Change Your Job Search by Applying Strategically, with Alfredo Moreno

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Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode 20:

Change Your Job Search by Applying Strategically, with Alfredo Moreno

Airdate: August 12, 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 your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps professionals find fulfilling careers.

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 Alfredo Moreno. He’s the community relations manager at the Rock Creek campus of Portland Community College.

Alfredo Moreno knows the difference connections can make in a career.

In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Alfredo shares that he was intentional and strategic during a long job search. He also set clear goals, used tools to stay organized, and built a network of support.

But after applying for the job he has today at Portland Community College, Alfredo kept finding and making connections with people there. That deepened both his understanding and relationships inside the college before his first interview on campus.

Alfredo, welcome to the show.

Alfredo Moreno:

Thanks a lot. Thanks for having me.

Mac Prichard:

It’s a pleasure. You’re the community relations manager at the Rock Creek campus of Portland Community College. Alfredo, why do you love your job?

Alfredo Moreno:

Well, I’m definitely still learning everything that is possible in this job and that’s one of the greatest things about it, is when I walked in, there wasn’t a script of, “Here’s what you do every single day.” I had some notes of what my predecessor did but the opportunity to use my skills, my passions, in the way that I think best serves the students and staff of my campus is on the table for me so I really enjoy that it’s kind of a choose your own adventure in some ways.

There’s a lot of different ways to get to the ultimate goal of creating opportunity and success for our students and I feel like I’m just scratching the surface, one year in, of how to do that using what I do best. And so that, the flexibility and the ability to be the best version of me en route to that goal is just really exciting. And I would just say, there’s no day, there’s no week that’s exactly the same for me in my job and I know there’s probably a lot of people out there who feel that way. The number of different hats I’m expected to wear and can wear because I choose to, it keeps you really just…it’s hard to get into a rut.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so there’s variety, there’s autonomy, and there’s the chance, as you say, to create your own adventure.

Alfredo Moreno:

Exactly.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, let’s talk about your job search. What was your biggest challenge, Alfredo?

Alfredo Moreno:

Well, the biggest challenge was certainly the length of the overall job search. I was basically, I think as I wrote, I basically had my periscope up for about a year and a half but really got intentional about it for nine months. It was a long nine months.

Mac Prichard:

Were you between positions at that time?

Alfredo Moreno:

No, I was in a position, in a career, kind of middle-management career, and so that was another challenge of it was kind of in a…I was almost 20 years into my communications career, this was a different style of communication that I was doing that I had done the first 10 years.

Mac Prichard:

You were working in marketing and communication?

Alfredo Moreno:

I was. I was doing a lot more copyrighting and kind of business to business where I started off in media relations and communications and it was just a very…it was a long process but also I had…I felt like I didn’t have a lot of flexibility to be able to go for a job that seemed like a great passion but take a large pay cut in order to do it.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so how did you deal with that, Alfredo? Because I know there are listeners out there who are mid-career professionals like you and they want to make a change, and they’re not in the position to take a pay cut. You made a sector switch; you left marketing and communications, now you work in community relations. How did you deal with that switch?

Alfredo Moreno:

Well, you know the switch itself it was a little different. I’d never done a community relations job and as I said, I’m still very much learning what that means. As far as moving from one sector to maybe a sector that didn’t seem to connect cleanly, really I focused on, what I tried to focus is on my big-picture skill sets. Basically, my elevator pitch was one of the things I really worked on from the start and continue to work on it up until the day before I had my final interview, of just, what is my story? What do I hang my hat on? And the things I hang my hat on are things that were built through every stage of my career, and including the current one. So, it’s not something that’s only from my athletic side, or only from my copyrighting side, or only for this chapter.

I really wanted to focus on, what is the big things that I do well that I can utilize and have utilized in each of these stops?

Mac Prichard:

How did you figure that out?

Alfredo Moreno:

Well, I just spent a lot of time with it, frankly. I was on a vacation. When I say I really started getting into this intentionally, I was on a vacation with my wife in a lovely place and I sat by the pool and I just worked on my elevator pitch while she was in meetings. And I said, “Okay.” I just wrote down things, I wrote ideas, how would you describe yourself to somebody? I just kept throwing out ideas. It was really like a personal branding exercise, basically and I had some experience doing that for sure.

Mac Prichard:

You had a professional background in marketing.

Alfredo Moreno:

Yeah, and so I did that until I just, there were some things that…and then finally I developed these 3 areas that I really felt described me and how when I looked in the mirror and saw myself as a professional, what did I see? And what did I want to share with other people?

Mac Prichard:

What advice would you give listeners who don’t have the background that you do in branding and marketing? How would you encourage someone to create their own elevator pitch?

Alfredo Moreno:

Oh yeah, that’s a great question. And you know, I didn’t really apply any special learned applications. I really just thought, what makes me special? What do I think…what are things that I’ve done well? What are things that I’ve really enjoyed doing that I’d like to keep doing in any job that I take or any hobby that I do? I really tried to focus on areas I knew I had done well. Writing, storytelling, for me was one, but getting out of the deliverables even, to like, authentic relationship building was something that I really said, “You know, I’ve done that throughout my career and it is something that I want to share with people that I am…” especially with the job I have now in community relations which is much more interpersonal. I thought that was important to share where I have succeeded in that.

Mac Prichard:

When considering writing your own personal branding statement or elevator pitch, think about what makes you special. Any other tips for listeners?

Alfredo Moreno:

You know, I had, I mentioned earlier, it was a long process. So, for me what really helped me was I utilized a goal setting, goal achieving tool. It was a journal that I used, there are many like it. Essentially what it boiled down to is, I wanted to hold myself accountable to areas that I knew I had to have some results in each week, each month, in order to advance this job search. So, one was networking, one was spending time with my portfolio and my resume, and the other was really just doing the leg work of finding applications.

Applications take a long time if you do them seriously and I know there is some advice out there, don’t hold a number to your…you know…be more strategic about the number of the applications. For me personally, it helped push me forward to have a low number of jobs that I wanted to put my name forward on. I was very hungry to switch my careers and I thought that helped keep me moving.

Did I go hunt at enough places where I thought I could be a good candidate and did I apply?

Mac Prichard:

You were applying strategically, you created a process that you held yourself accountable for to do a certain amount of work every week. I’m guessing it wasn’t an overwhelming amount, a few hours a week perhaps?

Alfredo Moreno:

Yes, it was a few hours a week and you know, I’ve mentioned this before, job hunting is nobody’s idea of a great hobby so I wouldn’t say it was…

Mac Prichard:

I also have to add, earlier you mentioned you were on a vacation and you were thinking about your job search.

Alfredo Moreno:

Yeah, it’s not the greatest use of being present and looking around at all the beautiful things on vacation but if you really have a strong desire to make a change for yourself, you’ve got to kind of grind week by week, month by month, like an athlete would, trying to improve themselves for a marathon or something else and you’ve got to have your gates that you pass through, “Okay, I did this, I accomplished these.” They all kind of add up as you go and for me, I think, ultimately, it got to where I was in really good shape nine months later.

Mac Prichard:

It’s almost like a training regimen.

Alfredo Moreno:

Exactly, that’s exactly how I think it ended up being and there was some failures along the way and humbling moments for sure.

Mac Prichard:

I know before you worked in marketing and communications here in Portland you had a career in sports public information for a university, so that athletic world is very familiar to you.

Alfredo Moreno:

Yes, exactly. It was very familiar, yes.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so, again, just thinking about making that switch, you had an elevator pitch, you knew what made you special, you created a program with deliverables, you tracked your progress, in hindsight, Alfredo, is there something you could have done that might have shortened the process, or was there just 9 months worth of work that you had to get through?

Alfredo Moreno:

You know, probably the number one thing is just, and this seems to be…this is something that I’m actively trying to fight right now, is you get relatively comfortable in your job and your career and you stop, kind of, a lot of times reaching out to people and connecting and so it’s…I would say, had I maintained my network a little more aggressively, and spent more time quarterly with people who had similar roles, and just talked about the environment here in Portland…you know, I found myself, rather, when it was time to get going, I found myself a little flat-footed and, “Okay, who do I know who works in similar fields and have similar roles? Okay, let me reacquaint.”

Looking back, it would have been great if those relationships had already been kind of nurtured and warmed up. It would have been a little faster and a little easier, I think.

Mac Prichard:

You did change careers, you moved from marketing and communications to community relations. When you saw this job posting, and you said in your article on the Mac’s List website, you knew it was the perfect fit for you.

Two questions, Alfredo, how did you know that and then how did you communicate that in both your cover letter, your resume, and your interviews? Because you did have to make the case that you had skills that were transferable.

Alfredo Moreno:

You know, I read the job description and it just, for me it wanted somebody with an array of skills, of communication skills, of engagement skills. You know, it was a broad job description but I looked at each of those and I said, “I’ve done that at every stop I’ve been.” Or maybe I did more…I was more of a public presence at my previous job in athletics but I could say, “You know what, I’ve done that at a high level, I’ve done this at a high level.”

Mostly for me, beyond the skills, was really just, I didn’t have to look and say, “You know what? I think I could be pretty happy doing this. Let me talk myself into it a little bit.” I said, “You know what? The opportunity to go work for a community college that’s looking to serve students throughout the metro area, specifically, those who are coming from more underrepresented areas,” and I said, “Man, this is things I’m passionate about in my life outside of work and it’s a chance to kind of merge personal passions and priorities with what I did to make a living.”

Mac Prichard:

I imagine a lot of the work you did along the way helped you get clear about both your goals and your passions and what you might be excited about.

Alfredo Moreno:

Yeah.

Mac Prichard:

Good, what didn’t work in your job search?

Alfredo Moreno:

Well, I did attend some mixers, some networking things, and I enjoyed the ones that Mac’s List put. I honestly would find the panelist very interesting and engaging. I personally struggle with the networking and large groups.

Mac Prichard:

You’re not alone.

Alfredo Moreno:

Yeah, I have to do that a lot in my current job and I’m still working to get better at that. So, that was an area where I said…sometimes I would go to an event and I would say, “You know what, good on you for going to the event.”

That was one of the metrics that I had for myself, to attend x amount of these per month, per quarter, to get out there and try. Sometimes I felt like, did I make a dent? Did I make any sort of impact there on my search? Not sure. I just, I still am trying to sharpen those tools so that in those group settings of networking, I would make a little better of an impact there.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about what did work. What’s your number one job hunting tip for our listeners?

Alfredo Moreno:

Well, I will go back to the elevator pitch. I was actually talking with a friend of mine the other day who’s maybe interested in getting the start going and starting the hunt. I said, “You’ve got to look beyond your job description at this one place because a lot of people do that and say, ‘Oh boy, I do this at this company, I don’t know if I…this is the only place that I could probably do this.’” Especially for those of us who were in more specialized fields or niche industries. You’ve got to look at the bigger picture things that make you a great creative or a great…whatever it is that you do well and zoom out a little bit, lock onto those because those will apply in many different areas so the elevator pitch and the why behind what you’re doing.

That’s probably the one thing. Right before I had my final interview, I went into kind of telling a really personal story about why I connected beyond just, I have these number of years of experience. This is something that’s personal to me and here’s why, because of things I’ve experienced and things my family has gone through and I think that really resonated through to the hiring committee and to the forum audience I had to stand in front of and things of that nature.

It’s knowing yourself, knowing your story, and how it connects to that job.

Mac Prichard:

Well, thank you for sharing your story, Alfredo. And to learn more about Alfredo Moreno’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 share a new interview with a Mac’s List reader who has found a dream job. Go to macslist.org/stories.

Thank you for listening to today’s bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job.

If you’re a mid-career professional looking to make a career change, you’re likely to face obstacles as you try to find the best possible position. Since finding that next job can take a while, you need to change your job search and use your time to hone in on your unique strengths and talents. On this episode of Find Your Dream Job, Alfredo Moreno shares how refining his elevator pitch helped him to see the things he valued most, as a professional and as a person. Alfredo also shares how goal setting and accountability helped him keep his focus, even during a months-long job search. Learn more about Alfredo’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’m the community relations manager at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek campus in Washington County.

How long did it take you to find this job?

It was a long process, but with different stages of intensity. I had my periscope up for about 16 months overall, but I was particularly intentional, strategic, and intense about it for the final nine months.

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

I found the job the standard, not-particularly-efficient way — discovered it on a job listing website (Indeed.com, I believe) and applied online. Obviously it was one of many I applied for during the long search, but was one of the few that really resonated with me right away.

It wasn’t just an intriguing opportunity, it was a role that I knew I could do at a high level and felt very confident that it would maximize both my person passions and professional skill set. I’d say it was a rare opportunity in that regard to hit that sweet spot.

So, I put a good amount of time and energy into my resume and, particularly, my cover letter. My resume changed shapes over time throughout my search thanks to input I received from peers and, particularly, an agency rep I worked with. I didn’t get any job opportunities through them, but the feedback on my resume was invaluable.

Also (and honestly I have no idea if this moved the needle at all) I printed off physical copies of my resume and cover letter and mailed them in a manilla envelope to the person I thought was the hiring manager for this role. Turned out, she wasn’t (it’s a little unique here), but maybe that resonated a bit with the hiring committee. At minimum, it didn’t seem to hurt me.

Finally, even after I had done my initial interview, I kept networking and through some additional LinkedIn exploration I discovered that one of my PCC counterparts in this role was connected to a friend of mine. I asked for an introduction and set up a lunch meeting with my PCC counterpart a week or two before my final interview that was incredibly valuable. She wasn’t on the hiring committee, but gave me some great insight into the role and, most importantly, a real confidence boost heading into the final round.

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

There were several large challenges in my search. The first was simply how long it took. While the end result was absolutely rewarding, having “job hunting” take over as my top extra-curricular activity for 8-9 months was draining to say the least.

I will also say, it was pretty disheartening to experience the shabby way many organizations treat applicants. I’ve been on the hiring side of this process as well and know that it’s no picnic, but I was disappointed with how many companies failed to follow-up in a timely fashion, even when they promised to do so after an interview stage. The organizations that were sincerely appreciative of the great time and effort applicants put forth, and communicated clearly throughout the process, stood apart from the rest.

Finally, as somebody who was well into their career (nearly 20 years) and approaching…okay, at…middle age, with all the varied responsibilities that come with it (mortgage, kid, etc.), I didn’t have the flexibility to explore lower paying opportunities, even if the role had lots of appeal. I had to make a lateral move at worst, which isn’t easy, especially coming out of a niche industry. My window of opportunity was certainly smaller than it would’ve been 10 years earlier when I had more financial and personal flexibility.

I overcame these challenges by diving deeper into my goal-setting process and staying as organized as I could (I used a tool called the Best Self Journal to help). I also needed all the encouragement and understanding that I could get from my friends and family who appreciated how grueling it was to stay after this for so long. You’ve got to have advocates in this process, both personal and professional.

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

Get organized and set specific milestones for yourself that will help you march toward your ultimate goal of a new job — things you can measure and check off on a weekly/monthly basis.

Mine included developing and refining a strong elevator pitch for myself, building and enhancing my portfolio, and increasing and expanding my professional network. Each of those stages had several subtasks that had to be accomplished or even pivoted to drive them forward.

Unless you’re extremely well-connected out of the gate, this is going to be a multi-layered process with no small amount of personal development and learning throughout. Be ready to hustle and grind.

Meet with old colleagues, send emails introducing yourself, ask for favors, go to networking mixers and panels, take advice you hadn’t considered before, read books/blogs/podcasts (Mac’s List, hello!). You’re probably not going to find a golden ticket in any single meeting or event, but you’ll keep picking up tips, info, ideas that will propel you forward.  

Why do you love your job?

My new job allows me to get out and engage with a LOT of different people while serving as an advocate and professional fan of this unique and beautiful campus. There’s a special spirit of optimism on a college campus. People are here because they ultimately want to be a better version of themselves academically, professionally, but also personally. It’s an addicting energy that makes it a fantastic place to spend your day.