My Career Mentor Says – Part 2

Last week, we discussed the importance of discovering your career objectives while on the job hunt. Once we’ve determined what we like to do, it’s important to consider where we would like to work. My previous job hunting strategy included sifting through hundreds of jobs, applying for a few, tailoring my expectations to meet their needs, and begging the universe in hopes of actually getting the job.

My career mentor suggested a different approach.
Begin by drafting a list of places you already know and admire that seem like interesting workplaces. If you’re interested in working with nonprofits, for example, you could list local charities, after-school programs, and healthcare providers in your hometown or current city. If you feel particularly drawn to the mission of the American Heart Association or Greenpeace, add them to the list! With this list, we’ll be setting up informal interviews. That’s right. We are going to call them and ask about grabbing coffee (if local) or a phone call or Google Hangout (if abroad).
Next we need to draft a list of questions to ask when we’ve secured a meeting with leaders in these organizations. Some general questions like, “How did you become involved with this organization?” or “Please share the next steps for your organization. Where do you see yourselves in the next year? In 5 years?” can really get the conversation flowing. You don’t have to include these particular questions, but personally, I want to know (1) their personal history with the organization and (2) if they’re planning to expand and grow (yay job potential!) or are downsizing. I’d recommend coming up with 3 to 5 questions you want answered. If you have specific questions about any of the organizations on your list, you can map those out too.


Now that we know what we’d like to do, where we’d like to work, and what we’d like to know, it’s time to act. Call the offices on your list and ask to speak with someone involved in    (blank)   . Whether it be marketing, writing, selling, doctoring, accounting, etc., ask that person to join your for a cup of coffee to discuss his or her career, to learn more about the organization, and to connect with like-minded individuals. Some will shoot you down, but most people who love what they do also love to talk about it! Since you’re not asking for a job and they aren’t focused on your experiences through the funnel of particular job requirements, this meeting will most likely be casual and fun.


Be professional, but open and honest. If something seems fishy, ask. If the work sounds too fast-paced or seems to be lacking certain elements, ask. The purpose of this meeting is not to score a position with the company, this is networking at its finest. You are connecting with leaders in your chosen industry, and now they know your name. You may also discover that being a magazine editor doesn’t sound like everything you hoped it would be, or that working with disabled veterans sounds more rewarding than you might have thought.


This is a slower, more methodical approach to finding a job, but it also makes a lot of sense in today’s economy. While I’m desperately applying and fantasizing about cashing my first paycheck, my mentor cautions me to take it slow. “After all, you want to be sure that this is a place you want to work for at least a year, if not 3 or 5 years, gaining experience and building your portfolio. That’s a long time to do a job a you hate just to get a paycheck, don’t you think?”


  • Share on: