The path to my current job began at a National Alliance to End Homelessness conference in Oakland, which I attended as a volunteer (I used financial support from MIIS to offset the hotel costs). I planned to move to New York City after finishing my coursework at MIIS and hoped to find a job in the homeless services sector. I was focused on making connections at the conference and was lucky enough to meet my future boss, who had worked at DSS for many years.
After the conference, I followed up on the connection in the hopes of scheduling an informational interview. We exchanged several emails and planned a more in-depth conversation for the following week. On the day we were supposed to talk over Zoom, COVID-19 lockdowns hit NYC and everything was put on hold. Almost a year later, having worked for the previous eight months as a COVID-19 contact tracer, I was again looking for ways to get into the world of homeless services in NYC. I emailed my conference connection and she responded right away, mentioning that there was a temporary position open on her team. I interviewed the next day and was offered the job before the end of the week! After about nine months working on a contract basis, I transitioned to a permanent position as a city employee. I’m part of a team that manages federal funding for homeless services in NYC, where I administer federal grants and support nonprofits that run permanent supportive housing programs.
While I was still in school, the staff at the Center for Advising and Career Services encouraged me to reach out to people in the field to set up informational interviews and also helped me polish my resume. I probably never would have considered attending a conference about solutions to homelessness if I hadn’t heard about so many classmates and friends attending conferences in their own fields.
Network in Your Field of Interest and Circle Back to Contacts
The main piece of advice I would give students is that it’s never too early to start making professional contacts in your field of interest. Jump on any opportunity to have conversations with interesting people and make sure you always find a way to build off of your last conversation. Keep a list of everyone you speak to and if someone seems interested but doesn’t have any way of helping in the short-term, be sure to circle back to them later, because you never know when an opportunity may present itself.
“The interview process is an opportunity to make sure the organization is a good fit for you as much as it is for them to assess your qualifications,” says Emmy Ham MPA ’20 about her role as a leader at the Santa Cruz County Business Council.