You’re likely familiar with the usual way to look for a job: Type the job title you want into a career site like LinkedIn or Indeed, add few details, and then spend hours scrolling down a list of thousands of potential jobs. When you finally get to the bottom, more load in. It can often feel like a numbers game, just robotically applying to tons of jobs and hoping one sticks. But these sites only know what you tell them (like job titles and years of experience), and while they can make some guesses about what you might want, they don’t really understand the skills and experience you bring to the table.
Job filters aren’t perfect
Odds are, you would be a great fit for a lot of different jobs and titles, and the years of experience required are usually less rigid than a computer understands. Job titles are also ever evolving, and different companies often describe the same work in very different ways (People Team vs Human Resources, Customer Experience vs Customer Success, Community Manager vs Social Media Manager, and so on). So, I love supplementing the classic scrolling-LinkedIn approach with some targeted tactics specifically around uncovering high-quality leads and taking advantage of actual human interaction with the people around you, whether online or IRL.
1) Build your personal “Dream Companies List”
Open a document or a new page in a notebook and brainstorm all the companies you can think of that might be cool to work for. Dream big! Companies on my personal Dream Companies List include Quip, Oatly, TikTok, and Casper (I love their products), OkCupid, Hinge, and Match Group (I met my husband online), and random places that seem cool to be associated with, like the Guggenheim or Momofuku. Once you have a healthy number of companies written down (around 15-20), set a reminder to check the careers pages for each of these companies once a month. You’ll be able to keep a close eye on opportunities at a company you’d actually be psyched to work for, and you might find a job you’d be awesome for, and with a title you never would have found otherwise.
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This tactic is actually how I found my first job in tech. I had no idea what a “Community Lead of Marketing” was, but the description sounded like something I could do. I applied, and the rest is history.
2) Subscribe to newsletters about industries you’re interested in
I love newsletters for job hunting for several reasons: They curate content so I don’t have to scour the web on my own, they arrive in my inbox so I can read them at my leisure and can feel “done” when I get to the end, and they often feature other news, articles, or headlines I didn’t think I’d be interested (which also gives the benefit of sounding smart and up-to-date in an interview).
Job- or industry-focused newsletters are often a mix of job openings plus general industry-related news, like if a company just got a big investment or is kicking off a big initiative. We know job openings are obviously important to see, but the news piece can also help you predict if a company is about to hire more people soon. If Company X closed a big round of funding recently, I can plan to keep a closer eye on that career page for the next few weeks in case that money turns into new job openings.
A non-exhaustive list of relevant newsletters that I and trusted friends of mine subscribe to:
- TechNY Daily: A mix of tech startup news and job openings that sends ~3x a week
- BuiltIn: Monthly industry-specific tech news nationally or locally with outlets in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Colorado, LA, NYC, SF, and Seattle
- Social Enterprise Jobs: Job announcements in social enterprise and social innovation
- Interested??: Biweekly social-justice oriented job announcements
- Ruff Notes: Biweekly insights on tech companies hiring, news, and articles
- Words Of Mouth: Weekly opportunities for design, the arts, education, information, and the built environment
- The Bloom: Weekly jobs, news, and tips in the social impact space
- Food+Tech Connect: Weekly food tech & innovation news and events
3) Join relevant online communities
There are so many communities these days that live on platforms like Slack, Discord, Facebook, and Twitter, where people are connecting, sharing knowledge, and promoting opportunities. These are also amazing places to ask for referrals (maybe to one of your Dream Companies), ask for inside scoops on any companies you might be interviewing with, and be the first to see people sharing new job postings. When I left the job I found through my Dream Companies List, I found my next job through a Slack group where the CEO was also a member and had posted the role.
Another non-exhaustive list of online spaces I and trusted friends can vouch for:
Online communities tend to get more specialized and niche than newsletters, so depending on who you talk to, you could get very diverse recommendations. If there’s nothing on this list that resonates, I highly recommend a Google search along the lines of “[INDUSTRY] Slack group” or “[whatever identity you inhabit (like women, POC, or veterans)] in [INDUSTRY] Slack group.”
4) Join curated candidate databases
While you’re searching for jobs, recruiters and hiring managers are also searching for candidates. LinkedIn is still a heavily-used tool to do this, but many companies also opt to take advantage of specialized and curated databases which are smaller but more targeted. Similar to how a company might partner with a college or bootcamp to hire a specific kind of person (in this case, someone early in their career with a standardized education), companies can also partner with groups that curate candidates around a specific industry or underrepresented identity.
A few curated databases on my radar (and some I’ve used before as a recruiter!) that are worth checking out:
- Underdog.io: mostly focused on people in technical jobs like engineering or design, but also a mix of business/corporate folks
- Tech Ladies: focused on all women in tech
- Jopwell: focused on Black, Latinx, and Native American professionals
- Wakanda Jobs: focused on career-diverse Black, Indigenous, and other people of color
Similar to online communities, these databases can get pretty specialized, so you can use this list for inspiration to sniff out groups that might be even more relevant for you.
5) Set a schedule to check industry-specific job boards
Yes, I know, this is still kind of like scrolling down a big job aggregator, but industry-specific job boards tend to have more relevant roles for the jobs you’re excited about—and fewer of them, so you’re not scrolling to oblivion. When I’m job hunting, I like to check more specialized job boards about once a week or so. Whether the jobs that week were a good fit for me or not, I still did the thing and get to check that task off my to-do list.
A few job boards which I and trusted friends have used with success (I’m confident there are many more out there):
- ReproJobs: jobs in the reproductive health, rights, and justice sector
- EntertainmentCareers.Net: jobs in entertainment; I’m told it’s helpful especially “if you’re not a nepo baby”
- Impact Opportunity: jobs in the nonprofit, social enterprise, corporate social responsibility, B corp, and government industries
- WordSpark Social Impact Job Board: jobs in social impact (they also have a monthly newsletter!)
- People Ops Job Board: jobs in people operations and human resources
- Good Food Jobs: jobs in the food industry; farmers, artisans, policy makers, retailers, restaurants, economists, ecologists, and more
- Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy: jobs in the philanthropic industry
6) Network with the people you already know (and like)
Often when we talk about networking, we seem to mean cold-messaging someone and asking for an awkward coffee chat or attending some sort of professional mixer where we have to strike up conversation with a stranger and hope it pays off. While this type of networking has its place, it’s equally valuable to network with the people you already know (plus, less stressful).
Every coworker, classmate, and family member has their own network of people and opportunities they can connect you with, and that connection has its own vast network, and so on. In these cases, you also don’t have to worry as much about putting your best foot forward or being charming 100% of the time—the trusted people in your network probably already feel confident vouching for you as a good, kind, talented human. Not every call is going to turn into a referral, but you’ll still get exposed to new leads with the added benefit of catching up with someone you genuinely like. And they don’t have to all be your closest friends, either. I ended up getting the job I have today through this tactic: I was referred by a former coworker who I didn’t work closely with, but who I did talk to often via Instagram about our dogs.
Investing in these relationships will also continue to pay off long term. The next time you need a new job or help at work, you can continue to lean on these people for support. (Special thanks to my former colleague Lizzie Redman, a treasured member of my network who contributed many of the resources in this article.)