Narrowing Focus to Find a Career: Harris Newman’s Job Search Story

Everyone’s job search story is different, but each individual story can inspire countless careers. We share the stories of job seekers’ successes to inspire you in your own career, get ideas for new approaches, and to help us all better understand the local job market! 

Harris Newman used networking opportunities to help him find focus in his job search. Here’s Harris’ story.

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

I work for Webfor, a digital marketing agency. I’ve been hired as a Content Writer, so I’m responsible for providing any written content needed by our clients. This includes mostly web copy for their site content, blog posts for their marketing efforts, contributing in strategy, and editing the work of other writers.

How long did it take you to find this job?

About 11 months.

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

I met these people at a networking event, for SEMpdx (Search Engine Marketing). At the time, they were just looking for freelance writers, and that’s what I did with them for about two months. Soon they had an opening for a full-time position, and they offered it to me.

Any and all work opportunities I had came from interpersonal networking.

So, in terms of resources, this meant meeting as many people as I could in the field I was interested in. At one point I was attending one to two networking events per week–I was working nights at a restaurant, or I would have attended more. I went to dozens of coffee meetings and informational interviews.

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Fortunately, Portland has an extremely supportive professional scene–people were so gracious in giving me their time and connecting me to important resources.

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

The first challenging part was narrowing my focus. I started my search with no idea what I was looking for, just saying, “Well, I just want interesting work that I love”. This, as most know, will get you nowhere.

I narrowed it down a bit more, telling people I was interested in “storytelling”. Here I was introduced to branding and marketing, which I knew little about. I dug deeper and learned about Content Writing, and saw it’s an area I’m skilled in and have an interest in pursuing. So I went for it.

When networking, and delivering my elevator pitch, I knew I had to tell people I was a writer, not just a guy who’s interested in writing, and this was difficult. It’s hard to say you’re something when you hadn’t done it before, and aren’t even totally sure it’s your ‘thing’!

It was uncomfortable, but I did go to events and claim myself a writer, even though I didn’t have significant experience. I was fortunate to have met people who needed writing work, and who gave me a chance (I did have some writing samples from the past, but nothing that would turn heads). I had success with the work, and this led to more confidence in presenting myself as a writer.

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

Patience! It was so hard to settle on what I was looking for, that when I finally honed in on it, I wanted results IMMEDIATELY.

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The process takes time, especially when venturing into a new field. I would have been screwed if someone gave me the full-time job I was looking for, right off the bat. In the 11 months of searching, I picked up freelance jobs which developed my skills, gave me time to read up on the industry, and also prove that this was the field I really wanted to work in.

Why do you love your job?

I love it for a few reasons:

One, it’s work that’s all encompassing. Any piece I’m writing calls upon all of my knowledge and life experiences. That means every interaction, every piece of information, every experience of my life is important and can be of use in my work. This was my initial goal in my job search.

I also love the way it challenges my mind – a strong piece, in my opinion, is one that addresses a specific problem and is able to dive into layers of knowledge and argument. These two skills – problem solving and curiosity – are ones I love using.

Lastly, I love the team aspect of marketing work. Every person is critical to its execution, which means ego matters little. It’s about the finished product, and the success of the client. Their success means our success, which means my success. It’s all connected.

Want to learn more? Connect with Harris on LinkedIn, Twitter, or his professional website