Job search strategies: Aim high or get a foot in the door?
March 22, 2014 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Soon-to-be graduate starting a job search (ugh). Should I start off aiming for the best and then adjust my expectations if that strategy doesn't seem to work, or should I also apply for lower level positions from the beginning if they seem to be in the area that I want to get into?

I will be graduating this coming September, assuming I manage to get myself to write a thesis in the next 2.5 months (I think this can pretty much be assumed!). I am graduating with a master's degree in a field that I had a number of years of entry-level experience in before going to grad school. So ideally I would like to find a mid-level position in the same field. I kind of feel like I have paid my dues. However, as I start to look at job listings, I keep finding myself attracted to entry-level jobs that are specifically focused on a sector that I don't have solid experience in, but have done some work in and have studied during my degree. Ideally, I would like to do work in this specific area of my field when I get out, so there is something appealing about taking a lower-level job for a year or two if it would help me get my foot in the door in an organization that does work in this sector (would help me make connections, have access to internal job listings, gain some more familiarity with the sector, etc.). Not that I wouldn't apply for mid-level positions in this sector if they came up as well, but it seems to be the entry level ones that keep coming up so far.

So, my question is - in your experience is it best to start out a job search aiming as high as possible, or is it a reasonable strategy to aim a bit lower if it might help you get what you want a bit farther down the line? To be honest, I would really like a mid level position at this point, and to use my degree. However, since I am currently unemployed and definitely need money it seems like the foot in the door strategy could be reasonable as well if it gets me employed faster in the area that I want.
posted by thesnowyslaps to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Given the job situation? Yes. Apply to all of them. You're not likely to have the luxury of choosing between mid-level and entry-level, TBH.
posted by wintersweet at 1:12 PM on March 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Unless you're absolutely sure what you want to do, then go with the machine gun strategy. Fire a lot of bullets and hope you hit something. Apply, interview, negotiate - you don't have to take any job that's offered.

Plus, just because you take an entry level job doesn't mean you'll be there long. You might get promoted much more quickly than someone with truly entry level skills and education.
posted by 26.2 at 1:34 PM on March 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I was in your position, roughly, finishing my MSLS and for six months afterward, I had some success with aiming high and paying bills with retail and temp jobs until "aim high" (aka, "secure a full-time job that requires the MSLS") worked out.

I found that many entry-level jobs had (correctly) weeded me out as an overqualified candidate who would ditch 'em the minute I got a job I really wanted. So I worked an array of "whatever" jobs, with a sweet temp gig at the end of that period, to pay the bills. Ymmv if your field isn't as library-museum oriented, but I was able to keep my resume relevant and updated during that period by volunteering in the field.

When I finally got an interview at an "aim high" position, my now-employers were impressed that I worked to pay the bills and didn't settle for less in the iffy period right after graduation. I was also spared the awkward process of extracting myself from an entry-level job I didn't really want, or from pining away for years hoping for a promotion that may have never come.
posted by magdalemon at 1:38 PM on March 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

Seconding not settling for less. The worst advice I've ever taken is to "just get a job" out of college. Once you've set foot in a position, that's what everyone sees you as.
posted by deathmaven at 3:29 PM on March 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also I identify completely with your attraction to entry-level positions; I was risk-adverse as well (along with having a low opinion of myself) and had the same fantasies that it would "help me make connections, have access to internal job listings, gain some more familiarity with the sector". It doesn't work (especially the internal listings part. They want a shiny new star, not someone they've come to know as a grunt for a couple of years). Aim high and adjust your expectations if that doesn't work. Don't do the work of devaluing yourself off the bat.
posted by deathmaven at 3:40 PM on March 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

Apply for everything, consider everything. If there's anything I've learned from my own experience and those of the young people around me in the last couple of years, it's that you can count on not ending up where you think you will end up as a recent graduate starting a career or starting the search for your first job in this economy.
posted by zdravo at 6:28 AM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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