How to Land Your Dream Job

This is another great post from my wife, Mrs. LAMF. If you’ve been following our story, you know that she was laid off from her previous job and decided to pursue her passion in photography. But, then her dream job came along and she decided to go for it! Enjoy the read.

For the last two-ish months, many of you know that I have been growing my photography business in lieu of my full-time employment. Since Derek and I had a cushioned emergency fund (and a profitable blog) I was fortunate not to be forced to find a job. I took my proclaimed sabbatical to do lots of projects on the house (our master bath update is ready for a reveal!) and also align and evaluate my goals for the future.

As Mr. LAMF says, always account for the unexpected, good or bad.  Three weeks after being unemployed, I got a very random email from a hiring manager I had interviewed with upon our initial move back to Michigan in February/March. They obviously didn’t hire me then, but they said they’d keep me in mind for the future. It’s a nice thing to say, but how many times do they actually mean it?

Well, it is 8 months later and behold I have an email from HR saying they wanted to know if I’m interested in speaking with their management team about a new position in their division. Considering that I had actually put in many volunteer hours with this organization on my own time, I was ecstatic to have heard them keep their word.  An interview was scheduled that week.

It was easy for me to get nervous because I remembered how much I initially wanted to work for this organization. It was also the only job prospect since my sabbatical began.  It had also been a long time since I worked in an office (my last job was virtual, so I was working in my pajamas from the comfort of my upstairs office). Would I know how to fit into the office environment? Not to mention, how do you talk about being terminated/laid off from your previous position to a prospective employer?

My trusty hubby game me some much-needed advice on the day of the interview. He said, ‘Remember, they called YOU because they remembered how awesome you were. Besides, you can walk in with a whole new confidence…you don’t really need this job.’ With that my spark was lit.

Tuesday: I went into the interview with the two division directors and answered every question feeling like I was 10 feet tall.  By the time I got home, I felt great about how everything went. I only hoped that I made the next round of interviews (round 2 interviews were set-up for the next week).

Thursday: My phone rang unexpectedly in the middle of a paint project. It was the director that I had interviewed with; she wanted to fill me in about a change in the interview process. The words, we want to offer you the position, rang in my ears for a good minute before I could make a stunned reply. It was rather like I was floating on a cloud during our entire conversation. This job was not something that I needed, but I deeply wanted it.

Despite the advice from many readers to pursue my own business in photography (I have definitely done this in my few weeks of vacay), I accepted the offer and am happily employed as of November 28th. This is almost unbelievable to me, considering that most people though it would take 3-6 months to find employment, not to mention the fact that I wasn’t even looking.  So how did I land my dream job without trying?

My career documents: my resume, cover letter, references and ‘fact sheet’ are tailored specifically to each position I apply for. My original documents were submitted to the organization back in February. I absolutely updated them and brought printed copies along in a portfolio for each interviewer.

Relationships: When I interviewed back in February, I made a point to make a connection with each person (even the secretary at the front of the office) that I met with during my panel/other interviews. I sent hand written thank you cards immediately following each interview.

When I met them again, I would ask a follow up about something personal they had shared last time. I was genuinely interested in building a relationship with them. I also added most of the interview team to my LinkedIn profile to keep them in my Rolodex.  When I went in 2 weeks ago, it was easy to pick up right where we left off with friendly conversation.

Interview questions:  Many of the questions at the beginning of the process were about my past experiences. I made sure to have specific descriptions  (numbers, values, percentages) and examples to support my past positions. Towards the end of the interview, I was asked many situational questions. A trick to help me give specific supported answers is to use the STAR method. (I am sure many of you have heard of this if you have visited an on-campus Career Center).

S-situation, tell about the background; T-task, what was the project or thing you were trying to accomplish; A-action, what did you do to resolve the problem or situation (more specifically what did YOU contribute); R-result, what was the outcome (whether good or bad), what did you learn from it, and what would you change if you were in that situation again?

It is a great feeling when they don’t need to ask you any follow up questions because you gave them everything they need (that doesn’t mean to get off topic and create a lengthy pointless answer though).

Answering tough questions: There were one or two questions that I did not have an example to give. Here is what my first response was, ‘Although I have never personally been in this situation, I can illustrate what I would do if I were to experience what they were describing.’ Then I go on to give what I would do if I were in that position and why.

Another tip I highly recommend is taking a moment to think of a great response before blurting the first thing that comes to your mind and reiterating the question to clarify and misconceptions.

Professional attire: Even if I were to interview for a construction crew sales job, I would be wearing my skirt or pants suit carrying my posh purse and portfolio case (wait, I did do this once…). A first impression lasts forever. My goal is to look like I could run the place when I walk through the door. It is not an air of cockiness, but confidence, poise and professionalism.

When you’re in a position where you could be representing the company externally, they want to know you will shed positive light on the organization. So polish the shoes, put on some nylons, make sure to sticky roll the lint and for goodness sakes, iron your shirt, pants and blazer. Young professionals my best tip – remember this is NOT the club, it is your CAREER. Always err on the side of conservation when dressing professionally.

Pump-up ritual: Aside from all the other crossed t’s and dotted i’s, make sure to let those butterflies out and reaffirm that you are a well-qualified individual. They have called YOU in for an interview. Show them that you are awesome at what you do, and make it a goal to exceed expectations. Something I do on my way to every interview is to play a jam list of 80’s rock (I am not sure if Mr. LAMF knows about this) on the way there. If you drove past me you would see me in a suit and pearls head banging to ‘Back in Black’ or ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me’. Simple reminder not to take everything too seriously.

Of course there are quite a few details that I haven’t mentioned here, but these few have really helped me stay ahead of the pack. Do you have any helpful tips that you have found useful when trying to land a job? Did you successfully land your dream job?

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