9 Lives for Women Blog

Job Search S.O.S. #1 | March 27th, 2012

One of the things that I want to do with this blog is give “case studies” of job searches women have underway, and provide advice and direction.  So here goes…

E.D. of Pennsylvania wrote this to me:

“I’m re-entering the corporate setting after being out for 11 years. I ‘ve spent the time running my own business as a Professional Organizer, volunteering and raising children.

I stopped doing professional organizing last summer to focus on looking for other employment. Now after months of looking on my own and recently with the help of recruiters, I feel no further in my search. A recruiter told me that companies frown upon hiring people whose administrative skills are not recent in the corporate setting. I’ve also been told that business entrepreneurs are challenging to HR people.  This really upset me because my skills are up to date for an administrative assistant.

My volunteering has been in Event Planning. That is what I really wanted to do when I got back into the corporate world. I have not found this job search easy either and have thought that I have a better shot landing an  admin job, since I’ve been doing this kind of work since age 15. I am now 40.

 …The problem is getting in the door. Years ago, I felt I could get any job I wanted. Now that I left the workforce to raise my family, I’m feeling like I’m not even in the running. I could really use some extra Vitamin C.”

Here’s my advice for E.D.:

I always say that finding a job is like raising children.  When you raise children there is so much conflicting parenting advice—and when you’re looking for a job it’s the same confusion.  So what  you do with children is listen to your gut and move ahead.   Now is another time to listen to your gut and focus on the information that appears most practical in this difficult job market.

You ran and created a professional organizing business while you were raising your children.  I say, big resume points for you and pop a big Vitamin C.  Lots of women don’t have the energy or initiative to run a business and raise children—so you should be commended.  Any employer that penalizes you for your entrepreneurial venture is an employer you just don’t want to pursue.  (I think, however, most will value your experience.)

I know many employers want to pluck candidates from Company A to Company B.  It’s the easiest sell for an HR manager to tell the hiring manager that a candidate has current, relevant experience at a competitor or another respected company.  They’re overwhelmed with resumes and they zero in on cookie cutter candidates.

You’re not the cookie cutter candidate, so you have to do an even better job of packaging your skills and experience—and describing your organizing business in real business terms. How many clients did you have?  Did your clients and revenues increase over a certain period?  What kind of projects did you manage?  Did you need to involve and manage other professionals to get the job done?  Which administrative skills/specialties did you hone?  Which of your administrative skills can be directly applied to an office setting?  What kind of recognition did you receive for your business?  You see where I am going here…

If you decide to go the Event Planning route, your administrative skills are still very important selling points.  You will still need to focus on your organizing business.  Any event requires a very skilled administrator and organizer.

Make sure that you describe your volunteer event planning work in business terms as well.  What was the budget for the event?  How many committees and volunteers did you manage?  Did you meet or exceed fundraising goals?  Were the final results better than the previous year?  Again, you see where I’m going…

The real issue that you have is not the type of work that you’ve been doing or where/when you’ve been doing it.  The real issue is that you need to redirect your job search and launch a very strategic networking effort.

After you wrote to me I asked you to

  1.  Describe your networking activity for me in detail, and
  2.  Tell me how you are finding open jobs.

You told me that you find open jobs through these avenues:

You told me that speaking to family, friends, fellow volunteers and past co-workers is your main form of networking.

I then asked you to tell me what percentage of your job search time you generally spend on:

  • searching for jobs on Internet job sites (50%)
  • networking among friends, family, current & former colleagues (40%)
  • talking to recruiters you know or finding other recruiters who may be able to help you (10%)

Here’s the root of your job search problem:  you are not networking far enough beyond your “inner circle” of friends, family and current/former colleagues.  Experts say that at least 80% of jobs are found through networking—and in this difficult economy it gets closer and closer to 100%.

Allocate 10% of your job search time to researching companies that interest you.  Only 5% of your time should be spent in what I call the Internet “black hole”.  People, not computers, will help you find a job.  A full 85% of your job search time should be spent networking well beyond your inner circle.

The biggest reason not to spend a lot of time on the job search sites that you have listed is that these job postings generate literally thousands of resumes.  It’s nearly impossible to distinguish yourself in that sea of resumes.  Recruiters can’t possibly read all the resumes that they receive.  It is not a practical job search tool—especially when so many people are unemployed.

It’s good that you don’t spend too much time talking to or finding recruiters.  Focus on a few recruiters who you know and trust and check in with them quarterly.  That’s it.  Right now most recruiting firms—especially the small ones—are not in the driver’s seat.  Most employers are primarily using their own recruiting staff and Linkedin to find candidates.  In this economy they are far less willing to pay placement fees.

I count Linkedin as very valuable networking time.  I see that you have a pretty good Linkedin profile, but you need more specific “skills” detail  and metrics to prove your capability and success.  You also have less than 100 connections.  This makes you look like a B Team networker and someone who does not have wide exposure in the business world.  Employers like to hire movers and shakers.   Spend more time making connections and networking your way to people who can help your job search.

One great networking resource that people often overlook is their college alumni association.  Your alma mater is a well-respected university that has thousands and thousands of alumni in your area.  Find out what resources the university offers to connect alumni.

And within your inner circle make sure that you have really thought about every category of your life where you meet and know people—children’s schools, clubs, book groups,  sports teams, religious affiliations, professionals like your attorney, accountant, etc.  When you have identified everyone to contact in each of your categories, then run through the same categories for your husband, your sister, your best friend, etc.

Your potential networking connections are endless. You have a good solid background and the fact that you have been out of the workforce should not stop you from getting a job.  Keep your confidence up.  Good luck!

  • Listen to job search advice from a variety of sources and then follow the path you believe is most practical.
  • Make sure that you detail the size and scope of your responsibilities and the metrics that prove your success.
  • Remember that finding a job is a full-time job.
  • Rely on people, not  computers to advance your job search.
  • Think of Linkedin as your best job search friend.
  • Spend at least 85% of your job search time networking as far beyond your inner circle as possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to the Work-Life Blend Newsletter