Using Personal Planning to Find a Job: Sarah Esterman’s Job Search Story

Sarah Esterman started her job search with one overarching goal in mind: to land a digital marketing job by February of 2018. She followed a traditional path in her job search, but in the end, an unorthodox tactic helped her land a new job she loves. In this job search success story, Sarah shares how she utilized networking, planning, and goal setting to land a new job in six months.

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

I’m the Director of Digital Marketing at an early-stage fintech startup called Bumped. Before this, I was at Simple, where I built their lifecycle marketing program from the ground up.

But that’s just my title. What I really do is: tell stories, craft awesome customer experiences, and make complex ideas easier to understand.

How long did it take you to find this job?

I first started looking for new roles in August of 2017. I found out about this opportunity in September, was offered a position in October, did some advising, and officially joined the team in February of 2018.

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

My job search was fairly traditional, but the way I got the job was definitely not.

When I’d first started looking for new roles, I was using regular job-hunting websites (Indeed, Glassdoor, Mac’s List, LinkedIn, etc.) and also looking specifically at companies I’d consider working for. I proactively reached out to people on LinkedIn who were at companies I’d want to work for, as well as people in positions I wanted to be in so I could learn about them and any potential opportunities.

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All that said, the opportunity at Bumped more or less found me. In September, I got a LinkedIn message from David Nelsen, our CEO and founder about a new tech startup he was building. We didn’t know each other, but a friend of mine had pointed him my direction when he said he was looking for a marketing person with experience in consumer-facing regulated industries. We met for coffee later that week and kicked off the process from there.

You’ve probably heard people say “it’s all about who you know” when it comes to job searching, and while in this case it might seem like that’s true—I’d argue “it’s all about who knows your superpowers.” It can be easy to overlook how important your unique, nuanced experiences are when you’re in a field where a lot of other folks have similar general skills, but understanding the value that niche expertise can bring to a company is key. And it’s important for other people know and understand it, too.

That is to say, don’t let “it’s all about who you know” discourage you. It’s not too late to meet people, share your skills, and let them know what you’re capable of. Going to events (industry-related meet ups or things like Ladies’ Night), asking folks to introduce you to others, or even cold emails seeking coffee conversations can go a long way in connecting you to the right people who can help you find your next job.

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

One huge challenge I had: finding consumer-facing tech marketing roles in Portland was difficult, and not a lot of companies in other big cities offer remote marketing roles. That said, those applications and interviews were in no way a bust; I met some really awesome people I might want to work with at some point in the future, so while it didn’t help me find my job, I ended up making great connections.

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Another difficult part of my job search, though, was acknowledging that it was time to find a new role in the first place. Especially when there’s no immediate pressing need to find a new position, it can be really easy to stay where you are because it’s comfortable. It wasn’t until I set an actual goal with a date—I told myself I’d have a new job by February 2018—that I actually got serious about it. That the goal aligned with my actual start date… well, I’ll let you decide if that was purely coincidence or not.

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

Network. Seriously. Go meet other humans who do similar work or are in similar industries. Don’t be afraid to share your work and expertise while you take in theirs.

I personally loathe networking. I always feel super awkward and I basically forget how to be a human-who-can-hold-a-basic-conversation when forced to network. But also I found out about this job because of who I knew, and so I can tell you that networking isn’t just important—it’s worth it. Plus, you can make new friends from networking, and that’s pretty cool.

Why do you love your job?

So many reasons:

  • I get to spend all day solving fun and interesting problems about how to balance customer and business needs
  • I love breaking down complicated ideas or language into human-speak (and I’m good at it)
  • I have the privilege of working with incredibly smart humans that inspire me every day
  • Also, early-stage startup life is weird and kind of wonderful because we’re all in this thing together, every day is different, and I’m learning so much so quickly
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