The Hidden Job Market in Action, with Doug Wells
You’ve heard it again and again: it’s all about who you know. Especially in a job search, experts encourage everyone to reach out to their friends and professional connections to find work opportunities through word of mouth. That’s the Hidden Job Market. But what does it look like in action? Doug Wells is here to show us.
On this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job; Doug explains how he reached out to his network with curiosity and openness to find new opportunities, including the job he landed and has been loving for the past year. Doug says it’s important to be patient, and he also explored the pros and cons of being interested in everything. Find out how he focused without losing variety in his career.
You can read more about Doug’s job search below in a post he wrote for our Success Stories series.
Find Your Dream Job, BONUS Episode 003:
The Hidden Job Market in Action, with Doug Wells
Airdate: May 14, 2018
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.
To get your dream job you need clear goals, great skills, and a good network. You also have to know how to look for work. One of the best ways to get good at job hunting is to talk to people who do it well. That’s why once a month on our show, I interview a Mac’s List reader who found a job they love. Our guest shares how they did it and offers their best job search tips.
Our guest today is Doug Wells. He’s a director of organizational development with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, headquartered in Atlanta, GA.
A job search takes patience and time. Before you find your next opportunity you may meet dozens and dozens of people for informational interviews. Our guest knows all about this. Doug Wells spent more than six months networking with people in his field. He also worked hard to strike a balance between staying focused and being open to new opportunities.
In an article you can find on the Mac’s List website, Doug says his aggressive networking and unrelenting focus helped him land his dream job.
Doug, thanks for joining us in the Mac’s List studio today in Portland!
Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
Yeah! Well, welcome to the show.
Now, you’re a director of organizational development with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, which is headquartered in Atlanta; why do you love your job, Doug?
You know, I think I said in the article – who wouldn’t love a job where I can effect change for kids across the country?
Boys and Girls Club is about 160 years old and we serve about 560,000 kids every single day in this country. And I love the ability to work with diverse organizations across – I work in organizations across 5 states in the west, and just help them to do their work better. To serve kids better and make a difference.
So, it taps into a wide-variety of things I have skills in and I love the fact that at the end of the day it’s helping kids be more successful.
That’s terrific! And I know that you’ve been in the position now for more than a year – you’ve touched on this but tell us more: why is this a good fit for you?
So, I – a lot of my career has been at the executive level, often in finance, often in operations, and I serve on a number of Boards, as well. So kind of across the whole non-profit, executive suite, and this has allowed me to work with organizations, with CEOs or Executive Directors, with Boards and Board chairs, senior leadership and clubs…
And, when I say ‘club,’ in the BGCA, or Boys and Girls Club of America, vernacular, is a separate organization chartered by Boys and Girls Club to do the work with kids. They each have their own CEO, they each have their own Board.
I get to work with them – come in, assess where they are as an organization alongside them, help create plans and strategies, and it might be everything from personnel to fundraising to board development/strategic development, so –
I love the fact that I can use sort of a broad range of skills to help them do their work better.
Well, let’s talk about your job search. What made the biggest difference in your success?
Without a doubt, it’s networking.
I spent a number of months just really – and I think I used the word “relentlessly” – networking. I mean, I talked to every person I knew, from board members to colleagues in the field to colleagues out of the field, private sector, nonprofit sector… I tried to really be – I tried to not limit myself, actually, and just be open to what was out there.
So, I started by just having lots of coffees – I drank more coffee than you can imagine in that six months. I asked [people] for feedback on my resume, I didn’t ask for jobs, necessarily, I just asked them to talk: what do they know, who do they know, what do they think about what I’m looking for, what do they think about my strengths and weaknesses? And people, you know, loved to be asked, and most of them were really honest and gave me great feedback and helped me sort of hone my story, hone my resume, and eventually, led me to a great job, which I love.
Now, some people struggle with finding people to contact for informational interviews, how did you select the people you approached? And were you worried they might say no?
I would say… To answer your second question first: I approached it I think more confidently and didn’t worry that they’d say no. Or, if they did, that was fine, because I have a lot of – I’ve lived in Portland for about 24 years and I just know a lot of people in this sector and the city, and I just was happy to chat with them and not have any expectations beyond that.
And I sort of set the stage first, like, I’m not asking you for anything. I’m not asking you to give me a job or do anything magical for me; it was all about just giving me feedback, and listening and telling me what they thought about how I might pursue things.
I talked to people in the private sector, in waste management; I talked to people at the city level, you know, government folks; I talked to lots of nonprofit folks, and just left myself open to whatever path I might take.
Did you have a strategy that drove this? Because, obviously, you probably – you’re farther along in your career; there were probably hundreds, maybe even several thousand people you could potentially have reached out to. You didn’t do that – you brought a focus, I think, to your search. How did you do that? How did you choose who to contact?
I think that was a nice way of saying I look old, but –
I think you’re younger than me!
Well, thank you.
You know, I started out with people who I think of as connectors and influencers.
I worked for an organization and we had just a very strong Board of Directors, who I like to think thought highly of me, so I started with them. And I started with other people at other organizations who knew me and who’ve worked for or with, and I asked them for feedback and I asked them to introduce me to people. You know, who are your friends who run companies or your friends who are on other boards or just are experienced in this community and are connectors?
I think that’s what I would go back to, over and again, the word “connector.” You know, people who – they don’t have to be wealthy or anything else, it has to be that they know people and they have ties into the community.
What didn’t work in your job search, Doug?
You know, what I learned quickly was that strengths become weaknesses and one of my strengths is a broad-base of skills and sort of a wide-ranging – I was interested in everything, like I said, sort of from everything from waste management to the nonprofit sector.
What I learned was I needed to focus a little bit more.
That was a nice place to start but to actually accomplish – to actually find a job that I wanted, I needed to be more clear with myself and when I talked to people about what it was I was looking for.
It didn’t work at the beginning, when I was so broad-based, and I would say unfocused. People would struggle to – like, how can I help you when you don’t even know what you want?
So, that helped me to start honing my narrative. To start, like, literally changing words on my resume to help prospective people know what I was looking for and what I was good at. And I think that really led to a better set of options for me.
How did you find out about your current job?
It was through networking; an old friend of mine, who I hadn’t even thought about, who – she actually works for Boys and Girls Clubs of America, lives in Atlanta – I was just going through my, what we used to call a rolodex, which is now my iPhone, just going through the list of people and started sending notes to people out of town saying, ‘hey, if you’ve heard of anything..’ or, ‘you know me; if you think of anything, I would love to talk to you.’
[This friend in Atlanta] responded almost immediately saying, ‘hey, here’s this seems like it would be a good fit for you, I don’t know, take a look and if it looks good to you, I’ll introduce you to the hiring manager who’s a good friend of mine.’ And from there, it was on me. She opened the door for me, which is often half the battle or more, but then I sort of took it from there and it was a wonderful fit for my skill set and what was interesting to me.
And was this a position that was posted on a website or job board? Or was it being filled by word of mouth?
Boys and Girls Club of America has a pretty extensive internal job board or on their website, but you know, I didn’t see it else, to be honest with you.
Possibly if I was in Atlanta, or someplace else, I might have seen it, but this really came directly from her – I had watched job boards all the time; I went to Mac’s List all the time and other national job boards and clearing houses and I had not seen this job anywhere.
So this was really something I learned about from an internal person.
Ok. So you didn’t have a direct connection to the organization, you hadn’t given them money; it was just through your networking that you found about about this opportunity.
I did not, yeah. Correct.
Well, when you reflect on your own job search, Doug, what’s your number one tip for somebody who’s looking for the right job for their skill set and experience?
I think… I like to think in life, everything is about balance. So it’s about being patient: jobs don’t – dream jobs, if you will – don’t happen overnight. They might, but most likely, they don’t. So, it means patience, but also being relentless with your search: being willing to have coffee after coffee, with having conversation after conversation – to being vulnerable. Vulnerable to feedback, because sometimes people say stuff that you’re like, ‘ehhh I didn’t think that about me,’ or even, ‘I don’t agree with you.’ But that’s fine; that’s all information to go in the hopper.
So, I think it’s finding a balance between being patient with your process, looking at lots of options, and just being relentless and going for something that feels good.
Yeah, it just sounds like the perfect fit for you. I mean, you get to continue to live here in Portland, but you’re doing national work so you’re affecting people all over the country.
And I had an idea – apart from the actual job – that some travel sounded good in my life, just from some personal things that were going on, and this job is a lot of travel. And I would say, that’s challenging, I mean, as fun as travel sounds – and is, to an extent – I travel 75-90% of the time, which is a lot. It’s a lot of time to be in, you know, the Hilton Garden Inn, and the Alaska Airlines. But I love it, and I love what I’m doing, and I love that it’s different every single day, which appeals to me. I don’t thrive in an environment where I’m doing the same thing every single day, so this is a great job for that.
It was a bit of risk, too. It was new territory, I was getting out of my comfort zone, and that felt good as well, for where I am in life.
Well, congratulations on finding your dream job, Doug, and thanks for sharing your story today.
You can learn more about Doug’s job search, by visiting macslist.org/stories.
And check out the Mac’s List website for dozens of other success stories like Doug’s. Every Friday we add a new interview with a Mac’s List reader who has found their dream job. Go to macslist.org/stories
And thank you, our listeners, for downloading today’s bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job.