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Once you’ve completed your preliminary investigations about the design job
market in general, you’re ready to narrow your focus to those jobs that you want
to go after. If you think that means your next step is to scour the newspaper want
ads or search online, we’ve got a surprise for you: Reading the want ads is not an
effective means of surfacing job leads! Sad but true, experts estimate that only
about 10 percent of jobs are actually posted. Instead, the overwhelming majority
of job seekers find positions by following up on a lead provided by a friend, relative,
teacher, former employer, or acquaintance.
“The most important first step is to get your networking working,” advises
Harvey Mackay, author of Sharkproof: Get The Job You Want and Keep the Job
You Love. “Talk to everyone you know who has any connection with the fields
you’re interested in. Ask for informational interviews. Offer to take them out
for breakfast or lunch.”
When it comes to job hunting, the old adage is true: it’s not what you know
but who you know. Especially in the design field where word of mouth and
referrals rule. Stephen Covey, author of the perennial favorite The 7 Habits of
Highly Effective People, says one of the most important keys to your personal and
career success is to be aware of who falls in your Circle of Influence. In other
words, the people you know.
The more people who know you’re looking for work, the more leads you’ll
receive. The more leads you turn up, the more applications you can put in. The
more applications you put in, the more interviews you’ll get. The more interviews
you get, the more job offers you’ll receive.
Your main purposes in contacting those in your Circle of Influence are as
• Let people know you’re looking for employment, being as detailed as
possible (job title, preferred work location, size of operation).
• Solicit their help in hooking you up with people who work in your field.
• If they draw a blank on the question above, ask them for specific names
of people who may know of someone in the field that you can contact.
If you’re a recent grad, the easiest place to start is with your professors.
Often employers who have positions to fill make their first call to faculty. Enter
into your database or write a list of the names of your favorite professors and/or
those who have praised your work.
Then go a little more global in your thinking. Whom do you know who
already works in the field you hope to enter? Who works in related fields, such
as publishing, advertising, etc.? Did you make any contacts with guest speakers
in your classes or in professional organizations or conferences you’ve attended?
Any relationships you developed from internships, practicums, or temporary or
summer jobs?
Go wider still. What family or friends need to know you’re looking for
employment? Now add to that list people you personally know who strike you
as being at the top of their game, regardless of their profession. Add individuals
who seem like they know everyone, regardless of what professional or social circles
they move in. These people are potential door-openers for you.
Finally, what groups do or did you belong to, based on sports, religious,
political, or volunteer activities or hobbies?
By now you should have anywhere from twenty to fifty listings (hopefully
even more). These are the bedrock of your “warm” contact list, those who comprise
your own personal Circle of Influence.
At the same time that you’re mailing out resumés for advertised positions,
you must also simultaneously be working on your Circle of Influence.
At this stage it’s time to employ one of Julius Caesar’s favorite tactics: Divide
and Conquer. In other words, break a large task into smaller, bite-sized tasks.
Say you have fifty names on your contact list. Your first step may be to consult
your e-mail addresses or day planner to see how many addresses and phone
numbers you already have. A logical next step (though not necessarily the only
one) would be to gather the contact info you’re missing, such as addresses or job
titles. Or perhaps you’d rather organize your list of names according to who will
be easiest for you to approach. Or you could chunk the fifty names into five categories
and promise yourself that you’ll contact ten per day until you’ve worked
through the list.
Working with the names on your Circle of Influence, you’ll want to draft a
message announcing your recent graduation and/or availability for employment.
This can be either a script for a phone call (recommended because it’s more
immediate) or an e-mail you’ll send. Here’s an example:
Hi. This is Margarita Hernandez. I was your intern last summer and I
worked on the _______ project. I’m calling because I just graduated from
_______College and I’m looking for permanent full-time work as an assistant
graphic designer. I was wondering if you can suggest so