Washington "Networked" Job Search Strategy

For Recent College Grads

The Networked Search
  • The majority of undergrad job searches and almost all subsequent searches are some form of a networked search.
  • Washington is a city of connections.  A “networked” strategy is not the only way to look for a job in Washington, but it’s by far the most effective form of job search.
  • The networked search explores what you don’t know rather than what you do know.
  • Amplitude of successes and failures can be greater than on-campus recruitment approach.
The Networked Search – Key elements

Use the web to create a target list of sectors and organizations in which you’d possibly be interested in working.  Figure out the characteristics of an organization that appeal to you the most.  Possible characteristics include:

  • The organization’s mission: What it “does” in the broad sense
  • Products, services, or functions: What it “does” in the literal sense.  Look at their press release section -- would you be happy to tell people that’s what you do?
  • Management/Staff: Look at their bios -- do you want to be them some day?  Is their career path one you’d like to follow?
  • Job listings: Even if you’re not qualified for them -- does that kind of a job appeal to you in the long term?

Pick your top five (or so) organizations.  It’s just as valuable to figure out which sectors and organizations in which you would never want to work.

The informational interview

The vehicle to find a way into these target organizations.

  • Use a spreadsheet to keep track of all contacts and conversations.
  • Use any connection you have to set up meetings – alumni, relatives, friends, or neighbors.
  • Focus on people who:
    • Work in your target organizations
    • Work in the general field
    • Know lots of people in DC (chances are they’ll know someone on your target organization list)
  • When you secure a meeting:
    • Bring your target organization list.
    • Don't ask for a job.  Ask for the “lay of the land” or how to “break into the field.”  Ask about the reputations of your target organizations.
    • Ask if they know anyone who works in your target organizations.
    • Ideally, leave the interview with two names.
    • Write a note to thank your contact for their time – email is ok.  Email them from time to time to let them know what you’re up to (not too much!)
  • Repeat this process until job is obtained.
  • When you get your job, email every person with whom you talked to let them know where you are.  You might get a call from them asking for your help!
The Networked Search – Pros
  • You come into an organization recommended, rather than blind.
  • You explore and learn about an industry/sector by having conversations with people in it.
  • You position yourself for longer term success by developing contacts.
  • You’re not competing with the other 5,000 recent grads applying for jobs online.
  • You find unadvertised/poorly advertised openings.
The Networked Search – Cons
  • It’s hard to get up the courage to make appointments to meet friends of friends.
  • It takes organizational skill to keep track of conversations and leads.
  • It’s time consuming and requires patience and motivation.
  • You have to make some arbitrary decisions to pursue certain fields/orgs and ignore others.
The Networked Search – Two caveats
  • The networked search isn’t a quick solution.  Few worthwhile things in life are easy.
    • It can take months to make the right connection to land a position.  Consider taking a job as a temp, or in a restaurant -  i.e, something you can leave easily - to bring in cash until you find the right job for you.
    • Thousands of people in Washington have done this same thing.
  • You will be offered positions you think are beneath you.  If there is one in your target organization, think about taking it – especially if you are fairly certain there aren’t barriers to more responsibility.
    • Capitol Hill offices are a good bet – entry-level positions almost always lead to jobs with more responsibility for hard workers.
    • A bad bet is a position where some kind of qualification – an advanced degree, legislative experience, international experience, etc. – is required to do substantive work.
Further reading

Spend your job search time wisely.  Invest your time in having informational interviews with people over blindly emailing resumes.

job search pyramid