suddenly become an asset to that company.

If you don't have any projects like that right now, take some pro-bono.
posted by IndigoSkye at 12:32 PM on September 18, 2010

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