Apply, interview, get the job. It’s as simple as that, right?
Maybe you’ve had the not-so-great experience of sending out dozens of resumes and never hearing back from a single employer. According to one survey, 70% of hires happen through word-of-mouth networking.
So where does that leave you when you’re trying to land your dream job?
Fortunately, you have alternatives.
Job shadows, informational interviews, and apprenticeships are three ways to get your foot in the door at a place you might like to work. These options allow you to meet with people face-to-face and scope out a job lead in a low-stress way. So before you send out that next resume or make another cold call, here’s how they work:
A job shadow allows you to accompany a professional while they’re on the job. You join them for a normal day and get the chance to ask plenty of questions.
If you’re a student or recent grad, you get to see how your textbook knowledge applies in practice. Think of it as a chance to try on a career without actually needing to apply or commit.
Best of all, the right job shadow can give both you and the person you shadow a pretty good idea of what it would be like to work together. If you click, that connection isn’t going away once the job shadow is over. It could even lead straight to a job.
Don’t let concerns like, “Will I be in the way?” or “What if I mess something up?” stop you. Remember, if you do find yourself feeling uncomfortable during the job shadow, that’s a strong indication that this particular job or work environment might not be right for you. In which case, you can save yourself the trouble of applying for a job you won’t like.
So the place where you want to work isn’t accepting applications — or you applied but didn’t get a callback for an interview. Ask if you can arrange an informational interview, instead!
In a regular interview, the pressure’s on. You’re either going to get the job or not, based on how the interview goes.
An informational interview is a lot less stressful because it isn’t a make-it-or-break-it deal. Often, an informational interview sets the foundation for a future interview, or even a direct hire.
With this in mind, treat an “informal” interview exactly as you would a normal interview. Dress appropriately, show up a few minutes early, and bring a resume or professional summary along. Also bring your knowledge of the organization and be prepared to make clear why you want to work there and what you can contribute. Just act naturally and give yourself the chance to really feel out whether the organization is a good fit for you.
Apprenticeships have been around for a long time — they’re one of the oldest forms of training, dating back to the Middle Ages.
There are apprenticeships in basically any skilled trade you might be interested in, from plumbing and carpentry to iron working, pipefitting, and more. An apprentice gets paid a fair wage to learn on the job. Training takes place under the supervision and guidance of an experienced teacher who has mastered a particular trade or skill. As your apprenticeship progresses, instruction in the classroom often accompanies what you’re putting into practice.
Formal apprenticeships culminate with certification. Often, you join the organization or individual you’ve been training with. By the time you’re certified, you know everything you need to dive straight into a specific paid role.