One of my favorite TV shows is ABC’s The Middle. You know, the show about a family struggling just to get by. The character I like best is Brick, the youngest of the Hecks who is a genius yet oddly strange. (“Oddly Strange,” he whispers to his chest.) I also like Mike who my kids say I resemble, until I threaten to cut off their food supply.
Watching The Middle reminds me that some people conduct their job search as if it’s…The Middle. How, you may wonder? Think about the way the family never seems to get ahead, how their lives remain the same; and despite the fact that the show makes us laugh, we find it somewhat depressing. This is my point. There are 10 signs of your job search that resembles The Middle.
- No game plan. Does this not describe the Heck family to a T? Having a plan and goals also means you need to know what job you want to pursue, which can be the most difficult part of the job search for some. Without a plan, you’ll have no direction, which is essential if you don’t want to be stuck in The Middle land.
- A résumé that fails to brand you. Most important is writing a résumé that is tailored to each job, showing employers you can meet their specific needs. A Summary that fails to attract the attention of the reader, lacking a Core Competency section. no accomplishments to mention; are all signs of a The Middle job search.
- No online presence, namely LinkedIn, the premier social media application for the job search. At least 87% of recruiters/employers use LinkedIn to find talent, so if you’re not on LinkedIn you’re definitely hurting your chances of advancing in the job search.
- A cover letter that doesn’t excite. You’re writing cover letters that fail to express your personality and are, well, boring. Worse yet, you’re sending form cover letters that don’t show you meet the specific requirements of the job. Further, you’re a believer of not sending cover letters. The Middle material for sure.
- Only applying online for positions. I’m not saying not to use job boards, but don’t use them as the foundation of your job search; networking still is, and will be, the most successful way to find employment. Don’t be fooled into thinking that sending out hundreds of applications will advance your job search…definitely reminiscent of The Middle.
- Networking isn’t part of your vocabulary. If you’re not going to networking events, meet-ups, or connecting with everyone you know, you’re missing the boat. Networking is proactive and a great way to uncover hidden opportunities at companies/organizations that may be hiring.
- Informational interviews are alien to you. The goal behind information interview is networking with people who are in your desired industry and selected companies. Impressing the people with whom you speak can create opportunities that might include being recommended for a job developing in the company, or may lead to speaking with other quality connections.
- Following up with potential connections is missing from the equation. You’re great at meeting people at networking events or other places to connect. You promise to e-mail or call your connections. But you don’t. This is a sure way to be stuck in The Middle, where nothing seems to change.
- Preparing for interviews as an afterthought. Oops, you go to interviews without having done your research on the position and company. You think you can wing it because you know your business like no one does. You’ve heard of behavioral-based questions but aren’t too concerned. You don’t get the job because of your lack of preparation.
- Not sending a follow-up note clearly says you don’t care. And simply thanking the interviewer/s isn’t enough; show the interviewers you were listening and engaged by mentioning some points of interest or revisiting a question you didn’t elaborate on. If you want to remain in The Middle, don’t send a follow-up note. But if you want the job, show the love. And no form thanks-yous please.
The Middle teaches a good lesson about how we need to put more effort into the job search. Doing a few of these activities does not make a successful job search; they must all be done to shorten the search. Can you think of other components of the job search that are necessary to make it a success?
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I prefer to call them informational meetings, but that’s beside the point. I mention informational meetings in my Roadmap for Job Search Success workshop as a great source for gathering information, gaining leads, and perhaps hitting the jackpot. By this, I mean being there when the company may be in the process of looking for someone like you.
I digress, because what I want to do is share a blog post by someone who I think is a great writer and promising PR pro. She shares in her post below some sage advice on the importance of informational interviews (I prefer informational meetings).
Posted by Danielle April Boucher
Here is my follow-up post on Informational Interviews. You can find the first one on how to do informational interview here.
Thus far I have done 7 informational interviews and have met a significant number of different PR professionals from my area and have learned from first-hand experience. Completing 7 info interviews might seem like a lot, but once you get into the groove of contacting people you get good at it; it becomes easy and natural. I found that I wasn’t able to meet some people face to face and so I did some Skype and phone interviews as well.
Each type had its own feel, but because I was prepared and they were willing to help me, they all went smoothly. The key is making sure the info interviews are helping you and not stressing you out. So while I recommend that all graduating students do some, 7 might not be feasible for everyone. That being said, I have gathered some interesting insights from a variety of people from different areas of the PR industry. Because I believe in helping my peers and because I want to give my readers some value, I will share what these PR professionals so generously shared with me about the skills you need in PR and the advice they have for grads.
Essential Skills for PR
(Other than writing and communication)
- Business savvy. You need to understand your business, your organization’s priorities and how PR functions within the overall profitability of the business. This means not getting distracted by personal motives or caught up in the PR side without considering the business side.
- Data management. One of the interviewees told me “The person who has data wins.” In PR, evaluation is everything, so data is essential. The data points to what is working, what is not, why you do certain things and why you don’t do others. When analyzed properly, data is valuable information that can be leveraged to justify what you do, how you do it, and most importantly why it works!
- Perceptive abilities. In PR your job should not just be coming up with ideas, but seeing holes in plan where others may miss. The ability to anticipate reactions, needs, disasters and gaps where others can’t is what will separate you from others. This is why knowing who your stakeholders are key!
Advice for PR Students and Grads
- Volunteer work is a great way to build your portfolio and skills.
- Finding a mentor is a great way to learn about your career goals.
- Join professional organizations to make networking easier.
- Network and build valuable connections whether it is in-person or via social media.
- Keep in contact with people you meet; following-up is essential (this means following up with the people you do informational interview with).
- Stay open to opportunities – say yes and always follow through.
- Dress the part. No matter what you should look respectable; it shows that you care and that you pay attention to the little details.
- Make a plan of your goals and be specific. Writing them down makes you more accountable to yourself.
- Do something every day that will bring you closer to your goals. This will build your momentum and create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
- You don’t get, if you don’t ask – this requires you to reach out and be proactive in seeking out opportunities.
- Know what you are asking for (i.e. meeting or job) and know what your give is. When asking for something, make sure you can return the value in some way.
Finally, the great thing I learned from doing informational interviews is how to be confident when meeting people. I feel so much more comfortable in interview settings now and with cold calling people too. I also learned some great advice as shared here!
I hope this helped and if you have advice to share, please comment below. And let me know, how do you feel about informational interviews?