Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Get In The Game

Perhaps some background will help. In general I plan to keep my posts short and sweet because I am well aware that no one reading this has copious amounts of free time to be reading my loquacious musings. But in this case, I figure it's best to expound on a few detail so you know who you are talking to.

At the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008 I went through a difficult career change thus beginning my relationship with this subject matter. I had worked in professional theatre for 7 year after I earned my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, the last three of which were marked by a serious and depressing level of burnout. The problem is that I was much too young for burnout. Perhaps I'll get into my theatre career later but for now let's just leave it at the notion that low pay, terrible benefits, working nights, weekends, holidays and the transient nature of the industry had all driven me down to the point that I was desperate to escape. It was evident that my career path was headed in the right directions had I wanted to stay, but there was no way I could.

With nowhere else to turn I hired a (very expensive) career counselor who worked with me for a few months and pointed me in the right direction. Having come from the theatre I had absolutely no clue how to get a job outside the industry. My resume, my network (a term I didn't even know at the time) and my life were theatre focused and it was overwhelming to think about how I was going to find my next job.

The experience working with this career counselor was both good and bad. First the bad, in the end after assessing my background and skills through various conversations and exercises she recommended that I pursue a career in marketing. Um, marketing? Huh? I didn't know a single thing about marketing nor did I want to pursue that as a career. Unfortunately, this process did not yield any answers regarding what I would do next but it did teach me how to find whatever it was and that is where counselor earned her money.

Onto the good. The career counselor taught me how to play the game, the job searching game that is. It is this game that I plan to expound upon in this blog. She worked with me to prepare my materials and outlined the exact process I would need to take in order to use these materials to make the move, where ever that was going to be. This as you may or may not know begins and ends with one thing and one thing only: (cue the bells and whistles, ding, ring, dong, ding, ding, ding) NETWORKING. If there's a golden rule in the game of job searching and career management, that is it. Everything you read and everywhere you turn will lead you right back to Networking. In order to Network you have to do a fair amount of research and leg work, so that's part of the process too but it will all lead you back to who you know and who they know. Can you find a job without Networking? Yes, of course. But it has been proven over and again that it'll be a lot harder and take a lot longer. We'll get into the nitty gritty of Networking later.

In my case, what the career counselor told me to do was spot on. She recommended starting with my alumni networks from my college and graduate school. I received an email invitation for the local chapter of my college alumni association to attend a networking event and I went. At that event, I met the then-president of the alumni association who was also the Associate Director of Human Resources at a place I was very interested in working. Following the instructions of the counselor virtually to the letter, I sought him out after the event, introduced myself, gave him my elevator speech and told him I would follow up in a few days, which of course I did. A few weeks later I got a call to interview for a job for which I had never applied and frankly hadn't even heard of and a few weeks after that I was hired.

It feels like I got lucky. But really, I didn't. I played the game, a game I had no idea existed, and it worked.

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