Help Me Hunt a Headhunter
November 14, 2007 9:14 AM   Subscribe

I'm a post-Ph.D. (not computer science, alas, but history) and have decided to seek my fortune outside academia. I have lots of experience organizing and researching and analyzing and presenting and teaching all sorts of things in all sorts of contexts, and have made my CV into a resume that shows I'm not just another egghead. Unfortunately, I'm coming up empty handed after several months of a full-court press, and I'm thinking it's time to contact headhunting/recruiting agencies that might be interested in someone like me. I'd love your thoughts and suggestions on which firms to contact in the New York area.

By "people like me," I mean people who don't know C++ but can learn how to do pretty much anything short of figure skating and gymnastics quickly and do it well. And of course I'm also very grateful for any general job-related/New York-ish advice, including suggestions for temp agencies that might have especially challenging jobs for someone who is good at reading and thinking and writing.

Pre-emptive eternal gratitude.
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Work & Money (9 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm a recruiter, and I hate to tell you but for the most part you will be wasting your time sending CVs to headhunters. We are retained by companies to find people with specific skills and experience.

My advice to you is to forget about sending resumes and focus on meeting people in an industry that interests you. Find names and ask for short informational interviews that will let you learn about different roles. If you meet enough people and impress them with your smarts and charm (without asking for a job directly) you have a good chance of getting a personal referral to an opportunity. Good luck!
posted by sevenyearlurk at 9:42 AM on November 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Headhunters work for employers, not for job-seekers. There's nothing wrong with contacting them and getting your resume to them, but they will not work on your behalf.

I've encountered folks with history degrees working in all kinds of fields: journalism, hospitality, systems management, non-profit management, etc., so certainly you can land successfully somewhere outside academia.

It sounds to me like you need to narrow your focus to what you actually want to do, rather than saying "I can learn how to do just about anything". "Reading and thinking and writing" is pretty broad and applies to almost any non-manual-labor job.

If I were to consider hiring you in my field, I would want to hear you say that you've thought about a lot of lines of work, but that this opportunity I'm offering is just what you want to do. And you'd have to mean it. If I get the idea that you're just applying for anything and everything, I would tell you to come back when you've made up your mind.

If you have not used the "What Color is My Parachute" type of method to narrow down your choices to what really interests you, I'd recommend doing that, first of all.
posted by beagle at 9:44 AM on November 14, 2007

How about research analyst at one of the major broker/dealers? Obviously you would start out pretty junior, but with your background it might be something that's right up your street. Taking sevenyearlurk's suggestion - try and talk to some of those types of people.
posted by Sk4n at 10:04 AM on November 14, 2007

How about a position at an educational publishing company? (Pearson, McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin, Bedford/St. Martin's, Elsevier, Thompson...). I work at one and can tell you it is not at all uncommon to hire former instuctors. Our traditional customer is the instructor and so its quite a natural progression for some to come work for us. Many become editors but some go to the sales force becoming sales specialists in their discipline. A guy I work with closely was a psychology professor who ended up creating his own ebook format and was hired and now runs an entire ebook production department.

Ed. Publishers generally don't pay very well however, so I'm not sure how much that is a factor. It varies across the industry of course. I will say however that aside from the biggest publishers like McGraw and Pearson who I hear tend to be very corporate, it is a great environment to work in.. very laid back, highly educated people, interesting important work etc..

Most companies have new york city offices. Many are headquartered there.

Good luck!
posted by postergeist at 10:28 AM on November 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

Thought about non-profits?
posted by fructose at 2:13 PM on November 14, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks to you all for these suggestions! I actually have a very good idea of the position that would be completely fulfilling and a perfect use of my expertise and talents (working in a Ford Foundationesque policy non-profit on issues of religious and ethnic conflict) but such positions are few and far between, and it's going to take a lot of time- maybe a year or more- and a lot of informational interviews to prime the pump. And, of course, there are no guarantees. In the meantime, my post-doc is about to end and I need to find a job ASAP.

Thanks for the tips on the brokerage firms and educational publishing- the former seem to want fresh and virginal 22-year olds for their training programs, and I haven't had any luck with that route. Which is not to say that I won't continue to try. And I'd love to work for an educational publisher, but I'm single, I live in a non-rent stabilized New York apartment, I have no savings, and I spent 7 years in grad school. It's not that I'm too proud to take a low-paying job, it's that it would mean continuing an existence that has become profoundly demoralizing (not least because I'm 33).

I don't mean to shoot any of these suggestions down, I'm just trying to see if I can change my strategy a bit while continuing the long-term search for something that might be a perfect match. Seriously, I'm grateful for any thoughts and reflections and any bit of insight that might help me rethink things a little.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:45 PM on November 14, 2007

Another thought: Google "think tanks" -- there are lists on various sites. Go to the sites of the tanks and look for their job listings. That sounds like what you mean by the Ford Foundationesque job. Of course, most of them are in DC.
posted by beagle at 5:57 PM on November 14, 2007

Best answer: Are you thinking of working as a program officer or -- is there a pure research branch of the Ford Foundation? (I can't figure it out from their website, which has no full list of staff.) From what I've seen, people getting hired as program officers at foundations often bubble up from nonprofits. (I do have a skewed sample, since I work at a nonprofit). Apparently, foundations are the top of the nonprofit heap. I think they're looking for people who know the field, know about nonprofit management, and have personal networks to help them get an independent perspective on potential grantees (and I'd guess the latter two are actually more important than the former). So, you may have to have an intermediate professional step, even if it's just as a way to meet the right people.

I really feel for your position -- I personally dropped out of a Ph.D. program to take a job at a nonprofit (and I, too, was quite ready for a real paycheck). I just got lucky. I was already working as a consultant for the group when they found the budget money to hire someone for real. I'd gotten the consulting job because a friend of mine couldn't take it, and he was referred to them by a former roommate. And where I work now, we have a steady stream of temporary interns, many of whom we'd love to keep around, so when we come up with money for new positions, we would definitely consider them strongly in a hiring process. And we're good compared to many of our peers, some of whom don't even bother to post the position, and instead just find good people who are ready to leave other organizations. So, when you say you're coming up empty, I'm thinking you probably just need to get more inside this network of people who are all hiring friends-of-friends, former interns, etc., so that they already know you when the time comes to start hiring.

Hmm, so how to insinuate yourself into their circle of professionals? I apologize if you've already tried all of this. You might read through their list of people and affiliations. You could look online through the list of groups that they fund (plus, then you know they suddenly have an extra $100K on hand!). You could think about where people who work there used to work, and about people who have left there and where they are now. For example, (I know more about the community development side of their work, so this isn't the stuff you're interested in, just an example,) Carl Anthony has left the Ford Foundation and is now coming back to the Bay Area, where he used to run Urban Habitat. A place like Urban Habitat would be much easier to get a job at, I'm guessing (plus they do great work). Similarly, you could think about any partners they have on things. Eg, (and again, community development), this group works with the Ford Foundation on an annual convention, and would potentially be an easier place to get your foot in the door.

In the meantime, I'm sure you've thought about your personal networks (professors, fellow students, fellow former students) and talked to everyone about how you're looking to get your foot into the nonprofit field, and can they think of any way you could do that? You could also try working through the university. They probably have some think-tank-esque groups that interface with local nonprofits and might have been getting requests for help from groups who might want to hire you as a consultant for some project.

Wow, this was a long random brainstorm. Anyway, good luck.
posted by salvia at 6:40 PM on November 14, 2007 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: ...and a long random brainstorm that is much appreciated.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 9:32 AM on November 15, 2007

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