Finding opportunities in a big company

DEADLINE: 2010-07-30 Fri 08:00

The Extreme Blue interns are wrapping up and starting their job searches, so Cate Huston asked me to share some tips.

One of the wonderful and intimidating things about being in a big company is that there’s such a variety of opportunities. How do you find the right one for you? I hope these tips will help people at IBM, and they might be useful for people in other big companies too.

Figure out what you’re interested in. Browse through open job posts. Talk to interesting people about what they do and listen for words that resonate with you. Explain what you’re interested in to mentors and ask them to help you translate and connect. (IBM: Follow the “Global Opportunity Marketplace” link on w3.ibm.com to see open job posts.)

Talk to people doing that kind of work. People are often generous with their time and insights, perhaps because they’ve received that kind of help in the past. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask them for short interest interviews. Ask them what a typical day is like for them, what they like about their work, what they would like to change about their work, and what skills and characteristics would make someone a great candidate for that position. If you’ve got specific posts in mind, reach out to people on the team to see what things are like and if it might be a good fit.

Make it easy to keep in touch. You’ll meet a lot of people during your blog search. Make it easy for them to find out about you and keep in touch. Invest time into preparing a clear description of what you’re interested in and a resume highlighting relevant accomplishments, and link to it in your e-mail signature. If you blog, include a link to that in your e-mail signature as well. Subscribe to other people’s blogs to learn more about them and about other parts of the company.

If you give people enough time, they might even be able to create an opportunity for you. It takes a while to get clearance to create a new position, but if you impress the right manager, maybe he or she will create a role that makes the most of your passion and skills.

Be prepared for complications. Sometimes these things take longer than expected. Sometimes you run into odd paperwork needs. Hang in there, and have backup plans.

What’s different about searching for opportunities in a big company?

  • You can talk more openly about what you’re looking for and what you’re learning.
  • You’re surrounded by many potential mentors and contacts.
  • You can look people up easily.
  • Your previous supervisor will talk to your future supervisor probably quite frequently.
  • You can work out your transition plan with your previous supervisor and your future supervisor, instead of keeping it hush-hush.