Networking with Zombies AKA find a job in development

Following the meme of using Zombies to demonstrate everything from international politics (hear an excellent MP3 on why zombies would win from BBC’s The World!) to ushahidi (Zombie Attack!) and Swift River, I now offer up some tips on what seems to work for finding work with an NGO in a developing country.

Caveat: I don’t work in a developing country. But let’s imagine that you are a zombie and you’re seeking work in the developing world, only you can’t seem to meet the right zombie masters who will give you that opportunity to prove you’ve got what it takes. It’s a tough job market.

I imagine that if Zombies worked, they would be pretty good at program management and impact evaluation. I mean, they’re always scouting around for brains, and I’ve seen at least one evaluate Homer Simpson’s brain and determine that eating it would not satiate a zombie. And when you put a bunch of them together, they always accomplish the task (brains!) despite obstacles.

So you’re a zombie, just out of Zombie University, and you’re looking for work in the developing world as a brains evaluator. The standard model for getting hired is to visit your favorite job search site and see what’s been posted.

There’s one problem. Most good jobs never get posted. And those that are have often been already filled. Posting them is just a requirement enforced by the human resources (HR) department. (And by the way, HR is your enemy. They’re like the gun shop – definitely a place that zombies and their job applications go to die. HR departments don’t want to hire you. Unless someone in another department is telling them to process you, HR will wait months. I once waited 11 months to get rejected by HR in Tulane!)

It’s okay to cavort around on job search sites, but there are other ways to be effective:

#1Get to know the places you want to work. Regardless of whether they’re hiring, try to invite yourself in to learn more about them in a brief face-to-face meeting. Listen to them, and articulate what they do in ways that demonstrate your passion for them. Most of the time, this will leave an impression, and if you’re lucky, they’ll call you before they post that next job.

#2 – Get some business cards printed up. Think of these as 3×5 resumes. Keep the writing sparse and big. Put your name, email, and cell number on them. Include at most 3 keywords (buzz words) or past career factoids that sum up your strengths.

I recently coached my Gambian friend Hadi Njie – the woman who taught me wolof in Peace Corps – on how to network. I told her to make business cards that have 3 logos on one side for her past employers:  Peace Corps, WHO, and Human Rights Org. Such excellent places’ logos will tell others exactly what Hadi can do.

Cheap-o-vore’s note: You can usually get 250 cards for free online, as long as you don’t mind advertisements on the back. But I personally think it’s worth $20 to get nice cards. Whatever you do, don’t walk around without business cards; if you’re a zombie, that drooling, rotting limbs extended-in-front-of-you look isn’t stylish anymore. Even in the era of digital everything, a business card shows you, er, mean business.

#3 – Sign up for list servs, news groups, google alerts, and mailing lists that connect you to what you are passionate about. This is how you find the free seminars that people with jobs and influence go to. Getting a job means reading a lot and getting a feel for what’s out there. Other Zombies probably have more brains and experience, so your best asset has to be an up-to-date knowledge of current events.

#4 – Attend meetings. The best way to find jobs in Washington, DC is to attend any of the free talks going on around town. Introduce yourself to the people sitting next to you, and importantly ask them what THEY do, before talking about yourself. They’ll be more likely to take your card if you sound interested in them, and give you theirs.

#5 – Set a daily networking goal. Five daily contacts is reasonable. If you send out 5 emails a day to prospective employers, no matter how many times you get rejected, I promise you that you will eventually land a job.

#6 – Leave a trail of corpses, so to speak. Make sure that people you meet heard your name and have the means to contact you later. Conversations that don’t involve an exchange of business cards, phone numbers, twitter names, blogs, or homing pidgeon boxes don’t count as networking.

#7 – Stay positive. It’s not the zombie attack that leaves an impression, but the second or third time that same zombie shows up in small social circles – that’s when pandemonium really sets in. The same is true for making the short list for a job.

#8 – Create your own aura. Nobody said you needed to be employed to appear influential. Start a blog and show your passion. Call it Zombaid, Zombanthrophy™, or Dianetics (Worked for L.Ron Hubbard, eh?). While Ben Lyon is clearly not a Zombie, he impressively came out of nowhere, Tennessee to create his own organization (FrontlineSMS:Credit), powered mostly on Kutzpah and optimism. Kudos to him.

#9 – When all else fails, take a vacation. You’d be surprised how much valuable job training is out there in the developing world, like buckets of fresh brains for the picking. Travel to places in Africa, Asia, or South America you want to work and start the cycle over, especially with Tip #1: visiting organizations. As soon as you turn your mentality inside out and think about interviewing a few good organizations, getting a job becomes a game where you are again in control.

That’s it. Pass it on, and happy hunting, my fellow necrotic outcast.
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