Strategies for Finding Professional Opportunities
by Corporate Relations and Business Strategy Staff
Whether entering the marketplace, making a career transition, or looking for a way to diversify your professional activities by taking another part-time position, finding the right job opportunity is an important part of your career development.
This article highlights a variety of approaches for identifying job opportunities and getting your foot in the door.
When beginning your job search, preparation is key. Having a clear understanding of what type of position you are looking for will help you focus your efforts and identify opportunities that fit your needs, expertise and interests, or round out your set of professional activities.
Consider the aspects of a job that are most important to you. Factors such as location, pay, benefits, workload or opportunities for advancement may play a significant role in identifying viable options.
Determine ahead of time which of these aspects are absolutely necessary and which are simply preferable. For example, if you are looking for a full-time position with a community-based outpatient clinic but already see clients in private practice three evenings a week, you may need to look for a position within 20 minutes of your private practice that does not require you to work evening hours. Similarly, if you have a family and your partner’s job does not provide benefits, finding a position that offers excellent benefits, including family health insurance coverage, might be a priority.
Basic Job Search Strategies
There are numerous ways to find out about available positions, some more effective than others. The most common approaches are summarized below. You can maximize your results by using multiple strategies when conducting a job search.
Job Listings and Announcements
Job listings, both in print and online, offer a “one-stop-shop” for information about positions that are available with many different employers.
Job openings are listed in the back of the APA Monitor and in many state, provincial and territorial psychological association (SPTA) newsletters, as well as in the employment section of your local newspaper.
Online resources that provide job listings include APA’s psychology career resource, PsycCareers, SPTA and division websites, and general employment websites, such as Monster, CareerBuilder and HotJobs. Jobs with government agencies can be found on USAJOBS, the official job site for the federal government, or on your state or local government websites.
While online resources often list a sizeable number of jobs and offer the benefit of being able to search the job listings by different criteria, keep in mind that relying solely on searching online listings rarely yields results. To position yourself more competitively and strengthen your chances of landing a position you find in a job listing, combine your efforts with additional strategies described below.
Posting Your CV or Resume
In addition to searching through job listings, many online job resources also allow you to post your CV or resume, so that employers can find you. In most cases this is a free service, but may require you to register with the website or create an online account.
Participation in Professional Associations
Membership and active participation in national, state and local professional associations not only gives you access to job listings from the association’s website and newsletter, but also connects you with the psychology community and psychologists in your area, who may be aware of available positions that are not advertised in job listings (see networking, below).
Additionally, professional associations often provide listservs and email discussion groups as a member benefit and it is not unusual for members to post position openings to these lists. Some email lists with frequent job postings and referral requests include APA’s NewPsychList and Practice listservs.
In reality, most jobs in psychology are never advertised in job listings. Instead, positions are filled by contacts made through professional networks. This highlights the importance of networking.
Networking is an ongoing process of expanding your contacts and building mutually beneficial relationships with other professionals. While networking is not an activity that you should engage in solely to gain employment, searching for a job is one situation when having an effective professional network can really pay off.
The broader your circle of contacts is, including former classmates, colleagues, supervisors and faculty members, the greater the likelihood that you will hear about job openings, potential employers and available opportunities. Additionally, contacts you make from your involvement in professional organizations and community activities can be great sources for job leads.
While you might be comfortable directly asking some of your contacts if their organization has any job openings, there are other ways that a broad network of professional contacts can facilitate your job search. By simply making your contacts aware that you are looking for a job with particular characteristics, you increase the likelihood that they will pass relevant information along to you.
Similarly, you can effectively utilize people in your network by contacting them by telephone and email or by arranging to meet for lunch. By seeking their input regarding your job search or asking them to keep an eye out for available opportunities, you dramatically expand your reach.
Keep in mind that networking is about creating mutually beneficial relationships – so, when you hear about an opportunity that might be of interest to one of your contacts, be sure to pass it along.
Identifying and Exploring Potential Employers
If you know the geographic area where you want to work, search the local telephone directories and Yellow Pages and identify all of the organizations of the type you are looking for (e.g., consulting firm, hospital, university counseling center). Also be sure to search the Internet using both the type of organization and the name of the city, town or community as keywords.
After identifying the organizations that meet your criteria, learn about the organizations by visiting their websites (they might even have job openings listed), calling and requesting information or talking to your contacts regarding what they know about the organizations. With this additional information, you can identify those organizations where you might be interested in working and contact them to introduce yourself and express interest in employment with them. If one of the people in your network has a contact in the organization, have them introduce you or otherwise facilitate the connection.
If you do not have a contact in an organization, identify the person responsible for hiring, such as the clinical director or human resources manager and send a brief (i.e., no more than one page) letter of introduction that explains who you are and a little about your background, why you are contacting the organization (e.g., just moved to the area, recently graduated and are entering the job market, looking to expand your professional activities), why you are interested in and think you are a good fit with the organization, and that you would appreciate the opportunity to talk with them about any opportunities that might exist. Be sure to include your contact information, including telephone number and email address. If you do not receive a response within a couple of weeks, it is appropriate to follow up with a phone call.
Whether you make contact with a potential employer by responding to a job listing, through networking and involvement in professional associations, or by reaching out to an organization you are interested in, there are many other parts of the employment process, such as creating an effective CV, navigating the job interview and negotiating a salary, where effective strategies can help you land the position that is right for you. For information about these topics and more, stay tuned to future issues of the PracticeUpdate E-Newsletter.