Job Search Strategies

5 Winning Qualities That Make You Irresistibly Referable

What makes someone “referable?” With 80% of jobs filled by referral – aren’t you curious to know the answer?

By referable, I mean you are that person a colleague will rave about to an employer, saying “I’ve got someone you’ve gotta meet.

The colleague sees your gifts clearly.

She wants to champion you.

She wants credit for introducing you!

If your job search has stalled maybe you’re not passing the refer-ability test. No worries! Embrace the following 6 qualities to help you pass the test with flying colors and get referred.

1.    Be specific about what business problems you solve

Conduct a self-assessment before you begin your job search. What do you do best? For example,

·        Does your team always send you the most difficult clients? (Customer Success Expert)

·        Do you ease employees through a rapid growth phase? (Change Management Leader)

·        Do you notice problems others fail to anticipate? (Risk Disruptor)

Knowing what problems you solve helps differentiate you from everyone else. Think of it as your highlight reel which helps your network understand your value.

For example, my client Rachel knew she was good at streamlining administrative processes which boosted efficiency and morale.  She shared her “highlight reel” while networking and within 5 weeks of launching her search, she landed a job.

People who know what specific business problems they solve are much likelier to be referred.

Consider this:

  • Why were you hired at your last job? What gave you the edge? How did your edge impact the company positively?
  • Think of an accomplishment you’re proudest of. What personal qualities or skills did you use to complete it and what was the impact of the accomplishment?
  • If you were hired today, what would set you apart from everyone else a year from now, and how will it affect the bottom line?

2.    Be clear about the role you want and companies you’re targeting

Too many job seekers say, “I’m keeping my options open.” This approach may be convenient for you, but boy it’s tough on everyone else.

Here’s an analogy: You would never say to a friend, “I want any old spouse.”

It’s silly, right? Because

  1. You DON’T want any old spouse. You’d be miserable with any old spouse.
  2. As your friend, I want to help you. But you don’t “help me help you” if you don’t know what you want.

Instead, if you tell me “I’m looking for someone mid 30’s, open-minded, who’s mad about Harry Potter” you give me easy markers to make a mental inventory AND someone to look out for if this person ever crosses my path.

Consider this:

  • Using keywords and skills you generated from #1 above, do a search on LinkedIn to discover what roles match your skillset. Course correct as you go, refining the role you’re seeking.
  • What industries are you interested in working/breaking into? You can get a list here, from LinkedIn. Narrow the list down to 3-4 and announce these to your network.
  • What companies would you love to work at? Not sure? Check:

·        Local “best of” lists in your city

·        Glassdoor to see who is favored

·        Your city’s local business journal to research and learn about local companies

Being knowledgeable about specific companies makes you look like a million bucks, like a top-notch candidate your connections will chomp at the bit to refer.

3.    Be concise

Can you answer a question crisply with focus and specificity?

If you can, you will leave an excellent impression on your audience. If you struggle with this, take heart.

Consider this:

  • Join Toastmasters. The weekly structure and built-in feedback system is ideal training ground for strengthening your verbal skills in a safe, upbeat environment. It helped me tremendously.
  • Be considerate of your listener by avoiding the typical “verbal dump” of ideas:

·        Slow down when speaking.

·        Remember to punctuate your phrasing (use periods, commas, question marks).

·        Avoid digressions – particularly in professional situations where people are forming impressions of you.

4.    Listen

Employers want someone with ears. I meet many job seekers so filled with anxiousness they forget I’m there. The conversation is disappointingly one-sided and doesn’t reflect well on them. I don’t feel comfortable referring them to colleagues.

In contrast, according to Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman “good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of — and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking.” When I meet a great listener, I instantly run through my mental Rolodex thinking, who can I connect her with?

Consider this:

  • During a conversation, beyond 1 minute, do you know most people tune you out? Flip the conversation back to your listener after 1 minute.
  • Be curious about others. A good rule of thumb for job-referability: If there are 2 of you, talk less than 50%. How can you deepen the conversation and offer value?

5.    Remove Chip on shoulder (if it’s there)

You may not have a chip on your shoulder. If you do, you may not know you do.

Tell-tale sign: You catch yourself complaining to others about how hard job search is:

·        “Job search shouldn’t be this hard.”

·        “Hard working people deserve good jobs.”

·        “HR sabotages the job search process, making it impossible for job seekers to meet the hiring manager.”

I’ve heard these complaints recently from job seekers and while I feel sympathetic, they don’t endear me to the person who said them. The attitude smacks of “I’m a victim” which makes you –I’m sorry to say – resistible.

Consider this:

  • Be impactful somewhere (see Toastmasters, above). If you feel your influence in other arenas, you’ll easily shrug that chip off your shoulder.
  • Assume an officer role at some organization. During my last job search I recruited Guest Speakers for our job search club. I interviewed each one and always wrote an exuberant introduction for them. One of them hired me.

The shortest distance to a job is measured by the number of people thrilled to refer you. The key to refer-ability?

Be clear about your value. Be concise. Listen well. Stay positive.

Stay connected to your highlight reel and not only will you own your job search, you will leave an indelible impression.

Have I left anything out? What qualities make you refer someone?

Photo by Asher Lapham

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer, LinkedIn trainer, Career Transition Coach and Forbes Contributor. 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 training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at You can also follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

3 Ways Successful Job Seekers Think like Entrepreneurs

While driving to the gym this weekend I spotted a young girl in the neighborhood selling lemonade, sitting comfortably in the shade. I thought, stuck in one place, she won’t get much traffic. Still, I saluted her efforts: She’s launching her business woman identity!

A lot of people view LinkedIn like a Lemonade Stand, thinking I’ll create a decent product – park my Profile – and hope people ‘drive by’ and find me. The problem is this strategy doesn’t work and after awhile of not getting found, they say:

  • LinkedIn is a waste of time and energy!
  • Clearly no one’s hiring these days
  • No one’s looking for someone with my skill set
  • There must be something wrong with me

Now compare the Lemonade Stand with the Food Truck. Successful food trucks thrive because they know they have to differentiate themselves. Their product has to be unique and delicious. They bend over backwards to connect with their ideal audience. They go where the crowds are. They develop relationships with fans who develop a taste for their food.

My nephew-in-law Tim Meador and his partner Brandon Spain own a food truck in Ft. Collins, CO called The Tramp About. With a 5 star rating on Yelp, their business is thriving. They have an active Facebook page and post astonishing food photos weekly. (If I lived there, I would be his Food Truck Stalker). They communicate with their audience consistently and are always creating new mouth-watering, gorgeous sandwiches. Behold:

I rest my case.

As a job seeker, are you the lemonade stand or the food truck? I’ve found the job seekers who think like food truck entrepreneurs land a job faster. Here’s what they do differently:

They relish what they do

Many job seekers obsess over “doing the right thing,” and following the rules. While there are gobs of important rules in job search, giving up your personality, passion and joy will sink your job search efforts.

What are your skills and superpowers? What have you learned about your role or industry that you wish other people knew? What gets you fired up professionally? Share it. Teach us about it! Sincerity is palpable.


  • Set up several Google Alerts about topics you care about. Articles will arrive in your inbox several times a day. Sift through them and select the best, sharing them with your network.
  • Create memes of your favorite quotes.
  • Blog

They engage regularly online

It’s so tempting to remain undercover as a job seeker. You fall under the toxic spell of “I’ve got no credibility, I’m unemployed!” or “What do I know that hasn’t already been said?” Non-engagement actually sends unwanted signals: That you don’t care, that you’re not current and that you’re not confident.

When you engage regularly you send the opposite signal: That you are confident, relevant, and care about contributing value. You also create a digital footprint many hiring managers seek. When people learn about you they will Google you. What does your digital trail say about you? Engaging regularly, especially on your target company’s website and social channels, shows energy and relevance, qualities recruiters and hiring managers look for.


  • Follow companies on LinkedIn and their Facebook pages. Share your opinions, support, enthusiasm, curiosity.
  • Comment on others’ status updates, blogs, in Groups. Be positive and supportive, yet don’t be afraid to share your differing perspective. We all learn from varying perspectives. It’s juicy. Teach us your hard-won wisdom. I have gained followers and clients by commenting. Teach us the way you think.

They take risks to set themselves apart

My colleague Jean recently shared her son’s job search success story. Unhappy with his starter finance job out of college, he decided, “That’s it. I’m going for the mountain top.” He targeted the 5 best finance firms in the Chicago area, and reached out directly to the recruiter at each firm, requesting a brief exploratory conversation. Within 5 weeks, Jean’s son landed a new position at a significantly higher salary.

What would be a risk for you? For some it’s attending a networking event. For others it’s asking for help. In job search, differentiating yourself is vital in order to stand out from the crowd and become known. The key is stretching yourself to meet new people who can open doors for you.


  • Connect with people in your industry whom you admire. Write them a customized LinkedIn connection request telling them why you admire their work. Be sincere. I reached out – okay, gushed – over someone who writes for a respected journal. We stayed in touch, and now she refers clients to me.
  • Talk to new people who do what you want to do. Interview them for an article. Ask for advice. Ask them to refer you and definitely ask them how you can help them. Remember your networking etiquette!

I encourage you to share the best of you, both online and in person. People are hungry for content, so share what you know: Regularly, with enthusiasm, and in new ways that stretch you. Dazzle us with your delicious and unique energy. The days of sitting in the corner and hoping you’ll get found is for beginners – not a pro like you. Ditch the lemonade stand. The mountain top awaits you.

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a certified LinkedIn™ Profile Writer,  LinkedIn trainer, Career Transition Coach and Forbes Contributor. 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 Optimization packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at You can also follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

What Successful Job Seekers Do to Land a Job Faster

As a LinkedIn profile writer, I speak to many job seekers regularly, and have begun to notice a trend: Those who find jobs more quickly all practice the same behavior. Those who don’t find jobs, all practice the same behavior.

So let’s compare.

Those who find jobs faster do this:

They knock on a lot of doors.

My friend Elsa was let go last October. Her whole life turned upside down fast. She lost her home, and moved in with a friend. In February, just 4 months later, she landed a job.

“Elsa, what’s your secret?” I asked.

Grinning, she said, “I talked to people!”

Image: Depositphotos/@ seewhatmitchsee

Image: Depositphotos/@ seewhatmitchsee

In today’s job market, more than 80% of jobs are filled by referral. This means successful job seekers must reach out and network, connecting with complete strangers with maddening regularity. For many, especially introverts, initiating conversations with strangers feels unnatural. But as a former job seeker and now an entrepreneur myself, I can confirm the shortest road to landing a satisfying gig: By knocking on a lot of doors.

The friendliest neighborhood to knock? I prefer LinkedIn because it’s predominantly a relationship building tool, designed to help you build trust and become known.

Here are the steps I recommend for initiating and developing relationships on LinkedIn:

  • Target companies you might want to work at.
  • Research people who work there, in the department you’d like to work.
  • Find like-mindedness, either on their profile or via their online reputation. Now you have a way to connect.
  • Request a connection, customizing your message by being affirming, curious and genuine.
  • Once connected, request a conversation, by phone or in person, to learn more about them, and exchange information. You’re not asking for a job.
  • Congratulations. You are now known.

And that’s a solid road to landing a job – by becoming known to lots of people. Because when a job does become available at their company, they will think of you. And why wouldn’t they? You listened, were curious, offered insights about their business pain points, and ended by asking, “How can I help you?” You’re also tied to them on LinkedIn, using this very connect-y ecosystem to provide value and stay in touch.

In contrast, those stuck in job search make these 2 mistakes:

1) They don’t knock on doors.

Instead, they apply in earnest to job boards, and become cynical pretty fast. I spoke to a client this week who said, “I have an MBA. No one I send my resume to responds to me!” His resume keeps landing in the dreaded black hole.

When I told him the 80%/20% rule, he wasn’t surprised, which begs the question: Why do many job seekers participate in a process they know doesn’t work? Because job boards give the illusion that you’re doing something productive by pursuing a real job. In contrast, knocking on doors seems like a gamble, because you’re only pursuing the possibility of a real job. Consider this: By knocking on doors, you’re real to the people who will inevitably face a job vacancy at their organization; by applying to a job board, you’re a faceless, paper abstraction. Now what seems like the safer bet?

2) They are afraid to risk.

One of my clients, “Mary,” is so afraid of saying the wrong thing, of reaching out to the wrong person, and of asking people to help her, that she is immobilized. As a result, she hasn’t interviewed in months. It is outside her comfort zone to initiate contact with unfamiliar people, because of the “shoulds,” or self-limiting beliefs in her head that hold her back.

Job search forces many of us to bump up against old self-limiting beliefs. For my client Mary, her beliefs are “You shouldn’t burden people by asking for help,” and “Why would anyone want to talk to me?” Those are the most common “self-limiting beliefs” I hear from job seekers.

In truth, some company insiders don’t want to talk to you. Last year, when I reached out to someone for an informational conversation she replied, “No. You are a low priority.” In my experience though, those responses are rare, and a reflection of her bad manners, not mine. I connect with many more people who are open to a conversation because they’ve recently gone through a job search themselves, or know they will someday and want good karma. In addition, 69% of organizations have employee referral programs. Therefore, it’s often to an employee’s financial advantage to have a conversation with you.

Here’s some really good news:

Every time you risk, you will gain new, vital information.

During my job seeking or business growth stages, every time I spoke to someone new, I inched forward, learning my strengths and weaknesses. For example, I learned I spoke too fast, and needed to be more concise. I also learned I was a good listener and empathizer; I often heard, “You pulled me forward. Thank you.”

boldnessEach risk I took gave me new information, helping to build up my own unique arsenal of strengths, confidence and charisma–and helped me craft my branding message in an inviting way. Those qualities make employers sit up and take notice.

If you are stuck in your job search, know this: There are many employers out there that need your particular brand of creativity, of thoughtfulness and integrity, of perseverance, process improvement skills . . . you fill in the blank with your superpowers.

Keep knocking on doors because eventually, someone will let you in, and invite you to stay.

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer. She is the founder of Coming Alive Career Coaching. To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at You can also follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.

I hope you found some helpful information here today. If you did, be sure to share this article with your connections. They will definitely appreciate your thoughtfulness.

How to Take Charge of Your Dead-End Job Search

Last weekend the power went out while sitting at the movie theatre watching Wild.  After awhile, I struck up a conversation with the young woman sitting next to me, a bubbly, recent college grad named Rachel. I asked her about her life, and within minutes her sparkle dulled as she expressed her frustration with her dead-end  job selling shoes. With further probing, I learned 3 things she’s not doing in her job search that are keeping her stuck.

Her frustrations are universal. By adopting  the following remedies, she can pull her job search forward and kiss her retail job goodbye.Breakthrough dead end job search1

Here’s what she told me:

1) Her job search is isolated.

“I do it by myself,” she said.

In today’s market, that approach will prolong her search and keep her knee-deep in shoe boxes. According to career expert Orville Pierson, those who join fellow job-seekers in community shorten their search by 20%. In other words, a 5 month search becomes 4. Job searching with others will boost your morale, hold you accountable, provide networking opportunities, and give you up-to-the-minute information about job search strategies.

In the U.S., I suggest  connecting to free, state-funded job search centers  here, by entering your zip code in the Get Help Near You section. These centers offer workshops on  all aspects of job search.

In 2006 when I was between jobs, I credit my job search community for landing my job in the hidden job market. At a job search club I belonged to, I recruited guest speakers each week. One of the speakers I interviewed liked me so much he hired me. Joining community is vital in your job search.

2) Her LinkedIn Profile is “meh.” 

“I’m not a good writer, plus I’m not good at bragging about myself!” she said.

I hear these two complaints a lot from job seekers; however, clinging to them may hold you back, and here’s why.

A well-written LinkedIn profile is the linchpin of your career search, which I wrote about here. Let’s pretend you start chatting with a hiring manager at a movie theater when the power goes out–could happen right? You exchange business cards. The first thing she will do when she gets to the office is Google  you. The top result of her search in most cases will be your LinkedIn profile. While chatting with Rachel during the power outtage, I peeked at her Profile on my Smart phone. Her Summary section is a desultory list of keywords, reflecting none of her dazzle.

Now back to her bragging concern. Instead, I suggest you reframe “bragging” as educating others quickly about how you offer value. You know how the app Shazam detects an unknown song in an instant? Your well-branded, results-driven,  and engaging profile works just like Shazam. Showcase your value in an irresistible way on LinkedIn, and you will get found.

3) She avoids networking events.

“Who knows who will show up at those things?!” she said.

Since 80% of jobs are filled through referral, networking is key to job search.  If you’re anxious about networking, start with less overtly “networky” events. Rachel loves ping pong and is passionate about homelessness. She can join a local table-tennis club and volunteer at local homeless shelters. She can also bring a friend to feel safer.

During job search, it’s important  to “bump up” against new people to befriend. As Susan Cain says, you don’t have to be opportunistic when networking. Instead,  “Find someone in the room who’s a kindred spirit.” Creating a genuine connection will create goodwill, a friend in the world who will say great things about you.

In an interesting parallel, when the movie re-starts, the main character Cheryl Strayed quotes Emily Dickenson and says, “If your Nerve deny you – Go above your Nerve.” To break out of her dead-end job, Rachel will need to go above her nerve. When she does, she will find a job she loves.

image: ©

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a  LinkedIn™ Profile Writer and LinkedIn trainer  She is the founder of  Coming Alive Career Coaching. To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages & training your group or organization on growing your business through LinkedIn, contact Julie at  You can also follow Julie on Twitter and Facebook.  

I hope you found some helpful information on this list. If you did, be sure to share this article with your connections. They will definitely appreciate your thoughtfulness.

4 Ignored Yet Essential Steps to Shortening Your Job Search

My friend “Dana” has worked in non-profits for years, and recently quit her job. She now wants to go in a whole new corporate direction. This week she emailed me saying she needs help organizing her job search: Help with cover letters, developing a generic and targeted resume, and a LinkedIn profile makeover too. She proudly announced she sent out dozens of resumes to job boards, and hasn’t heard a thing. “I’m stuck and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong,” she confessed.

Why is Dana frustrated? Because she takes the “FIRE, aim, ready” approach to job search—like many well-meaning souls before her (including myself).  Why do job seekers often take this reverse approach, which actually doesn’t work?  Because you want to feel you’re doing something to secure  food on the table. Taking the “fire, aim, ready” approach will waste your time and frustrate you. Instead, try these 4 things, for much better results.

Be kind and patient with yourself

People usually skip this step altogether. Instead, sit yourself down with a nice cup of tea before you start your job search. Have a chat with the Stagecoach Driver in your head who holds the reins and whips those horses into a mouth-frothing frenzy. You are about to embark on a journey full of surprises, unforeseen obstacles, discomfort, on uncharted ground to boot. Load up with plenty of self-compassion for your trek ahead. asphalt road under sunset with clouds

Think about it: This search for this particular job has never been done before by you; it’s virgin terrain. You allow ramping up time whenever you start a new job, right? Likewise, you need to be kind to yourself in your status as a job seeker. Chances are good you’re feeling vulnerable, even shaky. Now isn’t the time to crank up your mean “inner slavedriver.” Quite the opposite.


  • Every day, start with kind, supportive words of encouragement, words that build your strength and confidence.
  • Notice throughout the day when your Inner Doubter or Slave Driver kicks in. Noticing can help you switch gears into a more positive frame of mind.
  • Stay connected to friends. In fact, have a job search buddy, and join a local job club. Don’t isolate yourself. People find jobs 20% faster if they search with others, because each person boosts the other.


Keep a notebook nearby of your daily successes and positive phrases, including this one:  The most effective job search is a focused job search. Recently a friend admitted she’s looking to be either an Ultrasound Technician or an administrative assistant. She wonders why it’s taking her so long to find a job. As Confucious said, “If you chase 2 rabbits, you catch none.”

An unfocused  approach will slow you down. Your search will be more efficient if all of your efforts are trained on one job, or one industry. In addition, keep this in mind: Your LinkedIn profile is the linchpin of your job search. Remember that as you reach out to people, they will look at your profile, especially before deciding to interview you. When people Google you, your LinkedIn profile will appear first. If your profile isn’t well branded i.e. focused, it will raise a red flag. You want to avoid red flags.

Do the thoughtful work up front of pinpointing your favorite skills and best accomplishments in support of the direction you want to go next.  Hire a coach if you’re unclear. Get clarity before you embark on your search, and brand yourself with that vision. It will save you time.

Build Your LinkedIn presence

Have a look at William Arruda’s article, where he talks about how to leverage LinkedIn to your advantage.  Because 80% of jobs today are filled through referral rather than through the job boards, you must build quality professional relationships. That is the beauty of LinkedIn; it gives you dozens of ways to build and grow professional relationships, turn cold calls into warm ones, and get found. Here are some suggestions:

  • Grow your connections while you’re still employed. It is the kindest act of career self-advocacy. Why? Because when you do find yourself out of a job, you’re not scrambling to build your network. Never stop building and growing your connections, not only so others can support you when you need it, but so you can support others when they need it.
  • Read articles/posts by people in your field. Comment on them, share them, then request to connect with them, writing a personalized message.
  • Join LinkedIn Groups. Don’t just join Groups along with people looking for the same job as you, but join Groups where you will be the only Administrative Assistant participating, for example. Be a contributor, really listen to others’ concerns, offer your opinion, be a thought leader. You will find like-minded people through Groups with whom you can connect. Nine minutes a day on LinkedIn is all you need, to accomplish a lot.

Spot challenges and talk to people.

Congratulations. You are positioned well now. Since most jobs are filled by word of mouth, you must build relationships with people who trust you before a job comes available. The prevailing wisdom today is, ditch the job boards.  Instead, do research on companies who hire people with your skills. Uncover their problem that you can fix. Leverage your remarkableness and keen pain spotting skill in a letter, and send it to the manager. (“Pain Spotting” is Liz Ryan’s trademarked word for noticing an employer’s challenges. She’s great. Check her out at Human Workplace).

How would you respond to a letter from someone who understands your unique troubles? Favorably I bet. It’s so novel to take this approach, you will stand out. It will show your kindness, focus, skill and sensitivity.

Take this 4 step approach to your job search, embracing a “ready, aim, fire” approach. You will hit your target much more quickly.

image: © /mycola_adams

Julie Bondy Roberts, MA, GCDF is a career coach, LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover Specialist, public speaker and blogger. She is the founder and principal at Coming Alive Career Coaching. To learn more about LinkedIn™ Profile Makeover packages, contact Julie at  If you enjoyed this post, or know someone who would, please share it!

Take this 4 step approach to your job search, encompassing a “ready, aim, fire” approach. You will hit your target much more quickly.

Six Steps for Landing a New Job After Declaring You’ve Had Enough

Step 1: Let yourself grieve.  You need to grieve the very real loss of things that you like about your current job: Your lunch buddies, your cubicle mate with whom you exchange cute dog memes, the short commute, the feeling of job security you have. A friend recently confided that she hates the idea of leaving her secure job where she is liked, even though she hasn’t learned anything new in years and is hungry for a new challenge. I said, “Grow your flame. Feed your potential. There’s more security in that.”

6 steps finding new job_Coming Alive1It is really hard to leave what’s familiar, even if it doesn’t serve us. As career development expert Liz Ryan says, “Work should be a joyful human activity,” not a drudge or a drain. (“Grow your flame” is Liz’s trademark phrase, by the way).

Step 2: Give yourself permission to figure it out in whatever time it takes. Before starting your job search, print out this quote by Albert Einstein and put it on your bathroom mirror:

 “Perhaps the fundamental freedom that anyone possesses is the choice of where we place our attention.”

 During your search, your attention will go south at times. You will feel tempted to quit, and slink back to your current job where you “shrink to fit” because shrinking will seem easier  than finding a new job. Instead, remember that any major change requires two ingredients:  Grace and grit.  Imbue your job search with those two qualities, and you will find a better job. I promise.

By grace, I mean give yourself a “grace period” that lasts throughout your whole search. Be kind to yourself when you blunder a follow up phone call at a new company you’ve targeted.  Grant yourself a reprieve. Know that job searching is clumsy and awkward, because you’re seeking out a lot of new information from people who seem to have it all. Except they don’t. Remember they were job seekers once, and may be secret job seekers right now. You don’t know.  As a job seeker, you’re rusty, so grant yourself grace as you build up your job seeker muscles again. Treat yourself to a cheap caramel iced coffee somewhere, or sit on a park bench and bask in the glow of each little success.

By grit, I mean, stick with your goal of making a change. If you tried to connect with someone and they didn’t get back to you, contact someone else at that company.  Don’t take it personally, don’t take it as a sign it’s not worth it.  As I said in an earlier piece, keep pressing buttons until you get a result. I spent a year taking an intensive Life Coaching course, and then realized I didn’t want to be a life coach! I liked it, but it wasn’t quite right. Those skills lay dormant for years until I realized I really wanted to be a Career Coach. The life coaching skills are a vital part of my services. That’s what I mean by grit—hanging in there even when it seems like you’re yielding nothing.

Step 3: Try new things. This is the step most people in job search avoid. Instead, what people often do is spend a lot of angry energy creating a new resume (I did that—I’d take a day off I was so mad, rewrite my resume, and it just sat in my secret file, all dolled up with no place to go). Beginning your job search by re-writing your resume is a waste of your time and here’s why: In today’s job market, 80% of jobs are filled by referral, 20% through an applicant pool. This means you need to go network, and try new activities, to meet new people. There are two reasons for experimenting: First, you build a referral base of people who might refer you to a job, but second, to learn your preferences. The more you know about yourself, the higher likelihood you’ll find a job that fits like a glove.

If you don’t try new things, you may end up in the same jam as a professional acquaintance of mine, “Amy.” Every few months she contacts me, at the end of her rope with her job. She says, “That’s it! I can’t take it anymore! I’ve had enough pettiness, I’m bored out of my mind. I’m through!” I ask if she’s taken any new classes in the direction she’d like to go, or sat down for informational interviews with “insiders” at companies she’s targeting, or attended free Webinars on something exciting to her.  No, no, and no, is her reply. She’s in a tailspin. She doesn’t feel she can leave her job, because she hasn’t opened up any new doors, or gained new insights about a new career direction. These two things are vital to your job search! Letting new information in alters your DNA, and gives your job search momentum. When I did informational interviews to learn more about career coaching, I visited several Career Services offices at local universities. I asked career advisors, “What’s the one thing college students most want to know about?” and they all said, “LinkedIn.” That information set my career trajectory on fire.  As a former software trainer, learning LinkedIn has been a natural for me. I began gobbling up everything about LinkedIn, and now optimize my clients’ profiles.

Step 4: Optimize your LinkedIn profile. (I know. It sounds like I’m plugging my services here, but really. You need to do this). I have received several consulting offers as a result of my optimized LinkedIn profile and my LinkedIn posts. As personal branding expert William Arruda says, “There are literally thousands of personal branding activities you can engage in every day that will help your career thrive. . . Almost all of them can be accomplished through LinkedIn.” It’s a powerful tool. Spending money for an optimized profile will be money well spent (if you apply grit. Once you’re optimized, you’ll need to work its features)! If you’d rather not pay someone, see Arruda’s article here, on how to optimize your own profile.

Step 5. Make new connections. Whether you are simply switching companies and staying in your industry, or switching industries altogether, like I did, it’s vital to make new connections, out there in the world, and on social media. Every time I’d read an article I really liked or found helpful, I’d reach out to the author on LinkedIn. I told her/him specifically what I liked about the article, and requested a connection. Ninety percent of the time, people accepted my request. Then if I thought they might have information that would be helpful, I requested informational interviews, and built relationships in the industry.  I’m there for them too, which is crucial to the process of  relationship building.

Step 6: Retell your new professional story to your friends and family and new people you meet. Share your excitement about your new direction with people. Tell them what you’re learning. It’s a necessary part of your re-invention and it will feed your conviction that change is a comin’. Telling it will make it real. You’ll also be amazed at how many people know people who can help you, once they learn what you want to do.  “Oh, you need to talk to my friend Sarah! She’s an admissions advisor at so and so.” It will work like that.

More importantly, you are stepping into a new, stronger identity by talking about the new things you’re doing. “Amy” above isn’t yet carving out a new identity. She’s so focused on being angry about her situation that she’s paralyzed.

Don’t let that be you. As Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Here I’ve provided you with a step-by-step list that will help you find work that makes you come alive. Go do it!

image: © /muamu

Thanks and gratitude go to Herminia Ibarra and her excellent book Working Identity for articulating  steps 3, 5 and 6 with such clarity. She captured my own long and winding reinvention process, before I knew that’s what I was doing.


7 Right Things Every College Student Needs to Do During College

In response to a Time article by Martha C. White titled “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired,“ a reader named “younotus” laments: “I had to move back in with my parents [and] . . .  if it weren’t for them, I would have nowhere to go. And I’ve done everything right. I’ve done everything I’ve been told to do, to have a good life. And still, I can’t help but feel like I’m losing again and again and getting nowhere.”Colorful fruits for dessert

It’s a heart-rending statement, part of a much longer one where he reveals his frustrating and underpaid path since graduating from a prestigious college with a liberal arts degree. I bolded his line above “And I’ve done everything right,”

a) because I see that phrase a lot in reader response threads expressing discontent about job prospects and

b) I wonder how he defines “everything right.”

I worry there is a disconnect between what some students believe is “doing everything right,” and actual activities that help make a college graduate ready to make the leap into the corporate world. All of us who are educators in the career development arena want to close this gap.

I discussed this recently with a college career counselor, who expressed the same concern. She said, “I’m anxious about our students who have so much on their plate.” She and “younotus”  beg the question, what are the right things for students to have on their plate during college to pave the way for a respectable starting job? Here are my thoughts on this. Please feel free to weigh in:

1. LinkedIn: 

  • Through their college progression, students need to grow their network on LinkedIn. In fact by graduation, they should have at least 250 connections and aim for 500+ connections early in their career.
  • They need to complete and optimize their LinkedIn profile.
  • They need to learn how to leverage LinkedIn to their advantage, using its features to raise their profile, visibility and appeal. Matt Hames writes that by their senior year, students should rebalance the Facebook/LinkedIn ratio: By senior year they should be on LinkedIn 90% of the time, Facebook 10%. In addition, students need to be taught proper “Netiquette,” which means being strategic, personable and generous when making connections through LinkedIn.  If so, they will be well-served (and poised to serve others).

2. Complete an internship or 3. While completing an internship is obvious to many, I meet many students who admit they “never got around to it.” It belongs on the plate! What other things might they need to say no to, in order to get around to it? With whom can they make a connection at a company, so that they are referred rather than part of a huge gang of applicants?

3.  By graduation, have “at the ready” at least 3-5 accomplishments showing ways students have made an impact, showing quantifiable results. By graduation, resumes need to contain this information. LinkedIn profiles also need to showcase what students do well, and how they enjoy making an impact. Is their branding front and center on their LinkedIn profile?

4. Complete 25 informational interviews before graduation. Informational interviews are the perfect activity for gaining insight on multiple levels: About oneself as a job seeker, about a company, about career preferences, insights into industry trends,  a source for blog ideas, and most important, for discerning pain points that a job seeker may be able to leverage into a job or internship.

5. Volunteer in places that allowing job seekers to gain marketable skills they want to learn. At least by junior year, students can take on more leadership positions in volunteer organizations by taking on officer positions, and offering their talents. For example, if someone has writing or marketing skills, they can offer to create and manage a Facebook page for a non-profit, or a small business owner. Students can seek out opportunities to be of value and make a difference.

6. Learn how to target specific companies they’re interested in. Once they’ve targeted companies, they can then do research, and begin to connect to insiders within those companies, and set up informational interviews.

Many of the readers responding in the TIME thread above discussed how their “spray and pray” job hunt approach yielded nothing. From the lack of response to their resumes, they inferred the job market was dried up, or their major was a waste, rather than infer the approach itself was misguided. By helping arm students with the knowledge of how to target and research companies, they learn an invaluable skill they’ll use throughout their careers.

7. Begin and develop a side-gig that has the potential for monetization, something they enjoy doing in their spare time.  Kimberly Palmer’s The Economy of You: Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur and Recession-Proof Your Life, makes the case for learning to monetize  hobbies as a way to offset lower paying jobs, perhaps even replacing them. It is responsible stewardship to prepare students to be entrepreneurs. I envision a day, in fact, where an entrepreneurial class is mandatory for every student, every major, with the expectation that they leave college with a proven, independent means to earn money well underway.

Is the disappointment felt by “younotus”  inevitable, even with the “right” things on his plate? Maybe he has a blind spot that prevents him from taking actions that can propel him forward. I can only conjecture. My intention, with the solutions above, is to provide students with a solid foundation for their own career management. No job is permanent. When it’s time to leave a job, the best thing we can do is equip students with the skills and expertise they need to land a better one.

image: © /gnohz



Making Friends With the World

If you are a job seeker, the fastest way to land a job is to make friends with the world. Now before you dismiss this as some trendy, superficial activity akin to planking, consider these compelling facts (from Orville Pierson’s excellent The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search):

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© /file404

  • 25% of jobs are filled from a Candidate Pool. In this scenario, a hiring manager finds herself without an Analyst. She asks HR to fill the position by searching job boards. Hundreds of applicants apply, and the top six with the best resumes are selected from an unknown pool.
  • 5% of jobs are a Created Position. Here, the job is created for a specific person’s unique skills, or because she can solve a problem hitherto unnoticed, and she rose from the ashes to solve it.
  • 70% of jobs are filled with a Known Candidate. Here, the candidate was known by a referrer or company employee  prior to the job opening (via networking, LinkedIn, or informational interviews, to name a few).  When the opening came along, the referrer pulled out her Ace—the Known Candidate.

When I shared these statistics with a client today, the light bulb lit up over his head.  “So what you’re saying is, all these resumes I’m sending out are a waste of time.”

“Well, the odds are lower that you’ll be considered,” I said, “particularly before hiring authorities know you. Not always though. For 25% it’s not a waste.”

“Yeah, well I like 70% success over 25%,” he said. And for the first time, I saw him puff up like a cat ready to pounce on a squirrel.

Most job seekers I know who first launch their job search make the same misstep: They dust off their resume and work at creating that razzle-dazzle resume–all so they can become one of hundreds in a Candidate Pool.  Based on the statistics above, it’s better to pick up the phone instead.  It’s better to target companies where you’d love to work, to introduce yourself to people who work there, and arrange informal interviews.  (Don’t worry. This is much easier than it sounds–even for introverts. I have ways).

Why network rather than submit your resume? It’s more efficient.  As Pierson notes, it’s to your advantage to meet with people before a job is available.  That’s the “making friends with the world part.” And by making friends, I really mean it. When you meet new people, find that common ground. Really listen to what they like about their jobs, or find out what challenges they face at their jobs. What are they needing right now? Are they trying to connect with someone, and need an introduction? Be a friend.

Then, when a job does come available, they will think of you.

The benefits of making friends with the world far outlast the job you will land as a result of this practice.  The fact is, no job is permanent. By continuing to make friends and strong allies in your network long after you land the job, here’s the best news of all:  When it is time to find a new opportunity, it will be much easier next time. All you’ll have to do  is pick up the  phone.


Keep Pressing Buttons


Yesterday, while out for a walk with my son Luc, a Computer Engineering sophomore,  I shared my struggles learning WordPress. A linear thinker, Luc unravels technology challenges in the time it takes him to raise a curious eyebrow.  He said  “Mom.  I keep pressing buttons, then do research, press more buttons, until I solve the problem.”  The line struck me like a thunderbolt.  Here’s what I love about his approach, and how it applies to your job search:

1) Take baby steps ’til you figure it out. It’s tempting isn’t it, when faced with a challenge to say, “I don’t know what to do,” and then give up. Or else to say to yourself, “I’ve tried figuring it out, and it didn’t work the last time.”  Luc’s approach? Experiment. Fail. Experiment. Fail. Experiment. Succeed. You know the famous Edison quote: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Every successful job search requires pursuing 10,000 ways that won’t work. If you stay committed to providing value to your connections, you will eventually have an impact on a hiring authority, either directly or indirectly.

2) He has no judgment about the time it takes to figure out a solution. In my last job as the software trainer for our company, it took me months to understand the technology enough to teach it to others. My boss had faith in me though. I was frustrated with the time it took to understand its nuances, but Dave kept saying, “It takes as long as it takes. The harder you are on yourself, the longer it will take you. So ease up.”

For a job seeker this means eliminating the judgment when you fail to receive a job offer after an interview. It means moving right along when someone you call for an informational interview says, “You are not a priority.” (Yes. I actually had that happen a few weeks ago). It means continuing to reach out, make friends, introduce yourself, and as Seth Godin says, “Be remarkable . . . and touch people in a way they aren’t expecting.”

Finding a job that you love, that fits your best strengths, takes time and persistence. To put it in perspective: It just takes one offer. Millions have found jobs before you, and if you keep pressing buttons, so will you.


Celebrating Mistakes in Your Job Search



As I grow my business, I keep making mistakes.  I spend too much time trying to expand my network, and not enough time blogging, and crafting my presentations.  When I caught this imbalance, I regrouped, and gently pulled myself back into balance.

As a job seeker, mistakes are invaluable.  Instead of  browbeating yourself when you blow an interview–as in wow, I was way too long winded during that interview. What was I thinking??,  you can roll up your sleeves and fix the problem. I tell my clients, “Call me when you make a mistake, so we can make a toast to celebrate it. That mistake you made just shaved a day–a week,  a month, off of your job search.”

Why?  Because mistakes are valuable information.  If you don’t make them, if you don’t risk–you actually prolong your job search. During my last job search 7 years ago, I made one big mistake during the first three months of my search, and it cost me that job. I also only had one interview in those three months.  At the time, I was in the dark about how to land interviews.  When I finally got serious about my job search, I made lots of mistakes, but I also tripled the number of interviews each week. I knew I was doing something right.

Part of how I coach clients is to help them become mistake-friendly.  I encourage you to welcome them into your home like an uninvited guest, and receive the gifts they offer.