Update at least Weekly…at least

Weekly, you ask? Yes, weekly. Better yet, daily. What have you been up to? What articles have you read that were particularly helpful in your job search? Read any good books? Did you have a great interview? Did you get a job? Do you have any leads for people? Is your business thriving?

Update often. The more you update, the more people will see you and keep you in the forefront of their mind. This is an important part of networking, staying fresh in peoples’ mind. Most people have a tendency to remember those who they see often. With frequent updates, you’ll appear on your contacts’ Home Page, hopefully with your sharp photo and key-word-rich title.

When is too much? Please don’t treat LinkedIn as though it’s Twitter. A daily update would be great, but four in an hour can be a bit much. When I see someone’s face too frequently, I Hide them. This is a great feature that allows you to turn off tweets…I mean Updates…without having to delete the offenders completely. Before I learned of the Hide feature, I deleted a few contacts because their presence on my Home Page became annoying. I wish I had known about this feature.

Practice networking etiquette. I like to post an update once a day if I can, but I don’t want the information to be frivolous. If I have nothing of value to share, I’ll skip a day…or two. I also like to see my contacts on my Home Page. I never thought I’d say this, but I look forward to opening my Home Page to see what’s going on in my contacts’ lives. I have to say that the information my contacts share is usually relevant and useful, and I think this is because LinkedIn has provided a platform for professional individuals, both business people and jobseekers.

I miss you. When I haven’t seen someone in weeks, I wonder what’s happening in their professional and daily lives. Please take the time to send an update. I’m feeling old and want to enjoy every day as it comes. No, I’m not being a wise guy. I enjoy seeing people come out of hiding and sharing their news.

Research is the First Step in Your Quest of an Interview

I tell jobseekers in all my workshops that research is key to their job search. I’m being redundant, but it’s true and worth repeating. Whether you’re writing a résumé or cover letter, or preparing for an interview or a networking event, the time you put into research is a tremendous return on investment. This time well spent precedes submitting your résumé and being interviewed for positions advertised or not. Let’s look at the five steps you must take before you earn a seat at mid-court, the interview. 

Step One: Candace Barr of Strategic Executive Connections writes that discovering which companies are growing the fastest is the start of the job search. “The very first step in your career transition, or executive job search should be research. So many people skip over this step quickly and do not take the time to really dig deep, consider their skill set as well as economic conditions when choosing target companies.”

An excellent source of the Fastest Growing Companies is Inc.5000. Here you can find a list of 5,000 companies that showed the fastest growth rate in 2010. This would be a great place to start your research, as Candace Barr suggests.

Step Two: Once you’ve located the companies you’d like to researched and decided which companies are the ones for which you would like to work, you should dedicate a great deal of your computer time visiting their websites. 

Study what’s happening at your chosen companies. Read pages on their products or services, their press releases (if it’s a public company), biographies of the companies’ principals, and any other information that will increase your knowledge of said companies. Your goal is to eventually make contact and meet with people at your target companies, so it makes sense to know about the companies before you engage in conversation. This research will also help when composing your résumé and cover letter and, of course, it will come into play at the interview.

Step Three: If you don’t have familiar contacts at your favorite companies, you’ll have to identify new potential contacts. You might be successful ferreting them out by calling reception, but chances are you’ll have more success by utilizing LinkedIn’s Companies feature. This feature of LinkedIn’s is something my jobseekers have used to successfully make contact with people at their desired companies. Again, research is key in identifying the proper people with whom to speak.

Most likely you’ll have first degree contacts that know the people you’d like to contact—contacts who could send an introduction to someone in the company. These contacts could include hiring managers, Human Resources, and directors of departments. If, on the other hand, you have a first degree contact at a company, she could initiate personal correspondence with the appropriate persons.

 Step Four: Begin initial contact with those who you’ve identified as viable contacts. Your job is to become known to your desired companies. Will you be as well known as internal candidates? Probably not, but you’ll be better known than the schmucks who apply cold for the advertised positions—the 20% of the jobs that thousands of other people are applying for. Let’s face it; going through the process of applying for jobs on the major job boards is like being one of many casting your fishing line into a pool where one job exists. Instead spend your time on researching the companies so you’ll have illuminating questions to ask.

So, how do you draw the attention of potential employers?

  • Send your résumé directly to someone you’ve contacted at the company and ask that it be considered or passed on to other companies. The risk in doing this is to be considered presumptuous. As well, your résumé will most likely be generic and unable to address the employer’s immediate needs.
  • Contact someone via the phone and ask for an informational meeting. This is more acceptable than sending your résumé, for the reason mentioned above, but takes a great deal of courage. People these days are often busy and, despite wanting to speak with you, don’t have a great deal of time to sit with you and provide you with the information you seek. So don’t be disappointed if you don’t get an enthusiastic reply.
  • Send a trusted and one-of-the-best-kept-secrets approach letter. The approach letter is similar to making a cold call to someone at a company, but it is in writing and, therefore, less bold. Employers are more likely to read an approach letter than return your call. Unfortunately, it’s a slower process and doesn’t yield immediate results.
  • A meeting with the hiring manager or even someone who does what you do continues your research efforts. You will ask illuminating questions that provoke informative conversation and ideally leads to meetings with other people in the company. At this point you’re not asking for job, you’re asking for advice and information.

Step Five: Sealing the deal. Follow up with everyone you contact at your selected companies. Send a brief e-mail or hard copy letter asking if they received your résumé or initial introductory letter. If you’ve met with them, thank them for their time and valuable information they’ve imparted. Send your inquiry no later than a week after first contact. For encouragement, I suggest you read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. It’s probably the most recommended book in history and for good reason. Ferrazzi goes into great detail about his methods of building relationships through networking, while emphasizing the importance of constantly following up with valued contacts.

People in the career development industry never said finding a rewarding job is easy. In fact, the harder you work and more proactive you are, the greater the rewards will be. Take your job search into your own hands and don’t rely on coming across your ideal job on Monster.com, Dice.com, or any of the other overused job boards. Your job is to secure an interview leading to the final prize, a job offer. But your researching skills are essential to finding the companies for which you’d like to work, identifying contacts within those companies, and getting yourself well-known by important decision makers.

I Now Have a Branding Statement; Do You?

I realize as I’m telling my Career Networking workshop and other career search workshop attendees about the importance of having a career branding statement…that I don’t have one of my own. For this reason, I’ve decided that I need one. This little fact of omission is not sitting well with me. I can see their eyes asking what my branding statement is, challenging me, calling me a hypocrite unless I actually have one.

Furthermore, I read in a blog written by Thomas Cairns, “Tell Your Story in Six Words or Less,” that the magic number for a branding statement is six words. I see this as a challenge, and I take this challenge; I embrace it. After all, Nike does it in only three words—“Just Do It.” Though, it took Fed Ex eight words—“When it absolutely positively has to be there.” And in some cases “overnight” has been tacked on.

How hard can it be? I’ll take this step-by-step. There are some questions I’ll have to answer, so bear with me as I go through the thought process

  1. What are some of my qualities? I’m dedicated. (Cliché.) I speak with clarity. (So.) I’ve been told I’m knowledgeable. (I should hope so.) I’m innovative. (I read this adjective is considered overused, but I like it and feel it describes me well.) When confused, people come to me for answers. (Would that classify me as a go-to guy? If there ever was a cliché, this is it.)
  2. What is my main goal? One of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is employment. (I’m getting philosophical, but this is how I feel about employment and the importance it plays in one’s life.)
  3. What makes what I do valuable to jobseekers? I create an interactive environment conducive to learning; this is one of my strength of a career trainer.(This is a good start.)
  4. Hold on, let me think of some words that describe my attitude about career training: hope…promise…guidance…strength…compassion…mission…providing the necessary tools…empowering…motivating…understanding…meaning…perseverance…tenacity…educating.

By the way, why does my brand have to be six (6) words or less? Mr. Cairns gives “The ultimate driving machine” as a slogan as popular as any out there. BMW probably spent thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions on a high-powered advertising firm develop it. (Actually no: The slogan, now nearly 34-years-old, was originally created under the reign of Bob Lutz by a relatively unknown ad-agency, Ammirati & Puris. So BMW didn’t spend a lot of money.) This is not the point.

Let’s give this a shot.It’s time to put up or shut up.

“Motivating and providing direction for your employment search.” (Nine words and “providing” is passive. I want “empowering” in my branding statement.)

“Motivating, empowering, and directing jobseekers to employment.” (Seven words. This is crap.)

“Delivering knowledge that leads to employment.” (Six words. I’m getting closer.)

“Delivering career-search expertise” (Almost there, and using the hyphen to connect career and search works for me. Only three words.)

“Career-search expertise leading to rewarding employment.” (I’m almost there. But this is not compelling.)

“Motivating, empowering you.” (Wait, I’m going about this wrong.)

What is my value to jobseekers and potential employers? Who am I and what do I actually do? What matters most to me?

Educating jobseekers through innovation, motivation, empowerment.

I think in the words of Mr. Cairns, this brand statement best describes [me] or how [I] want to be perceived. I’m happy with this branding statement and, perhaps, I’ll include it in my written communications or utter it while networking. One thing for sure is that I can tell my workshop attendees that I have a branding statement.

Let’s Walk: Having a Routine is Important to Your Job Search

It was raining the other morning at 6:00 AM, so I did what felt natural—I went back to bed. That was a mistake I discovered later in the day. I was sluggish and not on top of my game. My workshops were uninspiring, and I noticed a monotone in my voice. All day I was looking forward to my walk the following morning, regardless of rain or snow in the forecast.

My walking routine offers me the alone-time to think about the day ahead, planning exercises for a workshop, thinking about the workshop I’m designing; or simply time to take in the beauty that surrounds me as I ascend and descend hilly roads.

Why am I writing about walking? It’s not only walking I’m talking about; it’s any kind of exercise we should engage in when we’re employed or unemployed, but especially unemployed.

There are many self-help articles on how to stay motivated the job search. One article I ran across in my Internet surfing offers suggestions on how you can do to stay motivated if you’re out of work. I saw this article on the New England Job Show. The author, Randall Davidson, gives 10 ways to stay motivated, but number eight is the one I allude to:

Establish a routine. One thing a job offers you is structure. In the absence of a job, it can be difficult to find structure and that can contribute to depression. To avoid this, deliberately establish a daily routine. Take a class at the gym, drop your kids off at school, etc. Make sure that you schedule something for yourself that takes place early in the morning, as that’ll help you get up and going.

Walking, for me, gives me a routine that I’ve followed for over two decades. Yes, I’ve been unemployed, and yes I followed some of his other advice, such as dropping the kids off at school or taking them grocery shopping with me. Having a routine didn’t make being out of work a happy occasion, but it made this difficult time in my life easier to handle. The point I’m making is that Randall Davidson is correct when he says to get yourself out of bed, just as you would when you’re working.

Walking isn’t for everyone. You may decide to tackle a home project. (I attempted to re-tile the bathroom floor, which was a complete failure.) Or go to your local career center to take workshops, use its resources, or network with other jobseekers. Volunteering at a company or organization of choice is another way to establish a routine. These, of course, are addition to your hard-driven job search; but they’re important in keeping you off the couch and improving your physical and mental wellbeing.

I’ll continue to walk in the morning no matter what employment state I’m in. God forbid I lose my job, but the first thing I think I would do is start a walking club for people who are also out of work. I wouldn’t see this as a networking occasion. It would be more for helping others to create and maintaining a routine.

Tell me what your routine is, employed or unemployed.