Insights from my journey: what jobs to apply for to landing a job without any contacts

Sarah Musavi, CARA member


Hello Friends, this one’s a long message, so sit back and enjoy the ride. I hope you will get some insights from my journey of not knowing what jobs to apply for to landing a job without any contacts. Its been a wonderful journey being in this group. I have learned so much about how to pitch my idea, how to be a better listener, and how to ask questions. So, last month I was interviewed for a Research Coordinator position at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute in the surgery and pathology departments. So far, I had not even made it to the interview stage for similar positions and even with much lesser requirements.

The one thing that was different this time was that I was attending a week-long boot camp on how to find the job you really want, even though it was in the sales world, yet I signed up for it because I realized we are always selling something- be it an idea or my skills and I would benefit from learning some tips and tricks. With sales camp, my cover letter and CV became crisper. I think it got looked at because it was clearer. It also helped me become clear about what to say at the interview. Even before the interview, I had the confidence to call them up and say I am interested in the position. This would’ve never happened if I had not been given the cold calling training. I even asked them before the interview: “how can I make the interview process a productive time for them?".

They wrote back that they wanted to know how I can be effective at writing manuscripts, getting publications for medical students, guiding them with leadership and time management. So, I looked up some latest methodologies for manuscripts. Mind you, I have never worked strictly as a RA, but have a Ph.D. and done some research writing contracts, so I was going in with a big gap in my career. For the last 4 years, I had been working part-time at the school board, doing something like playing with kids without any training other than as a mother, but mostly enjoying it. So, I found that Elsevier had a very descriptive and clear process on manuscripts and publications. I started making some notes on that and made a checklist of the different parts of publication and manuscript writing, thinking they might ask me at the interview how I did it. Then after the interview, I sent a thank you note and along with it, I sent them this checklist for manuscript writing and publication process for their medical students, which is a big part of the job. They really liked it. At the interview, I also asked them “How can I make it easier for you to make a decision?” They told me that their biggest challenge was continuity and that they would like some stability because most people use this position as a stepping stone. This was my biggest opportunity to shine. I told them, this is my career destination to be an RA, as is evident from my recently acquired CARA certification. I was not intending to use this role as a stepping stone in my journey and that I would love to stay and make this position work really well for their group. One of the doctors was so happy to hear that and she started thinking aloud of how she would love to have a senior RA and have a RA team!

I was totally honest with them about my lack of experience other than the CARA certificate. They asked me to send them some of my written work because I told them I wanted to help them decide quickly. I even made myself available for an interview from the other doctor on a weekend, when she texted me to talk to her with a 5 min notice. Of course, I was in my workout clothes and so was she, but that’s the research industry which is what I love- no frills!

Anyways, all this to say that I was offered the job as a full time, remote, or in-office (my choice) coordinator and they even offered me the opportunity to apply for some grants for my own blog which I showed them was a passion for me to develop outdoor classrooms. They even offered me the perk of getting the vaccine (which I refused…a discussion for another day). I will be joining on April 19th. In the meantime, I am preparing a checklist for onboarding to make their work easier. I am using Karen Mosier's book: SOFT SKILLS AND PROFESSIONAL TIPS FOR THE OFFICE. I love the book because it has a full section for starting a new job.

So, I learned that no matter what role one applies for, but if we can sense what challenges they are facing, ask questions, find resources, listen well and present some options to make their job easier, be flexible and really mean to help, then the decision is easier made in your favour. I also asked them about the challenge they have faced in this position.

People always remember how you make them feel!