Because my name is on a list in the office entitled “Huge Suckers”, I sometimes get letters from current attendees of my graduate school. After writing a few replies, it occurred to me that I would have to type less if I posted responses for all to read. So, without further ado…
I found your contact information through the mentors database on the SI web site. I have an amateur interest in bird watching (thus the interest in what you are doing at Cornell). I would love to hear how you came across your dream job. I am in the midst of my own job search and I was wondering what pointers you have for finding one’s dream job. -Bird Librarian In Training
Hi there BLIT,
My dream job story goes something like this:
I graduated from SI, and was offered a fellowship doing digital library stuff in the main Cornell library. It wasn’t exactly what I was interested in, but the position looked really good on a resume, and Ithaca was on the shortlist of places my boyfriend and I wanted to live. We moved out here, and the job, as expected, was less than inspiring. However, while I was putting my time in at the Not Dream Job, I was busy attending Cornell Web Forum meetings, and meeting people who were doing what I wanted to do. I hadn’t heard of the Lab of Ornithology before I moved out here, but after living in town for a bit, I realized that it was the neatest place to work on campus. It’s located out in the middle of a bird sanctuary, is well-funded, and has a heavy IT/Communications leaning. I kept my eye on the job openings, got a tip from a friend, and by the time this job opened up, I was an established Cornell employee (it is much much easier to get university jobs from within – they tend to hate paying moving costs) and was able to transfer over.
I guess this is all to say that I found a great job by taking an impressive-looking terrible one. Most importantly, I was living where I wanted to be, and was able to take my time until the right thing opened up.
If you are interested in interface design for wildlife organizations, I might suggest compiling a list of the places where you wouldn’t mind working (WWF, Nature Conservancy, zoos, etc.), and then monitoring their online job postings. Beyond this, you might consider targeting the place you want to be, going there for a non-dream job, and then looking around for the best place to work in the area. In many cases, it isn’t the slick, impressive job that becomes a dream job, but rather the one with interesting projects and good people running the organization. Unfortunately, there isn’t a great way to tell these things from a job description, or even from an interview. Burrowing in and observing seems to be the best way.
I hope that helped. If you are interested in positions at Cornell, you can check out our online listings here. I don’t know of anything HCI-related coming open here at the Lab soon, but there are plenty of other university bird and animal programs out there too.