By Sarah Jukes
I pulled off the impossible by coming to New York from Australia and finding myself a job and in less than 3 months.
I took some daring but calculated risks. I had a simple strategy that worked.
I’d like to share with you that strategy with the idea that others might find this information relevant and useful.
Here are the reasons why I was successful in finding a job in New York City.
I’m putting this as number one because I genuinely believe it’s the single biggest reason I was successful in finding a job in New York City.
I literally bumped into the right person at the right time.
But to make that happen, I had to put myself in front of hundreds of other professionals before I stumbled on the right one. I networked aggressively and that required time, effort, confidence and commitment. I’ll talk more about networking later.
For the record, I didn’t actively use recruiters or agencies. I certainly engaged and connected with them but overall I found they were unsympathetic to my visa needs.
Speaking of visas, the big reason I was able to do any of this was that as an Australian national with a university degree and work experience, I was able to get a special class of working visa, an E3 visa.
2. I came with work experience and academic credentials
It may look like it took me less than 3 months to land a job here, but really it took 15 years of solid work leading up to that.
Everything I did in my career up until now played a role in getting me to this point. From when I left high school and entered university until right now, it all counted towards this. Everything about my academic background mattered in securing the role that I did.
I gave enough thought to my career planning to develop a skill set and academic credentials that I knew would be in demand and easily portable (for the record, those were an honors undergraduate degree in speech language pathology and an MBA).
3. I branded myself online
I knew any potential employer would put my name through google, so why not control exactly what they see?
I used social media strategically to brand myself, engage a wider audience and express my personality online. I still continue these strategies even after meeting my end goal of finding a job.
Here’s what I did. I ramped up my twitter feed and posted diverse but professionally relevant links. I added a layer of authenticity to my tweets by including a couple of words about why I thought the link was interesting or important.
But the biggest thing I did in this space was to regularly write on my blog. Blogging is one of the most powerful platforms you can use to control what people read about you and the impression they form of you.
To be an effective personal blogger, you have to be willing to share a little about yourself. The best personal blogs challenge the status quo, demonstrate logical thought patterns, express vulnerability, articulate a journey and demonstrate a commitment to personal improvement. Your audience, no matter how big or small, forces you to be that little bit more accountable for living with purpose.
Remember that blog post I wrote that went viral? That could not have come at a more perfect time for me. At the time it exploded I was in serious negotiations over my new job. To walk into a job interview and negotiations and talk about how something I wrote got 12,000 facebook likes in a day (yes, that really happened) made me look accomplished, competent and interesting.
Needless to say, blogging has done amazing things for me. It has opened up tremendous doors, ones I could never have dreamed about. I have met some amazing people thanks to this virtual space. I am now somewhat of a role-model to lots of two kinds of people around the world; those who want to move to New York City and fellow female amateur dancers who want to follow in my footsteps and go on a ballet version of Eat Pray Love.
Here’s an example. I had a lady from Finland approach me at the barre before class earlier this week. She was so inspired by my story, she too packed up her life and left it behind in favor of chasing her love of dance in New York City. We’ve been emailing for several weeks and we’re catching up for coffee later this morning. I am humbled and honoured to be any kind of inspiration to people like her.
4. I networked
Networking is like a sport in this city. There are hundreds of business networking events or ‘mixers’ on every week.
In keeping with my original strategy of putting myself in front of as many people as possible, I hit up networking in a big way. Every night of the week I went to networking events.
Not just nights either. I went to all kinds of events. Brunches, trade shows, coffee meetings, standing meetings, office hours, open days, happy hours, conferences, all-day meetings. Everything I could possibly gain an entry to. In the process I got to see the inside of some pretty cool New York City workspaces, like eBay, ZocDoc, bitly and tumblr.
I followed through on every single contact I made. I thought hard about the conversation we had, what we had in common and what I might be able to offer them in terms of advice, information or connections. I remain committed to building and maintain my professional networks.
5. I listened
If I had to critique American business professionals at networking events, I would say this. They don’t really listen. They do all the talking. They want to pitch to you. They want to listen to you only long enough to work out whether you’ll be useful to them. They love to talk. You can get a life story out of a New Yorker within 10 minutes of meeting them.
Knowing this, I went to these events and actively listened to people. I did a lot of nodding, smiling, paraphrasing, clarifying, questioning and showing genuine interest in the person standing in front of me. I gave them my full and complete attention. I wanted to understand them and how I could help them.
I got all kinds of feedback like, ‘You’re just lovely Sarah, you’ll do so well here’. When all I had done was spent 10 minutes listening to this person and had barely said a word at all.
To be able to engage comfortably with total strangers is one of the most significant skills I developed from all my years working in hospitals. In a hospital I had to talk to total strangers every day, usually in a high pressure, difficult, emotionally charged and high stakes environment. It was my job to quickly establish common ground, trust, rapport and project a warmness while not needing anything from the other person in return. Years of honing these skills paid off for me in New York City. It’s a skill set I never really knew I had and I believe anyone can develop them with enough insight and practice.
I was upfront with people about my job search but I never went in with the intent of finding whom in the room could best get me a job. Every person in the room was equally important. This was essential because I never portrayed a sense of job seeking desperation.
6. I looked the part
Like it or not, the image you portray in New York City means an awful lot. It’s a city crawling with beautiful people and you have to live up to a certain image to gain entry or acceptance into certain circles. Shallow and ridiculous as it is, if you don’t know and understand this, you could be hindering yourself unnecessarily.
I thought hard about the image I wanted to portray. I set the bar for smart, professional, accepting and easily imaginable as the colleague working in the cubicle next to yours. I did everything I could to avoid looking scruffy, unemployed, casual or having minutes earlier stepped out of a ballet class.
I paid attention to details. I got very professional business cards printed. I made sure my LinkedIn profile was super slick. I avoided gmail and went for a properly branded email address. I eliminated labels like ‘unemployed’, ‘job seeker’ and ‘career switcher’ from all my online and verbal vocabulary.
7. I wasn’t afraid to fail
Don’t let me paint a rosy picture for you. This was hard. Bloody hard.
Most days were a chore. I was filled with constant self-doubt.
Some days I felt so down about it, other days had me on a high. Some days my phone never rang, some days it rang constantly. Some days I got so many rejection letters and I would struggle to find positives in my day. But I always found a way to push on through. One of my close friends describes me as ‘RP’, for resilient and persistent. I don’t shy away from what’s hard.
Here’s what I mean. So often I would walk into a networking event at some swank bar on Madison Avenue, all dressed up and think to myself.. ‘I so don’t belong here’.
I turned this thinking on its head. I told myself that I did have something worthwhile and interesting to contribute. I did have skills the job market wanted. I believed in myself. I put on my best ballerina posture, head my held high and dived in. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.
In closing, it’s worth pointing out that even if it didn’t work out and had to find somewhere else to live, at least I could say I had the courage and the energy to try and live in New York City. I would rather try and fail than be filled with wonder or regret.
Not many people are that brave. I am and now I’m living the dream.
About Sarah Jukes: Sarah works in for a health technology company in New York City. She writes about what she’s passionate about, namely expat life, digital health, startups, classical ballet and electronic music. Sarah is active on her blog, LinkedIn profile and twitter.