A True Story

A few months ago, TaylorGrace O’Quinn, a senior majoring in English at North Carolina State University with a desire to have a career in marketing, discovered that she had a problem. Her boyfriend, also a senior, had just been offered a really great job after graduation—in Atlanta! TaylorGrace had no qualms about moving to Atlanta, but she didn’t know anyone who lived there and realized that blindly applying for jobs would not be the most effective way to try to start a career.

Fortunately, shortly after she realized that she needed to focus her job search, she was able to attend a Career Expo that I produce each spring (along with colleagues in the NCSU Communication Department) where representatives from local organizations come to campus to talk with students about careers in a variety of fields. Although TaylorGrace knew that she didn’t want to look for work in Raleigh, she took advantage of the event to do some networking: she spoke to each participant, asking them two questions: Does your company have an office in Atlanta? Do you know anyone who works in marketing in Atlanta?

By the end of the event, she had the names of three contacts in Atlanta. She quickly followed up with all of them, each time mentioning the name of the person who had referred her and asking if they would be willing to talk with her in an information interview. (For more about how to conduct an information interview, see my book’s Tip 6. Conduct Information Interviews.)

One of those information interviews was with a Vice President at the second largest global advertising agency in the world! That conversation went very well, with the interviewer going so far as to ask her to describe her “dream job” and saying that she was exactly the type of person they wanted for their organization. He told her that she should stay in touch, and that they would get back to her if they had any openings.

Fast forward a month: Recognizing that she shouldn’t just sit and wait for a job to fall into her lap, TaylorGrace had applied for a number of jobs, both locally and in other cities. Last Wednesday, one of those applications resulted in a job offer from a small local company—but it was here in Raleigh, and they wanted an answer in just two days. TaylorGrace contacted both a corporate mentor and me to ask for advice on how to handle this situation. The offer seemed like a good one, but she would still prefer to work in Atlanta, and she especially wanted a job with the major advertising agency that had responded so positively to her information interview.

What we suggested, and what she did, was to call the local company and ask if she could have a few more days to make her decision (they agreed). Then she emailed the VP in Atlanta, explained that she had an offer in hand, and asked if there were anything he could do for her.

By Friday afternoon, the VP got back to her with a job offer based on what she had presented during her information interview: THEY HAD CREATED HER DREAM JOB FOR HER!

So what do we learn from this true story of TaylorGrace O’Quinn?

  1. Take initiative. Figure out what you need to do to get where you want to go.
  2. Network! It’s not just the people you meet, or the people you seek out, it’s also the people that those people know.
  3. Pursue your dream, and KNOW WHAT THAT DREAM IS! TaylorGrace’s ability to succinctly describe the type of work she wanted to do, and to demonstrate its relevance to the advertising agency during her information interview, made it that much easier for them to create a job for her.
  4. Never hesitate to ask. TaylorGrace asked local individuals to help her; she asked the local employer for more time to make a decision; and, once she had a job offer in hand, she asked the company in Atlanta if they might be able to find a job for her in their organization.

There are certainly no guarantees that this scenario will work for everyone, but it sure beats posting your resume on Monster.com and hoping for the best!