Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode 51:
Building a Strong Network: Doug Hunter’s Job Search Success Story
Airdate: April 4, 2022
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
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, I interview a Mac’s List reader who found a job they love.
Our guest today is Doug Hunter. He’s the vice president of marketing and communications at Arjuna Solutions. His company uses artificial intelligence services to improve fundraising for nonprofits.
Doug Hunter believes in the power of networks.
In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Doug talks about the difference his network made in his job search.
He also discusses how challenging looking for work can be and the importance of taking care of yourself during your job search.
Well, Doug, why do you love your job?
You know, for me, I worked in technology for years, and one of the things that always bothered me was the knowledge that eighteen months after I retired, everything I had done would probably be obsolete. That’s the nature of the tech cycle, and working for Arjuna, it gives me the wonderful opportunity to do two things. One is work in technology again, but this time we’re using the technology to help nonprofits out. We’re using the technology to help companies out that make a difference in the lives of other people. And so, now, with what I’m doing, I’m both in technology, and I’m able to make an impact that potentially is going to last multiple generations beyond me. I really truly feel like I can make a lasting impact in my job now.
Well, terrific, and in our article for us, Doug, you talked about the job search strategies that you used, and I’d like to walk through several of them. One of the first things you did was, when you were ready to update your resume, you found six people who work in HR to look at your resume and give you feedback. What inspired you to do that?
Yeah, so for me, I had just taken a class as part of my learning sabbatical on designed thinking, and one of the things they taught us is that getting two rounds of feedback from smaller groups is better than getting feedback from one large group. And there’s this concept of constant iteration and improvement.
So I wrote the email, you know, showed it to my wife and looked through it myself, and then I took it to three HR people that I know and said, take a look at this. Then I incorporated their feedback. Then I went to a second group of three HR people I know and said, what’s your feedback on it? So by the time I got done, over a half-dozen, different HR people had seen a continuously improving resume, and I found that iterative feedback to be tremendously helpful.
How did you find six HR people? Because I don’t think most of our listeners, unless they work in the field, would know six HR people to ask for advice.
In my particular case, I had worked at the same job for over twenty years, and I knew and had maintained relationships with the various HR people I had worked with over the years. You’re absolutely right, most people probably only know one or two HR people at a given time, but I think if they look back in their history, there’s probably other HR people that they know that they can reach out to on LinkedIn.
I was also impressed through my whole search, Mac, as to how generous they were with their time. Even when you’re cold calling them and just making a very polite, a very discreet, and very well-defined request, people are very responsive. So if you don’t know six HR people, let me just say that two is better than one, which is much better than none, and if you do a little bit of digging, you could probably come up with three or four.
How did that feedback that you got from those six HR experts change your resume?
Oh, absolutely, there’s a lot of changes in tone, in language, you know, a preference towards using more action words. It also helped to shorten the resume. When you’ve been in business for a while, you want to take credit for absolutely everything that you have done across your entire career that’s not necessarily relevant to the jobs you’re applying for. You know, I think the best advice I got were the people who said, give me a copy of a couple of jobs you’re interested in and your resume, then they compared the resume to the job descriptions, and really forced me to focus on what was important to potential employers which is different than what’s important to me.
Another job search strategy that you talked about in your article for us, Doug, was that every week, you met with four to six people for informational interviews. How did you find four to six people to reach out to every week?
You know, it was interesting because the people I initially talked to were people I knew and people I had met through my work and professional events, and even things like church over the previous decades. And I always ended every conversation with a question of, who else should I talk to?
The other thing I did is I would join professional groups like the Technology Association of Oregon or the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network, or I would just do random networking things like joining Lunch Club, and every Friday at two o’clock, I had a Lunch Club appointment. You know, the worst-case scenario was I had an interesting conversation with someone, and the best-case scenario was I met someone who introduced me to someone else or had a really solid lead for me.
Or just watching the flow on LinkedIn and seeing who’s commenting and writing about interesting things and reaching out to them. And what I found is, after a while, it kind of became self-perpetuating, in the sense of there is enough people who said, hey, you should go talk to this person, you should go talk to that person. There were enough people I was meeting in professional events that it actually became fairly easy.
And Mac, I’m an introvert. I’m not someone who goes looking for people to talk to. But after the first month or so of talking with people every single week, it really does become much easier. I just encourage your listeners to just keep going.
What was your ask for these meetings, Doug? Did you have a specific request for each of these four to six people that you met with during the course of a week?
Absolutely, and the ask was different for every single person. You know, early on in the job search, it was, well, it was a whole range of questions, like if someone had written an interesting article, it was like, hey, I’d like to talk to you about this article. Or, in my case, for example, I’m changing fields. I’m staying within marketing, but I’m changing from a semiconductor company to, I was hoping to be in a software or services company.
So I would reach out to CMOs, heads of marketing at the types of companies I wanted to join and just say, look, I’m changing industries. Can I just get twenty minutes to ask a couple very specific questions? And by and large, I probably had four out of five people say yes. But I tried to make sure that I was asking people about things where it was like really clearly relevant, and it was clear they could answer or address those questions.
What difference do you think that specificity made in getting that good response to your request for interviews? Because, you know, I’ve met my share of job seekers who say, I reach out, I ask for a meeting, and I never hear back. But you were getting four out of five saying yes.
I was not asking for meetings. I was asking for some of their insight on some very specific things. Things that they were experts on or recognized for, whether it’s their industry or jobs like theirs, or particular tools and technology they use, or just talking shop about marketing in general. So I think that’s very important, is you don’t reach out to people and ask for a meeting, you reach out to people with a purpose.
And I think also, frankly, people like to talk about what they’re good at and what they’re experts about, so if you can identify that and ask them about that, that’s gonna increase your odds of getting that meeting.
After you had these conversations, Doug, how did you know they were successful? What was your yardstick for success?
I think it would be how the meeting ended. If I said, hey, who else should I be talking to? Who else should I be learning from? And then they actually gave me a name and introduced me to someone else in their network; if I got an email or a LinkedIn message later that said, hey, you should talk to this person; or hey, there’s this opportunity – those are all metrics and measures of success, is when people respond and help you take the next step.
And it didn’t happen with every meeting. To me, every meeting, at a minimum, is a chance to practice your pitch and tell your story and help you refine and refine and refine. So when you get to the meetings that really matter, you’re able to present yourself in, you know, a very clear and coherent and cogent manner.
You also did pro bono consulting during your job search. How did that help you land the job you have today?
Oh, this is a great story, Mac. In my particular case, you know, my focus was on finding a full-time job, and as I was having these different meetings, I’d be talking with people, and like I was talking to this one company and they needed help with how to architect and structure their brand. So I was talking with someone else who was a CEO at a start-up. They didn’t have many resources, and she needed help with doing Conversion optimization on her website, and I probably did pro bono consulting for six or eight, maybe even ten different companies and individuals, and when you do that –
And I did it in the spirit of – I wasn’t looking for them to pay me. I was just looking to give back because they had invested in me by taking time to talk with me. So I was happy to take an hour or two or four and help out, and that really helped build my confidence. And as time went on, I actually ran into a number of people who said, you know what? I would’ve paid you for that engagement.
And as the amount of money people told me they would’ve paid me for these engagements grew, I kind of reached the point where I felt like, maybe I should look at consulting a little bit more seriously for pay, you know, at a minimum, it would give me a bit more money for extending my runway and being unemployed for a longer, and maybe would actually turn into, you know, a means of supporting my family.
So I formally said, I’m gonna look for consulting work, and I reached out to a friend who had offered me a consulting opportunity, and I went and interviewed with the company he was engaged with. And part way through that interview, the person who’s now my boss said, “Doug, instead of interviewing for this consulting gig, why don’t you just interview for the full-time role?”
Another thing that’s interesting here is this role was not advertised. It’s not on any job boards. It’s not on their website. The only way I came across this role is because I was networking and because I had decided to go after consulting.
When you were planning your job search, was that one of your goals, Doug, to uncover the unadvertised jobs, the ones that are filled by referrals, or was this a happy accident?
Yes, and yes. One of the reasons, you know, you’re told in, you know, podcasts like this to go do a lot of networking is there’s a lot of jobs that don’t go up on the websites, and so networking to try and find those and to get an inside track on those is absolutely important. It’s also why, for example, when I was doing informational interviews with people and doing networking, I tried to interview and talk with people who had the jobs I wanted. Meaning having, you know, the title and the roles that I wanted, even if I didn’t necessarily want to work at their company.
Because what I knew, and this happened a couple of times, is recruiters reach out to those people and say, hey, I have a job. And what I was looking for was someone to go like, you know what? That position’s not for me. I’m happy where I am. But I know this person, Doug Hunter. You should give him a call. And I had a couple of things develop from that type of approach.
In this particular case, it was a happy coincidence. Because I was not expecting to find the job here at Arjuna. I was expecting to find a consulting engagement, and that very quickly turned into a really solid job.
What was the biggest job search challenge you faced?
You know, for me, it was the emotional roller coaster. You know, you have a meeting with someone who speaks very highly of you, and you’re on a high, and then you hang up, and you look at your email, and there’s a rejection notice from someone, and you’re back down on a low. Then you need to find your way back up to the high again because you need to keep your energy up for all of these conversations. And so, riding that emotional roller coaster was a challenge.
The way I dealt with it is by not working on my job search full-time. I probably worked twenty to twenty-five hours a week in the job search. I approached it as a full-time job. But I only worked it four days a week, and what I did was every Wednesday, I took the day off, and typically I went up on Mount Hood and went hiking or snowshoeing. I did a little bit of backpacking and used that time in nature to kind of help recenter and find myself and clear my mind and think about things a bit.
I also relied a lot on friends and family and just stayed in touch with people. You know, the job search is absolutely the wrong time to kind of withdraw into yourself and withdraw from in a cage. You need to be out there, and you need to keep your spirits up by taking care of yourself.
What didn’t work in your job search, Doug?
You know, throwing applications into the application tracking systems. Throwing applications into the websites just did not work well. As I think back through the interviews I had, they all came from networking, from LinkedIn, from conversations. I think, at most, I had one job opportunity, a solid opportunity that came out of submitting an application via the web. And those take a lot of time because, by the time you tailor your resume, you tailor your cover letter, you know, it’s an hour, hour and a half per application, and it digs into your week, and that was really low yield for me, again. It was about the networking and the people.
Well, finally, Doug, what’s your number one job hunting tip?
The number one job hunting tip is to start looking for your job before you leave your job or before you get laid off. I spent the first couple of months of my job search building the network that I should’ve had before I left my last job. And so, one of the things I’m really focused on now is how do I maintain that network. How do I stay in touch with people? How do I keep meeting new people? So if you have a job, start building that network and talking to people, even if that’s only one person every couple of weeks or every month, and if you’re looking for a job, give yourself a goal. Can you talk to three to five people this week?
Well, Doug, thank you for sharing your story. To learn more about Doug’s job search, visit macslist.org/stories.
And check out the Mac’s List website for dozens of other success stories.
On the second Friday of every month, we add a new interview with a Mac’s List reader who has a found a dream job. Go to macslist.org/stories.
In the meantime, thank you for listening to today’s bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job.
This show is produced by Mac’s List.
This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.