Top 10 Most Helpful Things for Job-Seekers
December 11, 2009 at 12:05 am
[Updated, December 2013 ...]
Recently I allowed myself to vent when I published my list of “Top 10 Most Annoying Things for Job-Seekers.” I’m usually a much more positive and optimistic “glass half full” kind of person, so I made the promise to return to a more uplifting tone in future blog postings. The most obvious way I could think of to do that is to flip around that last list and to publish my list of “Top 10 Most Helpful Things for Job-Seekers!”
Now I realize that being unemployed is, by its very nature, an unpleasant state – to say the least! However, there are obviously many things that can be of great help to a job-seeker. Some of them are relatively new and innovative tools and technologies, and others are tried and true things that have been around seemingly forever. Once again, I’m sure I’m missing some important things here … but without further adieu, here’s my list in no particular order …
TOP 10 MOST HELPFUL THINGS FOR JOB-SEEKERS:
10. The Internet (Free Info, Job Search Resources, Company Websites, etc.)
It’s so easy to forget how relatively new the internet is. (The internet was still in its infancy as recently as the 1990’s.) Today, the amount of information that is free and available at the touch of a button is mind boggling! Resources for job-seekers that would have taken weeks or months and a lot of legwork to track down in the past are now right there on your screen at home! Job postings, résumé writing help, interviewing tips, detailed information about companies and the people who work there, salary surveys, career advice, relevant blogs … the list is seemingly endless and truly remarkable.
9. LinkedIn and other Social Media Networking Sites
While technically a subset of #10, the recent mainstream popularity of online Social Networking Sites – and in particular the more business-oriented LinkedIn – has radically changed the way jobs-seekers connect with potential employers, recruiters find candidates, and companies search for and uncover details about potential employees. Creating an effective online profile on LinkedIn is one of the most important things a job-seeker can do right now. It has certainly revolutionized the methodology of networking as a job-seeking activity. And it’s hard to believe that it’s still free! In addition to LinkedIn, there are dozens of other lesser-known Social Networking sites that are also changing the way business gets done and people communicate in the “Web 2.0″ age. To see an extensive list of nearly 300 Social Media sites, just click on the “Share” button to the right of this blog, on the side-bar.
8. Public Library Database Access
This one never ceases to amaze me … and so many people are still unaware of it. Almost every public library now provides free online access to dozens of professional business databases like Dun & Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Database Premier, ReferenceUSA Business, and many others. This gives you access to full information on millions of companies, including every business in the U.S. and the leading businesses in Canada. You can research companies for job searches, lead generation, marketing and simple company look-ups using multiple search criteria, including geography, industry, size, and specialty fields. Information includes contact information, decision-maker names, executive biographies, and more. Staffing Firms use to pay thousands of dollars to get access to these resources. Now anyone can log into these databases from any home computer with nothing more than a public library card number! Ask your local librarian for help if you don’t know how to do this. It’s your tax dollars at work!
The use of email is possibly the most significant change in the way people in the business world communicate with each other over the last 15-20 years. Most professionals respond much more favorably to an email approach than a cold phone call. Executives, company representatives, HR people and hiring managers rarely answer their phones anymore. Emails are much more likely to get through to the person you are trying to reach if it is targeted properly, and written well. That certainly doesn’t guarantee a response … and I am certainly not suggesting that email communication should replace phone calls or in-person meetings. In the end, direct live communication with actual people is the ONLY way business gets done, decisions get made, and people get hired. However, a well-written email can still be the most effective way to get your “foot in the door” – and it’s free and easy!
6. Cell Phones
We all tend to take cell phones for granted these days, and it’s so easy to forget how recent it is that we’ve become so dependent on them! All you have to do is watch reruns of popular TV sitcoms from just a few years ago on TV Land or Nick at Nite to be reminded of how relatively new they are. (Remember “Car Phones?” How about Public Phone Booths?!) The pervasiveness of simple cell phones has totally changed the way business gets done in today’s fast-paced and mobile world. It really wasn’t that long ago that we were all tethered to our desk phones at work, or our home phones. If you got a call back from a prospect that you left a message for, and you happened to not be by your phone – you were out of luck! Now, our phones follow us everywhere … and it’s rare for a person who is expecting a call to miss it due to being away. And, of course, those people who are lucky (and affluent) enough to have a “smart phone” (iPhone, Droid, etc.) can combine all of the above mentioned things (#10 through #6) — literally half of this entire list — in one device held in the palm of their hands! It’s starting to look like Star Trek had it right!
Losing your job is a huge problem … but losing your employer-related health insurance can be much worse. In fact, it can be a matter of life and death! In 1986, congress passed the “Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act” (COBRA) which entitles anyone who was involuntarily terminated from a job at a company with at least 20 employees or more to extend their company’s group Health Insurance Benefits for a period of up to 18 months. Of course, anyone using COBRA must pay the full cost of those benefits. Extending your former employer’s group health insurance coverage at full cost with COBRA can be prohibitively expensive for many people. However, in most cases that cost would be even higher if you tried to get the equivalent coverage with private health insurance — although with the advent of the new Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) that may or may not change. The jury is still out on that one! [For more detailed information on COBRA, go to this website from the Department of Labor: "FAQs for Employees About COBRA Continuation Health Coverage."]
4. Job-Seeker Networking Groups
Not to be confused with those mass “Networking Events” held at hotels or bars when everyone mills around trading business cards, Job-Seeker Networking Groups (sometimes called “Job Clubs”) are popping up all over the country. They range from small, industry-specific groups to larger community-based groups. Often meeting in churches or community centers, these groups are almost all free and offer all sorts of advice and help, résumé reviews, interview tips, guest speakers, private websites with job leads and discussions, and best of all – support from your peers! It’s an excellent way for job-seekers to navigate through the often confusing steps needed to conduct an effective search, and it’s also a great way to meet helpful and supportive people – many of whom are in the same boat as you. [As a starting point, check out his state-by-state list of job-seeker support groups: "Directory of Networking and Job Search Support Groups by State."]
3. Industry Associations
My advice to job-seekers has always been to focus on a target list of companies, and to try to limit networking activities to meeting with people specific to their industry niche who can connect them with actual decision-makers in their target companies. [See “Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places.”] Joining an Industry Association that is specific to your particular specialty niche is one of the best ways to meet such people. There are often regular local chapter meetings featuring guest speakers on topics of interest to that industry. There is almost always a time at those meetings to mingle and “network.” Membership fees can sometimes be quite costly … but I’ve found that many of those professional associations will either greatly reduce or even totally waive the membership fees for people who are “in transition” (there’s that lovely euphemism again!) If you don’t see a reduced fee advertised on their website, it never hurts to contact someone in their membership area and simply ask!
2. Networking Connections
This is the lifeblood of modern job searching in today’s challenging market. [Read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching” for details on how to network your way to a job.] The main goal of every job-seeker should be to cultivate and maintain a strong network of industry-specific people who are in positions to help you. They can give you very targeted advice, alert you to opportunities in your specific niche industry, and they can introduce you to other key people to expand your own network with. I’ve found my networking contacts to be incredibly helpful and supportive. I often get emails or calls with tips on positions at other companies that have not been advertised or posted anywhere. I’ve also received numerous high-level referrals to other decision-makers through my networking contacts. These people are gold … staying in touch with them is critical. And make sure you give back as much as possible – networking should always be a 2-way street! [See “The Art of Giving: the Key to Effective Networking.”]
1. Support from Family and Friends
Never underestimate the power of a strong network of family and friends. Staying positive through a period of unemployment can be extremely challenging. Having the support of your spouse or significant other, parents, children, siblings, friends, and community members is huge, and will go a long way toward keeping that positive energy necessary to succeed. [See “The Power of a Positive Attitude.”] They may not be able to provide you with useful job leads or referrals … but they can give you something even harder to find: friendship, unconditional love and support!
Entry filed under: Advice for Job Seekers. Tags: COBRA, job-seekers, LinkedIn, networking, Top 10, unemployment.