Networking

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.

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 juliebondyroberts@gmail.com. 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.