Reaching New Heights by Challenging Yourself: Heather Back’s Job Search Story

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Heather Back knows the discouragement and disappointment that comes from a long job search. Heather spent two years looking for the right job, and along the way she endured countless online applications, being told she was overqualified, and submitting her resume to ATS systems. Luckily, Heather’s long job search was worth the wait and she found a job she loves by creating a support network, actively telling her network she was seeking a position, and reaching high for challenging positions instead of settling for any job that pays the bills.

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

I bring nearly 25 years of experience in marketing, advertising and public relations to my communications and policy role at Metro, supporting the four visitor venues — the Oregon Zoo, Oregon Convention Center, Portland Expo Center and Portland’5 Centers for the Arts.

Previously, I worked with destination marketing organizations in both San Diego and Portland to increase travel, tourism and convention business. Also, my prior community foundation experience developing public-private partnerships is beneficial in working on the mission-driven efforts of the zoo which are made possible with funding from private donors and members. A community engagement campaign called Our Greater San Diego Vision really called me to the public sector which ultimately led me to Metro.

How long did it take you to find this job?

I would say too long, but it was certainly worth the wait.

I was exploring full-time opportunities for almost two years. During that time, I served as a consultant while looking for the right fit. Once I began attending Mac’s List events, my search became far more focused and shortened to three to four months, resulting in four offers from various organizations.

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

I personally find the online job application process defeating as the auto-responses are increasingly demotivating.

The Mac’s List team recommended informational interviews and key tips in customizing your resume for every submission to make it through the scanning software process, which I utilized in my own search.

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

No responses are defeating and being told that you are overqualified just might sting more than knowing your do not have the right credentials. It wasn’t until I networked with other job seekers that I was able to set a realistic expectation on the amount of outreach that results in personal responses therefore resulting in interviews.

Also, I learned from Mac Prichard that you should tell everyone you are seeking versus having any reservations in sharing you are in the midst of a search. Stating the desire to find a new opportunity in a positive way shifted my search immensely. Once I was broadly sharing my goals, it was a matter of weeks until I had more interview requests than I could keep up with.

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

Share your experience with other job seekers and create a support network. Provide referrals when it is a better fit and most importantly: NETWORK. Get to know the people you would work with to understand the company culture.

Also, stretch yourself. Seek new opportunities not solely jobs that you can proverbially do in your sleep because you have the experience.

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Why do you love your job?

I am passionate about working at an organization that reflects the values of the community in which I live. Having the opportunity to shape and provide services and cultural amenities for residents and tourists is ideal for me. Metro is a great fit!