If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to “find a new job”, your gusto for the task may be waning as the weeks progress. It’s definitely not easy to find a new job–whether you’re currently working, scrambling for a job after a layoff or returning to the workforce after many years. But it also does not need to be so hard. Many people prolong a job search unnecessarily through haphazard, less than strategic efforts. Here’s how to build job search confidence:
- KNOW THAT YOU’VE GOT THE POWER. The economy, current hiring trends, the ups and downs of your industry, your location, your age, the number of months or years you’ve been out or the machinations of any other ambiguous “powers that be” do not determine if you will find a job. The possibility of success is in your hands.
- DON’T GET LOST IN GENERALIZATIONS. A negative response from a few companies does not mean that “nobody is hiring anyone with your skill set”. Unless you’ve spoken to hundreds and hundreds of people, you can’t make sweeping statements about your prospects for a job. Companies of every shape and size can use your skills—and each company has different budgets, talent gaps and philosophies about hiring. Keep looking…you’ll find your niche.
- STOP THINKING YOU’RE “UNEMPLOYED”, BECAUSE IN REALITY YOU NOW HAVE A FULL-TIME SALES JOB. Finding a job isn’t something that you do for an hour here and an hour there. If you’re unemployed, you find ways to sell your expertise with the tenacity, thick skin and “never say die” relentlessness of a hard-driving sales pro. When you consider it a sales job to find a job, it takes on a much more professional level of action and results.
- KNOW THAT A LOT CAN BE DONE BEFORE 9 AND AFTER 5. If you’re employed and looking for a new job, there’s plenty you can do outside normal business hours. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you have no time to search because you’re too busy with your current job. For research and communication via email and social media you could eke out the equivalent of at least two full work days through job search hours you log on weeknights and on weekends.
- HIGHTAIL IT OUT OF “THE BLACK HOLE”. Most job seekers spend hours trolling job boards and sending their resumes into the very dark oblivion. Yet only 15% of jobs are found via the internet! Most people land jobs through people, not computers. In the job search, it’s not really a “numbers game”. When you launch a more strategic search through a wide network of connections, you’ll get some real traction.
- DON’T MISCOUNT YOUR NETWORKING CONNECTIONS! Sure, it’s great to get an “in” through someone you know well, but these very personal connections are usually few and far between. In this digital age, casual connections (those you meet through networking or through social media) can be very powerful, too.
- MEET ALL YOUR NEW FRIENDS ON LINKEDIN. You can generate endless networking connections via Linkedin—and most people are willing to help you in small or even major ways. You could spend entire days on this one valuable site productively researching companies and networking contacts. Not every connection is going to lead to a job, but even little bits of information or the willingness to give you the name of a key company contact can send you off in a positive direction.
- MAKE SURE YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE WILL CATCH THE EYE OF RECRUITERS. For the savvy job seeker, Linkedin is most definitely the place to be. Except for very specialized jobs or those at the very senior level, companies are outsourcing much less to outside recruiting firms that charge big placement fees. Internal company recruiters are trolling Linkedin for candidates—and with a complete, robust and strategically written profile you could very well be at the receiving end of recruiter calls.
- DUST OFF YOUR SCHOOL DIPLOMAS. You probably haven’t exercised your membership lately, but your high school, college and graduate school alumni associations are lifelong clubs. Find key connections on Linkedin who share the same alma mater—and you’re likely to get a very positive response. Most people are drawn to help those who have things in common—the same college, hometown, club affiliations, etc. Contact career services and alumni offices to find out about their online networking resources and job search services geared to alums.
- NOTICE THE WORD “WORK” IN NETWORKING. Standing in a room with a crowd of people at a “networking” event is catch-is-as-catch-can networking. There are only so many people you can meet in an hour—and no one is wearing a name tag that explains how they can help you. Keep in-person networking events to a strategic minimum and instead carefully target connections through a lot of research that pinpoints who will most likely will be able to provide the help you need. And be as specific as possible about that help you need–it’s hard for people to respond to requests for general help, for example, “in the marketing field”.
- ON’T WORRY ABOUT A NETWORKING BUDGET. You don’t have to break the bank inviting connections out for lunch or coffee. Some of your personal connections might invite you to their offices as a nice gesture. Even a few casual connections might suggest a coffee shop chat. But generally speaking, you can get a lot of information gathering and overall networking done via email—the busy professional’s communication vehicle of choice.
- KEEP RIDING THAT ELEVATOR SPEECH UP AND DOWN. When you can clearly articulate skills and your strong fit for a job, you’re a real candidate. Even at more senior levels a surprising number of job seekers don’t have a value proposition they can slide off their tongues. Zero in on your key skills (your unique set of hard core talents—like writing or negotiating) and forget about the attributes (the nice things employers expect ALL employees to be—like a team player and organized). And match up your skills and experience—line by line—with the requirements of the job.
- MOVE CONFIDENTLY OUT OF YOUR CAREER BOX. You can transfer skills from one industry to another if you truly understand the new industry. Many skills can be applied to many industries, but you can’t expect to just walk right in a new door. Changing industries requires research and networking to see exactly how your skills are used and how your specific experience—and fresh perspectives–can add value.
- CHOOSE YOUR ADVOCATES WISELY. Your references can be the deciding vote. A supportive, persuasive—and well-informed—reference can get you to the top of the candidate list. Be sure to have a conversation with your references about how your skills and experience line up with the responsibilities and requirements of the job so that they can tailor recommendations they deliver by phone, in writing or on Linkedin. They will add their own insights about you—but they can’t do that without some context from you first.
- PROPEL YOUR SEARCH THROUGH APPRECIATION. Thank you notes (written via email, not necessarily by hand) give you a chance to “give back” to connections. In your note, for example, point out an interesting article or book or return a job search favor by offering to introduce your new connection to someone they’d like to know in your circles. Job search networking is a web of interconnected people. The more you acknowledge and show your gratitude for help, the more goodwill you spread—and the more opportunities you have to reinforce your reputation and strengths. —KAS
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