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Focus Enables Fit – An Alumna’s Job Search Success Story

By Connie English-

In the Fall of 2010, Jamala Massenburg (MBA’09) found herself a year into a job that just didn’t fit her talents, interests, and passions. She knew she needed to make a change away from data intensive consulting report production, but she wasn’t sure how to proceed.

As in any project or campaign, the first step in a job change should be the determination and articulation of the desired outcome. You must know what you are after to be able to develop a plan and implement it. An objective enables you to understand the barriers, opportunities, and how to get others to believe in you.

Focus is key, “after leaving my job in October of 2010 I spent a couple of months really thinking about what I wanted next,” Jamala recalls. She had enjoyed her early career as an engineer with Ford and now had recent experience in analyzing customer insights. She missed using her creativity, management and leadership skills, and was able to articulate her objective to be a product development position with a business-to-consumer organization marketing non-disposable products that required an educated purchasing decision. She also identified the type of organizations and possible locations. “Once I figured out what I wanted to look for, the rest just seemed that much easier. It’s harder to get distracted when you have more focus.”

Armed with a clear objective she developed a target list of companies, enacted her support systems and activated her network. She realized quickly that her search would be reliant on engaging others. “That was tough. It’s not that people didn’t want to help; I just had to learn how to approach them to show ‘how’ they could help me. I was most successful when I was able to ask questions to help them help me. Telling them the name of companies that I was looking at where they may know people that could tell me about the company. Also I found that just asking people questions about their type of work helped me to better focus. Every company is different so it was helpful to know where the function that I was interested was situated within an organization. I always made sure to let them know what I learned from the conversation and would ask to be able to follow up with them later.”

Jamala developed a system to help her keep track of her progress; recording highlights and actions she took from each conversation and marking a calendar for the next follow up with the person. “Having pre-determined assignments made the days easier.” She treated her search like a job: “I had to get up at the same time, setting my alarm, getting dressed and getting to ’work’ on a schedule.”

Maintaining energy during a search can be a challenge. Recognizing small accomplishments and utilizing a coach and support network can help. “There was about a month of just calling and making contacts without any interviews,” Jamala says. “I was encouraged to keep going because each week I was making more contacts, getting more comfortable speaking with new people and just feeling more confident.”

Regular check-ins with her coach from Darden Alumni Career Services also helped keep her on track. “I knew I was going to have to report out on my job search activities, that held me accountable.” Jamala also received encouragement from family and church friends, who reminded her to work hard at the search and take some time for herself too. “Once the interviews started up, that alone was enough encouragement to keep going as I could see the results of my work.”

Being focused also allowed Jamala to understand the perspective of potential employers. She needed to demonstrate her unique blend of creativity, customer insight, analytical thought, and initiative. To help her stand out, she developed an ‘artifact’ in a Resume2.0 presentation that she successfully shared in interviews. She knew her audience and was able to play directly to them.

The discipline and hard work paid off. Jamala ended up with a decision between two excellent offers in product development – both with target list companies. Her upfront ‘fit’ analysis also informed her decision process. “I began looking for a new job in earnest just after the New Year and started my new job at the end of April,” recalls Jamala, now a Program Manager for Leap Frog Enterprises.

Jamala’s Post Job Search Reflection:

The job search process is a daunting exercise, mentally. I really think it should be titled the “You Search” for some people. While the outcome is finding a job, I don’t consider the process successful if you just find ‘a job’. Anyone can find a job. What’s really key is finding the job that fits your interests, skills, and goals. Finding the right job that is going to set you or keep you on your personal trajectory for your career. If you want to be a pilot, working as an ad executive may not be the best choice. Yes it’s a job, one that is well-respected and pays wells, but it would be a hard sell when you’re trying to get that job as a pilot. The key point though is knowing that you want to be a pilot and that’s where the “you” part of the equation comes in. I’m glad that I spent so much time up front really thinking about what I wanted; it made it easier to weed out jobs that weren’t the best fit and gave me more confidence in my interviews.

Connie Dato English (MBA ’91)
Director of the Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services