Tag Archives: research

Soccer and doing what it takes; 7 things to do in your job search

The other day, my son and I were shooting the soccer ball at the net. He was loving it, and I was hating it for the mere fact that my feet were numb from the cold. Regardless, I was constantly telling him to shoot with his opposite foot. “Why?”he asked me.

“Because you need to be multi-talented,” I told him. “You need to be able to shoot the ball with whichever foot it comes to. If you have to turn your body so you can shoot with your left, you’ll lose opportunities.” I’ve played some soccer in my day, so my advice was sound, albeit not what he wanted to hear.

While I was “coaching” my 10-year-old kid, I got to thinking about the advice I give jobseekers, most of whom listen and others who don’t. The ones who listen are those who send me e-mails or even stop by the career center to tell me about their upcoming interviews or, best of all, their new jobs. It’s all about the effort they put into their job search that makes the difference. They do the hard work, while I simply provide the theory. Such as:

  1. Network, network, network. Tell everyone you know that you’re looking for work. Be clear as to what you want to do and where you want to do it. Clearly explain your occupation (human resources vs. human services is a big difference), your greatest attributes, and your extensive experience.
  2. Look for a job where most people aren’t. In other words, penetrate the Hidden Job Market, which, coincidently, has a great deal to do with networking. “Why?” as my son would ask me. Simple, employers gain a lot more from not advertising than they do from advertising their positions. When they advertise, they spend more money, have to read hundreds of résumés, and interview strange people.
  3. Research, research, research. Always know the requirements for the jobs for which you apply. Know about the companies as well. This will come in handy when you write your résumé and other written marketing material, as well as when you interview for said positions.
  4. Market yourself with targeted résumés for each job, rich with quantified accomplishments and a strong personal profile that makes the employer want to read on. One of my respected contacts on LinkedIn, Laura Smith-Proulx, wrote a great article called Is Your Resume Summary Boring Employers? In it she advises jobseekers to include a substantial, quantified accomplishment in the professional profile.
  5. Send a cover letter with each résumé, unless instructed not to. True, some recruiters do not read cover letters, but many do. And if your job will involve writing, you must send a well-written, targeted cover letter that isn’t boring. Refrain from using a pat opening line that reads something like this, “I was pleased to read on Monster.com of an opening for a project manager….”
  6. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Never go to an interview unprepared. You’ve researched the position and company, so you should have an understanding of what questions might be asked. Prepare your answers for a behavioral-based interview using the STAR formula (Situation, Task, Action, Result). If you are asked traditional questions, you’ll be better prepared to answer them because you’ll have examples to share.
  7. Finally, consider building a LinkedIn, FaceBook, or Twitter networking campaign. Online networking should not replace face-to-face networking; rather it should supplement your networking efforts. LinkedIn is considered the premiere professional networking site, but the other two have garnered results for some people.

I explain some very basic job search methods, yet some jobseekers refuse or don’t understand how to begin and follow through with the basic tenets of the job search. Like my son who shies away from shooting with his opposite foot and, thus, will miss opportunities; these jobseekers will find it more difficult to find a job.

Tailor Your Résumé: It’s Not a Swiss Army Knife

Recently a jobseeker in my Résumé Writing workshop surprised me with an explosion of frustration. It bordered on anger. He certainly was incensed. I was talking about the importance of writing a tailored-made résumé for each job. He said, “You mean we have to write a separate résumé for every job? You can’t be serious.”

This was a moment for pause—pause is good when you want to make a point. “Why yes,” I said to him. “Because here’s the thing. Employer A has different needs than employer B, and employer C, and D, and E, and so on.” Your résumé needs to talk to the needs of each and every employer or it’s really doing you no good.

Whatever you to call it: “Cookie Cutter,” “Résumé in a Box,” “One-Fits-All,” this lack of concerted effort demonstrates to the employer that she’s not special. You fail to highlight the outstanding accomplishments related to the job she’s offering. Sure, you list some outstanding accomplishments, but you’re making her hunt for them, making her work.

Martin Yate says it nicely in his blog . “Have you ever looked at a Swiss army knife? It’s got knife blades, bottle openers, screwdrivers…it does practically everything. But companies aren’t hiring human Swiss army knives. They are hiring human lasers, with exceptional skills focused in a specific area.”

Some jobseekers believe that employers want to see everything they’ve done in their many years of work, when in fact employers are more interesting in knowing that you can meet their specific needs, address their specific problems.

The only way to offer them a human laser rather than a Swiss Army knife is by understanding the nature of the job and the nuances of the company. This will require thinking like the employer, who when writing the job ad has some very important requirements in mind for the next candidate she hires.” This will require you to carefully dissect the ad and decipher the accomplishments.

Make the effort. Yate states that your résumé is your most important financial document. It determines the rest of your life.

An Account of how One Man Found a Job: What Worked and what Didn’t.

The last time I saw Jim at our career center was in January of this year. We adjourned to my office where we looked over his résumé and LinkedIn profile. He had concerns about switching industries but knew he wanted to do the same work, Continuous Improvement Management.  

I’m ecstatic to say that Jim recently got a job in the industry he was pursuing. He announced his landing to me four months after we last met. When he thanked me for his help and encouragement, I asked him for a small favor—I wanted to know how he got his job. What follows is more than I expected as a response. Jim secured his job the Good Ole’ Fashion way, through hard work and diligent networking. Here’s his story:

Using LinkedIn worked.

Although LinkedIn is a great online networking tool, Jim used it primarily for research. He researched people of interest during his job search, including those he interviewed with and cold called. LinkedIn allowed him to research companies, using the Companies feature, and keep easy track of his targeted companies. He wisely joined a number of LinkedIn groups to identify companies that were hiring, learning about the latest technology, and some issues the companies had.

As well, Jim kept track of people who were viewing his profile, hoping to identify hiring managers at some companies for which he hoped to work. Lastly, he began to understand the importance of branding oneself using LinkedIn and will continue his branding endeavors.

Blasting out résumés didn’t work!

His initial goal was to send out 10 résumés per week, and he came close averaging 6.3. He felt this was a waste of time and did it only to meet unemployment requirements. Using this method to look for work yielded him one phone interview. There were some benefits, though; he learned what requirements employers had and targeted his résumés to each job for which he applied. He also learned to identify the companies that are involved in Lean Six Sigma and are growing rapidly.

Informational meetings worked.

Jim became a big fan of informational meetings, as they were great for learning about needs of the industry and/or specific companies, obtaining leads to companies that may have “hidden opportunities,” and developing a group of folks that he would often go back to for gathering vital information—particularly learning of solutions or strategies used to solve particular types of industry problems (e.g. increase the perception that he could help because he was familiar with industry techniques).

In addition, he used informational meetings to:  

  • Volunteer information that he uncovered about the industry in general.
  • Connect folks to someone who might be able to help them with an issue brought up in conversations. Pay it forward.
  • Provide expertise to solve a problem, mentor someone, or crunch numbers and put them in a user-friendly format.
  • Develop a sharing network for the future.

Researching companies websites worked.

Jim focused on investigating 10 companies per week. He would research two large companies (over 100 employees) per week and eight small ones. In reality, he investigated big ones only if he received a lead or submitted a résumé for a job board opening. He usually knocked off six small companies per week and feels that this will be his primary approach next time.

Making calls, albeit frustrating, worked.

Jim cold-called companies or went to their doors, acting like a reporter and/or sales person sometimes. This was very hard being rejected 80-90% of the time but paid the best dividends when successful. Here’s why:

  • He often got very good leads with other small companies (60+% success vs. 10% with large companies). The owners of these companies had large networks and often could provide contacts and information about numerous companies.
  • He was offered a number of short-term contract jobs which he politely refused.  In three instances, he volunteered his time to help with specific opportunities.  All those for whom he volunteered were willing to give him a reference and one actually knew his new boss. He believes this played a big part in being hired.
  • Four folks asked him to stay in touch, and he’s pretty confident that a fulltime or consulting opportunity will arise in the future.

Volunteering really worked! 

Jim used a not-for-profit Lean Six Sigma training and facilitation organization a lot while at his previous job and did a lot of things to support them, such as hosting tours and training sessions, running a booth at their shows, providing case studies, writing referrals, etc.  He writes that, “MY BIGGEST LESSON: YOU ARE INTERVIEWING EVERY MOMENT OF THE DAY.”

The not-for-profit organization got him twice as many real interviews via their network and their team pushing his name than everything else combined. They also allowed him to take $2,100 worth of six sigma classes while he was out of work and defer payment until he could afford it.

Networking ultimately worked!

Jim volunteered to coach and work one day a week for two different companies that had employees attending the six sigma classes. He worked days, nights, and weekends as necessary to support them while job hunting.

The Lean Six Sigma class instructor knew he was looking for a job and saw how hard he worked to support classmates and the two specific companies. The instructor was working one day per week at [the company for which Jim now works]. During one of his weekly trips, he proposed that the CEO hire a Continuous Improvement Manager full time and that the CEO plan long-term to promote this position to VP of Operations as the business grows.

After selling the CEO on the idea, he gave him Jim’s résumé and stated that Jim was the person that should be hired. Breakfast with CEO, Interviews with core team, and unsolicited calls from small business owners mentioned earlier all led to him obtaining a job.

 Jim is one of the brightest individuals to walk through the career center’s doors. He diligently attended workshops and worked with career advisors. But the thing that stands out for me about Jim is his positive attitude and never-say-die attitude. This type of thinking is perhaps the secret to success in the labyrinth of the job search.