Finding What Works for You: Karen Magistrale’s Job Search Success Story

Meet Karen Magistrale, an Employer Brand Professional with Talent Programs City of Hope. In this job search success story, Karen shares how she navigated a career transition by creating a routine and seeking advice from her network. 

What do you do for a career?

I’m an employer brand professional. I primarily work on marketing and advertising projects centered around recruiting talent for our organization. Generally part of the HR or talent acquisition department — not a traditional marketing and communications team — my focus is on communicating with or engaging a variety of clinical types through storytelling, visual mediums, and efficient methods of connecting them with our hiring teams. 

Who do you work for?

I work for the City of Hope, a mid-sized healthcare, research, and innovation organization based in the Los Angeles area with more than 11,000 employees and locations throughout the U.S.  Founded in 1913, the organization is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of people with cancer, diabetes, and other life-threatening illnesses.

What do you like best about your career?

The work has so many facets, which may be why I’m in it! This enormous playroom of strategy/tactical, thought leader/creator, mixed media planner/performance tracker, communication/PR, words/images, hi-tech/low-tech, collaborator/individual contributor generates all this creative energy. Ultimately, the goal is to reach more and better qualified talent over time to feed the important work of saving lives.

What resources ​have helped you in your career and your job searches? 

This past year was the first time in more than 20 years that I found myself without a job, which was not my decision. So, I had no plans for my next move until it happened, and I asked myself the same question! What can I do to help myself? I obtained two jobs in the past using Mac’s List, so that was part of my plan from the get-go. In addition, I used other job boards, online networking platforms, and job-specific community groups. I also interacted with colleagues and made new contacts.

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Are there specific tools or tactics that have contributed to your success?

My approach to the job search was to treat it like a full-time job. Like the work I do, it incorporated different activities. Every day was about setting the tone for positivity and confidence building. I listened to motivating podcasts and read inspirational literature. I set a goal to apply to “X’ jobs per week. I scheduled time with colleagues to help me stay inspired, learn from them, and ask for referrals. From attending networking events to free webinars, I continually tried to learn something new in my field. 

Instinctively, I knew that the worst thing I could do was to focus on the scarcity of the situation. I used all those hours to do productive things that made me feel good, too. While helping myself, I looked for ways to be of service. I performed some of my work pro bono to maintain my skills. This all created a heightened energy that led to great conversations with people! Ultimately, it led me to an opportunity to work with several of my former colleagues in a better job than I had before.  

Throughout your career, what obstacles have you encountered when doing a job search, and how did you overcome them? 

I’ve been a job seeker for many decades. Although the methods of locating and applying for jobs have changed many times, some of the same obstacles still exist: how to stand out in the crowd, write an effective resume, find an opening for the role you really want, and negotiate satisfying terms of employment. On the human side, it’s avoiding the pitfalls of losing confidence and motivation, isolating behaviors, and feeling like a failure.  

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For me, it was the conscious development of creating a plan designed around a balance of activities: intentional nurturing, socializing, asking for help, and doing the footwork. I created and refined my resume many times and requested feedback. I applied to every job that was right for me in a day, practicing interviewing, writing down my answers to interview questions, and practicing the job offer negotiation. I scheduled my participation in anything that would support my job-seeking efforts. And I honed my craft by learning a new skill working for free. 

What piece of advice would you give to job seekers or professionals trying to advance in their careers?

The job search is a fickle thing. It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. How you go about it at different stages in life will probably change. Sometimes, we don’t have the time or resources to hold out for the perfect or even the really good. A lot of the time, you may need to expand your search criteria and look for job titles above and below your current role. Somebody’s director level is somebody else’s intermediate level. Read the descriptions carefully and experiment. Create a short list of activities you will do every day to keep your motivation and focus. 

Know thyself. If you do better starting at 5 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m., do what works for you. Engage trusted friends or colleagues for input about your skills. It will help you evaluate your cover letters and resumes and how you might describe yourself in an interview. Seek advice from people who hire people. They are the best sources of where to look for jobs and how to improve your job search techniques. Most of all, network like crazy! I still believe it’s as true today as when I entered the market. Generally, it comes down to who you know (or who they know). 

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Everyone’s job search story is different, but each individual story can inspire and empower others who are on their own unique path. We love to hear how our readers have found rewarding careers in Portland, and we want to share these stories with you to inspire you in your job search and to help us all better understand the local job market.