How to build relationship long-term with potential employer

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honeybee
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How to build relationship long-term with potential employer

Postby honeybee » Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:11 pm

Hi GRS-ers,

I am currently fully employed but I have a life plan that involves going to another city in about 3 years from now -- my home city, actually. At that time, there is a particular local government agency that I would deeply like to work for. While there are lots of options "in my field", some private and some public, this specific particular agency would be a very, very good next step in my overall career.

Given that I have time and flexibility -- but not the ability to travel and visit and do in-person networking things (travel time, cost) -- how should I begin to approach building a relationship with this agency? I would be willing to make one in-person visit if I thought it would be really effective, but it would be about a $1000 trip and cost me at least three days including travel time. And, if the person I meet with leaves, that's a downside. As it stands, I really don't know anyone in the industry back home -- I've spent my entire undergrad, graduate and early career life in a completely different part of the continent.

It is a pretty big organization, and yet for quite a while their website has shown no job openings. Of course I assume this is related to the economy. But also troubling, as it is a very large organization with a lot of employees, so presumably a lot of hiring going on on a regular basis. So I'm just trying to get my foot in the door. Public agencies are often required to hire internally first, so I'd like to set myself up as much as possible... but do it really tastefully and tactfully, as I only get to make one first/lasting impression with them.

Any tips appreciated! What are some effective ways to build relationships long-distance? My ears are open.

DoingHomework
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Re: How to build relationship long-term with potential employer

Postby DoingHomework » Tue Mar 23, 2010 1:33 pm

I think you are taking the right approach but what you are trying to do can be tough.

I spent a couple of years doing business development for a company. Essentially I traveled all over teh country trying to build relationships. I was in charge of marketing as well but most of my time was spent just networking and looking for ways that we could work with other companies.

That kind of networking and relationship development takes a lot of in-person, face-to-face contact. It's hard to replace the kind of intimacy you get from having lunch, a beer after work, or just rolling up your sleeves and working together.

Since you can't do that, which is understandable, the best I could suggest would be to try to work with the people in the department on a consulting basis even if it is free. It's hard for government agencies to accept that kind of thing but it is the only way I can think of to start working together now.

On the off chance there is a conference or something you know they will be going to I would definitely make a point of attending as well and meetng as many of them as possible. But with tight budgets right now a lot of city and county agencies are not attending conferences any more.

Good luck.

kaitlyn142
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Re: How to build relationship long-term with potential employer

Postby kaitlyn142 » Tue Mar 23, 2010 7:57 pm

If you figure it out, let me know! I'm trying to job hunt cross-country. It's a complete nightmare.

honeybee
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Re: How to build relationship long-term with potential employer

Postby honeybee » Thu Mar 25, 2010 5:40 am

Thanks for the advice, Homework, and for the empathy! As it turns out my *company* does a fair bit of work for this agency, but not out of my office as we're not the geographically closest. I think it would be fairly tough to do consulting with them, though I will continue to express interest in doing so through the other office. Free consulting typically isn't done in my field, and at my level I'm not sure I have much to add that they'd jump at taking anyway.

As someone who has presumably done a lot of "first contact" -- I am curious about your approaches to initiating that first contact, and how not to come off like you're selling something. (In this case, I am selling myself.) I guess my intuition is to be as honest and forthright as possible. For my case, would you suggest cold calls? Cold emails? Requests for informational interviews? Send an application when a job comes available? Call ahead if a likely conference is coming up and see if I can set up a meeting there? Obviously what you were trying to do is a little different than what I am, but I figure you are an expert in the relationship building routine, so on a general basis I'm curious to know what you've found successful for getting that start.

Thank you very much!

DoingHomework
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Re: How to build relationship long-term with potential employer

Postby DoingHomework » Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:23 am

honeybee wrote:Thanks for the advice, Homework, and for the empathy! As it turns out my *company* does a fair bit of work for this agency, but not out of my office as we're not the geographically closest. I think it would be fairly tough to do consulting with them, though I will continue to express interest in doing so through the other office. Free consulting typically isn't done in my field, and at my level I'm not sure I have much to add that they'd jump at taking anyway.


If your company does work with the agency and you have a personal interest in getting involved, you might be able to get your foot in the door by asking to help out the office that does the work. If it's engineering, maybe you can be assigned as a reviewer, drawing checker etc. Accounting...same idea, you could do informal checks or audits.

[quote="honeybee"]As someone who has presumably done a lot of "first contact" -- I am curious about your approaches to initiating that first contact, and how not to come off like you're selling something. (In this case, I am selling myself.) I guess my intuition is to be as honest and forthright as possible. For my case, would you suggest cold calls? Cold emails? Requests for informational interviews? Send an application when a job comes available? Call ahead if a likely conference is coming up and see if I can set up a meeting there? Obviously what you were trying to do is a little different than what I am, but I figure you are an expert in the relationship building routine, so on a general basis I'm curious to know what you've found successful for getting that start.
/quote]

In my situation my company had some interesting technology that could be used in various applications. So I was on the lookout for other companies that had work going on that could use our technology. We weren't trying to sell it to the other companies in most cases. We were trying to look for ways that we could bid on projects together or work on development together. There were two basic ways I did this. First I went to a lot of conferences and workshops to stay familiar with technology and talked to people who were developing it. Engineers are always excited to talk about the "cool" stuff they are doing. It was a little like spying except we were always upfront that we were interested in their technology and applications to find ways we could work together.

The second way of getting information was to closely watch and analyze budgets. Much of what we did was for defense so I got to be an expert on the defense budget. If we saw a $10 million or $100 program appear in the budget it was my job to know all about it. The budget line would usually show up years before the project became real for teh stuff we were doing. I don't know what type of thing you are doing but this is true of roads, large computer systems, water treatment plants, etc, not just defense programs.

If you want to PM me I would be happy to talk specifics but you probably want to stay anonymous and not provide details.

But no matter what it is, look for the new things that the agency might be doing and try to become an expert on it. If it's a court system, maybe they are putting in a great new database system for managing records. Mayby they have an innovative jury management process. Basically just learn as much about the agency and what they do as possible.

DoingHomework
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Re: How to build relationship long-term with potential employer

Postby DoingHomework » Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:28 am

I realize I did not fully answer your questions.

I am not a fan of cold calls for the kind of thing you are trying to do. I know many job hunting advisers recommend that but, being on the other side of it, it can be annoying.

You need to figure out what you can do for teh agency. Are you an accountant that can use Quickbooks? So what, lots of people can do that. What makes you special. Figure that out and then make it known to the agency by working with them any way you can or by writing papers or articles in things the management there reads.

If there is nothing special about you that is relevent to them, MAKE something special. Become an expert in something related the their biggest problem.


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