Building Relationships Throughout Your Job Search Journey, with Julie Magers

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Find Your Dream Job, BONUS Episode:

Building Relationships Throughout Your Job Search Journey, with Julie Magers

Airdate: January 14, 2019

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, your host. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps professionals find fulfilling careers.

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.

Today I’m talking to Julie Magers. She’s a family engagement and support specialist. And she works at the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Oregon Health and Sciences University.

Julie Magers believes in the power of patience.

In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Julie says the job she wanted helping young people with mental health conditions didn’t exist. So she had to remain patient until an employer created the position.

In the meantime, Julie stayed engaged in her profession and she built relationships in every way she could.

Julie also volunteered for advisory committees in her field and networked regularly at health care events.

Now, Julie has been in her role for almost two years. She joins us today in the Mac’s List studio here in Portland to share how she found her dream job.

Julie, welcome to the show.

Julie Magers:

Thanks so much for having me.

Mac Prichard:

Well, Julie, you’re the family engagement and support specialist at Oregon Health Sciences University. Why do you love your job?

Julie Magers:

I love my job because every day I get to help families who are experiencing very difficult times understanding which way to turn. Their children might be in crisis, they have special health needs, and it’s not an easy system to navigate.

I get to both help those families, and then also, help the workforce that’s helping those families.

Mac Prichard:

Tell us about a typical day. What does that work involve that you just described?

Julie Magers:

I do a lot of program development around the state. I’m part of a state team that is looking to enhance and support the development of coordinated specialty care. This is an area of work where youth and young adults who are experiencing mental health crisis get connected with a team of providers and services.

I get the great privilege of working with their families. I don’t do the work directly with the young people but I help support the families. There’s also this burgeoning field of family support workers. I get to work with that workforce to do professional development with them in creating excellence around this work.

Mac Prichard:

Julie, why do you enjoy that work with the family so much? What satisfaction do you get from that?

Julie Magers:

This is an interesting field of work in which your own personal lived experiences are requested to be brought in. We don’t have those same kinds of work personal boundaries, or professional personal boundaries that so many fields have.

Many of us are out there experiencing the challenges of navigating the mental health system or developmental needs for our children and the education system. We learn skills through the school of hard knocks.

That’s what this family peer workforce is about. People who have lived experience within their own personal lives coming and walking beside other families who are going through the same thing and lending support and mentorship to that work.

Mac Prichard:

You get to connect families that have had experiences with, their children have had mental health challenges, and you’re connecting them with other families who are going through the same experience.

Julie Magers:

Yeah, and specifically there’s a program called the Crisis and Transition Services Program and this is seeking to help reduce the rates of youth suicide that we’re experiencing in this state.

When young people come in, families bring their children into area emergency departments or crisis centers.

This is one avenue for them to get connected and referred into a community-based team. Part of that team is a clinical service and part of that team is this family peer support. I get to work with the family peer supporters to help support them in doing that hard work.

Mac Prichard:

Well, tell us about your job search, Julie. I know in your article on the Mac’s List website you shared that one of your biggest challenges was the job didn’t exist.

What’s the story behind that?

Julie Magers:

This is a burgeoning field like I said. One of the things that I find, I’ve learned about myself and what I like to do and what I’m good at doing, is program development and program enhancement.

I was working as a family support specialist in the field, working with families coming out of emergency departments and having this need. I saw areas in which I knew we could improve the program overall.

Part of another area of my work was in working to pass legislation that would make smoother transitions from crisis and the emergency department to community-based care. We successfully passed a couple of laws that would support that work and implementation of those laws is another area. These are directly dovetailed with each other.

I saw an opportunity to put my skills to work in improving, statewide, this area of work, rather than just doing the work in one county.

Mac Prichard:

Julie, you created a job for yourself, didn’t you?

Julie Magers:

I participated with a network of people who are leaders in this field, who are innovative in their way of thinking, and saw opportunity. Part of it… I didn’t create it myself.

Mac Prichard:

Sure.

Julie Magers:

That’s an oversimplification maybe, of what happens. I think that when we network with enough people, we continue volunteering in the field…most of my legislative advocacy work was as a volunteer, and talking about our vision. Talking to everyone we know and, again, finding those people who are in leadership roles or influencer roles and talking to them.

In doing that, I found a group of people who shared the same vision.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so, you were a family support specialist doing the kind of work you now help support. We’re speaking in Portland, Oregon today, and I know you work with specialists across the state, don’t you?

Julie Magers:

I do. It’s really very rewarding to see, especially in some of our rural counties where there are many fewer services available to them, to try to enhance and support the work there, too.

Mac Prichard:

You didn’t stop at just being a specialist. You were involved in your field, in touch with leaders, and you got involved in these policy advocacy efforts that resulted in new public dollars to grow this work.

As a result, this new position was created. Were you well-positioned for that job because of those relationships, Julie?

Julie Magers:

Yeah, I think I was. The work that I was doing and working as a change agent, I think, in this field is really, there’s a lot of people doing work on the ground and then, when you are able to really get connected to the vision of how that work, because of what you’re experiencing on the ground, how that work is both the areas where it’s happening well and the areas where it needs to be improved.

I think that’s this other skill set that I have, is seeing areas that need improvement and having ideas for what those improvements might be.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, and in your case, you work in mental health services for young adults and adolescence, but the principles apply to any field, don’t they, Julie?

Julie Magers:

They really do. In fact, this is my second career. My career is thirty years old and I found that one of the things I did is I really looked at, what are my transferable skills? A lot of these skills that I used in civic engagement and environmental education in the first half of my career are directly translatable to the work that I’m doing now.

The networking, the putting yourself around people who are doing the work, and leaders in the field, finding mentors and staying connected with them, being a mentor. These are all areas that it doesn’t matter what field of work you’re in. These are principles that apply.

Mac Prichard:

Are there techniques that you used during your job search that really stand out for you in hindsight? We’ve talked about the importance of networking and relationships. What else did you find useful in helping you land the job you have now?

Julie Magers:

That’s a great question. I did a lot of the stuff that I think we all do. I kept my resume current, I created a portfolio, so anything that was relevant to the work that I’m doing and the contributions that I made, I put in a portfolio. When I was a kid we used to call these scrapbooks.

Mac Prichard:

Is this online or an old-fashioned portfolio that you would take to meetings?

Julie Magers:

It’s actually in a notebook. The online portfolio would be using social media platforms like LinkedIn. One other technique that I used to get my foot in the door with area leaders was that I would respond to articles that I saw posted.

I’m sure you know of Neil Shafer, leadership in LinkedIn, and building your brand on LinkedIn. I responded at one point to something that Neil had posted.

Mac Prichard:

I’m embarrassed. I don’t know who Neil Shafer is.

Julie Magers:

That’s great.

Mac Prichard:

Is he a LinkedIn influencer?

Julie Magers:

He’s a LinkedIn influencer and he talks about building your brand on LinkedIn.

Mac Prichard:

He’s not somebody who’s an expert in your field.

Julie Magers:

He’s an expert in marketing yourself. Building your own personal brand.

He said something that I thought was really great and I responded to him and sent him a message or an email. Next thing I know, I have a signed copy of one of his books in my mailbox. These are the ways that we can just be human to human.

I think that a lot of times, people who are in a vulnerable point in their career search, whether it’s early in their career and they don’t have a really well-developed resume, or mid-career, changing career fields, I think it’s really just to remember that we’re just talking to people.

Mac Prichard:

When you were going on LinkedIn in those days, was there a strategy driving that? Were you trying to build relationships with particular leaders in your professional field? What were you thinking?

What drove your work as you visited LinkedIn on a regular basis?

Julie Magers:

Yeah. I think it was a little bit of that, that you just described. It was also exposure. Getting exposed on various platforms that people might see. Staying involved in knowing what’s going on out in the field. Scanning just the non-profit work, the healthcare work, all of that.

I read Mac’s List regularly and saw what kind of jobs were out there. That also helped in the creation of this, or the formula of this position that I’m in now is, what were the parts that existed in other positions and job opening that we could creatively put together that would fill this niche that we were trying to work on in this field.

Mac Prichard:

What I love about your story, Julie is, you didn’t wait for a supervisor or an executive director or a funder to decide how to meet a need. As you pointed out, you didn’t do it yourself. You worked with others to create a position that met a need that people knew was important.

You didn’t wait to be picked. You put yourself forward, didn’t you?

Julie Magers:

Yeah, in fact, this is what I did in the first part of my career, too. I did get a government job. I worked at DEQ.

Mac Prichard:

That’s the Department of Environmental Quality.

Julie Magers:

That’s right. Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality. I worked there for a couple of years and then a grant opportunity came up for an Environmental Education Project. I asked my supervisor if I could do that and after doing that for a couple of years and seeing how much that energized me, I got really good at writing grants.

It’s not that I aspired to write grants but I knew that that was an avenue by which I might be able to customize the work that I did. I think I’ve got a history and track record of finding ways in which I could customize my career so that it could be rewarding for me.

Mac Prichard:

You took an entrepreneurial approach; again, you didn’t wait to be picked, you looked for opportunities that allowed you to shape and help direct the kind of work that you might do. Even in a government agency.

Julie Magers:

That’s right. I think that we can’t underscore enough, networking and collaborations. Most of the work I’ve done throughout my entire career has been cross-sector. Government, private sector, higher education, systems. These are all… all of these different sectors have a stake in this important work that we set out to do.

Making sure that you’re fostering relationship and knowledge about those various sectors, I think is also beneficial.

Mac Prichard:

Julie, what’s your number one job hunting tip?

Julie Magers:

That’s a really difficult question. I think staying informed and staying involved. Volunteering if you’re not working yet, get out there, volunteer, participate, intern, do informational interviews, and stay connected.

There’s nothing that can help you more than just to be out there and connected to people and to not get down when your job search is not necessarily going in the direction that you want it to go. Getting down and isolating yourself at home is not necessarily going to be helpful.

Finding your support network and then asking people for help.

Mac Prichard:

We can’t do it alone, can we?

Julie Magers:

No, we can’t.

Mac Prichard:

Well, Julie, thank you so much for sharing your story. You can learn more about Julie Magers’ job search by visiting macslist.org/stories.

Check out the Mac’s List website for dozens of other success stories. Every Friday we add a new interview with a Mac’s List reader who has 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.

If you have the skills and passion for a position that doesn’t yet exist, there are some specific steps you can take while you wait for that position to be created. Networking to build relationships, volunteering to keep your experience current, and finding a group of people who share your vision will allow you to be patient while you wait. On this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, Julie Magers and I talk about how she worked to create a position that didn’t yet exist. It required patience, staying engaged in her profession, and building relationships every step of the way. Two years later, she is still loving the dream job she created for herself. Learn more about Julie’s career history below in this installment of our Success Stories series.


What do you do for a career? Who do you work for?

I work at OHSU’s Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry as their one and only Family Support Specialist. In fact, I am one of two total employees filling this role in the entire University!

In this role, I am developing strategies to enhance and elevate the inclusion of Family and Young Adult Support Specialists across Oregon, specifically in two programs: the Emergency Department Diversion (EDD) Pilot Program and the Early Assessment and Support Alliance (EASA). People in these positions have lived experiences with navigating the systems of care that serve youth living with mental health conditions and/or developmental or intellectual disabilities. We help by walking beside the family, sharing what we have learned through experience, providing emotional and educational support, and helping them learn to advocate for their needs to be met. We also help to “translate” the communication among families, youth and their health/education/insurance providers in order to promote collaborative approaches to serving the child and family’s needs.

How long did it take you to find this job?

I was searching for this particular role for about eight months.

How did you find your job? What resources did you use? What tool or tactic helped the most?

Because this is a somewhat newly emerging workforce, my best tactics and strategies to find this position included networking, serving in volunteer roles on advisory councils, researching the agencies and organizations that hire Family, Young Adult, and Peer Support Specialists, and being ready to submit my application as soon as the most favorable position was announced.

What was the most difficult part of your job search? How did you overcome this challenge?

I had been working as a Family Support Specialist at a local non-profit with a focus on mental health and developed one of the field operations for the EDD Pilot Program in that county. I was very interested in serving in a role to improve the support, training and inclusion of this workforce in all of the program sites across the state, but that position didn’t really exist. I think the most difficult part of this journey was being patient and waiting for the systems serving children and families to create the position. To overcome that challenge, I remained “plugged into” the work in any way possible and stayed in touch with industry leaders in the field.

What is the single best piece of advice you would offer other job-seekers?

Do what you have to do to have the income you need to pay your bills, while simultaneously pursuing your dream job!

Why do you love your job?

I have the honor to walk beside families who are in crisis with their children, spun around in a system of care (our mental health system) that does not readily guide them in getting their children access to critically needed care. When I was in a similar situation, I had a mentor who helped me learn how these systems work so that I could make them work for my daughter – now I get to pay it forward and share that knowledge with others.

I also have the privilege to work with mental health service providers and bridge the communication with their clients, promoting family and youth driven care. Everyone wins when all parties are able to collaborate for the best possible outcomes for children and youth experiencing emotional and behavioral health-related challenges.

Learn more about Julie on LinkedIn and her company website, or follow her on Twitter!