Sep '11 - Jan '13
I knew this before, but I'm realizing more and more that it really is all about who you know and how much effort you put into your initial contact with a firm. I had some time to waste today between a couple of meetings and I ventured over to my old stomping grounds to talk to a few members of this year's graduating class. They just presented their thesis projects last week so the studio was a little empty but there were still a few familiar faces that I was able to catch up with.
Out of curiosity, and a little bitter jealousy, I asked about their job search; where they were looking, how much looking they've done, and if they had any offers or leads on potential openings.
First of all, it seems like the majority of them are looking in the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West (Washington, Idaho, and Utah mostly). According to the March ABI this is the wrong place to start looking, but despite this, many of them had potential leads and even some offers.
When I talked to them about how much looking they've done, I got varied responses and it really comes down to their approach method. Some seemed to target specific firms, while others just focused on cities and areas they'd like to live. Those that targeted specific firms did less looking than those that targeted cities and regions but I'd say overall I got the impression that the amount of work that they put into the job search was fairly comparable.
The biggest difference however was the amount of firms contacted and the type of responses they got back. Those that focused on a small pool of firms seemed to get more responses than those that did a lot of cold calling. The return on investment of time seems to speak for itself. One of my friends in particular said she sent materials to somewhere between 50-60 firms in the Seattle area, perhaps more. These were a combination of firms she was really interested in working for and ones that she just figured she'd contact and hope for an interview. She still hasn't heard back from many of them and is finding it difficult to follow-up with those firms, as you'd expect. Interestingly enough, the firms that she had some sort of networked contact with or targeted specifically, have been in touch and there are some good leads out there for her to follow up on.
I can't speak for her or verify her methods but I'd assume that she spent more effort on the materials she sent to the firms she really wants to work at compared to those she doesn't know much about but sent materials anyway. This could be in following-up after the initial contact, or even before contact while she was writing a specific cover letter to send to the firm. I'm not sure though because I never asked but I'd assume that it is probably both. Again, notice the return on investment.
Now keep in mind that this "informal survey" is no where near scientific and any conclusions could be completely erroneous. But even with that disclaimer, I'd say that there is a definite correlation between the amount of effort you put into contacting and tailoring your application materials to a specific firm and the quality of the response you get back from that firm.
Now I know this isn't anything new. Look around and you'll see this everywhere you see job search advice. But I know personally it is easy to fall into the trap of having a generic cover letter that you can send to any firm. I also know that sometimes when you don't have a large network that it is extremely tempting to just send out a lot of resumes and think that statistically one of them has to be interested in you.
DON'T DO IT!
You are only making our job (as job seekers) harder, and their job (as potential employers) harder as well. If you're like me you hate sifting through all those pre-approved credit card applications and advertisements just to get to the one piece of important mail per week. You probably also hate opening your email inbox to a bunch of new messages to only find one interesting one. Would you really want to call in that Nigerian Prince for an interview that promises you Neiman-Marcus's secret cookie recipe? Doesn't matter how much we keep telling ourselves that our application materials are not junk mail (and they aren't), yet we still make them look, swim, and quack like a duck.
The point is we are only hurting ourselves by cluttering firm inboxes with "junk mail" and expecting it to be read. Despite a tough economy there is work out there, but because firms have to sift through all the junk it is that much harder to actually get noticed.
Finally, I'd like to state that I'm not saying cold calling doesn't have a time or a place, but if you are going to do it, please take the initiative to at least make your application materials tailored to the firm you're cold calling. If not for the sake of your fellow job seekers, at least do it for the sake of the person that has to sift through the inbox.
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