In my last article about landing your first medical device job, I talked about three ways in which you can stand out. Having taught nearly a thousand students the art and science of medical device development at a graduate level, I have not only been witness to the “crash and burn”, I have been the target of it. At least once per semester, and at least once per article written, I receive two or three requests for a job. Since 2008, the year I started teaching while working simultaneously in the medical devices field, I have hired exactly two people out of my classes.
These two students I hired, and everyone else I have hired in the past, have never done any of these three things.
1) Assuming there is a job.
Unless you are responding to a specific job posting on LinkedIn or some other website, do not assume that just because a person looks successful and has a good position in a company that they have jobs to give out like candy. In fact, 99% of the time, it is not the case. Here is the ugly truth: if a job does not exist, you are not likely to get it. Maybe you are so charming you can convince someone to shell out tens of thousands of dollars per year for your services that they did not know they needed. Maybe you can persuasively convince the person to navigate the bureaucracy in their own company to create a head count where there was originally none, and maybe you think you can make them do these things all for someone with zero experience. I will not try to convince you otherwise, except to say good luck with that!
In order to get a job, there has to be a job to get. Starting off a conversation with someone you want to work for by assuming they have a job waiting for you is presumptuous and does not make you look good if you start the conversation that way.
2) Being insensitive to business hours
The surest way to make me NOT hire you, and maybe even not like you, is to call me on my cell phone while I am eating dinner with my family. This happens, and it is not pleasant when you think about how sacred our work-life balance is these days. Of course, it is easy to mix up time zone differences, but the best way to avoid this is to try to pin down what time zone your target job prospect lives in and NOT call outside of business hours.
3) Asking for a job
I can hear the reaction to this one in my mind. “How am I supposed to get a job if I don’t ask for one?” “Why am I even reading this article?”
Let me explain this one. There is a specific way and appropriate time to ask for a job, but opening a conversation with “Can you give me a job?” is never it. The answer will always be “No.”, at least with me.
Firstly, it is mildly rude. You are asking someone to do something for you when they probably do not even know you yet. For all they know, you are an ax murdering bank robber. Plus, even if you are the exact opposite of an ax murdering bank robber, why should they? What is in it for them?
The key here is few people will employ you out of the kindness of their hearts. Most of the time, you will be employed because you are useful and can fill a need the employer has. What is that need? THAT is the question. The question is not “Can I have a job?”
Taking the time to open a conversation by talking about them and what they need in their company can teach you a lot of things and gain you a lot of respect over time. If you find that you have no way of meeting their needs, you are probably talking to the wrong person and if you did get that job, you would not be happy or productive. On the other hand, you may find an opening for a need you can fill. Then it becomes a conversation about “How can I help you?” That’s not being rude. That’s being helpful. It’s the difference between standing on your knees with your palms upward to beg, and standing on your feet with your hand extended outward to partner.
Noticing a pattern?
These three “Don’ts” all follow a single principle: you cannot make your job search about you. Each piece of advice revolves around taking the employer’s perspective and treating them according to how they would like to be treated. After all, they are the ones hiring! They will do so if it benefits them and their company, and your best bet is to craft your entire personal brand and presence around how you can help them succeed and make the world better (if that’s what they want to do). In so doing, you will also succeed, and better yourself.