Smart Job Searching: Focus, Plan, Persevere
How many more jobs and careers do you expect to hold until you retire? If you are like most people in the fast-forward, technology driven, highly competitive global economy, the correct answer is “Quite a few!” Job search savvy is critical in this age of rapidly shifting jobs. Here are a few tips to help you effectively manage the inevitable.
Ready, Aim, Focus!
When I see people floundering in a job search, it’s because they aren’t focused. Failing to commit to a readily understood job title, or two, or three is a big mistake. If you actually do have three distinct, viable career options, then you’ll need to have three targeted resumes. Each one should focus on the marketable skills, experience, and credentials that support the requirements of the desired position. Why is focus so important? In the clogged communications of corporate America, you must have a tightly focused approach to cut through the clutter. No one has the time to read an objective statement like this: “To acquire a position that utilizes my experience and education, that offers opportunity for advancement, yada, yada, yada.” How about “A mid-level marketing position” or “A telecommunications sales position” or whatever your objective du jour might be. Recruiters and hiring managers are begging, “Just be specific!” Don’t worry, you won’t ‘limit yourself’ to anything other than the type of position you really want. And you’re only committing to this title for the moment, not for the rest of your career.
Draft a Plan:
Once you’ve figured out what you want to do, you have to figure out your plan of attack. How long is your job search going to take? A conservative estimate is one month of full-time searching for each $10,000 in salary you’re seeking. How much activity constitutes a full-time job search? For most people, it’s contacting 30-40 companies per week, as well as following up with everyone you’ve spoken to the week before. Contacting large numbers of people is the best way I know to generate sufficient momentum in your job search. The idea is to have 5-8 irons in the fire, actively interviewing with several companies so that you’ll be more likely to have two or three offers on the table at any given time.
A few do’s and don’ts about finding leads:
Newspaper Classified Ads: Everyone knows (or should know) that the classified ads, as a whole, represent the bottom 10% of the employment barrel, and what’s worse, the competition for these low-end jobs is high. Then there is the psychological effect of believing everything you read: the job descriptions and salaries quoted can lead to a really negatively skewed impression of what’s available to you. If you let it become your reality, you’re doomed to a lifetime of underemployment. The truth is, no one can say with any degree of certainty.
Internet-based Job Searches:
Rest assured that the factors of competition and clogged communications are even greater in cyberspace than they are in the world of snail mail. The average Fortune 1000 firm gets thousands of electronically submitted resumes a day. Do they read each one? Ha! Do they put them in a database? Maybe. Do electronically submitted resumes and letters eventually reach the consciousness and consideration of a human being? Highly unlikely. Yet many job seekers spend an inordinate amount of their precious job search time and energy in an Internet-based job search. Then they get depressed because they get little to no response.
The Shotgun Approach:
Another type of job search that simply isn’t worth the money and effort is sending out thousands of resumes by mail or even by e-mail. Think of how watered down your resume and cover letter will have to be for this type of search. .This is at best, a passive approach – distributing resumes and letters into the universe is simply not enough. Unless you are talking to people before, during, and after getting your credentials across in writing, you’re wasting your time.
Recruiters (don’t refer to them as headhunters unless they’re calling you while you’re innocently working away at your job) get paid by employers to find them decent people to interview. I repeat, they are paid by employers. Sometimes they are paid whether they find the right person or not. Most times, they get paid only if they make the connection, which means competition among recruiters is fierce. This means that they’re busy, and you’re not paying them for their services. This means that they are a hit-or-miss proposition, for the most part, so don’t think they are going to do your job search for you.
So what to do, what to do?
Target a job, target an industry, and get the word out.
- Go to the library and find the business resources that identify ALL the companies in that industry.
- Get involved in professional organizations as applicable.
- Call your leads, write to them, and follow up politely and professionally until you receive a job offer or a restraining order.
- Network: In other words, run your mouth about the type of work you would like to do to everyone who will listen. Make sure all of your colleagues, friends, and family members have a copy of your resume.
- Go to job fairs, tell them you forgot your resume, and collect business cards so that you can follow up with promising contacts.
- Don’t discount anyone in your search. You will be surprised at how many people in the workforce your elderly neighbor knows. A little of this, a little of that.
Sure, talk to a few dozen recruiters, skim the classifieds for a few minutes on Sunday, and post your resume to a few major Web employment sites. But don’t spend too much time with these classic job-search approaches. Remember that it takes real, live, talking human beings to give you the information you need (assuming you know how to ask for it) and who can give you feedback, ideas, resources, support, and encouragement when you need it most. It is the human beings who can be influenced, who ultimately make the decisions on whom to hire.