Sunday, December 19, 2010

A New Tool Emerges?

OK, if you've been following along so far, you know that I'm a bit of an efficiency freak. So before diving into the outreach phase of my search, I wanted to make sure my current results are as comprehensive as possible. And to do that, I had to make sure I was using the best tools.

Not content with just connecting people around the world, LI now offers a full job search engine that draws both on its own listings and those of the postings aggregator Simply Hired.

After taking LI Jobs for a spin and comparing its results to my prior findings on Indeed, here are my takeaways:

  • More advanced filtering features - just like with LI connection searches.
  • Easier to go from company contact research right to job postings.
  • Takes longer to load, since it searches LI and then Simply Hired, sequentially.
  • When using the company field, you need to put in the parent firm (e.g., Mattel), not the subsidiary (e.g., Fisher Price) - even when you only want results from the latter.
  • Found the same results as Indeed for major companies but missed many of the postings from smaller firms, ultimately generating 29 fewer points than my prior search.
Although the time change between my first search and this one may be a culprit in the listings discrepancy, I'll be sticking with Indeed for now!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Step 5.2: Sort - Gap B

OK, now for the trickier part: Tracking down connections at the firms I like but where I don't know anyone. I'm going to turn this post into a showdown between the two latest social question-answering services:
  • Aardvark - Type your question in and it scans your Facebook/Gmail connections (and most importantly, their connections - a la the power of weak ties!) to find someone with expertise in that area. Recently bought by Google for $50M!
  • Facebook Questions - Type your question in and it opens the query to the entire Facebook universe (or just specific) friends, if you prefer. Designed to take down Aardvark!
Let's see who delivers the goods - and how long it takes... To be continued.

Step 5.1: Sort - Gap A

After sorting my list by the various attributes, two trends emerged:
  1. Although the top of my list was dominated by firms I love, have connections to, and are hiring (cue choir: "Hallelujah!"), the bottom of my list was full of unknowns - not disliked, just totally oblivious to.
  2. Peppered throughout the list were firms that I like or are hiring, but that I have no connection to.
Thus, before moving ahead with my rankings, I wanted to see if could address both of these gaps in order to provide a fairer comparison.

To solve the first, I hit up my good friend Google for a little advice. After researching the unknown firms, I came across a bunch of duds (lame edutainment, simulations for corporate training) but a few diamonds in the rough (did you know there's an entire Institute of Play working to make games more educational?). All of a sudden, my list was looking a bit more... spicy!

Key Insights: The crazy thing about living in a free market is you would not believe how many random companies there are. And despite my insanely specific interests, there are actually people out there who think exactly like I do. Now, if they would just grow fast enough to be able to hire me... :)

Time Savings: I would never have come across these firms in a traditional job search, so no time savings alas.

Stress Reduction: Big time! Instead of having to gun for the same few behemoths that everyone is shooting for, I've got a veritable smörgåsbord (how do you like those umlauts?) of opportunities lying beneath the radar. In other words, the job-seeker/firm tables are officially turned! -10 mm HG.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Step 4: Posting

Tedious but fascinating - 25 minutes back on Indeed and I knew which of my target firms were hiring - and for what:

Key Insights: This was mostly as expected - big firms were not only more likely to be hiring, but hiring MBAs and for marketing internships. As a result, however, in those rare cases when I saw a smaller firm (Leapfrog, 2tor) hiring for my specialty, I was especially excited!

Time Savings: Not that I ever would have been smart enough to triage my target companies by hiring potential, but had I gained a few IQ points in the past, I would have quickly lost them all surfing to individual company sites for info - 15 hours.

Stress Reduction: A mixed bag - excited to see who's hiring, bummed to see who's not - BP stable.

Step 3: Motivation

My favorite step yet - seven minutes and my list was organized into favorites and unknowns:

Key Insights: I assumed this step would be paralyzing. After all, trying to rank 78 of anything can involve countless close calls and ruminations, let alone 78 firms that may define your life in a few months. But using the limited rating system meant I could quickly establish an internal rubric (5 = dream, 1 = never heard of it) and breeze through the task. Also interesting to note that, while most of the firms came from my original dream list, firms sourced from other areas are starting to pop up.

Time Savings: If I were to do this kind of ranking informally, I'd probably spend the better part of a lifetime thinking and rethinking. But to keep my odometer from breaking, let's say 20 hours.

Stress Reduction: Seeing my list start to take shape does a body good: Quick results = -1 mm Hg.

Step 2: Alumni

Although I could have taken a breather after the first step, I was pumped and ready to find connections. 15 minutes on the world's greatest professional networking site later, I had my answers:

Key Insights: Although I could have used my schools' alumni sites, I found that LinkedIn data is much more up-to-date. After all, who wants to update their ever-changing resume on a dozen different sites when just about everybody uses LI? And for me, being able to search multiple alumni bases at once (Company = Swarthmore OR "University of Michigan") meant that I could breeze through 78 companies in no time. Finally, because just about every company had a Wolverine on staff at some point, I stuck to firms that currently have an alum onboard to generate better discriminating power.

Time Savings: Networking around in the companies to get this info (when my alumni databases were out-of-date) would easily have taken me 20 hours.

Stress Reduction: Knowing that a veritable army of alumni is out there and (potentially) willing to help is better sleep medicine than NyQuil. I'm resting easy, down 10 mm Hg!

Step 1.4: Trends

OK - I admit it, I went way overboard here: 28 firms at the cutting-edge of edu-tech in 37 minutes:

Key Insights: The Internet needs to be regulated immediately. Seriously, searching for anything involving trends just sucks you into a wormhole of ideas and links to more ideas. The only saving grace is that many articles and posts don't talk about companies, slowing down my manic pursuit of trend-setting potential employers.

Time Savings: I've never heard of the vast majority of these companies and I doubt that I would have in a traditional job search. So no time savings but...

Stress Reduction: awesome sense of satisfaction. I can't tell you how pleasing it was to uncover all these hidden gems. My brain can rest easy knowing that it hasn't missed out on these rockstars-in-the-making! -7 mmHg!!!

Step 1.3:

11 minutes later (I cheated!) and I had a dozen more cool edu-tech firms who were doing something even cooler - hiring!:

Key Insights: Indeed, a dumb name for a website, but a very useful resource - indeed! It's good to see that so many firms are hiring, even if applying through the site would be a sucker's mistake.

Time Savings: Going through all of the traditional sites (Monster, HotJobs, Idealist, Dice) one-by-one probably would have taken three hours at the least.

Stress Reduction: To be honest, this step actually added to my stress a bit. While I was happy to see all of these opportunities, the overwhelming listings temporarily returned me to that crazy maximizer mindset, as in: "Oh my god! I need to find every job and apply for it so I don't miss out. My dream job must be on the next page..." +1 mm Hg.

Step 1.2: Alumni

Another 10 minutes and I had 17 additional firms with alumni connections:

Key Insights: Wow! Who knew Michigan and Swarthmore sent alums to so many cool companies. Well, Michigan has the solar system's only alumni chapter on the moon (as far as we know), so I guess that makes sense. But who knew LinkedIn was so powerful - take that moon, what with your weak gravitational pull.

Time Savings: Pulling this list together through networking and schmoozing would easily have taken 50 hours.

Stress Reduction: As much as I love caffeine, if I have to have coffee with another alum just to find out that they work for a lame company, I'm going to pull my hair out. 2 mm Hg saved - and countless follicles!

Step 1.1: Dream Employers

Note: Instead of describing the details of each step, I'm going to focus on the outcomes. If you want to try the method yourself, get the book!

Within 10 minutes, I'd put together a list of 21 dream employers:

Key Insights: I needed something easy and quick to begin with - otherwise I would never have gotten started! Also, it was interesting to see the specific patterns of my interest (edutech, high tech, video games, and design) mapped out and not floating chaotically around my brain.

Time Savings: Compared to putting this list together over-and-over in my mind, I imagine I saved 5 hours here easy.

Stress Reduction: I'm no doctor but not having to worry about remembering all of these firms in my frazzled neurons has to count for at least 3 mm Hg - whatever that means!

My Dashboard

Before I describe my experience with the 2-Hour Job Search process, I just want to lay out two metrics to analyze my experience. While obtaining an awesome internship is obviously my ultimate goal, two critical factors along the way are the following:
  • Time - As an overwhelmed MBA, I need to make my hours as efficient as possible. So look for an odometer reading of time savings compared to the traditional job search method (e.g., working a dozen different angles at once).
  • Stress - As any first-year business school student will tell you, your stress level goes through the roof when recruiting gets piled on top of our already full plates. So assuming that my blood pressure is starting at something crazy like 240, we'll see if we can bring it down a bit through efficiency.