Career Advice From Three Years of Job Search Conversations

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Find Your Dream Job, BONUS Episode:

Career Advice From Three Years of Job Search Conversations

Airdate: September 10, 2018

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, find the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, founder and publisher of Mac’s List.

We’re celebrating today a big milestone at Mac’s List. This month marks the third anniversary of the Find Your Dream Job podcast. We’ve now recorded more than 160 weekly shows. Add the more than 50 bonus episodes and that makes more than 200 programs in all.

To mark the occasion, I’m joined today in the Mac’s List studio by all my past and present Find Your Dream Job co-hosts. This is my dream team here, Ben Forstag, Becky Thomas, Jessica Black, and Leila O’Hara.

We’re coming together as a full team for this special bonus episode. We want to celebrate both what we’ve created together and share with you, our listeners, what we’ve learned about job hunting from making this program.

I’m going to open up the mic here to the four of you. It’s quite the accomplishment, isn’t it?

Jessica Black:

It is.

Ben Forstag:

I’m just impressed that you let me back on.

Becky Thomas:

I’m excited. I love being in the podcast studio.

Leila O’Hara:

Yeah, it’s like getting the gang back together. It’s fun.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Becky Thomas:

Three years though… That’s a long time to be running a podcast and keep pushing them out every week. It’s awesome.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, well I’m grateful for the processes that you’ve all helped to create, particularly to you, Jessica, for keeping us on track for the last two years. Ben, you were here at the start, the very first episode.

Ben Forstag:

I was. It was a little less organized than it is today.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, it was very spontaneous in those days, I think. Although, I think there was only one time when we didn’t have a guest seventy-two hours before the show.

Ben Forstag:

I recall that. There was a lot of hand-wringing before that of, “Who exactly are we going to be interviewing that day? What the show was actually going to be about.”

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, but we got through that, and we won’t mention the particular guest. That person did a terrific job and we’re grateful that we had that person on the show that week.

Jessica Black:

Any listeners can take a guess though.

Mac Prichard:

Haha, that’s a lot of names to choose from.

One of the benefits of doing a podcast for us, both individually and as a team, is that it’s given us a chance to learn new things. Thanks to this show, we’ve found out about new job hunting resources, we’ve had lots of listener questions, and we’ve had the chance to talk with some of the best career experts in the world.

I’m going to open it up the four of you again; when you reflect on what you learned, what’s your top piece of advice that you would give every job seeker? That’s a question we actually ask at the end of our monthly interview with people who have found their dream jobs. You can have more than one bite of the apple, if you’ve got more than one piece of advice, that’s good too.

Becky, you’re leaning into the mic…

Becky Thomas:

I always am, Mac. I think this is a great question because there’s so many things that I’ve learned from being a co-host on the podcast, listening to it, and just hearing all the experts sharing their advice on all these different topics in job search and career development.

There are so many things that people can do to develop the career that they want but I think that my biggest piece of advice is to do something. Because I think that there are so many options and so much different advice out there, that people get paralyzed. My advice is just, that it might not be the magic bullet that’s going to save your career and put you on the right path, but just do something. Take action, try it, and if it doesn’t feel right, guess what? You get another chance. It’s your career and you get to keep pushing and learn from every opportunity.

Jessica Black:

Also, don’t wait until you’re ready because then you’ll be waiting forever. I like that, take action.

Becky Thomas:

Right, yeah. That’s my thing.

The other thing, and I think I’ve mentioned this on the podcast a few times, ask other people how they see you and what they think you’re good at. I’ve always gotten a lot of good information about myself that you don’t necessarily know about yourself. You’re in your own brain, and your own body, so you don’t know how you come off, how you’re communicating, or what skill sets you need to work on. Don’t be afraid to ask the people you work with, or even people in your life who have seen you work, like, “What do you think about me? What do you think I should do next?” That’ll give you good ideas.

Yep, that’s what I’ve got.

Leila O’Hara:

Great, yeah, I guess I will go next. I’m still new to Mac’s List. I’m still new to the podcast.

Jessica Black:

But also fresh off the job search so that might be helpful.

Leila O’Hara:

Yeah, that is true.

I came to it with that perspective and just in the three or four months I’ve been with Mac’s List and podcast, I’ve learned a lot. It was hard to narrow it down to one little tidbit of advice, but…

Jessica Black:

That’s okay, tell us more.

Leila O’Hara:

I think that something that resonated with me mostly because it’s something that I wish I had known back when I was doing my job search was having focus in your job search.

Jessica Black:

Really important.

Leila O’Hara:

Yeah, and I think we talked about this on the podcast recently, don’t feel like, “Oh, I have to keep all of my options open. I have to do everything I have to send in ten job applications everyday.” Really narrow it down, think about what work environment you want, the culture, the people you want to work with, the people that you like, and what you don’t like too. Don’t be afraid to narrow it down and really hone in on those specific qualities. That’s really going to help you, it’s not going to hinder you.

It’s better to be defined, versus just being a nebulous, “Oh I don’t know, I’m just going to try to be everything to everyone.” That doesn’t work.

Ben Forstag:

“I’ll do anything.”

Leila O’Hara:

Yeah.

Becky Thomas:

Totally, I hear that all the time.

Leila O’Hara:

Yeah, I think that’s really important. I’ve heard a lot of our guests talk about that.

Mac Prichard:

I think we’ve all been there. I certainly have in my career. I understand why people say that, because they want to be open to new opportunities, but it ultimately makes for more work, doesn’t it, Leila?

Leila O’Hara:

Yeah, it does. It makes more work for you, and for the people who are trying to help you find a career because if you don’t have focus they can’t help you figure out what you want. You need to know that first.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, that’s a great point.

A lot along the lines of this same line of what I was going to say, is to be clear about what you’re looking for. It’s a different way of saying have focus but really take those steps to really know. Do the data gathering of, figure out what you’re good at, how other people see you, and be clear about what you are going for.

My main point related to that is to ask people for help. I have historically been really bad at that, because I am very independent. I’m pretty private, I don’t like to have people all up in my business, asking me what I’m doing and all of that. I would rather have that approach of doing it myself. But I’ve learned as I’ve gone through the job search process several times, it’s really helpful to ask people and to ask for that help even just in the ways of getting support and having that community mentality that you have other people that you’re going through it with. It’s really isolating otherwise.

That would be mine, ask people and be clear.

Ben Forstag:

So, Mac… You know I’m a person with lots of ideas and opinions about things and never really shy about sharing those.

Mac Prichard:

So, you can’t limit yourself to one or two?

Ben Forstag:

I’m going to limit myself to two. I consider that quite an accomplishment for me.

My first one is really strategic. Always write a cover letter. Even if the employer doesn’t ask for a cover letter, even if you don’t think you need one. Write a cover letter. I think the biggest challenge when you’re applying for a job is proving to the organization that you really want this job. That’s hard to do when you are writing out a resume because resumes are static and rigid.

In a cover letter, that’s your opportunity to make it slap-in-the-forehead obvious that you really want this job and to make it clear how your skills and your career history are leading you into this opportunity. I think if you can do a really good job with that in your cover letter, you’re going to do so much better about getting your foot in the door and having that interview. I can’t tell you how many really impressive resumes I’ve seen when we’ve been hiring but then it’s not clear to me at all why the person wants the job I’m hiring for that day. The person who makes it clear always has the leg up because I know they want to be there, it’s clear.

Mac Prichard:

That’s number one and I love that. I think sometimes people treat cover letters as an afterthought, or they use a generic cover letter and it’s a lost opportunity when they do that, isn’t it, Ben?

Ben Forstag:

Absolutely. This is like free advertising space that they’re offering up to you. Take it, even if they don’t say they want a cover letter, put one in there because I think it’s just so important.

The second one, and this is for people who have jobs or are about to get jobs, which I believe is probably everyone listening to this show, pay it forward. I think there’s this tendency that once you find a job, you forget about how awful looking for work can be. We know all it’s bad but we don’t remember how really, truly, awfully bad it is until you’re stuck in the middle of it and you’re like, “Oh, man, why didn’t I put myself in a better position to avoid this?”

When I say pay it forward, one is like career development being part of your ongoing life. You’re always putting yourself in the best possible position when you need to look for work again. Also, practice a little empathy towards people who are looking for work. Everyone has something they can contribute and help other people out with. You know people who might be a great contact for someone else. Just practice a little kindness, empathy, and paying it forward to those folks who are still looking for their dream job. See if you can help them reach their goals and if you’re the person who can help someone do that, they will remember that, and be thankful for that, and be in your debt forever. I encourage everyone to do that.

Mac Prichard:

Good advice.

Becky Thomas:

That community aspect, right? Everyone helping everyone is going to make the whole of work better, when it doesn’t feel so isolating and it doesn’t feel like you’re the only one doing this, and no one’s going to help you. It’s the same thing, to Jessica’s point, about talking to people and asking for help. I feel like a lot of it is, you’re sitting there listening to this podcast, and you’re resonating with all of this, but it’s like, “What do I do?” So, go talk to somebody. It’s okay to let your pride down a little bit and relate to people. Talk about the hard stuff.

Ben Forstag:

If you’re fortunate enough to have a job that you like, or a job that other people might find interesting, you’re not threatening your own position by going out there and offering to help people find their own dream job.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, it’s not like it’s a secret, what you did.

Ben Forstag:

Exactly. All boats can rise together. I really encourage people to help each other out. Again, looking for work sucks.

Mac Prichard:

It does, and as you all have touched on, one of the points I wanted to make, which was the importance of generosity. Jessica, you mentioned this, how hard it is for you personally, for many of us, we struggle with asking for help. Ben, you touched on the importance of paying it forward and doing that, and asking for help, Becky. I think about people’s careers and their personal lives, but their professional lives, too. People I see who are most generous, are the ones who get the most satisfaction, and ultimately have the most personal and professional success.

A couple episodes ago we chatted with a guest who talked about networking and how to take the “Ick” factor out of it. She told the story of somebody she described as, “The most networked man in Silicon Valley”, and I don’t think she shared his name, but she said what he did every day was spent about ten minutes doing a favor for someone. Making an introduction, making a connection, responding to a request for informational interviews. He did that because it made him feel good but it also benefited the community and helped him personally and professionally as well.

When I think about a tactical piece of advice, I love that. Spend ten or fifteen minutes every day doing a favor for somebody else. Give without any expectation of getting in return.

Following your lead, Ben, if I get two bites of the apple, I would just say, and this won’t surprise anyone listening to this show, doing this has reinforced for me, just as you’ve got to get good at doing different skills in life, whether it’s parenting or financial literacy, you have to get good at job hunting. You don’t have to do it all the time but you do have to do invest over the course of your career in learning job hunting as a skill. There are so many good people out there doing it and teaching and so many resources available to us.

Those are mine.

Becky Thomas:

So many of them have been guests on this podcast.

Mac Prichard:

I know, and I’m appreciative of them sharing their time and expertise because we don’t pay our guests. We do ask people to do pre-interviews and spend some time preparing for the show. They’re not just calling in from a roadside rest stop.

Jessica Black:

We make sure that they don’t.

Becky Thomas:

Actually, I think that happened one time.

Mac Prichard:

Did it?

Jessica Black:

They tried to.

Becky Thomas:

Didn’t she park her car because she was on a road trip and had to get somewhere to see her mom or something?

Mac Prichard:

Alright, well no names.

Becky Thomas:

No names but I remember that happened. She was like, “I’m parked in my car. I’m pulled over, and it’s pretty quiet. All the windows are rolled up.” Yeah, that happened one time.

Mac Prichard:

I remember that, yeah. I think there was an illness in the family. We allowed that.

Jessica Black:

It does happen.

Becky Thomas:

Life happens too.

Mac Prichard:

Life happens.

Jessica Black:

It does happen but we’ve also encouraged other people who have tried to do that on a regular basis to not do that.

Becky Thomas:

“I’m just in traffic.”

Mac Prichard:

Yeah.

Well, that’s great, anything else you four want to add?

Jessica Black:

It’s been a really fun time.

Becky Thomas:

It’s been a pleasure.

Mac Prichard:

Great. Thank you all around the table, for all your great work on the podcast these last three years. I’m grateful for all of your good work. Obviously, you’re not going anywhere, you’re going to continue to be a part of the Mac’s List team and serve our listeners and readers, and continue to provide terrific resources to help people find their dream jobs.

The show’s format will change, starting with the coming Wednesday, we are going to move to an  interview only format. I’ll continue to talk to national career experts about job hunting techniques. Once a month, we’ll continue our interviews with successful job seekers.

Please join us next Wednesday when our special guest will be Jessica Hernandez. She’ll talk about signs that it’s time to leave your job.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job!

This podcast episode marks the third anniversary of the Find Your Dream Job podcast. We’ve now recorded more than 160 weekly shows. Add the more than 50 bonus episodes, and that makes more than 200 podcast programs. To mark the occasion, the Mac’s List team gathered in the podcast studio to share their favorite career lessons learned and most impactful job seeker advice they’ve discovered along the way. Here are a few of the big takeaways the team shares:

Listen in to this bonus episode as the Mac’s List team celebrates how the podcast has grown and looks forward to what’s next.