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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?



My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Congratulations on the job! That is impressive to see that there is actually hiring going on in Michigan. You have offered wonderful tips. Plus, it is good that you had the emergency fund to provide the luxury of time.

    • Yes, there are thousands of jobs available! MichiganWorks! is also a GREAT resource to help those that have been laid off or can’t find employment. I know in West Michigan there are a few new companies moving in (ie. Samsung) and are already trying to fill hundreds of jobs both in manufacturing and corporate.

      The emergency fund definitely helped, but we still had to rearrange the budget. I am glad that we can solely live off of one income if need be.

  2. Wow, that’s awesome! It seems like there is something about you two that makes you so successful! Keep up the great work!

    • I have been told that before! Actually – these exact words, ‘Dar you know how to hustle.’ That and Derek and I both big dreamers that are never satisfied with mediocrity. We apply our entrepreneurial spirit in existing jobs by taking ownership and coming up with creative solutions in existing processes. I think that is what helps us keep moving forward. 🙂


  3. Congrats on getting a new job! Hope it is your dream job.

    When it comes to money and stability, the pull is too hard to go the individual path for most of us. I know it would be hard to resist saying ‘no’ myself.

    Another bullish indicator for the economy! Gonna go buy stock in this pullback!

    • I was all about taking my own road, but when we crunched the numbers it WAS hard to say no! 🙂 (Especially because it would be something I would love to do.)

      We kept thinking how it could really get us back on track with paying the house in 4 years or less and help us reinvest in our existing side businesses. It seemed the like pros out weighed the cons.

  4. You mentioned first impressions and being confident so I have to mention the importance of the hand shake and eye contact. This is huge. It makes for a strong or weak start. I cant tell you how many people I have interviewed who just kind of laid their hand into mine. It makes it seem like they dont really care to be there.

    • Absolutely! This was actually something I taught when I worked in Career Services. My students would practice hand shakes and looking each other in the eye to confidently introduce themselves. You would think it is a simple practice, but for many anti-social graphic artists it was rather challenging! It sometimes too hard to find the medium between a strong confident shake and what I call the granny hand breaker. 🙂 Practice makes perfect, so go randomly shake the hands of family and friends!

  5. Congratulations. This is awesome.

    For me, I find getting the great jobs comes from networking and proving yourself. I have done well with maintaining relationships with those I have met over the years in different jobs. Making that effort to stay in touch can go a long way.

    • Correct in most situations it who you know. I know that the fantastic recommendation my former boss gave definitely helped.

      The job I had over the summer I also landed because of a recommendation from an employer that once worked with the company.

      The key point to remember in networking is to make the relationship mutually beneficial for both parties, not just what they can do for you. 🙂

  6. Congratulations! The way I look at it everyone has the skills to do the job, but very few can connect with the people. Those few or individual who connects best is the winner. Those little things you did does more than almost everything else because they liked you. Based on that, they can train you what you may be missing if anything.

    • Being teachable is 80% of it most of the time! I have learned to be eager to discover new processes and tasks. It has benefited me in all of my past experience and in my own business. I hope to never stop learning because that will mean I am done growing. 🙂

  7. Congrats!!! Also, some excellent tips you have here! I haven’t had to do very many interviews as I have been in my current job for quite a while. One of my goals for 2012 is to revamp/polish my resume (I know, I should always try to keep this up to date) and ready for anything that comes along.

    • Yes, it is important to continually update your resume even if your job is secure. That way you are not overwhelmed when the time comes to update it. I keep a file of everything that I would ever need to include in a resume that way I can use that as a base to customize one for each application.

      If you ever need an extra set of eyes to review your documents, send them my way! I used to help students revamp resumes all day. 🙂

  8. Congratulations, That is impressive to see that there is actually hiring going on in Michigan. You have offered wonderful tips. Plus, it is good that you had the emergency fund to provide the luxury of time.

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