By Erin Wolfram
You find a job description that matches your qualifications within an organization of interest to you, and you decide to apply. You put forth the time and effort to tailor your resume and cover letter to the specific position and facility and explain why you are interested in the opportunity and organization. You know you meet all of the qualifications and feel you have done an effective job of demonstrating you are an excellent candidate. You submit your application on time and precisely follow the application directions…and you never hear back.
This happens all too often, and can be extremely frustrating. You seemed to have done everything right throughout the initial phase of the application process, you know you can successfully fill the role, and cannot think of anything else you could have done to compel the hiring committee to invite you to interview for the position.
First, it is important to understand that you may not have been able to do anything differently that would have resulted in you receiving an interview. The organization may have had a strong pool of internal candidates, or may have already had a top candidate in mind before the job was posted, which means the hiring committee, unfortunately, may not have even considered other applicants – including you – no matter how qualified you are.
Second, while having strong, tailored application materials is certainly a necessary part of applying for a job, there are additional proactive actions you can take to help increase the likelihood of landing a new position. Securing a job often requires months or even years of advanced work to develop your network and strong relationships that can set you apart from the competition and lead you to a successful job search.
The following tips provide tangible actions you can take now to help make your next job search more effective:
Bring your best every day
While you may be interested in finding a new opportunity, make sure to continue to demonstrate your strong work ethic and bring value to your current organization. This will help you establish strong relationships with your supervisor, organizational leadership, coworkers, and all other stakeholders. You want to build a pool of strong references you can use when applying for jobs who will also gladly reach out to the organization you are interested in to proactively recommend you for the position.
This can be especially beneficial if your contact knows someone within the facility, so do not be afraid to ask them to reach out on your behalf. That outreach may be exactly what you need to propel your application to the top of the pile for further consideration.
Additionally, be willing to do the same for your colleagues to show your investment in their career progression as well. Finally, by putting forth your best effort within your current organization, this may open opportunities for an internal promotion that you had not even considered.
Become active in professional organizations
You likely are already a member of national and regional professional associations related to your industry. However, being a member and attending the annual conference, likely, is not enough to truly access the full benefits of the organization. Push yourself to be an active participant during meetings and events, and, more importantly, sign up to serve on a committee or secure a position on the board of directors.
Being an invested member will help you develop new relationships with other industry professionals who work within organizations for which you may be interested in working in the future. When an opening comes available, you can reach out to your contacts to learn more about the position and organization to help you tailor your materials and evaluate your fit, ask them to serve as a reference for you, and see if they are willing to talk to the hiring manager to confirm your interest and qualifications.
Establish strong relationships with other industry professionals
While your industry peers within professional organizations certainly can be helpful in connecting you to job opportunities, there are other professionals who may also be very valuable. You likely already work with several vendors, architects, and contractors on a regular basis. These individuals also have relationships with professionals at other facilities, including those who may have future opportunities in which you may be interested.
Make an effort to develop relationships with these industry professionals and stay in contact with them via email or LinkedIn after your collaborative project is finished. Again, you can ask these individuals to serve as references for you, and they likely will be willing to reach out to any contacts they have within the organization to share information about the quality experience they had with you and how you can impact the new facility. The key is to make sure they do have a quality experience with you, so they will provide a recommendation without hesitation.
Conduct informational interviews
If you know there is a facility at which you are interested in working, reach out to contacts within the organization and ask to conduct an informational interview. This is a brief meeting where you ask questions to learn more about the person’s career path, as well as the facility and its operations. This is not a meeting to ask for a job; however, it may be appropriate to share your resume and ask the person for any feedback.
Sample email text to request an informational interview:
Dear Mr. Satanta,
I am currently an assistant grounds manager for the City of Springfield. I am very interested in transitioning to grounds management at a regional college, and was hoping we could schedule a 30-minute meeting so I can learn more about your career path. Would you have any availability in the next two weeks to talk?
Thank you for your time.
After the informational interview, follow-up with a personalized thank you message; connect with the person on LinkedIn; and conduct check-ins with the person via email, LinkedIn, or an occasional lunch to continue fostering the relationship. Now you know someone within the organization who, likely, will keep you in mind if job openings become available, and you can reach out to them to express your interest and confirm receipt of your application if you apply for a position within their facility.
Here are a few questions you may want to ask during an informational interview:
- What has been your career path, and how did you end up in your current position?
- What advice do you have for someone wanting to move up within this industry in this region?
- What do you enjoy most about your current position within this facility?
- What strengths and key qualifications do you look for in top candidates when you have open positions?
- Would you mind taking a look at my resume and providing any feedback?
- Is there anyone else in the region you recommend I talk to in order to learn more about their career path? Would you be willing to make an introduction?
Demonstrate your commitment to your profession
Being actively involved in professional organizations and conducting informational interviews are certainly ways to show commitment to your industry and grow your network; however, you can also utilize social media to do this as well. Through LinkedIn you can connect with industry professionals and engage with their content by liking, commenting and sharing consistently. You also can post your own original content, such as photos from your latest renovation project or a successful event you just executed. Consider sharing industry articles that you find interesting or even writing your own articles to share expertise from your unique experiences. Remember, information related to sports field management is important, but information about crew management, strategic planning, budget forecasting, etc., is just as relevant to your industry – especially as you progress into more leadership-focused positions.
If you take a lot of photos of your work, you may find that using Twitter or Instagram, in addition to or instead of LinkedIn, may also be beneficial. Sharing before, during and after photos of small or large projects can show off your skills and compel others to engage with your content. A strong, professional social media presence can also help establish you as an industry leader, which can certainly be beneficial when applying for jobs. The more you positively engage with others online, the more familiar they will become with you, which can prove to be very valuable if an opportunity becomes available within the organization where they work.
It also may be helpful to look for volunteer experiences within your community. Consider opportunities where your unique skillset would be valuable, such as maintaining the local dog park, volunteering to assist at a PGA Tour event, or serving on the local parks and recreation steering committee. Through these opportunities, you will be able to demonstrate your industry knowledge and grow your network with others in the community who have similar interests. You also never know when a full-time opportunity may become available within the organization with which you volunteer.
Be active in your community
Many cities offer free or cost-effective networking groups for young professionals, local businesses, or professional skill building. Although you may initially feel that participating in these organizations would not bring you any value because they are not directly associated with your industry, you do not know who you may meet who has a direct or indirect connection with an organization you may be interested in working in the future. The more you build your network and share what you are looking for in a new opportunity, the more likely you will increase your chances of securing a new position.
Follow up after you submit
Finally, after you effectively tailor your application materials and utilize your network, remember to follow up after you submit an application. This is another proactive action you can take to demonstrate your interest and directly connect with the hiring manager. Within 24 hours of submitting your application, send an email or LinkedIn message to the hiring manager to reiterate your interest and confirm receipt of your application. Then, if you know the application deadline and have not heard back from anyone within the organization, follow up to check in regarding the timeline for selecting candidates for an interview. Again, this will confirm your interest in interviewing for the position.
According to the CNBC, 80% of jobs are filled through networking (see reference link below). The more involved you are within the sports field management industry, the more you will demonstrate commitment to your field, grow your network, and establish strong relationships with people who can help you become more than just a piece of paper in a pile of qualified applicants. Be proactive in fostering these relationships and demonstrating your interest in new opportunities, and your job search should result in more positive outcomes.
Erin Wolfram has more than 15 years of experience in career services, and owns and operates Career Advantage Golf (http://careeradvantagegolf.com), specializing in career services for those in the turf management field. She has a podcast called A Year of Career: 52 Practical Answers to Your Questions, where she provides quick career and job search advice. Wolfram has a Bachelor of Science in Secondary English Education, Master of Science in Counseling Psychology, Master of Science in Educational Technology, and is a certified professional etiquette consultant. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.