Job search engines and social media are wonderful resources, but they also can't replace a more personal, basic job search activity: networking and getting involved. It's still possible to get a job by sending in a blind application (when you don't know anyone at the organization and no one there knows you). You should never hesitate to apply if you find a position that truly excites you. It's easy to dismiss your chances of getting that job when you are an unknown quantity to an organization. You might tell yourself, "There must be hundreds of people applying and the organization doesn't know who I am. How am I going to get the position?" Yet you never know what can happen, and it certainly won't happen unless you apply. Sherry is fond of the quotation by the famous hockey player Wayne Gretzky: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
However, you vastly increase your chances of getting that job if you make yourself a known quantity. Volunteer at conferences and other events. Organizations will be impressed by the initiative and commitment you show by volunteering your time for their cause. This will be remembered when positions become available. Network. Go to events sponsored by organizations in the field. Set up informational interviews with those who might be able to share insights about organizations of interest. By putting yourself in front of people already working in the fields of international education, exchange, and development, you're making it that much more likely that they will eventually involve you in their work.
And, of course, intern. It's no secret that, when positions must be filled, managers often think first of the outstanding interns who have already done excellent work in their offices. Those current or former interns are already familiar with the office systems and culture and require less training than other candidates.
But I Don't Live in Washington, DC, or New York!
You may also find, and perhaps become frustrated by the fact, that many of the organizations offering substantive jobs and internships in international education, exchange, and development are in large coastal cities such as Washington, DC; New York; and San Francisco. What, then, are those who live throughout the rest of the United States to do?
While it is true that cities such as Washington, DC, and New York have more international opportunities than most, many states and metropolitan areas have their own sets of international connections. You could even argue that some large cities and states conduct their own foreign relations. There are jobs with an international dimension at universities and colleges, world trade centers, in chambers of commerce, and in the offices of governors, mayors, and other elected officials. The jobs in the state and district offices of members of Congress are often dominated by domestic concerns. However, they also deal with various issues that we tend to consider international. As the distinction between domestic and international becomes increasingly blurred, many jobs will inevitably have a tangible international component, whether located in Bozeman, Montana, or Des Moines, Iowa.
You will find that job registries, such as Idealist.org and NAFSA.org, do have international job and internship listings in many cities. If you're interested in an organization located in Washington, DC, or New York, but are looking to intern in Denver or Cincinnati, contact those national offices anyway. Many organizations, such as NCIV and IIE, have member organizations or regional offices across the country. These organizations may have internship opportunities in their own offices, and, if not, they are plugged into the international pipeline in their particular city and can steer you in the right direction. And, of course, every pocket of the country has universities and colleges. As higher education becomes more internationalized by the hour and the competition to recruit international students escalates, the number of international opportunities on campuses will continue to expand as well.
The Promises and Perils of Social Media
While networking has been and remains an activity traditionally done face-to-face, online networking has evolved into an important asset in career development. LinkedIn, for example, has emerged as something that, as they say, everyone's doing. It's become a prerequisite to maintain a well-crafted and updated LinkedIn profile to complement your traditional resume. The site is an effective way to build a direct and stable connection to professionals in the fields—including close friends and colleagues; high school or college classmates you're looking to reconnect with; or someone you may have just met and hope to learn more from later. And while LinkedIn was originally conceived as a networking tool, it has also become a robust job search tool. Nearly every one of the more than a hundred professionals we surveyed for this second edition about their favorite job search resources mentioned LinkedIn.
Many of them also mentioned Twitter. In the years since its creation, Twitter has become much more than a social network. Millions of users are now able to follow organizations and interesting individuals to gain a better understanding of their work. Some organizations also post job openings or other opportunities on their Twitter feeds. Job seekers can find these opportunities by following the organization or by searching for particular hashtags or following certain accounts.
Other sites, such as Facebook, are used by some for career networking, though these social networking sites are not always ideally suited for the purpose. Though there is much promise in the online social media world for career advancement, it should be noted that perils abound too. Facebook, for example, can actually work against a job seeker if he or she is not mindful of the type of information posted on a personal page. Stories abound of employers getting the wrong idea about or changing their opinion of a potential employee because of questionable content on a social networking page. It's tempting to think that our personal and professional worlds are separate and strictly defined— however, because information is instant and always accessible, this is no longer the case.
One more cautionary note (and in a way, this admonition is useful beyond the social media context): just because it is possible to do something doesn't mean it is necessary or desirable. We have both received messages that can only be described as presumptuous. We often receive LinkedIn requests from professionals we do not know, without an attached note of introduction or explanation as to why we might want to accept the request. In one such request Mark received, this stranger did attach a note of introduction, but the tone was as if they'd been friends for years and he presumed that Mark would have no problem meeting for an hour within the next few days. Similarly, a professional Sherry did not know sent her a long e-mail asking for answers to a series of detailed career questions.
As you work to expand your network and reach out to professionals via e-mail and social media, be mindful of how you do so. Be sure to consider how much time you are asking for. Will your request be received with alacrity or dread? How well do you know this person? Has someone she respects suggested you contact her? Busy professionals have time to respond to only some of the onslaught of messages they receive daily. Why does your message warrant an answer?