Here's another great installment of How I Got My Job. A new podcast and blog series we are running here on CareerCloud. These stories are designed to give you an inside look at how real people land real jobs. Want to tell your story? Contact us.
Submitted by Keith Craig, PR Manager, Linode, since June 2014
Since college graduation 30 years ago, I have occasionally pressed into duty my media communications degree to find the holy grail of a career: a steady, challenging post, anchored in writing, with room for advancement in a stable company. As the years passed, this signal career ideal diverged from expectations and then ran off the tracks of reality. Pursuing a profound career took backseat to life’s profane demands. If a job paid the bills, it was ideal enough.
I have worked a multitude of profane jobs in search of the profound, from public school teacher, to computer installation/training technician, to associate editor, to college adjunct English instructor, to non-profit communications director. Some were “good,” others better; none best.
When the 2008 economy tanked, I had to abandon my latest idyllic career, freelance journalist, to keep food on the table and a roof overhead. Subsequently, I dabbled with marketing content generation, joining a medical IT firm in Kennett Square, Pa. I swapped that plum to write advertorial copy for the Philadelphia Inquirer before re-entering (and exiting) everyone’s cinch job: public teaching (summers off!). Desperately, I next negotiated a “chief” marketing position (i.e., glorified sales clerk) at a mom-&-pop bicycle shop on the Southern New Jersey coast.
Amid hop-scotching through every “best” job I could land, I knew I needed to find stable, legitimate employment through a different means than that which I had used in acquiring the above positions: (i.e., walking in the door of the medical IT company; applying through Monster.com to the Inquirer; submitting my erstwhile teaching credentials to a former department chair who had risen to head of school district human resources; and pitching a position I had designed to a familiar but distant business owner.)
Something had to change. And it would be my approach to finding and landing once and for all, that ideal, perfect job.
I signed up for job-post alerts from “generalist” search engines, Monster.com, CareerBuilder, Indeed; industry-specific searches, USAJobs, CreativeCircle, and AWP Career Services; as well as a few sites for teaching vacancies at the secondary and post-secondary level (HigherEdJobs.com, REAP.com (for Pennsylvania), NJSchoolJobs.com).
Reviewing each job previously held, I assessed the pros and cons before, during, and after my employment. I actually recorded in a journal what I liked and didn’t like, what I performed well or didn’t perform well – my successes and failures. Identifying projects and attendant tasks for each job, I determined my strongest and weakest skills.
The upshot? I learned that my next, full-time, “ideal career” would have to flex my strongest talents by offering opportunity to
foster creative messaging/instruction,
liaison with attentive first-, second- and third-parties,
propose and execute innovative, outside-the-box solutions without scowling heavy-handedness from above,
influence an alert and enthusiastic clientele below,
work as part of a team – not siloed - on most projects,
assume greater responsibility and advance up the command chain, and
participate in a competitive salary and benefits package.
My next, best job prospect would permit me license to promote and extend a stable, private-sector employer’s brand through best practices and innovation. It also would afford the prospect for employment longevity and career advancement. Culturally, it would tout appealing perks in an environment that encouraged “irreverent” but respectful professionalism. (Because a company’s success is directly proportional to the amount of fun it can poke at itself).
So, my first rule to help anyone to find a dream job is to inventory what you liked, didn’t like, performed well and didn’t perform well at previous jobs. Look at those projects to which you contributed. What did you bring to the table? What couldn’t you bring? Write these down. Keep them handy. Match the list against posted job descriptions. Be truthful with yourself when you make these comparisons.
As 2014 commenced, I once more contemplated making a career move. Abandoning a friend’s advice to identify a “passion,” find a related business, and solicit a job from its owner, I sought escape from the bike shop, a position I had designed and proposed to its principal. I had learned that my ideal job would be more suited to my professional skills, not my personal pursuits (and wouldn’t have a shrew married to the owner.)
But where to begin looking? In the rearview mirror.
I had worked for two IT companies previously: an application development firm, CMS, that served Dixie law firms from Tallahassee, and a national, medical IT consultancy, VCS Inc., in Kennett Square, Pa. Buoyant on surging seas of the IT market a quarter century apart, both companies at their respective heights had succeeded with increasing market share by offering a reliable product, sound customer service and acquisition of new clients and erstwhile competitors with alacrity and impunity. Within IT, bright futures beckoned and blue skies loomed.
They still do.
Consequently, my early 2014 job search narrowed to two industries: “anything” IT (of course) and stable, august publishing houses (I can write!) in the Philadelphia region.
This is my second rule to finding a dream job: narrow your search to an industry (or two), select a few specific companies to follow, and actively track the news, blogs and recruitment posts.
I did, fixing medical publisher Slack Inc. and cloud-host Linode in the cross-hairs.
Linode first came to my attention in early 2013, while teaching. I applied for a technical writer vacancy and managed a phone interview.
Prior to that interview, I had researched Linode, learned some essentials of cloud-hosting and a bit about the virtualization market, and selected from my writing portfolio anything that might pass as a technical document.
During the interview, I was a technical “pig-with-lipstick.” It went off, but it didn’t go well because I hadn’t been truthful with myself. My skills and the job description didn’t match.
After the interview, I returned to teaching, chastened. I liked Linode but couldn’t see where my skills would ever correlate with its needs. Nevertheless, I bookmarked Linode and Slack Inc. in my browser, visiting both sites regularly throughout the next year. (I managed two phone interviews, one office interview and zero job offers from Slack Inc. during that time).
A corollary to rule #2: Job search engines suffice for determining prospective companies and cueing you into postings, but direct contact with a company far exceeds submitted applications that come through a recruitment portal.
Meanwhile, I revised my resume to reflect more quantitative results (not just what I had achieved) of my work with VCS Inc. and at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and to integrate key, IT terminology that had been bandied about during my initial Linode interview.
The third rule to finding your dream job: keep your resume fresh, updated, “customized” per application, and focused on achievement-with-results.
Nearly a year later, Linode posted for a Public Relations Manager on its careers page. My skill set matched the posted description and my revised resume reflected as much. I had been following Linode – stories, blog, social media - and knew what it had been doing in the cloud-host market.
I had followed my rules. Here was my chance. I applied directly to Linode over the Internet.
Less than a week later, Vincent Palochko, Linode’s HR Director, called me. He asked if I was still interested in the Pubic Relations Manager position and if so, could I arrange an in-office interview. I replied “yes” to both questions. Vince scheduled the interview with marketing manager and documents team lead for the next Monday, four days away.
When I arrived at Linode, I completed an employment application and a non-disclosure agreement. Vince escorted me to the conference room where I met my interviews. After formal introductions and brief small talk, the interview began. They wanted to know about my skill writing press releases. They wanted to know how I would stage a publicity campaign. They wanted to know what publicity strategies I would recommend to extend Linode’s brand. They asked me to summarize my experience using social media.
I tailored my responses – confident, truthful, effective – to cloud-hosting and IT in general. The knowledge I had previously mined about Linode, combined with my past experience and skills focus, paid dividends. I was asked back for a second interview – to interview with the vice president of marketing the next Monday.
So, Rule #4 is to combine knowledge with research to tailor interview responses that are substantive and authentic. Don’t lie. Don’t fabricate. Again, be truthful. Trust yourself and be yourself.
A week later, Vince escorted me to the Linode’s VP of marketing. We struck an immediate rapport. He talked ideas and asked me mine. He alluded to Linode’s successes and market forces. He asked me what contributions I thought I could bring to the marketing team. He mentioned that Linode had hired a PR firm, but was not happy with the results. He wanted to know how I would go about striking up relationships with the media and what success had I doing so previously.
Again, my preparation served me well as my responses to the VP’s questions and the rapport which we first established elicited from him an invitation to meet the CEO and COO at a third interview. I said I would enjoy that.
Two days later, I met Linode’s CEO Christopher S. Aker in the conference room. After introductions and amid small talk, Chris discovered I had been a school teacher, fitness advocate, and published writer – similar to his dad. His two biggest questions were whether I would be comfortable with my work being revised by dozens of colleagues and if I could handle the sometimes-awkward personalities of software developers. I assured him I could, having been a high school teacher once and having published numerous written pieces that were subject to harsh editing. Chris walked me back to Vince’s office and wished me luck.
Vince took a few minutes to explain the benefits packages that Linode offers its employees. He asked if they seemed competitive. I assured him they were: medical, dental, retirement - including 401k and pension with matching investment by Linode, weekly catered lunches, abundant PTO. All wrapped up in an edgy, young IT firm that still retained the buzz of a start-up despite being 11 years old. My verdict was unanimous: working for Linode would be the best employment situation I had ever encountered. My ideal employment had been found.
Vince thanked me for my flexibility in being able to interview three times over ten days. He assured me that I would hear from him within 48 hours (by Friday). I thanked him for his professionalism and assistance, shook his hand and told him it would be a privilege to work for Linode.
I drove home, confident that I had done my best. From what I had seen, learned, and experienced at Linode over three interviews, it was the company I wanted to work for – for a long time.
The year-plus that I had spent hunting the perfect job included interviews with six different schools for teaching positions, interviews with four different publishers, and Linode’s sequence of interviews. It also included the first big surprise of how much time it took to land even one interview, let alone a job offer.
The next two days, waiting to hear from Vince, were going to be excruciating!
Except they weren’t. Within an hour of my return home, Vince had sent me the job offer via email. Linode’s efficiency was the second surprise and most cherished. I printed it out, signed it, called Vince back to say I accepted, and told him I’d return the signed document the next day, Thursday.
I did. And when returning the signed job offer, I got invited to my first catered lunch at Linode – Chido Burrito. Delicious!
Preparation. Perseverance. Presentation. Focus. Authenticity. Five keywords – and four rules - that helped me land my ideal job with Linode.