The Importance of Networking, with Jackie Starr

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Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode 28:

The Importance of Networking, with Jackie Starr

Airdate: April 13, 2020

Mac Prichard:

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 Jackie Starr. She’s the executive director at the Friends of the Multnomah County Library.

Jackie Starr had just moved to Portland, Oregon, and because she was a newcomer in town, she thought it would be hard to find an interesting position.

But in a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Jackie credits networking and a compelling resume with helping her find her dream job in just two months.

Why do you love your job, Jackie?

Jackie Starr:

Friends of the Multnomah County Library is a supporting organization to the libraries and most people have so much respect and trust with our libraries, so it’s nice to be affiliated with an entity that has that characteristic.

The reason I love my job is because I’m really passionate about community building. And many people think of books when they think of the library. For me, I think of libraries as a community hub. It’s a place where you can impact the community in a positive way, and so you’ll hear of a lot of programs and services that libraries offer. It could be career counseling, resume preparation.

Mac Prichard:

There’s a lot going on at libraries, isn’t there?

Jackie Starr:

Absolutely, and so that’s the reason why I love libraries because they do so much for the community.

Mac Prichard:

People really love libraries, don’t they, Jackie?

Jackie Starr:

They do.

Mac Prichard:

Why do you think that’s so?

Jackie Starr:

Because I think a lot of people remember their childhood memories with the library. Many people were introduced to the library as a child. I know I was, and it’s just such a great place to go get your books and get excited. I know when I was a kid, it was more of a focus on me getting books, it was a selfish situation of what I could get. But as I’ve grown to learn more about libraries, I really can appreciate what they do for communities.

Mac Prichard:

Did you go to the library with your family? Maybe your sister or a sibling?

Jackie Starr:

My mom did. My mom would take me to the library.

Mac Prichard:

Oh, your mom did.

Jackie Starr:

The North Portland library was my library for my neighborhood and I would pick out books. And the thing that I loved the most, the library card, I felt like it was a credit card, and so I felt really adult-like using my “credit card” to get the books and so that was my favorite part. Actually checking out the books and getting that library card/credit card.

Mac Prichard:

Did you have a favorite librarian at that branch?

Jackie Starr:

I didn’t. I didn’t have any real connections with the librarian. I would go in and my mom would help me choose books. Not for sure if they had a lot of youth programs as much as they have now, so I would just go in strictly to get the books.

Mac Prichard:

When you talk to people that go to libraries, do you find that they have stories like yours about a family member taking them to the library?

Jackie Starr:

Absolutely, everybody has a library story. I have not come across anyone who can’t relate to the library as a child even. It’s a free place to go, so even people who don’t have a lot of money, you want to do something with the kids, a family event, it’s free. And then, too, the libraries are one of the few places where pretty much everybody can expect to be treated fairly and with respect. There’s not a lot of places like that and so it’s just a safe place to be.

Mac Prichard:

You’re not trained as a librarian, you’re not a professional librarian. What were you doing before you joined the Friends of the Multnomah Libraries?

Jackie Starr:

Most of my career was in the financial services arena.

Mac Prichard:

That’s very different than working in a library, isn’t it?

Jackie Starr:

Very different. Yes it’s a private sector, and so probably a little over ten years ago, I wanted to make a switch. I was looking for more career fulfillment, feeling like my work is really making a difference. So I did make the transition from the private sector to nonprofit, and so I’ve been working with nonprofit for a little over ten years now. When it was time to look for this position, I knew I wanted to work for a nonprofit and I wanted to work for a nonprofit that would positively impact the community, and when I saw this opportunity on Mac’s List, it immediately was of interest to me.

Mac Prichard:

Did you go through a process? How did you decide that you were ready for nonprofit work and ready to leave financial services? Did you go through a goal-setting process, Jackie, or work with a career coach?

Jackie Starr:

I did work with a career coach, but this was after being in financial services for about 17 years. On Sunday night, when you’re getting ready to go to work on Monday, I just wasn’t feeling good about it. I got a little, “Uhn” in my stomach.

Mac Prichard:

“Sunday night scaries” sometimes they’re called.

Jackie Starr:

Absolutely. So, obviously, it was time to make a change. And so I was kind of concerned; you’re trying to transfer your skills, it’s 2 different types of jobs, but I did work with a career coach.

We worked really hard on looking at the type of nonprofits that would be best for me, looking at my successes and skills that would transfer and be meaningful to nonprofit work, and got a nice resume, built on things that I had already done, things I could talk about, and I had success with my first nonprofit experience.

Mac Prichard:

That was the Friends of Multnomah County Library?

Jackie Starr:

No, this was a nonprofit with a financial literacy organization. Which was really close to what I was doing in the financial services arena, but it was focused more on teaching the basics of money to underserved communities. Particularly with youth.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, well, let’s talk about the job you have today. When you were…you returned to Portland and you were really new to town when you got this job, what was it like looking for work in a new city?

Jackie Starr:

It was overwhelming at first because I didn’t know what to expect. And you’re right, this is my first time as an adult looking for work in Portland. I didn’t really know a lot of business professionals, my network wasn’t that big, I was kind of at ground zero.

What I decided that I would do is in my everyday activities and interactions, I would just express that I was looking for a job. And so I was getting my nails done once at a salon and I met a nice person and I was telling her that I was looking for a job, preferably in the nonprofit industry, and she was like, “I work for a nonprofit. You should look at Mac’s List.” And that’s how I got introduced to Mac’s List because I wasn’t familiar prior to that.

Mac Prichard:

Ah, terrific.

Was that hard for you, Jackie, to tell people that you were looking for work? Sometimes, especially when people are out of work, they feel a sense of shame, and I’ve certainly gone through this myself, personally. I was out of work twice earlier in my career, so I know what that feels like.

Jackie Starr:

Absolutely, and I think that’s a big mistake that people make. Particularly in a place like Portland. Because people are so friendly, this is the West Coast, it’s a little more laid back, people want to help you and if you don’t ask for help it’s hard for people to give you the help that you need. And so, I just learned from having some bad experiences where I experienced unemployment too long, because I wasn’t sharing my story and telling people that I was in a job search. It’s really easy for me now just to let people know, “I’m in a job search. Do you have any tips or ideas?” Just as regular conversation.

Mac Prichard:

I agree with you that people are friendlier on the West Coast. I’ve lived on the East Coast myself. You were on the East Coast for a number of years.

Jackie Starr:

30 years.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, did you find though, that people might not be as friendly as they are here in Oregon but they are also willing to help if you ask?

Jackie Starr:

I went to college in Washington, DC, so it was easy for me to start building my network early, from college friends. Then you get involved with different organizations, networking, and so it was easy for me to ask for assistance because I was very well-connected from a very early age.

Mac Prichard:

Those connections helped and you also found that people would say yes when you asked for help on the East Coast.

Jackie Starr:

Absolutely, absolutely yes.

Mac Prichard:

You talked about when you were new in town, one of the things that worked well for you was telling people that you were looking for work, whether you were at the nail salon or elsewhere. What are some other job hunting tips you might have? Not only for people who might be new to Portland but new to any city?

Jackie Starr:

The things that I would suggest that people do is just to become active and get involved in things that you’re interested in. It could be church, it could be a hiking club, it could be a reading group, it could be a professional organization.

And the more that you’re involved, you’re going to meet people with common interests and with people wanting to help you and you build these relationships. It can only help guide you as you go through various job searches. So, I would just suggest for people to get active in things that they’re interested in and meet people that way.

Particularly if they’re nervous about networking. Networking doesn’t have to be so formal as people think it is. I will say, back in the day, there were a lot of networking events. I don’t think that it needs to be so formal like that; it can just be your everyday interactions and things that you involve yourself in.

Mac Prichard:

It’s all about relationships in the end, isn’t it, Jackie?

Jackie Starr:

Yes, it’s all about relationship building.

Mac Prichard:

You can do that while pursuing a hobby or being involved in a church or a synagogue or a neighborhood group, can’t you?

Jackie Starr:

Yes, and even…I’m finding that a lot of the faith-based organizations, they have ministries around careers and job searching and that, so it’s a good opportunity.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, I’ve seen that not just in Portland but across the country, many churches and other faith communities will offer job seeker club.

Jackie Starr:

Yes.

Mac Prichard:

If you’re part of one of those communities, that can be a great place to look and I’ve also found that even if you’re not a member of that particular community, the people who run those clubs are very welcoming as well.

Jackie Starr:

Absolutely.

Mac Prichard:

You said in your article for us that your resume…networking made a huge difference but your resume also made a big difference in your search. How did you put together your resume, Jackie?

Jackie Starr:

I worked with career coaches and a good career coach is going to really have you give some thought to what are your strengths? What are the things that you do well? What type of jobs are going to be of interest to you? Where do you get the most satisfaction?

I call it pre-work. You have to do a little bit of pre-work so that you understand exactly what you’re trying to do. And so my career coach really helped me to get down that path by presenting the right questions. And it was a really tough experience for me just to think in that way but it was such a valuable experience for me.

I know a lot of people are hesitant to use a career coach because they can be expensive, they’re costly, but for me, I found it was very valuable, so I would definitely recommend a career coach.

Mac Prichard:

What tips do you have for a listener who might want to work with a career coach but doesn’t know how to get started?

Jackie Starr:

To get started, because I think a lot of times with a job search you just put it off because you feel like it’s going to be challenging, oh, you’re not going to find what you want, you feel like you might be rejected. To me, it’s just getting started. Sometimes putting your foot forward and getting started with the process.

Mac Prichard:

How did you find your coach? Was it through a referral? Did you look online? What worked for you?

Jackie Starr:

A networking group, and actually it was a friend, and so that’s how I found out about a coach. I didn’t even know about career coaches at that time but I was just talking to people about my job search and someone recommended that I employ a career coach.

Mac Prichard:

Yours is a part-time position and many of our listeners do want the flexibility that comes with part-time work but I hear from them that’s it’s often very challenging to find part-time jobs. Was it hard for you to find part-time work?

Jackie Starr:

I thought it was going to be the most challenging part for me, to find the type of job that I would want to do on a part-time basis. But maybe my timing was good because I immediately identified two positions that I was interested in with nonprofits that were part-time on Mac’s List. I applied for them and I ultimately got offered both positions, so I made the choice with Friends of the Library because I felt it could impact the community the most.

Mac Prichard:

I want to dig into that a little, how did you know this position was the right career move for you? Again, clearly you’d done the work with the coach, you knew you wanted to be in the nonprofit sector, and I’m sure the work that you did on your resume reflected that, but why was this position the right career move?

Jackie Starr:

The reputation of the library. You know, you get to the point where you want your name to be associated with good stuff and that’s what the library is, so that was the first thing, just based on the reputation. I also thought that the board of directors was very thoughtful in their interview process. I was able to interview on 3 different occasions.

One of the interviews was actually with the staff and I thought that was really good because not only are you being interviewed with an interview, it’s your opportunity to learn more about the organization, the culture, and the people. And so just the way that they handled their interview process made me even more compelled to go after this job.

Mac Prichard:

Talk more about that. I think that many candidates might walk into an interview thinking that they’ve got to impress the interviewers but they often don’t ask questions themselves. But it sounds like you were interested in learning more about the organization but you had your own questions too, I’m guessing.

Jackie Starr:

Yes, because even though this was a part-time opportunity, I’m spending a lot of my time and as we get older, time is valuable. And so, I wanted to make sure that I’m making the right decision for me, as well, and I hope that I’ll be the right fit for the organization as well, and so I think they’re both equally important. That both of us are making decisions that are going to be in our best interests. Both of us.

Mac Prichard:

Any questions that you recommend people ask to get clear about whether or not a position is in their best interest?

Jackie Starr:

Yeah, understanding the goals of the organization. What does the job entail? What’s a typical day on the job, if they know that. If you have the pleasure of interviewing with employees, what do they see as important for a leader? What are the things that are important to them? And just trying to get as much information as you can and trying to see if this is something that you can fit in.

Mac Prichard:

What didn’t work in your job search, Jackie?

Jackie Starr:

This particular job search was successful. I didn’t have any challenges but I will say, in the past, I’ve had challenges. Because you know you really want a job, you interview, you don’t get it. I’ve had enough experiences with jobs where I know that if one door closes, eventually another door is going to open. It could be that it’s not the right job, it’s not the right time. And so, because I’ve had so much experience with job-seeking, I’m okay with the rejection part. But I am concerned about young people who come out of college and they’re having a hard time, and so I really would like for them just to stay encouraged to keep it moving. Eventually, they will find their dream job too.

I will say, some jobs aren’t as pleasant but in order to appreciate a dream job, you sometimes have to have unpleasant experiences as well, so that you can really appreciate that dream job when you get it.

Mac Prichard:

What’s your number one job hunting tip?

Jackie Starr:

I think my number one job hunting tip would be just to share that you’re looking for a job and what type of job you’re looking for. You’d be surprised how people will step forward and want to help you.

Mac Prichard:

Well, thank you so much, Jackie. You can learn more about Jackie’s job search, by visiting 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.  Again, go to macslist.org/stories.

In the meantime, thank you for listening to today’s bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job.

If you’ve moved to a new city, you might expect it to take a while to find a job that you love. But on this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, Jackie Starr shares how she found her dream job in a new city in just two months. Jackie was looking for work in the nonprofit field, and she wanted a position that had a positive impact on her community. Working with a career coach helped Jackie to narrow down her options, and telling others she was job hunting directly led her to the position she has today as the executive director at the Friends of the Multnomah County Library. Learn more about Jackie’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 am the executive director for Friends of the Multnomah County Library, a member-supported nonprofit that advocates for the library and its programs/services.

How long did it take you to find this job?

I reviewed job postings on Mac’s List for a period of two months and ultimately secured my current position.

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

I found my current position solely by consistently reviewing the various postings on Mac’s List. I think having a resume that accurately reflects skills and experience is most helpful when applying for opportunities of interest.

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

I was in search of a part-time position so I initially thought it would be challenging to find such an opportunity that would be appealing. My timing was perfect because I did identify two positions on Mac’s List that I felt would be a good fit for me. I didn’t experience much difficulty with this particular search.

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

Networking is extremely important even if it’s a simple conversation letting others know that you are searching for a new job. I met a person while getting a manicure and she introduced me to Mac’s List after I advised that I was looking for employment. I was somewhat new to Portland’s job market and wasn’t familiar with Mac’s List prior to this.

Why do you love your job?

I enjoy supporting the various community efforts that take place in the nineteen libraries that are affiliated with Multnomah County.  It’s very hard to find individuals who don’t appreciate libraries so it’s a joyful and happy environment in which to work.