Portland is a great place to live, but a tough place to find work. The local job market has simply not kept pace with the rapid population growth.
Whether you’re a native Oregonian, a transplant, or an aspirational Portlander, finding meaningful and well-paying work can be a challenge.
At Mac’s List we get asked all the time for our advice on landing Portland jobs. We have dozens of articles and an entire book to this topic, but we put together this guide to show you the most important things you can do to find success in the Portland job market.
Here is our proven eight-step roadmap for finding great Portland jobs.
1. Be clear about the job you want
A lot of job seekers say: “I’m willing to do anything” or “I’m open to any opportunity.” This is not a winning strategy.
Flexibility is good… but a complete lack of professional focus won’t impress anyone, especially in a job market like Portland’s which is loaded with skilled and passionate candidates.
The more you know–and communicate–your professional interests and needs, the easier it will be to find work in Portland. Focus simplifies your entire job search process, particularly the amount of time spent applying for jobs.
The alternative is the “spray-and-pray” approach of applying to any remotely interesting job. This tactic wastes a lot of energy and simply does not work.
Plus, when you focus on the jobs that most interest you, you’re more likely to end up with a position you actually enjoy!
2. Polish your online presence
What might a prospective employer see if they Googled you right now? Would they find a trustworthy, talented professional or a hard-partying spring breaker?
It’s a fact of modern job searching: nearly all employers research applicants on social media before inviting them in for an interview. So make sure your online house is in order!
- Review all your social media accounts.
- Delete or make private any questionable content.
- If Googling your name produces something embarrassing, try to bury these results with positive content.
Most importantly, make sure your LinkedIn profile is polished, professional, and up-to-date.
3. Build a network in Portland
You know the adage: it’s all about who you know. This is especially true in a small town like Portland.
Up to 80% of jobs in Portland never get publicly advertised. These opportunities are circulated solely by word-of-mouth, and employers strongly prefer candidates recommended by their professional contacts.
Networking plugs you into Portland’s hidden job market. Building professional relationships in the community makes you a known and trusted candidate for future work opportunities.
And you’re in luck: Portland has a robust professional networking scene! Whether you’re interested in the nonprofit space, the private sector, or any specialized professional area, you can find a relevant networking group in the Rose City.
You can also use social media to find and connect with professionals in your field.
4. Conduct informational interviews
The single best thing you can do to find a Portland job is to start conducting informational interviews. There is no better way to get connected quickly into the Portland job scene.
Informational interviews are not about asking for a job. They are about introducing yourself to leaders in your desired field, building your network, and learning about how your skills lineup with Portland employers’ needs.
Strategically identify and reach out to professionals in the field or organization that most interests you. You’ll find that many Portland pros are happy to share their time and insights.
5. Look for opportunities and experience
In the course of your self-exploration and networking, you may find that you need additional skills or experience to land the job you want in Portland.
Interning, temp work, and finding with a mentor are all great options, particularly if you’re transitioning into a new field.
Portland is also home to world-class universities, if you’re looking for a more formal education.
Volunteering can be a great way to beef up your resume and learn a new skill. It is also a fantastic way to meet people and prove yourself with an organization or in a new industry.
6. Know where to find Portland job listings
Yes… we did say that 80% of jobs are never advertised, but that means that 20% are–and you don’t want to ignore these opportunities!
The key is to know the local job boards that cater to your profession or industry. Focusing on two or three targeted niche boards ensures that you see the most relevant job openings and don’t spend all day digging through online postings.
7. Customize your resume and cover letter
It’s important to have a polished, error-free application that highlights your experience, accomplishments, and professional interests. Many Portland job hunters miss the mark when they don’t customize their resume and cover letter for each prospective job.
Remember: your resume is not a one-size-fits-all document!
Frame your experience and accomplishments around the needs of the employer, as described in the job description. This presents you as a solution provider–the kind of employee every organization is looking for!
You should also incorporate keywords and phrases from the job description into your application. Doing so improves your chances of passing through keyword- based automated applicant tracking systems.
8. Always Follow-up
Here’s another area where even the best Portland job seekers sometimes drop the ball: stay in touch with your professional network!
When you meet someone in a professional capacity, make sure you connect with them on LinkedIn. Stay up-to-date on their career and routinely check in with them.
Portland is a small town; everyone seems to know everyone. Small courtesies get remembered and reflect well on you.
If you’ve had an informational interview or a job interview, always, always, always send a thank you note. Even if you don’t land the job, writing a note is the best way to turn that employer or hiring manager into a future professional resource.