The response to my recent offering to help you get an amazing ICT4D dream job in 2011 has been overwhelming - I can barely keep up with the individual requests for help. So to speed up the knowledge sharing, I present to you the 3 surefire steps to securing a kick-ass ICT4D job (or any job) without waiting for me to reply to your email.
The Goal: Be Known in Your Field
The best jobs are not advertised in the paper. In fact, ads can be a sign of failure - the hiring person hasn't found anyone in their circle of colleagues and friends who knows a decent candidate.
So your overall goal is to be known in your field - be it ICT4D or any other industry - long before a job ad happens. Be up in everyone's grill to the point that if anyone does think, "Wow, I need help!" that their next thought is, "I know, I'll hire..." where your name is in that blank.
As everyone always says, it's whom you know, and it's easy to get a job when you have a job. But what if you don't know anyone in ICT4D? How to achieve that level of name recognition, especially if you're trying to break into the field? Here's the 3 ways to get an ICT4D job, no matter your present situation:
1. Start Making Contacts
To take a page from sales, you will probably need to meet 100 people just to find 10 who are potential job leads, and then only 1 will pan out to a job offer. If you want more than one job offer, you need to multiply these figures accordingly. So let's say you want 3 job offers - that means you need to make 300 contacts.
Now make a spreadsheet of everyone you already know in the field, or even somehow related to someone in the field. Mine your contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Add in contact info and how they're related to each other. Then start contacting each one (via email, phone, in-person, however) to ask for an informational interview.
You can also look for new contacts by reading relevant blogs and journals, even Tweets and Facebook entries of those in the field. Here's a few ICT4D Tweeps of you need inspiration.
2. Go on Informational Interviews
You have three goals in an informational interview: find out about them (What do you do, how does that fit in the industry?), get your message across (I'm amazing & available!), and get more contacts (Who else should I talk with?). Note that nowhere in here should you ask your interviewee for a job. This is a get-to-know-you chat where you're learning, not pitching.
Once the interview is over, put your new contacts into the spreadsheet you made in step 1. Also be sure to send follow up thank-you emails to both the interviewee and who recommended them. You goal here is to remind them of you and how amazing and available you are. It helps if you can add a link to your online presence, so they can read more about you.
Now repeat the informational interview process with the next contact, and then next one, and the next one. To give you context, I did two years of informational interviews before I landed my Geekcorps job - and that was via a colleague I'd met years before, which I cold-called to talk about my ICT4D desires. A year later, she was at a party and heard someone talking about hiring a geek for Africa.
3. Blog About ICT4D
You can't be informational interviewing all the time, but you do want to be in the mind of your contacts as often as possible. You also want to give those that you have or will informational interview with an example of your work so they can see how awesome you are. Last but not least, you want your contacts to be able to show you off to others.
This days, that means you need to have an online presence. Have a full profile on LinkedIn at a minimum. Better is a professional name site (ie. Wayan Dot Com), and best is a deep body of work that's updated regularly, shows off your multiple talents, and can be easily skimmed - in other words, a blog. Besides my entire career built on success with blogging, here are 7 more reasons to blog professionally, even if you're not job searching. And if you need a blogging platform to talk about ICT4D, may I suggest one?
Each blog post is a mini-advertisement of your skills and thought leadership, a chance for you to raise your profile in ICT4D, and another opportunity to remind your contacts of your existence. They're busy people and might forget. Drop them a note connecting your blog post to their situation - that will go a long way in keeping you in their minds.
Common Sense Tips
Regardless of the medium, be sure your contact info is obvious - you want people to find you when you're job hunting. Which reminds me - make business cards with your name, your hoped-for job niche, and your contact details. Pass them out at every opportunity. It's another way to remind people of your awesomeness and availability.
Last but not least, don't pass up an opportunity to show off your awesomeness - volunteer to help on any and every project or conference that is in your field. And when at conferences, be laser-focused on networking. Skip the sessions if need be, you're aim is face time.
And good luck - we all need it.