4 ways to take control of your job search

Some jobseekers tell me they turn on their computer every day to log on to Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and other job boards. They spend many hours a day applying for posted jobs, sending as many as 20 cookie-cutter resumes out a week, anticipating a call from a recruiter or Human Resources. They wait and wait and wait.

To these jobseekers I point out the futility of a job search like this, explaining that if they want faster results, they have to be more proactive. I tell them this in my Career Networking workshop.

First I talk about the “Hidden Job Market” which is a concept they understand, but I’m not sure they accept. When I tell them them connecting with others is the best approach to penetrating the HJM, I can hear them thinking how difficult it will be to get outside their comfort zone, to get away from their computer.

The message I try to deliver is that they have to be proactive, not reactive. They have to take control of their job search, not let it control them. Here are some ways you can be proactive in your job search:

Approach letters. Not oft used, these documents are ideal if you prefer writing more than using the phone, so you might be somewhat introverted. No job has been advertised. (Advertised jobs represent 20% of the labor market.) You’re not reacting to an advertisement.

The goal is to get an informational meeting or better yet, chance upon a possible opening that hasn’t been advertised (80% of the labor market). You must describe your job-related skills and experience and show the employer that you’ve done research on the company to boost the employer’s ego. Read Teena Rose’s article on approach letters.

Good ole’ fashion networking. Normally we think of networking as strictly attending organized meetings where other jobseekers go, doing their best not to seem desperate. (I’ll admit that this type of networking is unsettling, although necessary.) The kind of networking I’m referring to is the kind that involves reaching out to anyone who knows a hiring manager.

Most of the people who contact me after they’ve secured a job tell me that their success was due to knowing someone at the company or organization. You must network wherever you go. Network at your kid’s or grandchildren’s basketball games, at the salon, while taking workshops, at family gatherings (see Any Time is Time to Network)—basically everywhere.

LinkedIn and other social media outlets. I recently received an in-mail from someone who is currently working but is not enjoying her experience. I’ll keep my ears open for the type of position she’s looking for because she asked me to. LinkedIn members who know the potential of this  professional online networking tool are reaching out to other LI members for information and contact leads.

Another one of my jobseekers is doing everything possible to conduct a proper proactive job search. He updates me on his job search and sends me job leads for me to post on our career center’s LinkedIn group. I’ve got a good feeling about this guy. He’s being very proactive by using LinkedIn and his vast personal network of professionals.

Follow Up. Allow me to suggest a must-read book called Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. I think this guy gets more publicity from me than any author I’ve read. The reason I recommend this book is because none of these three proactive approaches are useful unless you follow up on your efforts.

Never Eat Alone teaches you how to network in every situation and then how to keep your network alive by following up with everyone. I mean everyone. Send an approach letter, then follow up with the people to whom you’ve sent it. Network face-to-face, then follow up. Connect with someone on LinkedIn…you guessed it, then follow up.

Being proactive sure beats the hell out of only reacting to jobs that have been advertised and visible to hundreds, if not thousands of other jobseekers. It gives you a sense of accomplishment and yields more results than exclusively participating in the visible job market. Being proactive makes you believe that the job search will finally come to a halt, that the job search is in your hands.

Job search tip #9: Knock on companies’ doors with approach letters

In the last entry we looked at making your company list. Today we’ll examine knocking on companies’ doors by using approach letters.

The other day during a résumé critique one of my customers told me how he had been networking. Something was in the works with a company as a result of him being proactive and knocking on the company’s door. Not literally; although, that’s a viable option. He had sent an approach letter to one of the directors at the company asking for an informational meeting, which then lead to further consideration.

Of course a phone call might have been quicker for my customer than sending a letter, but he felt sending an approach letter was right for him. (By the way, using LinkedIn’s Search Companies feature is a great way to find people at companies.)

For you jobseekers who lean more toward introversion, an approach letter may also feel more comfortable than calling a director, VP, or an individual contributor. There’s more to an approach letter, though, than simply sending an e-mail telling the person that you’d like to get together with her to meet for a short meeting.

With the approach letter, first you’ll research the company so you can write intelligently about why you’d like to meet. You’ll write highly of the company, selling the company to the recipient of your letter. This will show your enthusiasm. It will also show you took the time to visit the company’s website, read articles in the newspaper, and used other methods to research the company. This is the first step you’ll take to impress the recipient.

Next you’ll throw in some kudos about yourself. What makes it worth her while to meet with you? You gained some valuable skills when you worked at the medical device company in their marketing department. You’ll write about the accomplishments you had, like authoring press releases that drew the attention of many of the media, spearheading a direct mail campaign that garnered new business beyond what the company had achieved.

Don’t forget to indicate that you’ll call the recipient. Set a date and exact time. If the person picks up the phone or you have to leave a voice-mail, be ready to explain why you’d like to meet with her. You would like some information on a position you’re pursuing. You’d also like to share some knowledge of competitors or the industry.

What follows could be a networking meeting or maybe good timing on your part—there may actually be a job the company’s trying to fill, unbeknownst to other jobseekers searching the Internet for advertised positions. This is precisely why you don’t want to simply send an e-mail without laying out your skills that make you ideal for a possible job in the company.

The only thing left to do is picking up the phone and asking the recipient if she received your letter. Following up is the last component of sending an approach letter. Even if talking on the phone terrifies the heck out of you, at least you have gotten in your message without having to deliver it cold. You’re compelling writing has wooed the recipient into wanting to know more about you.

In the next article, we’ll look at using LinkedIn to network on line.

For those of you who are trying, hang in there and have hope

I’m going to preface this article by saying plenty of jobseekers I know are conducting a proactive job search but to no avail.

They’re not relying completely on the job boards, placing all their cards on recruiters, sending out cookie cutter resumes, and wasting their time on more ineffective job search methods. In other words, they’re trying. I and other career trainers see your efforts and applaud you.

A recent article on wjs.com called No Market for Lazy Jobseekers, Ruth Mantell, might give you the impression that we career search pundits think conducting the proper job search will guarantee you a job. That we don’t understand the emotional and financial difficulties that consume many people who have been unemployed for one month or one year.

The article notes 10  lazy job-seeking habits. And while they may be accurate, the article doesn’t take into consideration the complexity of finding a job in today’s economy. It doesn’t feign empathy for those who have done what has been asked of them in terms of conducting the proper job search.

But our mission as job search trainers is to give guidance. It isn’t to dwell on the unfortunate realities of unemployment. To that end, we can only point out obvious mistakes, as noted in the article, and offer up suggestions that make for a more productive job search.

Some career trainers like me have lost a job, or two, and understand the despondency heightened by day after day of activity with little progress. The words “it sucks” don’t quite cover the emotional rollercoaster you…I’ve…gone through.

To say, “We get it” is accurate. We understand that telling jobseekers how to find work is often easier said than done; but, at the same time, to conduct a job search based on blasting out hundreds of résumés a month does not constitute a viable campaign.

Point two of the article, Using a Stock Résumé, is very sound advice. Violating networking etiquette is not cool, and asking only what your network can do for you is asking for trouble. There’s no arguing against Ms. Mantell’s advice. To honestly say, “I’m doing everything right but nothing’s working” is fair and should be rewarded.

For what it’s worth, I appreciate you following through on writing targeted résumés, cover letters, and approach letters; going to the interviews prepared for the tough traditional questions and even tougher behavioral question. I’m thrilled to see your efforts on LinkedIn. Glad to link up with you when you send invites to me (even with default invitations). All of this is not for naught.

When you get a job, I’m thrilled. I don’t attribute it to my advice, because you’re the one who did the leg work and sat in the hot seat. You sent the thank you letters. Some of you came back after a short stint, while others made the temp-to-perm job a permanent one. (Pete, you still owe me a cheesecake.)

I still assert that there are proper methods to use in the job search and will continue to point them out. I will not provide the slightest window of opportunity for self-pity, as this is behavior for you to harbor and not let it surface in workshops or while networking or at an interview.

I’m fond of saying, “Hang in there” when other words escape me. So that’s what I’d like you to do. Never give up. Never question your abilities, even if you’ve been off the horse for a while now. And know that you have the support of career trainers, because our mission is to help you to find work. If you read this and feel that I feel you, drop by to say, “Hey” or send an e-mail to confirm you’ve gotten my message. Hell, tell me to jump off a cliff with my condescension. Whatever works…works.

Don’t overlook the value of One-Stop career center job search workshops

The other day I was talking with a neighbor who has been out of work for over six months. He’s a project manager who worked at a medical equipment conglomerate for five years. I asked him how his job search was going. He told me great; he had sent out more than 20 resumes that day on a number of job boards. I cringed—in to the black hole they went.

I encouraged him to come down to the One-Stop career center, at which I work, for help in his job search. “The Unemployment Office?” he asked. Obviously he hadn’t been to a career center, where unemployment insurance assistance is one of many services the career centers offer.

“No the career center. We can help you with your job search. We have workshops on all kinds of job-search topics….” I also wanted to tell him that he’d feel very comfortable at our career center. He’d fit in.

Adapting to a Rapidly Growing Professional Job Seeker Clientele

One common misconception of One-Stop career centers is that the only people who attend job search workshops are those who know little to nothing about seeking employment or are non-exempt workers. For a vast majority of people, nothing could be further from the truth. Increasingly more job seekers who attend workshops are savvy job seekers who come from all types of occupations. Positions like marketing, engineering, sales, pharmaceutical development, document control, manufacturing management, as well as mechanics, construction workers, et cetera.

To better serve the more experienced job seekers, career centers have had to upgrade many of its services. Workshop Specialists (WS) are finding the challenge of serving experienced jobseeker to be both exhilarating and mentally stimulating. They’ve had to up their game and are meeting the challenge. The consequence of not enhancing their knowledge is letting savvy jobseekers down and driving them away. Below are some of the more popular workshops that WS’s have developed.

  1. LinkedIn: To answer the demand of the LinkedIn aficionados, many career centers are offering workshops on Intro to LinkedIn and Advanced LinkedIn. The latter workshop addresses the elements that make a LinkedIn profile appealing to employers who are enabling the Hidden Job Market by searching for passive or active job seekers via LinkedIn. Employers are increasingly foregoing the traditional search process and instead using LinkedIn and social media like Facebook and Twitter. Approximately 80% of employers are using LinkedIn.
  2. Advanced Résumé Writing: This is another area of the job search where advanced job seekers expect more than the rudimentary theories on writing this important marketing piece. Many of them have received costly assistance from outplacement agencies and professional résumé writers, so they know the drill when it comes to writing an effective marketing piece. Advanced Résumé Writing workshop focus more on Strategy, Positioning, and Selling one’s skills and experience. Workshop Specialists stress results that are quantified and related to the jobs to which jobseekers apply.
  3. The Interview Process: Advanced jobseekers need to know more about the interview process than simply the etiquette one has to demonstrate at an interview, e.g. steady eye contact, a firm handshake, and good body posture. The importance of researching the job and company comes to no surprise to them, but combining the power of LinkedIn and reading the company’s website for additional details of the job is some food for thought. (The more experienced job seekers have an advantage over the ones who haven’t looked for work in more than ten years.) Behavioral questions and how to prepare for them is often new even to advanced job seekers. Many of them haven’t experienced behavioral questions, and if they have they were often taken off guard.
  4. Networking: There is a clear divide between the experienced and inexperienced job seekers in a career networking workshop. The advanced job seekers have been attending networking groups once or perhaps twice a week, so they’re familiar with organized networking technique. The focus on how networking enables one to penetrate the Hidden Job Market. It’s fascinating to see workshop attendeess’ faces when WS’s talk about today’s hiring process—that 80% of employers are hiring from within, not advertising the very best positions and entertaining only the savviest networkers.
  5. Job Search Letters: Experienced job seekers know the importance of effective written communications, but in this workshop they’re reminded of how important it is to be proactive in one’s job search. WS’s talk about approach letters as a way to network. Cover letters are always sent with a résumé unless instructed otherwise. When asked how many send cover letters with résumés, most don’t raise their hand. Jobseekers are encouraged to go beyond the typical cover letter with the typical first sentence, and write a vivid tagline that grabs employers’ attention. Boring doesn’t win brownie points with employers—it’s simply boring. The thank you letter is the conclusion of the interview process.

The next time you see someone who is biding his time applying online for jobs, suggest that he visit a One-Stop career center; talk to a career counselor; look into training; and, of course, join as many workshops as possible. Jobseekers of all experience levels shouldn’t turn their nose up to One-Stop career centers that are making a great effort to accommodate the expanding number of experienced job seekers…and often succeeding.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,341 other followers