Should you wait until you need a new job to explore openings? Absolutely not, according to Shelby Danzer, our guest on this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job. Shelby found her current position by maintaining a list of companies she’d be interested in working at and regularly perusing their job boards. And she highly recommends making your own short list of places you’d love to work. Learn more about Shelby’s career history below in this installment of our Success Stories series.
Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode 62:
Keep an Eye on Your Dream Organization: Shelby Danzer’s Job Search Success Story
Airdate: March 6, 2023
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.
She joins us from Portland, Oregon.
Shelby Danzer believes in the power of focus.
In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Shelby recommends keeping a short list of employers where you want to work and paying attention to job postings at these places.
Doing this helped Shelby find the job she has today.
Shelby, why do you love your job?
I love my job because I think it’s at a crossroads of sales-type environment and mission-driven work. I really enjoy the grind of reaching out, setting meetings, keeping myself organized. But I love that person-oriented connection that I get when I’m talking to folks who want to support the University of Oregon philanthropically or through their own volunteer work. I think that it’s really fulfilling to get to do that mission-driven work that serves the greater good, but at the same time, get to be in a fast-paced environment where I’m working with other folks who have that same drive and desire to set up as many meetings as we can, and close as many philanthropic gifts as we can, things like that.
Well, let’s talk about your job search. One of your strategies was to pay attention to job postings at a target list of employers. Why did you focus on just targeted employers, Shelby?
Well, I have been through several job searches in my career so far. Sometimes they are searches where I’m looking to make a change relatively quickly. So I’m applying to lots of jobs at once. But other times, I have stumbled across a job at a place that I’ve always wanted to work, and even though I wasn’t planning to make a change at the time, I found myself throwing my name in the hat so that I wouldn’t miss that opportunity.
And the latter example has actually happened to me more than once. And so, through those experiences, what I have found is that I don’t want to miss an opportunity because it might not feel like the exact perfect time. And that has motivated me to just keep an eye on the organizations that I consider my dream places to work.
That way, you know, when something comes along, I can throw my name in the hat and remind myself that taking an interview doesn’t mean, you know, making a big change and accepting that job. Sometimes it’s a good opportunity to just get to know the folks who work at that organization now in anticipation of applying again down the road. And I think that if you’re always keeping an eye towards your job search and your career trajectory by checking in a few times a year on those top five, top ten places to work, then you will always have an opportunity to take that next step, even if it wasn’t something you were expecting at the time.
Some job seekers struggle with this, and it’s understandable, coming up with a list of their top five or ten dream employers. How did you do that, Shelby? How did you create your dream list?
That’s a good question. I think that I am pretty involved in my community. I consider myself to be fairly politically active, to spend time volunteering and attend various networking events throughout the year, which has exposed me to a lot of different places that you could potentially work. I think that there are a lot of companies and organizations out there that you don’t even know necessarily exist.
You know, no five-year-old kid ever says to themselves, “Oh, when I grow up, I want to work for a tech company that specifically creates apps to help people track their to-do lists.” Really specific things like that, you oftentimes don’t think about. And so, getting involved in your community and just exposing yourself to the different companies and organizations that exist in your town or in your city, I think, is a really great starting point, and how I started that process for myself.
I can think of a couple of different times where I was either volunteering or at a networking event, chatting with somebody, and casually asking them, what do you do for work? And listening to them talk about the places where, you know, they’ve had jobs before and realizing that it sounded really cool, and I also had no idea that that company existed before talking to someone who worked there. And it was through that process, just through talking with other people, that I put that little list together for myself.
So, you know, when you’re talking with someone, and they mention, oh, I work for so and so, write it down, make a note in your phone, google it later, and cruise through their job board just see the types of things that they have on offer and the type of opportunities you might be able to pursue.
So you had a dream list of employers that you were excited to work for. You were checking their websites for job postings. What other steps did you take to connect with either these organizations or the people who work there or learn more about what they were doing in the field?
Well, I think that LinkedIn is always a great tool, and with Covid, it gets trickier to get out to events, of course. But pre-pandemic, at least, I was making an effort to, you know, attend networking events, like I said, fundraising events as well. Whether you see yourself as the big donor at someone’s annual auction or not. Particularly if you’re interested in nonprofit work, I think that the annual fundraising events that various organizations have is a great way to just go engage with that community in a very passive way, where you don’t have to dive in as a 24/7 volunteer or anything like that.
So I think that trying to make yourself seen at events and just introducing yourself to people, as well as reaching out on LinkedIn and just asking folks if they’d be interested in a phone call to chat about what it is that they do in their job. I think similar to how people don’t know what kind of companies always exist, I also have found that they don’t always know the jobs that exist. And so, maybe your dream job is out there, but it’s got a really funky title, and you would never think to Google a job that has that title.
So reaching out on LinkedIn, you know, if you’ve got folks’ emails, just reaching out to them directly and asking for essentially an informational interview to chat about what it is they do. I’ve actually found that to be a pretty successful tactic as well. And it can be a little intimidating to ask someone to take time out of their day to chat with you, but I have found that people are really warm to the idea, and if they don’t have time, they’ll say no, but nine times out of ten, I find that people are willing to get together in person for a cup of coffee or jump on a ten-minute phone call.
And so, those are some of the tactics that I use to get to know the people that already work at the places that I think I might want to work at one day, too.
In your article for us, you shared that you had applied for jobs at the University of Oregon twice before and been rejected. What made you try again after being rejected twice in the past?
Well, I think that I grew my skills and experience a lot over the time between my first application to when I finally got a job with them. And while the initial rejections had been, of course, frustrating and disappointing, I recognized that I had changed a lot. I think about three years passed between my first application to when I officially got a job, and I had just gained so much experience in that time. And I think that my resume looked radically different from the first go to the last one, and I used that sense of growth and accomplishment to overcome, you know, the fear around throwing my name in the hat, even though it hadn’t worked out the few times before.
I would also say that my experiences applying and interviewing with the University of Oregon, previously, had always been positive experiences. Even though I had not gotten those jobs at the time, the folks that I interacted with were lovely, and at no point did I feel like those past experiences burned any bridges or left a bad taste in my mouth.
And so, it was easy to try again because I’d had really wonderful experiences with those folks already, and I also felt that there was something to be said for some name recognition and, even though I hadn’t gotten jobs in the past, knowing that I’d met some of those folks before, that I was familiar with people in the organization, just through an interview process, was actually a source of comfort and because I think that familiarity gave me a little more confidence going in, versus applying to a job where you don’t know anyone or anything about how they operate.
It took three months from the day you applied for the job at the University of Oregon until you accepted an offer. How did you manage your expectations, Shelby, during that period? And stay in touch with the hiring manager?
It was tough, honestly. It was right around the holiday season, which made things even more hectic, and I think contributed to what to me felt like a lengthier process. It’s always tricky to remember that if the hiring manager’s on vacation, you’re not gonna get a call back for an interview until they’re back in the office.
But I think that three months, I have found ,is not an atypical amount of time for a job process. But when you’re the person applying, it can feel like a really long time. Especially if you really, really want a new job.
So, managing expectations in regards to what that timeline looks like, realistically, from, you know, when can you expect from application to first day, what does that look like? It is typically a months-long process.
And so, knowing that going in is helpful, especially if you find yourself in a position where you’re pretty eager to get out of the job you have right now and are ready for something new immediately. It is particularly difficult in those instances to manage that timeline expectation. But knowing what you’re getting yourself into before you start that process, I think, is really important.
And then, balancing that need to ask for an update with a respectful boundary around, you know, understanding that the hiring manager has other things on their plate. I always try and remind myself that hiring somebody is not a full-time job for anyone. And so, the person that you are talking to, well, for you, it seems like a huge deal. For them, it’s one thing on a long list of to-do items that they’ve got while managing the rest of their responsibilities in their role.
And so, being respectful of that and understanding of that. But with that in mind, you know, if you go a week, two weeks, without hearing anything, I think sending along just to check in is always a reasonable thing to do. I also think that the art of the thank you letter is getting a little bit lost, and I could not recommend anything more highly than writing a note, even just over email, after your interview, as another touch point with the person that you’re chatting with.
I found that if you send that thank you email the day after an interview, it also gives you something to follow up on when you do decide to reach out and ask for an update. So, rather than, you know, sending a cold email saying, “Hey, what’s up? I haven’t heard anything,” if you sent that thank you email immediately after your interview, you can respond on that same thread and say, “Just following up, reiterating that I had a great time chatting with you. Thank you so much. Is there an update?” So, those are some of the tactics that I’ve used to stay in touch with folks over a months-long hiring process.
Well, finally, Shelby, what’s your number one job-hunting tip?
My number one job-hunting tip is to keep a list of your top organizations that you’d like to work for and check their job boards a few times a year. I think that whether you feel like you’re ready for a new job or not, it’s always good to know what’s out there, and just keep your finger on the pulse and stay in a semi-active job search, whether you think you’re gonna make a change in the next few years or not. So, keeping that short list of dream organizations is my number one tip, without a doubt.
Well, thank you for sharing your story, Shelby. To learn more about Shelby Danzer’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 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.