Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search
It is often said that looking for a job is itself a full-time job. As it is with any job, your days should be planned out, and your valuable time used efficiently to achieve your professional goals. Many job-seekers struggle with this concept. Exactly how should they spend their time? Which activities should be given priority, and which ones minimized?
Almost everyone has heard of the Food Pyramid, which describes the various components of a healthy well-balanced diet. Well, just as it is with food and proper nutrition, an effective job search should consist of several distinct components – each with its own recommended percentage in proportion to the whole – designed to make up a healthy well-balanced job search. So below is a special variation on the familiar pyramid we all grew up with, which includes these four job-seeking components:
1) Networking Activities
2) Responding to Online Job Postings
3) Working with Recruiters
4) Contacting Companies Directly
THE JOB-SEEKING PYRAMID:
The percentages shown on this pyramid are merely averages, intended as a recommended guide. They can be adjusted plus or minus 5% according to your own working style or preference. Let me break these four components down in detail, from bottom to top:
Networking activities are considered by most job-seekers to be the most likely to produce success in today’s ultra-challenging, highly competitive job market. That’s why networking is weighted so heavily in this pyramid, and it should be what takes up the majority of your time. Done properly, it is a complicated process which must be viewed as a long-term strategy. As such, it can also be very time consuming. Patience and consistency are the keys. While it may not produce quick results, it will position you well for long-term success. Spending time on networking activities means engaging in, and constantly re-visiting all five steps in the networking process: Those are: 1) Building Your Target Company List; 2) Identifying the Key People in Your Target Companies; 3) Reaching Out to Your Targeted People; 4) Talking / Meeting With Your Targets; and 5) Following-Up and Staying in Touch With Your Network. [For details on how to network your way to a job using these five steps, read “How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching.”]
Answering Job Postings (10%):
Too many job-seekers spend the majority of their precious time searching for and responding to internet job postings. The truth is that this is one of the least productive uses of your time, and has an extremely low success rate. Online job boards are merely an updated version of the old classified ads in the newspaper, which are even less likely to get you anywhere in today’s internet-centric world. Most online submissions go totally unanswered. Those résumés, cover letters and applications that you’ve labored over usually go into the proverbial “Black Hole of HR.” That’s why savvy job searchers do not rely on simply applying to online job postings, but rather spend most of their time networking, finding ways to go around HR, and talking with actual decision-makers at their target companies. Oh sure, every once in a while responding to an online job posting scores someone an interview, or in some cases even an actual job. It does happen … albeit infrequently. So I’m not suggesting that you totally ignore this method of job searching. Simply limit the time you spend on it to around 10%.
Working with Recruiters (10%):
Recruiters can be a great resource … but the vast majority of job-seekers today will NOT find their next job through a recruiter. The best strategy here is to simply try to get on the radar of a recruiter who specializes in your industry niche, and then stay in touch with that person. Meet or talk with them at least once, and make them aware of your qualifications and job-seeking status. Then periodically check their agency’s job listings, and if you see a job that exactly fits your background – then and only then re-contact that recruiter and alert them to your match for the job they are already working on. [Read “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters” for more on how to best use recruiters.]
Contacting Companies Directly (5%):
Sending your unsolicited résumé and cover letter to companies where you have no networking contacts, and there is no job being advertised is a very “old school” way of job searching. It is extremely unlikely to produce results in today’s challenging, candidate-flooded job market. It is the job-seeking equivalent of a salesperson’s “cold call.” There are certainly better ways to spend your time! Of course, there are occasional exceptions to this from people who beat the odds. I recently heard a story of someone who wrote a letter directly to the president of a company he was targeting expressing his interest … and he actually received a response back from that president asking him to call him. Again, I’m not saying that you should never do this – just minimize the time you spend on it to 5% or less.
SO – the overall message here should be very clear. Use this Job-Seeking Pyramid to plan your time efficiently. By all means, use a multi-pronged approach … however, concentrate on those activities that are proven to be the most likely to produce results (i.e. networking!) and minimize the activities that are less likely to be successful. Make sure you are maintaining a healthy, well-balanced job search. Stay positive, and keep plugging away!