Month: January 2016

6 Job Search Strategies that Provide Lifetime Career Insurance

Extra-terrestrials looking down on Earth might study our job search process and be baffled. They would notice a disconnect: Jobs are required for survival, yet we lack a humane, transparent structure for actually obtaining a job.

“Huh!” they’d say. “It’s as if swimming is required for survival on their planet, yet they don’t teach them to swim. How bizarre!”

The traditional job search process is inhumane, shrouded in mystery, and rigged in favor of the employer: Apply to a job board along with hundreds of others, and wait. You follow up, with little or no response. It’s frustrating and mysterious with no human contact. All aspects of it feel beyond the job seeker’s control, demeaning, and rarely yield a job.

There’s another way.

Is it easy? No. Will you get frustrated? Sometimes. Is it faster than using job boards? YES.

Here are the payoffs:

  • You control most aspects of it while maintaining your dignity
  • You create and grow lasting relationships (for your next job search. And there WILL be a next job search).
  • You evolve professionally because you’re having live conversations with people at companies that interest you, learning what you like and don’t like.
  • It’s career insurance, because it’s a sustainable process. It hinges on relationship building, on the fundamental principle that people want to hire people they know . . . not people who applied to job boards. (See Hannah Morgan’s excellent article here).

Here are some examples of how to apply sustainable job search strategies:

Demonstrate how you stand out from your peers

As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “To be successful you must be remarkable – a purple cow in a field of monochromatic Holsteins.” If standing out is hard for you to do, please enlist help from a career professional. “Purple cows” get found, and establish their credibility faster. Your LinkedIn profile and your resume should skillfully convey your uniqueness and how you will solve an employer’s problems. Whether you like the idea of personal branding or not, it is necessary these days.

Nurture old and new professional relationships

This morning I heard from my LinkedIn client Eric Dudley,* whose profile I completed early December 2015.

Here was our conversation:

Eric: Hey Julie! Just wanted you to know I landed a job this week

Julie: What great news! Congratulations! I’m curious, how did you land the job?

Eric: I sent out a letter to old friends and co-workers last fall, announcing I was available.  One of them needed an operations guy. It’s a great fit.

Eric understands a fundamental job search basic: Maintaining close professional ties with colleagues while you’re employed translates to job insurance when you’re not.

Take a “Ready, Aim, Fire” approach

Don’t let anxiousness propel your job search. Instead, first define what you really want to do next, by clarifying your best strengths and accomplishments. It will save you time.

“Keeping your options open” will slow your search. I know a job seeker who sent an email to his entire network saying, “If you know of a job I might like, please let me know.” Make it easy for your network to help you by being specific.  Provide a job title you’re aiming for, an industry, and companies you’re targeting. Read this fantastic article by Lisa Rangel on how to build your list of targeted companies.

Structure your job search

Be sure you go to bed each night with a plan about what you will accomplish tomorrow. Waking up with an empty calendar is depressing and overwhelming. I spoke to a job seeker recently who refuses to set goals so he won’t be disappointed in himself if he doesn’t accomplish them. “I don’t want to put that kind of pressure on myself.” Not surprisingly, he hasn’t had an interview in weeks.

Next to a job offer, your primary objective is landing an interview. During my own job search, I set the goal of landing 3-5 interviews a week. Was that hard? Yes! However I learned that the more new people I met, the higher likelihood of an interview. My days revolved around increasing the number of “productive conversations” (what some refer to as informational interviews).

Solicit and engage in productive conversations

Invaluable, these will make all the difference in your job search. Here’s a success story: I worked with a client last fall who wanted to land a job fast. She knew she had one superpower: Transforming chaos into order. She had lots ofaccomplishment stories to show for it too.

She targeted 5 specific companies she wanted to work at, and introduced herself to people who worked there, either over the phone or met them for coffee, asking for advice and gaining insights about what it was like to work there. Within 5 weeks she had a job offer.

What is a “productive conversation?” An introductory conversation based on like-mindedness, which you initiate with someone who works at a company you’re targeting, who can give you career advice.  It’s an information exchange.

Productive conversations increase the value of the relationship both ways. You are valuable to them because many companies offer referral incentives today. To learn more about the art of productive conversations, read these excellent suggestions by career expert Lilly Zhang.

Join a job search community

I’ve written about that here. According to career expert Orville Pierson, you will shorten your search by 20% by joining a community. You’ll receive feedback from other job seekers, as well as referrals, and an ongoing support system of people in the trenches along with you. You will lift each other up, and learn clever tricks even your job coach may not have thought of.

To recap: Make your brand clear. Build relationships. Talk to people. Connect with fellow job seekers. By doing so, you learn to swim, not sink, in the job market – cultivating a skill that will last you a lifetime.

*Eric cheerfully gave permission for me to use his name.

Image:Depositphotos@kwest

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.

Is Your LinkedIn Summary Loaded for Bear?

Does your LinkedIn Summary capture how you’re extraordinary?

I know, it’s really hard to do, isn’t it? Those who get stuck call me to optimize their LinkedIn profile. The irony is, after I actually write their Summary and Headline, and offer back a first draft, I sometimes catch flak. They say:

“Oh my – I can’t say all that. It’s embarrassing!”

I get it. It’s blinding to be shown your best side.

We are wired for negativity. It’s built into our culture. We’re rigged to see flaws, both others’ and our own. That’s why when we attempt to describe ourselves in our best light, it feels like we’re underrepresenting ourselves – or worse, lying.

A little test: Do you scoff when someone sings your praises?

Potential hiring managers or clients, however, don’t want to see your blemishes in your LinkedIn Summary. They just want to see your grace. They want to be dazzled, intrigued, WOWED. They want to be convinced you’re the one to call to solve their pain.

But because we swim in our insufficiencies, most of us struggle to write an effective LinkedIn Summary. Instead, we write something safe and bland, chock-full of keywords because “that’s what you’re supposed to do,” and cross our fingers we’ll get found for that next dream gig.

Unfortunately, blandness is the most effective camouflage on LinkedIn.Frog in camouflage_Is This You on LinkedIn1

Here’s are 3 strategies I use for writing a more impactful LinkedIn Summary:

Write an irresistible opening line.

While there is no one way to write a great opening, here are 2 effective approaches that will pull your reader in:

  • Begin with a question

By beginning with a question, you demonstrate confidence, engage your reader and address an employer’s business pain out of the gate.  I use this approach if my client is unemployed and actively job searching, or is an entrepreneur.

(Note: Permission obtained from all clients, identified below).

BEFORE OPTIMIZATION: (Jerry Godwin)

“An executive with 20 years of leadership and management experience.”

This was Jerry’s opening sentence before he hired me. Since there are many executives out there with 20 years of leadership and management experience, his opener doesn’t differentiate him from his competition.

AFTER OPTIMIZATION:

“What’s preventing your Eye Care practice from thriving? I help optometrists and ophthalmologists grow their practices by recapturing unrecognized revenue and opportunity costs.”

Jerry’s new opening sentences accomplishes a lot: It’s specific, orients the reader, and demonstrates how he would resolve a client’s business pain. It’s much more effective

Here’s a second approach to beginning your Summary:

  • Declare your superpower

Be clear and specific about what you do really well, and express it in a surprising way.

BEFORE OPTIMIZATION: (Stephen Pearson)

“GOAL ORIENTED and SUCCESS DRIVEN! I am a well-qualified HR professional with expertise in resource allocation, operational planning, and audit reviews.”

While he’s very enthusiastic, and orients the reader out of the gate with his skill set, it doesn’t captivate the reader as it could.

AFTER OPTIMIZATION:

“I solve complex business initiatives regardless of scale, without a map or any precedence.

I enjoy inspiring teams and improving processes so organizations can achieve their most ambitious objectives.”

His new opening is bold and provocative. Don’t you want to know what the rest of his profile says?

Here’s a second strategy to help you stand out:

Share a business lesson that has stuck with you.

I read too many Summaries without a heartbeat. That’s sad, since LinkedIn is a relationship building tool, and provides a wonderful opportunity to share your personality in a way resumes do not. Take advantage of this opportunity to shine!

Early in your career, what did you learn that has stuck with you? This can be interesting and reveal your unique value proposition.

During our interview, Tom Ward told me that at his first job, he realized his customers had a choice about where to spend their money. This insight solidified his commitment to customer service throughout his career.

After he told me that story, I began his Summary with the following:

“Do your customers view your company as the obvious “go to” choice?

Early in my career, I learned that if I fail to care for my customers, a competitor will be happy to step in. As a result, my driving mission became achieving “go to” status with my customers.”

Out of the gate, Tom makes his customer-service focus clear – an asset for any organization.

And finally:

Share 1-2 proudest career accomplishments.

Share the specific impact you’ve had. Follow the writer’s mantra: “Show, don’t tell.” Describe your best strengths, and then back it up with a story that demonstrates that strength.

BEFORE OPTIMIZATION: (Scott Lowe)

“I am an experienced business development leader with a track record for success in multiple positions.  I am a hands on, outgoing, team player.”

The line above is vague, non-engaging, with overused keywords. Unfortunately, Scott’s superpowers are camouflaged.

AFTER OPTIMIZATION:

“My specialty? Closing the most challenging deals. Give me the “toughest nuts,” and I’ll crack them.

I have a knack for repairing business relationships previously thought lost. At a past sales role, I was told by the owner of a local company, “You’ll never get our business.” After he agreed to spend an hour with me, he changed his mind, resulting in an average monthly increase of $18,000 of profitable sales for our company.”

In contrast, this accomplishment story is energetic, demonstrates his superpower, uses unique language, and is specific. Scott walks the talk.

Keep in mind a viewer/hiring manager is sifting through dozens of profiles, looking for The One who raises her eyebrows. Specific examples light up a reader’s brain.

Who are you at your best? By sharing how you’re extraordinary, you lift yourself out of LinkedIn obscurity, demonstrating to hiring managers YOU are their “go to” choice for the role they need to fill.

Image: Depositphotos@ginton

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching, and loves teaching people how to get found on LinkedIn.  A participant in one of her workshops recently wrote: “Julie’s LinkedIn class took me from a skeptical LinkedIn novice to a believer in the power of LinkedIn!”

To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.