Some job seekers tell me they turn on their computer every day to log on to Monster, Dice, CareerBuilder, Indeed, and other job boards. They spend hours a day applying for posted jobs, sending as many as 20 cookie-cutter résumés out a week, anticipating a call from a recruiter or Human Resources.
To these job seekers I point out the futility of a job search like this, explaining that if they want faster results, they have to be more proactive. What they’re doing is being reactive and it ain’t working.
First I talk about the Hidden Job Market (HJM) which is a concept they understand, but I’m not sure they accept. When I tell 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 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 five ways you can be proactive in your job search:
1. Get to know yourself
As odd as this sounds, many people don’t truly know themselves. I ask my clients to name their top 10 skills, and they have trouble coming up with five. You should make a list of your top 10 and provide a small blurb for each describing why they are.
Likewise, list some of your weaknesses. It’s important that you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, better known as self-awareness. Keep in mind that good interviewers will not only ask about positive outcomes; they’ll ask about negative ones.
2. Put together your company target list
This is a task that job seekers often overlook, or they don’t see the value in it. Here’s where you put your job search into your own hands. You are choosing where you want to work based on your companies’ values.
Are you looking for companies that offer work/life balance, family-friendly policies, growth within the company, products or services that are environmentally friendly, a lively culture, a more professional culture? These are values you need to consider.
Now you can research these companies, keeping an eye on their growth. Identify the top players in the companies. Connect on LinkedIn with people who work for the companies. Build your foundation.
3. Send approach letters
These documents are sent to companies on your company target list. Here’s the kicker: no job has been advertised. (Advertised jobs represent only 20%-30% of the labor market.) You’re not reacting to an advertisement; rather you’re sending them unannounced.
Approach Letters are ideal if you prefer writing more than using the phone. Introverts may favor this way of contacting an employer. Whereas, extraverts may prefer simply picking up the phone.
The goal is to get networking meeting or better yet, chance upon a possible opening that hasn’t been advertised. 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.
4. Do some good ole’ fashion networking
Preface: with the advent of COVID-19, in person networking is not possible at the moment. Read this article on how job-search clubs are using Zoom at great success for networking.
Normally we think of networking as strictly attending organized meetings where other job seekers 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—basically everywhere.
5. Consider volunteering as a way to find work
This method of being proactive works. Granted it is tough to work for free, volunteering offers great benefits. The first of which is it’s a great way to network. Think about it; you’re in a great environment to discover opportunities from the people with whom you’re volunteering.
Another benefit of volunteering is enhancing the skills you have, or learning new ones, to be more marketable. If you lack certain software, such as PeopleSoft, seek organizations that use this software or would like to implement it. Who knows; you may prove to be so valuable that you develop a role in their finance department.
Finally, volunteering is a great source of fodder for you résumé. I tell my clients that if their volunteer experience is extensive, they should include it on this document. Just write “Volunteer Experience” in parenthesis.
6. Use 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 reach out to other LI members for information and contact leads. Practice proper etiquette when reaching out to your connections. In other words, don’t request an introduction to someone the very first time you communicate with a new connection.
Another one of my job seekers 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.
7. Follow Up, follow up, 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.
Of course you need to follow up after an interview. Many employers complain that candidates don’t send a follow-up note, and some candidates are eliminated because of this. So take the time to write a brief follow-up note. It’s well worth the time.
Being proactive sure beats the hell out of only reacting to jobs that have been advertised and are visible to hundreds, if not thousands of other job seekers. 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.