Competing in the job search is healthy

The story of John and Amy

John is a marketing manager who was laid off a month ago. He worked at a large cloud software company but was told that their largest client dropped a multi-million dollar contract. So his VP gave him the bad news with tears in her eyes.

Amy is a project manager whose fate was a little more extreme. The new president didn’t think her team was meeting tight deadlines, so he let her go. Amy was devastated and is having a hard time getting her mojo going. She’s been holed up in her house for two weeks.

Compete

The job search begins

John and Amy meet each other at a career center orientation and then later in an advanced résumé writing workshop. John asks Amy if she would like to attend a large networking event in the local area. Reluctantly she agrees; networking has always made her uneasy. They agree to carpool.

To her surprise Amy enjoys the networking event. She is content talking with two or three people at length. John also enjoys the event as he works the room, meeting a large number of people. When they meet up at the end of the event, they agree that they’ll attend the next networking event.

At the next event Amy is the one who shines; she meets two project managers who are empathetic to her plight. One of them was also let go under upsetting conditions. He assures her that being let go isn’t as uncommon as she thinks.

The project managers are also part of a buddy group that meets for lunch before the networking event. They invite her to join. Amy agrees but only if her fellow job seeker, John, can join them. The two project managers say they’d love two new members.

Competition in the job search

The buddy group proves to be just what Amy needs; it’s smaller than the 80-person group that she and John have been attending. John also enjoys the intimacy of the group, even though the large networking group excites him more.

One-on-one networking

During the buddy group, one of the members brags that he’s had phone conversations with four people and is having dinner with two of them the following week. They are key players in the companies for which he’d like to work.

Another member tells a similar story about how he’s having coffee with three people, two of whom work for his desired companies. The members of the group declare him to be the winner of this week of networking.

John and Amy are both confused and ask what the group members are talking about. They’re told there’s a competition for landing as many one-on-one networking meetings with people at your desired companies. The weekly winner’s lunch is on the group.

While driving together to the next networking event, John and Amy talk about having a competition of their own. Because they’re new to the job search, they decide they’ll start with easier job-search techniques. They’re both on LinkedIn, so they’ll start by improving their LinkedIn campaign.

LinkedIn connecting and engaging

Connecting with 15 quality contacts a week is harder than Amy thought it would be. John, on the other hand, has no problem connecting with other marketing managers, MarCom specialists, marketing vice presidents, as well as decision-makers in his target companies.

Amy hasn’t even settled on 10 target companies, whereas John has 20. By the end of their first week of competition, Amy has connected with five project managers and five friends. “Friends don’t count,” John teases. Amy retorts with, “How many posts have you responded to?”

Amy has John there. He has only responded to one post that week. Amy responded to one post a day and has written two of her own. Amy is definitely engaging more than John. “Online is not my thing,” he tells Amy. But he knows he has to engage more if he wants to be top of mind.

John and Amy agree that developing their LinkedIn campaign is a tie. This will be ongoing and just one piece of the job-search plan they’ve devised. They strive to actually meet with potential leads like the two members of the buddy group have.

John has his first one-on-one networking meeting

John receives a direct message from one of his LinkedIn connections. A general manager at one of his target company says in his message that he came across John’s profile and likes John’s marketing experience in a cloud company. He invites John to meet him for drinks 20 miles from where John lives.

Amy hasn’t been as fortunate. With 180 connections, she’s not getting any leverage from LinkedIn. John decides he needs to give Amy some help. He creates an invite template for her that explains her goals to create a network of like-minded people. As a marketing manager, he knows a little about writing copy.

John’s meeting goes well. The person with whom he meets tells him the company is looking for a marketing manager with his experience. He wants John to meet with the VP who is currently in Germany but will return next week. John says he’d love the opportunity.

This week goes to John. Amy gives him this and says she’ll buy him coffee at the next buddy group.

Professional Networking Document

The topic at the next buddy group is Professional Networking Documents. John and Amy are unaware of this networking tool but quickly catch on. One member, a director of engineering, explains the concept.

“Essentially the top half of your document is your résumé,” she explains. “Include a headline and a brief summary of your recent, greatest accomplishments. The second half includes your desired positions, types of companies you’re targeting, as well as the actual companies you’re targeting.”

John is confident he’ll have the edge for the last part of the Professional Networking Document. He already has 20 target companies. Amy realizes she’ll have to work on her target companies. There’s no way she’s going to lose to John two weeks in a row.

When they compare their Professional Networking Documents that week, John is blown away by the 25 target companies Amy has for her document. He’s happy for her but also reminds her that she’ll have to connect with people at the companies she has listed.

She tells him she has sent invites to at least two people at each company. She has already been accepted by at least half of them, thanks to John’s template he devised for her.

Amy connects, really connects

Two weeks after John and Amy have completed their Professional Networking Documents, Amy hears from a manager of project management at one of her target companies. Not her favorite company, but one that is 10 miles from her home and has a reputation for healthy, work-life balance.

Amy arrives at the networking meeting equipped with her Professional Networking Document. She is nervous but the manager of project management comes across as kind and sincere. The conversation flows nicely until he asks her why she left her last job. Amy is not prepared to answer this question.

Somewhat emotional she tells him the long version of the story. Later, on the ride home, she regrets not having an answer prepared for his question. She knows she blew it. In addition, she didn’t even give him her Professional Networking Document.

However, the next day she receives a direct message on LinkedIn. It’s from the gentleman she spoke with the previous night. He writes that the VP of the organization would like to meet with her next week for an interview. Is she available?

A week later

The interview with the VP goes well. He isn’t as personable as the manager of project management and he asks her more technical questions, but she feels more confident. Besides, he doesn’t ask her why she left her last company.

Before she leaves the meeting she asks when she should expect to hear from him. He tells her that the manager of project management will contact her within a week.

The week of the competition goes to Amy. John buys her a coffee before the buddy group meets. While they’re drinking their coffee, Amy expresses doubt about doing well if she’s offered the position. She can do the work, has the skills, but her former president did a real number on her.

A week later

Two hours before the buddy group is to meet, Amy receives a phone call from the manager of project management. He is offering her the position and wants to apologize for the salary, which he anticipates to be 80% of what she previously made. It is. The salary is non-negotiable, he assures her.

But the company can offer her four weeks of vacation, two weeks more than they usually offer new employees. As he’s explaining the vacation time, Amy suddenly says, “Why me? I mean…I didn’t think anyone would ever want me.”

The manager of project management laughs, “I know you’re not broken, Amy. I knew this when we talked. Your sense of self-awareness and passion for what you do won me over. Your explanation of why you left your last job was a bit long, but I get it. I was in your situation once.

And, your friend John contacted me before I reached out to you. He said he’s never met someone as committed as you….I think you owe him coffee this week.”


John lands after six months of being unemployed. He continued to attend networking meetings and eventually became the leader of the buddy group. The two members, who taught Amy and him that competition in the job search is healthy, also landed.

Photo: Flickr, Yeo Kai Wen

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