career development

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.

The Secret to Staying Sane in a Crazed World

Egg1I am supposed to blog at least once a week, but I don’t.

I am supposed to have lots of “rich media” on my LinkedIn profile—videos of my work, podcasts—but I don’t.

I should join Dropbox because it makes sense to store my important stuff in the Cloud, giving others easy access to my work. But you know what?  When I signed up, a Get Started guide popped up on my screen, letting me know I need a tutorial on how to navigate Dropbox.  That’s fine, but I don’t have time!  I save the guide, planning to read it “soon.”

So, I have a Dropbox account, but I don’t.

As an entrepreneur, I am pulled in so many directions.  This week I was asked to contribute a 1500 word essay for a book—a fantastic opportunity. My mind exploded with juicy topic ideas I genuinely care about. I became giddy at the prospect of being part of a cool project that would positively impact others and grow my business.  Then I noticed my heart began to pound, and my upper lip broke out in a sweat. A voice inside my head chirped: If I say yes to one more thing, I will ride off the rails.

I went for a walk to calm myself down and realized what’s most important to me:  I want to be sane. That matters to me more than being part of a book, than being the go-to career consultant  for  local  news, than landing in the next  TED talk line-up. Though I will not recoil from  those opportunities when they come knockin’,  I want to stop chasing them with an avidity bordering on greed.

I thought about my recent conversation with my grounded, sane handyman, Robin. Here’s what he said, “I could expand my business, gain a partner and accept bigger jobs. I could make a lot more money. Everyone tells me this. But I don’t.  I’ve made the same money more or less for years. I like my independence. I don’t need more things. I don’t need more stuff and I like my life.  I have enough.”

My initial reaction was, But Robin, more money, more freedom. He smiled, but didn’t agree with me. Whenever Robin doesn’t agree with me, it lingers in my mind.   What a statement that is, “I have enough.” Who says that, these days? Not many of us, I realized.

When I first launched my career consulting business, I received a request from a large career consulting firm’s CEO to have a conversation to “share information.”  I was excited at the prospect of a joint project with him. Instead, the conversation proceeded in a whole different direction. He immediately told me that his high powered clients who all earned  annual salaries of $100,000+, had job offers within 7 weeks. He also told me he optimizes their LinkedIn profiles in such a way that they receive 1000 LinkedIn connection requests per week.  He didn’t see me as a potential partner; he wanted to intimidate me and run me out of Dodge.  He fascinated me! I asked him why he had two LinkedIn profiles, and he said it’s because he maxed out his first account at 30,000 connections. In that instant I understood him. I recognized  his—and I have this part of me too—insatiable hunger, a belief that I don’t have enough, I’m not enough. That night I sent him this poem by Kurt Vonnegut.

JOE HELLER

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.

I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22′
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!”

My intent in sending him the poem was to nudge him into an alternate, saner point of view. It didn’t invite further conversation with him, as I’d hoped.

This past week, in all the tributes to Joan Rivers, the line that stood out most was this. She said “A mafia guy in Vegas gave me this advice: Run your own race, put on your blinders.” When I look at my business from my perspective–and tune out the glut of  marketing strategies promising to make my business explode–I’m doing great. Every week I gain a more solid foothold in a field I love, and reach more people whom I can impact in a positive way. I also know there are a hundred better choices I can make to grow my business faster, bigger, to monetize so I make money in my sleep.  I love this quote by Brian Tracy: “Set peace of mind as your highest goal and organize your life around it.” You know what? Peace of mind. That’s enough.

image: © Depositphotos.com /kikkerdirk

Are You a Job Snob?

I told my son in May to go to the mall and not come home until he’d filled out 20 job applications. He came home that night, elated that he had an interview scheduled at Subway the following day. Three days later he landed the job. You would think I’d be thrilled, right? Not so much, because the mom and the career coach in me were at odds. The mom in me was thrilled my son landed his first job. The career coach fretted about my computer engineering son, with his mad computer skills, becoming a Sandwich Artist.Hamburger with ingredient.

Job Snob, that was me.

Two months later, I now realize I fretted for nothing.  In fact, I am giddy over his transformation. Here are skills he picked up:

1)      Leadership & initiative:

  • On his own, he took initiative and asked his boss if he’d like him to stay late and close for him. He has done this several times now.
  • When a fellow co-worker felt too scared to make sandwiches after her fourth day on the job, he gently coaxed her into making her first sandwich, and now she’s off and running.

2)      Curiosity & outer-directedness:

  • He asks more questions now, when he’s around people. He no longer has to be coaxed into talking. He asks my husband about his clients, and he volunteers information about his day, which he never used to do.

3)      Confidence:

  • When I asked what he learned from working at Subway, he said, “I feel better about going to look for another job now.” This fall when he returns to college, he feels much more confident about finding a campus job.
  • Early on at Subway, he said customers blew up at him about  confusion over Groupons, and he asked his boss to handle it. This week, a customer yelled at him because she failed to see him change his gloves. He acted differently this time:  “When someone blows up at you mistakenly, you speak with authority and act like you know what you’re doing.” What a shift!

4)      Being a good boss:

  • Luc has a great boss,  which will bode well for every person Luc ever manages for the rest of his life. During a recent lunch rush, Luc burned his hand. His boss left to go to a pharmacy to get him burn cream. (Luc told me I have to mention this story if I write about his experience. He is eternally grateful for his boss’s kindness that day).  His boss taught Luc the importance of being human first.

My son’s experience at Subway taught me two vital things: One, we can’t afford to be snobs about the work our kids choose. Jobs that seem irrelevant can actually be stepping stones to better jobs, and provide us clarity. Speaking for myself, I have put on a Big Bird costume for 8 hours in 100 degree weather, been a short-order cook, a dishwasher, a baker, and a cocktail waitress. All these jobs helped me develop and hone  my career identity. The beauty of jobs we don’t love is all the information they give, even if it’s, I’ll never do that again. From the jobs I’ll never do again, I learned the value of grit and hard-work, which serves me as I build my consulting business today.

Here’s another reason not to be a job snob: They can be a stepping stone to an unexpected opportunity. A friend told me that while he was in between jobs, he took a part-time job in IT support, even though it wasn’t in his sweet spot at all and he didn’t know much about IT. Several months later a full time opportunity came along that WAS in his sweet spot, and they told him, the reason we hired you was because of your IT experience.

Engagement with the world pulls us forward in our development. And in this development we discover that it’s about so much more than making sandwiches.

image: © Depositphotos.com /poznyakov

Thanks to my brother Bruce Bondy who gave me the idea to send Luc to the mall and not come back until he filled out 20 applications.