As I’ve lamented before, DC is a city of overachievers, so if you’re going to get a job, you need to bring your A game.
After returning from Australia, it took me three months to get a job. I felt very fortunate because, from what I’ve read, the average length of time in this area is at least 6 months.
Below are the resources that helped me. I hope they can be of help to you, too.
National Search Websites
Indeed.com: It’s all about Indeed.com these days, which compiles job postings from seemingly every other possible site. I found that the only downside was the number of posts it aggregated; it can be a bit overwhelming. Then again, I was unemployed and had nothing but time.
LinkedIn: My last true job search was about 6 years ago, so this time around I was a bit slow to realize how important LinkedIn has become. It took me several weeks to start looking at job postings on the site. Doh! Such a rookie mistake.
LinkedIn gave me a month of the “premium” membership. I didn’t find that I needed it, and discontinued it after the free month, but it did help me see what keywords my competition was using, and it also let me get an idea of how qualified (or not) I was for various positions.
If at all possible, get a couple recommendations from past managers or coworkers. And keep your profile as up-to-date as possible. I found many hiring managers looked at my profile, so I made sure to have additional information beyond what was presented on my resume.
Regarding the LinkedIn photo, this is just a guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Washington, D.C., has the highest percentage of LinkedIn users (not counting actors) with professional head shots on their profiles. Personally, I couldn’t afford to get my head shots done, but luckily I had a decent photo that I think passed muster. Suffice it to say, however, that a selfie in your car is not going to cut it.
Craigslist.org: This site is generally most useful, I’ve found, for part-time work, but I still checked it about once a week during my job search.
Idealist.org: I’ve found two full-time jobs using Idealist in the past, and it’s still a great way to find non-profit jobs.
USAJobs.gov: This is where to go if you’re looking for a government job. Recently, the application process has, thankfully, become much less cumbersome.
Local Search Website
Washingtonpost.com: The Post’s jobs website has heaps of job listings. In fact, I found my current job on the site.
DCjobs.com: Another site that many local companies and organizations take advantage of.
The Hill: Go here for jobs on Capitol Hill.
Websites: I found quite a few writing and communication job postings on Mediabistro. Investigate websites in your industry that list job postings. ScienceCareers is another example.
Listservs: Look for job listservs in the work that you’re interested in. Here are a few for Capital Hill jobs.
Ask a Manager
After reading this blog, I completely changed my cover letter. I also emailed the owner of the site with a couple questions, and she got back to me right away. This is an incredible resource; so much so that, after I accepted a job offer, I sent her a thank-you note.
Don’t dismiss the idea of temping, especially if you’re just starting your career. I worked for an organization whose jobs were very competitive, and three of my co-workers got their feet in the door by temping as administrative assistants. Eventually all three found other jobs within the organization that interested them more.
I temped a couple times after college and found it a great way to see different parts of the city, meet different people and get an idea of what work environments suited me.
Glassdoor is a place where former (or current) employees post yelp-like reviews of the place and often show salary information for certain positions, which can really help when you are required to give a company your salary requirement. You can also job search on the site.
I used to hate the term networking because, to me, it conjured up images of schmoozing and asking for favors. When I returned to the DC area, however, I was overwhelmed by the number of people—some of whom I didn’t even know that well—who offered to help me in any way they could. Friends and acquaintances passed along my resume, endorsed me on LinkedIn, proofread my cover letters, and gave me much-needed words of encouragement. Now I don’t see “network” as a dirty word, but as a band of people helping to get me where I want to go.
Thanks to A&E editor Bruno for his assistance with this article.