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Advice / Job Search / Networking

How a Simple Spreadsheet and Some Friends Helped Me Land My Dream Job

Ever since I started working at The Muse, I’ve been asked many times how I landed my job (especially since there wasn’t a specific posting for my role).

The truth is, I used a bit of a different job search tactic than I had in the past, which proved to be quite valuable. I’ve since recommended this tactic to friends and former colleagues who are not clear on the types of companies, industries, or functional roles they’re targeting. And if you’re in that boat, read on!

During my job search, I was constantly being asked: “What kind of companies are you applying to?” “Which industry do you want to work in?” or “What role are you looking for?” I was actually curious to explore different industries and roles, so these weren’t simple questions for me to answer. I would catch myself rambling to people that I was interested in A and B, but also C, and maybe even D. While I thought I was being open to anything, I soon found that people had a hard time helping me due to this lack of focus.

It was a mentor who pointed out to me over coffee one day: “Help me help you.” He suggested that I create a short list of my top companies—the companies I was most interested in learning about and networking with. He said to put some thought into the list, then put together a Google doc I could share with him and other trusted people in my network. That way, he would have some point of reference and know which opportunities to share.

I went home and created a list, which quickly added up to over 50 companies. I invested the time to do some basic research on each company, as well as check out the backgrounds of current and recently departed employees on LinkedIn. It took me several days, but I was finally able to whittle down the list to my top 20 companies.

Once I had that, I created a Google spreadsheet with columns for:

  • Company name
  • URL
  • Industry
  • Connection (where I could add anyone I knew who was connected to the company)
  • Contact (the name, email, and position title of any company contacts I uncovered)
  • Open position (if any were available)

I then shared the doc via email with trusted personal connections, along with a clear request to help me fill out the Google doc and connect with people they may know at any of my top target companies (try this template). I sent the email to about 50 people, namely friends and former co-workers who are well-networked individuals, who enjoy being connectors, and who I knew would take the time to help me.

The results were great. Within two weeks, about two-thirds of the recipients responded letting me know who they knew at the companies (ranging from interns and community managers to CEOs and investors), interesting insider knowledge on the companies (e.g., “The founders of that company are super smart—you’d learn a ton working there,” “Company A is going through a major re-org right now,” “Rumor has it that company B is on the selling block”), as well as recommendations on other companies that were hiring or those that I should check out.

All in all, I was able to get an “in” with 12 of the 20 companies, including the one that really mattered—my current employer, The Muse. I was introduced to the team here (with good background information from several folks in my network) and what started as a casual informational chat led to several subsequent meetings, calls, Google Hangouts, and drinks. The more I learned about the team, mission, and future plans, the more excited I became at the prospect of joining The Muse. And the rest is history!

Looking back, this tactic worked better than I could have hoped. If you want to give it a whirl, here are some takeaways and important points to keep in mind.

1. Keep Your Target List Short

Nobody wants to scroll through more than 20 lines. I’d highly recommend keeping the list to just 10-20 companies and 5-7 columns, max.

2. Make it Easy for the Connector

When you send the Google doc, also send along an intro email sharing what you’re looking for. Include a blurb about yourself that will make email introductions fast and easy.

3. Information is King—Dig for It

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a direct intro to a company contact, since there may be other info you’re gaining. Your network may have valuable information on a company, its competitors, or industry trends—all incredibly valuable for your search.

4. Update Regularly

Make it a living doc that shows traction; you’ll probably get more and better responses if people see that others are providing info (i.e., I would add in the doc comments like “Joe to make intro to VP” and “Clare is friends with the HR manager”).

5. Send Reminders, Updates, and Thank-You Emails

People are busy, so it’s important to be patient, but also to stay on top of them. (One contact, for example, told me he knew people at three companies, but it took a few nudges from me for him to finally send the emails to make the intros.) Most importantly, be thankful, express your gratitude, and keep people in the know, especially if an introduction leads to a meeting or interview. After all, these people are going out of their way for you and potentially leading you to a great job!

Is the job search a numbers game? Certainly, to an extent. But more than that, it’s a discovery process. As you go along, you’ll learn what gets you excited, what causes concerns, and who can help you along the way by leveraging a tactic like this. My approach may not work for everybody, but it was a great tool during this discovery process. And thus far, I’m pleased with the results.

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