“Land the job that gets you here so you can work to get the job that keeps you here.”
I tell this to every current intern or job-seeker who wants to move to Washington, DC. Unless you’ve got a lot of money saved or a source of “supplemental income,” you’ve only got a finite amount of time to find a paid gig. Many job seekers spend all of their time looking for their dream job. You’re going about it the wrong way.
Your dream job today won’t necessarily be your dream job in 10 years. And if it still is, you won’t be able to get there if you’re only willing to wait for that one perfect job. Opportunities are not guaranteed for anyone.
Here are some helpful tips that can speed up your job search:
1. Make a list of organizations, companies, and causes you are interested in working for and find out what open positions they currently have. If your dream job isn’t on that list, so what? The staff assistant opening listed today could turn into that policy job you really want tomorrow. Many places hire from within, and you’ll have the advantage other jobseekers lack.
2. If you need to pay the bills, you are not above any (legal) job. If your dream is to live in Washington, DC, do what it takes to get here. If those interviews just aren’t working out, there is nothing wrong with getting a job at a restaurant or small business that will help pay your bills while you’re still looking for full-time work. In fact, I know many people who have full-time jobs that work part-time gigs so they can expand their network. That person you met while waiting tables could end up offering you a chance to interview at their company.
3. You are not tied to the first job you take. My first job in DC was in an industry I had absolutely no interest in, but I needed a paycheck. I was there for approximately eight months before I was recruited for a new position off of Conservative Jobs. By no means am I advocating that you jump from job to job early in your career, but know that you will get more opportunities if you are currently employed in the city in which you want to live.
4. Have an open mind. Perhaps this is wisdom that comes from being in the work force for over a decade, but most people don’t really know what they want to do. Choose opportunities that allow you to learn how to work hard and get results. Working hard doing things you don’t necessarily want to do will allow you to eventually narrow down what you enjoy doing. That is when careers begin.
If you work hard, produce results, and expand your network, you will eventually get that dream job. But for now, focus on getting that first job that allows you to be in Washington, DC.
Patricia Simpson is Director of Political and Career Programs at the Leadership Institute.