How Did You Get That Awesome Job?

The only thing worse than looking for a new job is talking to someone who already has a dream job and hearing that she got it because she just happened to talk to the right person at the right time. It looks easy when people around us land great jobs, leaving us thinking, “What am I doing wrong?”

Probably nothing. Job searching is just a lot of persistent networking, applying for positions, and more networking and informational interviewing. It always seems like a fluke when you hear how someone else got her job, so we polled a few folks to hear some stories.


Catherine, Small Business Owner

I was hired by one previous employer because the COO was my former professor in grad school, and another one from doing loads of interviewing for various positions (the company was a good culture fit but took a while to hone in on the right position). For a different position, I found a job listing on Craigslist and guess I impressed them with my interview and CV. They had also come to a game festival I put on. My current position: I was hired because I’m in charge of hiring.


Jorge, International Affairs Consultant

I sent a message, cold, through Linkedin requesting an informational interview with a woman who worked at a very large tech company that I wanted to work for, and she agreed to talk to me over the phone (I always ask who I reach out to whether they prefer to meet in person or talk on the phone). We had an interesting discussion, and she said that sometimes contract positions opened up on her team. I did nothing to keep in touch, yet out of the blue, three or four months later, she reached out to me when she needed someone to replace her during her maternity leave. I was hired for that contract position within a week. I’ve done something like this several times on LinkedIn, and when I have a specific area of overlap with the person (in my case, Latin American business development and trade) I often get a response.


Matt, Game Programmer

My old boss told me about an open position at my employer, and I then went through the whole hiring process like any applicant.


Sandra, Library Technician

I found my job through volunteer work with another school library tech. I wasn’t a job seeker at the time, but when another library tech position opened up, I knew that I could do the job and that I’d like it. That was over 16 years ago.


Virginia, Immigration Lawyer

A lawyer I met through an informational interview (that I had assumed to be a complete waste—literally the worst informational interview in history) eventually referred me to the firm that hired me. I am a believer that the only way to get a job these days is through networking! You can respond to a 100 ads on Craigslist and never hear back from any. But if you reach out to only a few people, at least one is likely to lead to a job. They key is to be patient because it takes time for these connections to lead to actual vacancies.


Brett, Non-Profit Marketing Manager

I got my job through Idealist while still employed elsewhere full-time. I did not attempt to network for the new job. Honestly, I didn’t feel that rushed to get out and was just looking for the right opportunity. If I felt a sense of urgency, I would probably have tried to make some new connections. When I’m next looking for a job, I’ll still use Internet searches and look through my fav orgs, but I’m also planning on touching base with past colleagues who I like that may know of some worthwhile opportunities. I feel like I have a bunch of really strong connections that I should take advantage of.


Lisa, Non-Profit Program Officer

I found my job through an informational interview that led to an internship. I had coordinated a series of events related to East Asian policy—my area of interest and expertise—and one of the panelists was from a non-profit development agency I hadn’t heard of before. When I realized that I would be traveling to the city where the organization is headquartered, I emailed the person in charge of the project I was interested in an informational interview. I wasn’t sure it was what I wanted to do after grad school, so the informational interview was exactly that—to learn more about the organization. Afterward, however, I was very interested in what they did.  Later, an internship opened up, and I referenced my informational interview in my application. Eventually, I was offered a permanent position.


Jennifer, Communications Strategist

I found my job after working with a career counselor for several months. I was working on creating a career preferences profile to guide my search—honing in on the skills I wanted to use, subjects that interested me (a la What Color is Your Parachute)—which I then used in informational interviews. I found a job within a month and I believe the prior work really helped me focus and was key. I had an informational interview with a warm contact that was just to learn more about the field, but after talking, she said they may be looking to bring on more staff as they were very busy.


Hearing these stories, there was one common theme. While applying to a job ad can lead to an offer, networking is everything. This isn’t news, of course—you’ve already heard it here and on other sites. But getting yourself in front of people working in general industries or specific organizations you’re interested in can make the difference between getting a job before it was even posted and competing with dozens of other applicants. It helps to know what you’re looking for, while remaining open to new possibilities—or ones that you previously dismissed.

So tell us, how did you find your job?



Leda and Steph blog about jobs and the rest of life at Small Answers.


24 Comments / Post A Comment

boringbunny (#3,260)

I’ve always just applied to vacancies but I think the reason I’m hired is some combo of being a good candidate and good interviewee, and then sending handwritten thank you notes to all my interviewers. Has worked every time.

Caitlin with a C (#3,578)

@boringbunny All of this. All of it. (Cannot overemphasize how helpful handwritten notes are. Yes, they are old-fashioned and kind of cheesy. They are also hella polite and memorable, two very valuable things to have in your corner when you are job hunting.)

ruraljurer#2 (#3,855)

@boringbunny I’m always curious about the handwritten notes thing – all of my jobs interviews (both as an applicant as as an interviewer) progressed within such a quick time frame to make mailed thank you notes irrelevant. I wonder how commonly it does help.

francesfrances (#1,522)

My job was posted on LinkedIn. I’m not a very active LinkedIn user, but I saw the job posting and applied via email as always. Worked out! Previous jobs were Craigslist (turned out to be awful, no good marketing agency recruits via Craigslist) and a local nonprofit job board.

I would looove a post about networking. How Do You Do It.
Because I really don’t know.

echolikebells (#3,272)

@apples and oranges YES. How does one network? I would read that post probably daily.

@echolikebells I feel like everyone talks about how important it is, but it’s not something that was ever really discussed in a nuts-and-bolts way when I was in school (at least not in my majors – the business school on the other hand…).

samburger (#5,489)

@apples and oranges I feel like there a lot of good examples in this post/thread, like the smarty pants who goes on linkedin and literally asks for jobs. That’s a good one.

I think the word “networking” is maybe confusing? Networking is literally just talking to people who know other people. If you have ever made words at colleagues at work, you are networking! If you have ever made words at strangers in public, you would be networking if you started talking about work!


moreadventurous (#4,956)

@apples and oranges THIS! I feel like I have no idea how to go about networking. Especially over the long term; like what’s the best way to maintain contact without being annoying or pushy?

My current job was a craigslist find; it’s working out very well actually. My last job was craigslist at first. I applied before I’d graduated college and they’d wanted to hire right away. They must have liked me though, because about 4 months later my information got passed along to another department and I was hired. That job was the worst though; marketing is not for me.

Stina (#686)

@apples and oranges I think people have it in their heads that in order to network that you always be attending things or schmoozing or whatever. And for some people that does work but networking can be: 1. Going to people you have worked with and asking if they’ve heard of anything available. and 2. Informing people you know that you are looking for ____ . Do they have any suggestions or know anyone who could help? Then even if they have no ideas or give ideas that don’t lead anywhere give them sincere thanks. Then Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

As long as you ask nicely, don’t expect them to do a huge amount of work for you and thank. them. Most people are more than happy to help.

boringbunny (#3,260)

@apples and oranges I think networking is knowing people who are willing to help you out, showing that you’d be a good employee and letting those people know to help you out. In 2012, my family got jobs for three people. My sister hired her friend as a nanny (wife of a coworker). I advertised on FB for someone to take over my freelance editing gig (we met at church). My mom killed herself to get the long-unemployed husband of her best friend a gig in the government through her connections and by coaching him through the process. These are all examples of getting a job through networking.

People actually like to help people so the more people you know, the more opportunities you hear about. And the stronger your connection, the farther those people will go for you. But it’s also important that you make yourself out to be a good employee because there are a number of people that my friends and family have tried to help out only to get really embarrassed at their behavior and never want to recommend them again.

samburger (#5,489)

My job took two steps: first I found a contracting agency, then I contracted my way into a permanent position.

I found the contracting agency by desperately hurling my resume at everyone on the internet. Once I was in, it was networking city. My first five projects were with top-fifty brands, and the fifth project turned into my permanent position at a very large company with very deep pockets.

I never, ever would have gotten my current position without the help of the contracting agency. They made connections on my behalf and went out of their way to teach me how to position myself (because they make bank if they can sell their people).

OllyOlly (#669)

I am on my second job after undergrad, I got both without any networking. The first was applying through my school’s careers site, and the second I monitored the org I wanted to work for’s job board daily and applied to the job the first or second day it was up.

I will resist networking as long as possible, too much social anxiety.

Caitlin with a C (#3,578)

I should add that my job hunting strategy for this job was: know people at the place who are sort of tangentially related to the job, apply online, wait a few months and sort of give up, interview, wait a few months and sort of give up, get job. Not really a good plan to follow. Probably being the most qualified candidate was involved somehow, I hope.

My first job I got mostly out of networking; I applied for a job at a division of a company I had done consulting work for before (which I had also gotten through networking) – the company was large enough to have different divisions but small enough that a recommendation from someone else there meant something.

My next job I got purely by throwing my resume at as many state jobs as possible. I think there I was helped because the standard state application is really boring and difficult to update for each job, so I would send in the required standard paperwork unedited for each position, but also include a cover letter, a job-specific resume, and a list of the trainings and exercises I had participated in. Networking was 0% of it, but I think taking the extra effort to provide more background about myself helped a lot.

emmabee (#2,008)

Jobs in my field do not exist without networking. I did get a mostly-unpaid (we got a daily transit and lunch stipend) internship just by applying to an online posting. When that internship was coming to a close, I found another job posting, but I asked a friend who worked at the company about it, and she forwarded my resume to the person who was actually doing the hiring (as opposed to HR.) It’s possible I could have gotten the job by applying cold, but I’m sure knowing someone didn’t hurt. My second job was not posted anywhere – I found out about it because the person hiring sent an email to some people, one of whom forwarded it to some other people, one of whom forwarded it to me.

Number one job hunting tip = be privileged and also lucky.

Allison (#4,509)

Career fair! Honest to god, I showed up and wandered around, started chatting with an agency I’d never heard of, they told me to keep an eye out for a posting (that went up about a month after they said it would) and then tests, interviews etc. But really I think I just murdered the test, especially the part where you had to do long division by hand.

That’s how I got into the agency, current job had more work sample/tests and more scrambling to remember math I learned in middle school or before. Apparently I was good at showing my work/following directions!

aeroaeroaero (#1,422)

@Allison UMMMMM I really want to take a test with long division by hand problems. That sounds so fucking fun.

Allison (#4,509)

@aeroaeroaero @aeroaeroaero it was super boring but the most recent test had the “A pound of apples is 10 cents, a pound of lemons is 5 cents, if Joe wants to sell a mix for 8 cents, how much should there be of each?” and a “what number comes next in this sequence?” type shit that I had to pull from 8th and 9th grade but it was kind of super satisfying.

Dancercise (#94)

I answered an ad on Craigslist! It took them a month to get back to me and another month to get through the interview process, but it can be done!

Betty (#5,932)

I’d be interested to hear more about the post by Virginia, the immigration lawyer. I’m an unemployed lawyer who has been looking for a job as an attorney for over 2 years. I’ve been on dozens of “informational” interviews and have been networking like crazy, but nothing has led to anything – not one thing. I started to write off the whole networking thing as a farce. I’m starting to lose steam on my job search, what with the endless applications to job postings, going to networking events and resume workshops, and reaching out to every connection I can think of. I seriously don’t know what more I can do. I’ve been spending all my time doing crappy contract work at document reviews. Can you share more about how you got your job at the immigration firm?

ledamarritz (#3,069)

@Betty I just want to make sure you saw that I passed your comment along to Virginia, the immigration lawyer quoted in the piece, and she responded in more detail (below)!

Virginia Abbott (#5,954)

Hi Betty, this is Virginia. Your situation sounds very frustrating. When I was looking for work, most of the recent law school graduates I met with jobs as associate immigration attorneys told me it had taken them one to two years to eventually find a job. So you are not alone! It sounds like you are already doing everything you can with regard to networking. Have you tried doing volunteer work in your particular area of interest? In my own case, as I searched for work, I did pro bono work with a solo practitioner and two non-profits focused on immigration law. It was an easy way for me to gain skills and have something on my resume while I found an actual job. Also, it allowed me to build relationships with attorneys who were also on the lookout for jobs for me. Though I realize you probably can’t afford to spend all of your time volunteering, it could be a helpful complement to the contract work you are doing. Good luck and let me know if you have any other specific questions!

Comments are closed!