Thursday, March 15, 2007

Finding Gigs: A Helpful Guide for the Recently Jobless

While the job market is relatively hot lately, I've been running across more and more people who have recently left long-term positions at companies and are now looking for jobs for the first time in five or ten years. In speaking to these folks, it occurred to me that all sorts of new jobhunting and networking methods have evolved in the last couple of years that might be news to newly jobless workers.

As a person who has built two large teams in the last half dozen years, I found myself dispensing a lot of advice- and I finally decided to write it all down in one palce so I could just forward a link next time.

Note that the specific examples are written with a slant toward design professionals- but I suspect the techniques can be universally applied to any information worker who is web savvy.


Here's some tips about quickly getting a lot of leads for gigs:

1) Set up Feeds for Craigslist

Sites like have the sorts of jobs that HR departments put
up three weeks after a hiring manager asks them to. On the other
hand, Craigslist is often the place where people who have an
immediate need turn- mainly because it's so effective at turning up
dozens of resumes immediately.

Because of the number of applicants who typically reply to a
Craigslist job, the key to getting the gigs is to A) reply soon after
they are posted, and B) to reply in a manner that stands out from the

A) Setting up a Feed from Craigslist

You can easily set up a feed of new jobs that appears in a feedreader
or in a feed module in a web page (such as My Yahoo or Google
Reader). First, go to your local Craigslist (in this case,
Washington, D.C.):

From this page, search on the term you want to find- let's say 'Art

When I did the search, it turned up 23 jobs, which is fine, but what
you want is to be able to monitor the new jobs without having to go
back to Craigslist every five minutes yourself. So- look in the lower
right hand corner of the page- you'll see a link marked 'RSS'. That
link leads to the following URL:

You can follow that link, but you'll just see an RSS formatted XML
feed. What you really want is to plug that feed into an RSS reader,
either one that is a standalone application or a module on a portal
page you visit often (I have my feeds sent to Google Reader, which I
can place as a module on my Google Homepage). The feed will update
periodically and you can monitor new jobs as they come available.

B) Replying in a way that will get results

When I place a job on CL, I get a wide range of responses- everything
from a blank email with a resume attached, to a long, obviously
heavily scripted email with all sorts of long explanation and
hyperbole about being 'the perfect fit' for the job. Since there is
such a massive volume of replies, I typically gravitate toward those
who write a cover e-mail that indicates they've read my job
description, and gives a concise outline of why their experience is a
match and what their availability is. Those are the people I follow
up with- the ones who make it easy for me to evaluate and decide.

You'd be surprised at how few applicants write a concise yet
informative cover e-mail- I'd say about 10%. So although Craigslist
may flood a hiring manager with resumes, you can increase your odds
of a reply with some common sense in your email. Here's an example of
a type of email I react well to:


This is in reply to your posted job for 'Design Director' on
Washington, D.C. Craigslist.

I'm an Art Director with 10 years of interactive experience. I've
designed both entertainment and finance websites, most recently with
America Online, where I was on the design staff for eight years. I
am a mid-level Flash designer (design mostly with light ActionScript)
and I'm extremely experienced with Photoshop and Illustrator. You can
view samples of my work at:

and my resume is viewable online at:

I'm available to work either remotely or on site starting Monday,
3/19. I am eventually looking for a full-time position but I'm
willing to freelance at first. References available on request.

My Name
(917) 555-1212 mobile
(703) 555-1212 home

You'll notice that there's no text describing how thrilled you'd be
to work here, or how reliable and thoughtful you are, or how much
value you'll bring to the company- the text of the letter wasted no
words outside of the minimum necessary to inform me that you're
professional, courteous and qualified. A link to your online
portfolio and resume is a must, of course.

2) Watching the Feeds for companies getting funded

While you might not want to bet the farm on a startup, there's no
harm in getting a gig, especially from a startup that's flush with
recent investment capital. You can set up a feed from a news site
like and receive daily notice of companies likely to
embark on hiring sprees, or needing to quickly spin up freelance
teams. Here's an RSS link to PaidContent:

You can embed it straight in a feedreader from there. Right now,
there's a news story about opening a Washington office:

Sounds like a great opportunity to start making inquiries around
their local needs.

Obviously, once you find out a company is funded or expanded you
still have to get in touch with hiring managers, but you can often
find that information (and much more) on...

3) LinkedIn

Doing a search on LinkedIn for 'TMZ' turns up 9 people in my network
and 6 other people on LinkedIn. The last 3 people I interviewed at
NBC for a fairly high position (Product Marketing Manager) came to me
via connections or direct contacts through LinkedIn. Sure, anyone can
join LinkedIn, but the fact that I can easily peruse a person's
profile and see what they've been up to makes me more likely to
respond to appropriate people who contact me there.

Jobs are posted, but you can also just contact people at companies
you want to work at- the worst that can happen is they ignore you or
can't help you. I actually had someone contact me because they saw me
at an event sponsored by:


Meetup has actually been really helpful in helping me increase my
personal profile- I joined two Meetups (a technology meetup and a
video meetup) and was asked to present my division's work at NBC at
one of them, which sparked a lot of followup contacts and networking.
You can find and join Meetups in a variety of places on
a variety of topics- here's one in the DC area that might work out
for a DC area designer:

Web Design & Combined Networking Group

You might also see if there's one that focuses on the business or
technology side of things- at the monthly Tech meeting here in NYC
they are continually announcing needs to hire people at the Meetups.
Paradoxically, you'll probably find more opportunities at business
oriented meetups than design oriented meetups, since the biz folks
are the ones who need to hire the designers! In any case, it's a
great way to have an ear to the ground of what's going on in the
area, just like:


While less design oriented than Creative Hotlist, the people going to
this site are the project managers, producers, editors, etc. who work
on projects that need designers. They also host periodic networking
events- I think you just need to register and indicate an interest-
it's been a while since i signed up.


These are the main venues I would look for gigs and contacts in- but every discipline has its own cluster of community sites and professional organizations, so the sites may vary for you. The biggest piece of advice I have is to get yourself out there and make it known you're looking for work. There's no shame in advertising your availability as long as you don't cross the line to spamming message boards and mailing lists. Good luck!


Any updates, comments, quarrels, anecdotes, and further tips from jobhunters are welcome.

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