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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Julie onTwitter and Facebook.