Sara Salo, MPH

Health through

Coordinating a successful job search

Hunting for a job: if you’re reading this post, you have probably either been there before or are there right now. Trust me, I feel your pain. But I have good news: the whole process CAN be easier! Just keep reading. However, if you arrived here looking for advice on how to craft an eye-catching resume and perfect your LinkedIn profile, go ahead and click your ‘back’ button now. This post is about how the world of employment really works.

First, a bit of background. I have loved every single one of my post-college jobs; from Exercise Physiologist -> bike shop girl -> Elite Ski Coach -> School Food Tour Director -> Public Health Educator -> Employee Wellness Specialist. And the thing is, I applied for exactly ZERO of these positions. Now that is not to say that I didn’t have periods when I agonized about finding employment; but looking back, I now realize that my stressful unemployed months only ended once I put aside the stuffy traditional methods and took a more natural approach to searching for a job.

Here’s what I learned.

name1) Network like crazy
TALK TO PEOPLE. Seriously. This is the single best step you can take towards finding a job. You need to put yourself on a company’s radar in order for them to take an interest in you. Very few of us look good enough on paper to elicit a second glance at our resumes; they need to know who you are before they see your official application.

So if you’re interested in an organization, call them. If you love someone’s research, call them. Schedule meetings or conference calls! Tell these people that you admire their work, ask more about what they do, who they work with, and where they see themselves in 10 years. The traction I’ve gained with a simple, well-timed cold call (or cold email) is immeasurable.

Additionally, let your connections know that you’re looking. NOW is the time to cash in on those business cards that you collected at your last academic conference or industry training. A quick inquiry to casual acquaintances surely won’t hurt, and it may even land you a job.

2) The location conundrum
Which comes first? Your perfect location or your perfect job? I would argue that you must BE in said location in order to find that dream job. Otherwise someone else, who has proven that they are established members of the community, will have the upper hand.

For example: My most recent move to Wyoming was a bit impulsive. My boyfriend and I had been dreaming of relocating back to the West, but had no solid plans. He took a few weeks off to visit his brother in Jackson Hole, and ended up staying for the summer. Each of our phone calls ended with him saying, “I think you would really like it here.”  And then one day I told him I would be there in a month.

Two weeks after I arrived, we were out for breakfast at a local cafe. A bag on the floor a few booths over caught my attention. It said “906”. Now 906 just happens to be the area code of the very remote part of Michigan where I grew up. Everyone knows everyone in that northern neck of the woods. I HAD to say hello. So I introduced myself and by the end of the conversation she had given me a contact at the local hospital’s wellness department. The next day I stopped by to introduce myself, and was subsequently hired 2 weeks later! Serendipity at its finest.

3) On internships
As a ski coach, I still keep in touch with many of my former athletes. Many of them have asked me how to handle looking for internships. I tell all of them the same thing: choose an internship based on with whom you want to work. Don’t limit yourself to the few easy options that your school throws at you. Instead, find a person or project that sparks a feeling of inspiration. Then, get in touch and explain that you would like to learn what they do and that you are able to offer knowledgeable assistance. They will be flattered that you asked and if they don’t have the capacity to support an intern, I guarantee that they will know someone who can.

I think you can see a theme here… Take initiative to reach out in ways that extend beyond the traditional job seeking strategies. You may not always get a response, but when you do, you will reap the rewards. Good luck!


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