on 04-06-2015 06:40 AM
I am glad to see this group working successfully with some helpful and dedicated volunteeers. I am working at IRENA currently but prior to this I had to go through 7 internships, mostly related to this field. So job seekers I know how you feel and how frustrating job search process can be! So I wanted to share a story that could be helpful for you.
A few months ago I was on a mission outside of the UAE and there was an evening reception dinner. I was approached by someone, who introduced himself quickly and asked if I worked for IRENA. I said yes, then this person started talking about how much he dreamt about working there, how many people he knows at IRENA through networking, and how many times he has applied for different positions at IRENA.
I was a bit overwhelmed by all the direct questions thrown at me, but knowing how desperate job seekers can be (as I was once there myself), I asked a couple follow-up questions: What is your area of expertise and what kind of work have you done related to that? Which positions have you applied at IRENA?
He said: well...I applied for an internship, then a country-specific position, etc. etc. I'm interested in climate change and renewable energy policies and you know, all that sort of stuff. Right now I am working for an organization that organizes meetings related to sustainability but I just really want to work in the UAE and IRENA. I sent an email to A, B, and C telling them how much interested and passionate I am about working at IRENA, but they didn't reply to me. Who else do you think I should email?
Me: Uhm..other than wanting to work at IRENA, what is your interest in terms of our work?
Him: Any job is ok. I am interested in all jobs at IRENA! :-D
Me: What makes you like IRENA so much? Which activities and publications interested you?
So basically, this person was obviously very interested in working at IRENA and apparently has contacted a lot of people within IRENA. But he made many mistakes here, can you tell?
1. His intention to talk to me was too obvious and direct. I think this is a simple psychology - when you approach a professional already working in a company and tell him/her that you want to work there and that's the only thing you mention in the conversation, unless this professional is a HR officer looking for a candidate, he/she (working in a certain team with a particular focus probably) will think "OK this person has nothing to offer for me, and there is only one thing this person wants from me", which discourages the professional from genuinely being interested in having the conversation with you. The picture is too clear! I've even seen some other professional directly telling the applicant "Hey, thanks for talking to me but I am not from HR and I don't know anything about the hiring processes or vacancies so bye".
Tip: This kind of situation is not a job interview, it's a casual conversation. But since you're looking for a job (even better if it is a job at the same organization as your conversation partner) you want to leave a good image of yourself. By throwing out your situation as a job seeker, you're effectively putting yourself out there for evaluation, and possibly, criticisms. I had no thought about IRENA's hiring strategy or ideal candidates a minute before he approached me but the moment I find out that he wants to get a job at my organization, meaning, he could be my potential colleague, suddenly I am looking at him through an evaluative mirror - You don't need to do that to yourself (and I didn't really enjoy viewing someone like that at a dinner reception either).
2. There was nothing much said about who he is and why he could be a good fit for IRENA. He could have made himself seem a lot more interesting I think, and I am sure he had an interesting background, but I just couldn't tell from what he told me because all he thought in his mind that time was 'how can I get a job out of this person?'.
Tip: You can refer to your work/study experience and tell me how you found out about IRENA or how you found IRENA's website so useful for your work - the actual purpose would be to tell me about your experience but you can also relate that to the organization, to show that you've been interested in and appreciating the work of the organization since year 200X!. Introduce yourself in a way that shows your expertise and professional experience (make it interesting!) - key is to show me that you're passionate about this field, very interested in certain topics (with some level of expertise or experience), and that you have been learning a lot over the past X years and are willing to expand your knowledge into something else or to deepen your knowledge in certain technologies and industries. This doesn't even use the word 'job' anywhere, but if I hear someone say this I would kind of guess that, but more in a professional manner.
Another thing that seem to work well is raising a question or proposing a suggestion you had while working, that is related to IRENA's work. For example,"when I was working for a community cooperative in my home country, I thought, why can't we apply their financing model to small-scale renewable energy projects? Because blah blah...Have you seen such a business model in your experience at IRENA? How would this work?" something like that. This kind of question could easily take you to asking me (or the profesional) about my job and my work, then it's easier for you to ask your MAIN question, what's it like to work at IRENA and do you know if the org. is hiring at the moment?
3. A bigger problem is that this person didn't really know anything about the work that IRENA does, despite saying like 10 times how much he wanted to work at IRENA. I also asked him if he has seen or read one of IRENA's famous reports, and he said he's never heard of it. I think this is minimum to know a bit about the organization's key products before approaching to ask for a job, no?
Tip: You should know some bits about the organization's work, activities, or products. It needs not be very deep and profound - just enough to get the conversation started. If you have read a report from IRENA and mentioned it to me (or even better if you cite a particular section and ask a question about it), I will be able to answer to you only if I was involved in the project. If not, which is likely to be case (if you do meet the right person like that, that is your lucky day so do your best!), I can answer what I know or heard of, and perhaps I will connect you to the right colleague (yes! a contact point!). In my mind, you will be remembered as someone who knows about IRENA's work, who is interested in XXX type of work, and who had a question about YYY aspect of renewable energy financing. This is far better than being remembered as someone who begged for a job.
4. Shooting emails to people in the organization you don't know at all and asking them about a job opportunity. I heard some people find this a sign of passion and interest, but it really depends on the content and attitude in the email. Let's say I liked the email - but all I would do probably at that point is 1) to forward it to HR with a brief remark, 2) to tell the person that if any relevant opportunities come I will let him/her know (but I may or may not later on), 3) share it with other colleagues who might be interested in people with that background. This might lead to something, but it will take a while for anything to happen because your email was not very 'targeted'.
Tip: I wouldn't recommend this approach, unless you know these people, have a referral from mutual friends/colleagues, or have worked with them. I don't think this could go very wrong, it just doesn't seem very effective. Don't just send out emails like this and think that you somehow 'know' them...If I think the person's experience is indeed interesting, I might bring up the job opportunity first! So the ideal order would be get them to be interested in you first, then discuss your career interests with them.
I hope this is helpful for you to think about your next cocktail chats, and all the best luck to you all.
Comments and questions are welcome!
on 04-06-2015 11:27 AM
This is really, really good advice. Love the examples. Thanks, on behalf of job seekers everywhere, for taking the time to create and share this insightfull and practical piece.
Mike Brownell, Dayaway Careers