Reflecting on My Job Search

I recently wrapped up my second non-academic job search. In some ways it was easier than the first because I had a solid nonprofit job on my resume, but relocating from Nebraska back to Michigan made the process a bit more interesting. The experience gave me a few insights, even if they’re relatively obvious in retrospect, which I summarize below.

Networking is important.

Moving across a couple of states meant I lost my professional network in Omaha. It’s hard when you lose your network. I did some network building stuff, but I’m sure I could have done more. Most of the time I was just throwing applications against the wall. While that ended up working, the numbers show the success rate wasn’t great.

Judging from the cover letters I saved and what I can remember, I applied for 83 or so jobs. Of the 80+ jobs that I applied for, I had 11 interviews scheduled and two were later canceled by the employers. Ideally, you’ll have an existing network to draw on during your job search to put you in a place where you’ll succeed.

The Job Search Takes Time.

Finding a new job took longer than I expected. My last day at Do Space was in the beginning of July 2017 and my first day at my new job with Rockford Community Services was at the end of February 2018. I applied for jobs before I left Omaha so the entire process ended up being around 9 or 10 months.

The search was pretty up-and-down with periods of activity (lots of applications and batches of interviews) and periods of inaction (particularly around holidays). Having no full-time job for over six months was tough. The longer you plan for your job search to take from the beginning, the more bearable it’ll be.

You’re going to need money.

This goes along with planning for a long job search. Having money from the sale of our house and side-incomes, including a temporary position with ArtPrize, really helped keep our financials from completely cratering. If you’re about to undertake a job search, try to have some savings and a plan to make some money while you’re looking.

Follow your experience

When I looked at my job applications by the type of job that I applied for, it looks like, in retrospect, I put in too many applications. Focusing on roles in which I had a clear background (those most similar to my last job) produced the best outcomes. Even if I was qualified for a position, my resume needed to show it or else I didn’t stand much chance. It sounds like common sense, but when you’re on the job market sometimes you start taking shots in the dark.

Success by Sector

Most of the places that I applied resembled places that I had worked (nonprofit, higher ed, library). This isn’t really ground breaking stuff, though I was surprised how poorly I did with higher ed jobs. However, understanding the language of higher education was incredibly useful when I had the chance to interview.

Nonprofits

33 job applications – 42% of applications

These include a handful of positions at K-12 schools or districts but the majority are your typical nonprofit with a smallish staff. My last full-time position was at a similar nonprofit. I enjoyed the environment, which is why I focused much of my effort here.

Results:
18% interview rate. I had six scheduled interviews.  I withdrew from two during the process (after seeing they weren’t going to work financially). Two were positions that were offered to me (one was my temporary position with ArtPrize and the other was my current job), and one canceled on me.

Higher Education

18 jobs – 23% of applications

Thanks to being a grad student for many years, I had plenty of higher ed experience, though I was largely disappointed that I didn’t receive more consideration in applying to these positions. Despite my activity in planning and event coordination on campus, I think most were looking for a more traditional student affairs-type background.

Results:
6% interview rate. I only got one interview, though that was one where I was a finalist after going on two really good interviews.

Businesses

14 jobs – 18% of applications

This seems high for what I applied for, but probably around half of these jobs were with the local health care provider and hospital network.

Results:
14% interview rate. I got 2 interviews scheduled, but I withdrew from one after not liking the vibe of the company and one interview was canceled on me.

Government

13 Jobs – 17% of applications

A third or so of these were library jobs, which was right up my alley after working for Do Space. Others were administrative or clerical.

Results:
23% interview rate. I was surprised that this was my best return rate. I had three interviews schedule. I got a second interview for and was a finalist for a library job. I went on one that they later reopened for applications and later canceled the search.