Utilizing Your Network: Judge Kemp’s Job Search Success Story

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Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode 54:

Utilizing Your Network: Judge Kemp’s Job Search Success Story

Airdate: July 5, 2022

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 has found a job they love. 

Our guest today is Judge Kemp. He’s a transportation demand management specialist with the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation. 

Judge Kemp believes in the power of persistence. For seven years, he applied for different positions at the City of Portland. 

In a story you can find on the Mac’s List website, Judge says he didn’t get much traction with his first applications, but eventually, the job he has today found him. 

Why do you love your job, Judge? 

Judge Kemp:

I love my job for the fact that the people I work with listen to the suggestions I have to say. I’m actually a bit of an outsider to the transportation world, so I kind of see things differently than a lot of the more seasoned staff here in my office. 

That’s one reason. The other is the fact that there’s plenty of diversity around every corner here, and I find that attractive; so much culture that can be gleaned from each other here. 

Mac Prichard:

And tell us a little more about what you do for the Portland Bureau of Transportation. 

Judge Kemp:

Sure, I’m a project coordinator for a program called the Transportation Wallet, and what that is- we have a series of credits and passes that we can sell, or if you qualify under, you know, low-income qualifiers, you get that for free, and you can purchase it for ninety-nine dollars. And what it is, as I mentioned, it’s a series of credits and passes to use, you know, public transportation, which includes our light rail, also, bike town, you know, E-bikes, scooters, and also, there’s a car share credit in there. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, getting a job with the city of Portland was a long-term goal of yours. In your article for us on the Mac’s List website, you said that at different times over the course of seven years, you applied for eighteen different city jobs. Judge, how did you keep from becoming discouraged? 

Judge Kemp:

You know, I, you know, saw- I’ve always wanted to work with the city, and I worked for another company kitty-corner to this building, the Portland building, when I first moved here to Portland, and, you know, I said to myself, one of these days I’m gonna work there. And as opportunities came up over the course of time, I would apply, and unfortunately, you know, those things just didn’t pan out at that time. 

But, you know, I’m a persistent person. If there is something that I truly want to do or even, you know, learn, I will just stick with it until there’s really, you know, an outcome that is satisfying to myself. 

Mac Prichard:

You say, in your article for us, that this job found you. Tell us how that happened, Judge. 

Judge Kemp:

Sure, I had applied for a number of positions within the active transportation and safety division here, and unfortunately, I, you know, just wasn’t the perfect fit, or I lacked certain skills specific skills for the positions I applied for. But several of the managers that I interviewed with were encouraged by my responses and also, my energy that I brought into the interviews, and one of the managers reached out just to learn more about me and my goals and aspirations and when there was a position available, he suggested that I apply for it, and I guess you could say the rest is history, at this point.

Mac Prichard:

That’s a great story. How did you stay in touch with the managers that you met at the city of Portland over the years? 

Judge Kemp:

I actually didn’t stay in touch with the managers because the positions always changed. However, since I’ve been living in the city for now, twenty-two years as of this past weekend, I did get a chance to, you know, know people within the various departments here in the city of Portland, and when I did see a listing for a job or something, I looked at my networks to see if maybe there was someone that worked in a certain department to see if they could perhaps give me a little, you know, helpful hint in applying for a certain area. And I think that’s really how I managed to stay in touch with the city of Portland and the hiring practices and the hiring people. 

Mac Prichard:

Was it difficult to do that, Judge? To reach out to people that, perhaps, you knew socially, to ask them for insights into open jobs that you were seeing perhaps on the city of Portland’s website. 

Judge Kemp:

It wasn’t as difficult as some people might think because of the fact that I’ve also worked in state government before. I wasn’t really afraid to ask people, “Hey, what do you know? If you hear something, if you, you know, feel that my qualifications could fit within a certain job, you know, let me know, and I’d be happy to apply for it.” And also, I’ve asked people if they could put in a good word for me. 

Mac Prichard:

And in the end, what difference do you think those kinds of contacts made in getting the position you have today? 

Judge Kemp:

Actually, quite a bit. I, you know, I’m not intimidated by status that some people may, you know, be intimidated by a person’s position. I do believe that there are networks. There are routes into getting to where you need to go, as long as you just see the path. 

Mac Prichard:

What’s your best advice for identifying those pathways and then pursuing them? 

Judge Kemp:

I would say look at your networks. You know, if you see something that you’re interested in or want to pursue, look at your network. Look at, you know, sites such as LinkedIn to see if perhaps there is someone that you know that could potentially open the door for you. That makes a big difference. 

Mac Prichard:

Informational interviews were an important part of your job search. Who did you ask for informational interviews from, Judge? 

Judge Kemp:

I actually spoke with a – she was a consultant for the city of Portland. I had an informational interview with her just to kind of get some insight into, you know, not necessarily a specific job, but more about the mindset or the atmosphere – what am I looking for? The culture, there we go—the culture within the bureau. I was curious about that because I know that not every department in the city of Portland has the same flow. 

Mac Prichard:

How did that conversation about the bureau’s culture help you when you applied for the job and started interviewing there? 

Judge Kemp:

It really, you know, allowed – I could see the people rather than the process. I don’t know if that makes any sense. But, you know, I was able to connect with people. Also, during the informational interviews, I would, you know, just get a better insight on the position itself, and so that also helped lower my nerves and just helped me prepare better for when I did get the interview. 

Mac Prichard:

And, walk us through how that worked, Judge. You saw this position, you reached out to the one contact you mentioned, a consultant who worked with the city of Portland, and you had a conversation with her about the culture of the bureau, and I’m guessing other topics as well. Who else did you contact for informational interviews? 

Judge Kemp:

I looked within my networks to see if there were other people within the city of Portland that I could contact. There was a position at City Hall I was initially interested in. That position, you know, fell through. Which, I’m actually kind of grateful because, you know, had I gone that route, I would not have been able to, you know, really embrace the role that I have now. I think I have a bit more freedom and creativity in my current role, and I think working at City Hall would have been a little more limiting for me. 

Mac Prichard:

And when you were reaching out to these contacts for informational interviews about the position in the Bureau of Transportation, what kind of questions were you asking the people you met? 

Judge Kemp:

Well, one of the things that really interested me was the culture at PBOT, and I was concerned for reasons of, you know, you hear things about, you know, oh, working for the city of Portland, you know, there’s no diversity. 

And so, honestly, I was curious about that. I was concerned because I wanted to work for a place that is more diverse and puts diversity and equity first, and so I had the opportunity of speaking to a consultant who was working with the city of Portland. And I asked her these questions, and she was able to provide some insight about the culture and, you know, specifically, the area that I’m working in. There’s plenty of diversity here, which was really attractive to me, and once I found out that the culture here embraces diversity, it really made me feel at ease and more at home. 

Mac Prichard:

You also worked with a career coach here in Portland, Michelle Neal. What difference did working with a career coach make in your job search?  

Judge Kemp:

I think probably one of the biggest differences in working with the career coach, Michelle, was great. You know, she didn’t pull any punches or candy-coat things with me. She took a look at my resume, and, you know, I’m embarrassed. I hadn’t touched my resume in probably a good ten years. So that in and of itself was something that she was able to provide some insight for and, you know, really with her assistance, I was able to polish up my resume to get it to a point of, you know, I was even satisfied with it, and I usually, you know, eh, it’s a resume, you know. But I felt that it looked really good. 

So working with her was great also. She helped me, you know, establish some goals, and really to, you know, help me define things that I was looking for within a position. You know, things like, you know, do I like this job or do I only tolerate it? You know those are two different things. And, you know, I wanted to like my job, and I actually love my job, which is, you know, really seems strange to say, but, you know, I’m really happy to be where I landed. And I owe a lot of that to Michelle because of her help. 

Mac Prichard:

Had you tried to do that kind of goal setting on your own? 

Judge Kemp:

I did. However, you know, Michelle has a way of – when you’re working with Michelle, she gives you homework, and so she made me accountable for the things that I was really going after for the goals that I created for myself. 

Mac Prichard:

What would you say to a listener who is thinking about hiring a career coach?

Judge Kemp:

I would say, do it. I think it’s the best investment of a person’s time and energy, and, you know, the results will be, you know, you learn something. Not just about, you know, applying for a job or any of those things, but you also get a chance to, you know, learn about yourself and your own – I think it’s doing a bit of a deep dive into what you’re willing to accept from an employer, what you want to do for yourself with regards to your career, and so, working with a career coach really helps get those things in alignment. 

Mac Prichard:

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your job search, Judge? 

Judge Kemp:

You know, the biggest challenge I experienced was knowing that I was qualified for a job and not even getting a response that my application was received, or, you know, interviewing with a company that, you know, they said, “I will contact you and let you know the results,” and hearing nothing. So that was very frustrating, especially when this organization, whose name I will not mention, when they were touting diversity and their culture, and this and that. But you know what? I’m at a good place. I’m actually glad they didn’t call. 

Mac Prichard:

That had to be so hard. How did you deal with that, not hearing back? Well, first of all, not having applications acknowledged – that’s one thing. But to go into conversation with an employer and then not hear back. That had to be hard. How did you handle that? 

Judge Kemp:

Honestly, it was frustrating, and I, you know, am fortunate to have a close group of professional friends and, you know, I was able to, you know, process this with them, and you know, that made me feel better. But it still, you know, at the same time, it’s like, that’s not very professional for an organization to do such a thing, and, you know, if that’s how an applicant is being treated, I definitely don’t want to work for that organization. 

Mac Prichard:

What do you think was the key to the success of your job search? 

Judge Kemp:

I think persistence. Which, you know, we spoke about before. The second thing I would say would be networking. I’m a people person. So, to me, networking comes very easily. In fact, you know, Michelle, you know, told me that’s the one key I should really focus on is utilize the networks that I have. Which definitely did come in handy for me.  

Mac Prichard:

What didn’t work in your job search? 

Judge Kemp:

I would say I was looking at some jobs; they didn’t provide enough insight. They didn’t provide enough, I don’t know, I was looking for a little bit of creativity as well, and I think those things,I didn’t see in several jobs. So, I think I wasted probably quite a bit of time in applying for some of these positions, knowing that the outcome wouldn’t really live up to my personal satisfaction. 

Mac Prichard:

Finally, Judge, what’s your number one job hunting tip? 

Judge Kemp:

I would say, don’t let a person’s title intimidate you. That would be the number one tip I would suggest for anyone. 

Use your networks. That’s a big key; you know, that’d probably be number one and number two.

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific. Well, thank you for sharing your story, Judge. To learn more about Judge Kemp’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. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media.

Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

If there is a specific company or field you want to get into, how long are you willing to persevere to get there? What if you get multiple interviews over several years with this company but never get called back? On this bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job, Judge Kemp shares how he used the power of perseverance to get his dream job. Judge also shares how networking put him in a position to find out about jobs he was interested in. Learn more about Judge’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 a project coordinator for the Transportation Wallet program with the Active Transportation and Safety division with the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation.

How long did it take you to find this job?

That’s a really good question. I had only been seeking new employment for five months since my previous position had been eliminated. Though historically, I had been applying for various positions with the City of Portland for years (seven) without getting any real traction. I recently counted my collection of City of Portland job descriptions and discovered there were 18, three of which were related to the department I currently work in.

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

My job actually found me. I had previously applied for other positions within the Active Transportation and Safety division but couldn’t get much traction. It wasn’t until the section manager who sat in on one of my previous interview panels, suggested to the hiring manager, to schedule a meeting with me to learn more about my background. As we talked, I learned more positions were coming available in the not too distant future and to keep a lookout for when they were posted. I was later contacted to interview for the position I currently have and the rest is history.

As for resources, I signed up for alerts from job boards such as the Oregon Employment Department website, Indeed, Linkedin, and Mac’s List.  I also utilized my personal and professional networks to tap into the shared community knowledge and scheduled virtual coffee meetings (a pandemic necessity these days) to ask a series of questions:

  • What information could they share about their respective field or industry and how it is incorporating Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice?
  • How are you coping with the pandemic?
  • Are there other people within your (their) network I should speak to?

I think the most important resource and helpful tactic I used was working with a career coach, Michelle Neal of Consulting with Integrity, to review my career collateral and help nudge me in the right direction.

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

Applying for a position that you’re well-qualified for and not hearing a word or even receiving a confirmation. Interviewing for a position and being told by the hiring lead they would let you know about the next steps and hearing nothing.

To overcome these challenges, I just applied for other positions. Besides, if an organization wasn’t professional enough to follow through and let applicants know of their fate, I didn’t want to work for them anyway.

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

Utilize your networks to learn from industry experts, admired friends, and mentors what advice they have to help you get where you’d like to go. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by a person’s title.

Why do you love your job?

There are several reasons. I love the gender and racial diversity of my workgroup. I also feel valued, heard, and appreciate being able to provide my feedback on initiatives. The work also provides sufficient professional challenges to encourage my brain to think differently. Since it’s a public position, there are opportunities to grow within my organization and beyond.