“Help … I Need a Job!” A 9-Step Guide For Newly Minted Job-Seekers
Several times each month, I receive random calls and emails with unsolicited résumés from job-seekers who say, in effect: “Can you help me find a job?” My response to those people is usually some variation of my often-repeated mantra: “Sorry, but recruiters don’t find jobs for people … they find people for jobs.” I then point them to this blog for further clarification: “The Real Truth About Working with Recruiters.” Still, I feel bad for those seemingly clueless job-seekers who apparently need some basic direction on how to conduct an effective job search campaign. Some are young, inexperienced job-seekers with minimal practical work experience. Others are in their prime working years, but have decided to try switching to a new career in which they have little or no experience. [For more on those types of situations, read “Advice for Recent Grads and Career-Changers.”] Still others are older, more senior level professionals who unexpectedly got caught up in the rampant layoffs during the economic downturn of the last few years and have suddenly found themselves totally unprepared for a job search so late in life. The toughest of those cases are the ones who have been working for one company for most of their lives, and haven’t needed to write a résumé or interview anywhere in decades. Having done their last job search during an era of fax machines, cold calls and door-to-door pavement pounding, those older job-seekers are often lost in the fast-paced modern world of mobile computing and social media.
Much of the information needed by anyone in order to organize and execute an effective modern job search has already been documented here in these Recruiter Musings archives. [For a list of all of those articles organized by topic, check out the Index found on the green navigation bar at the top of this page, and also on the side-bar to the right.] I thought it might be helpful to pull it all together into one big 9-Step Guide. Some of what follows is new information, and a lot of it is a re-hash where I’ll point towards prior blogs that need to be reviewed. If you are a newly minted job-seeker, this article can be a great starting point. For the more seasoned job-seekers, consider this a refresher! And, by all means, please feel free to email, re-post, re-blog or re-tweet this article to anyone you know who needs help getting started with a new job search. SO … here we go:
1) Soul Searching: Exactly What Are You Qualified For?
The job searching process starts with some soul-searching. What are you actually qualified for, based on your past work experiences? Exactly what type of job are you looking for? What is your industry niche? What is your particular area of expertise? What job function makes the most sense as a next step for you? Answering those basic questions is easy for some, and confusing and difficult for others. However, figuring those things out determines everything else that follows. Only you know what you are experienced at, and what you are truly qualified for. If you cannot answer those questions easily, then it may be time for some serious career counseling. Pursuing jobs that you are really not qualified for can be a huge waste of time for many people, including the people you might network with in that pursuit. You should also consider things like how far you’d be willing to commute every day, what size company you’d be comfortable in, etc. The more you can narrow down exactly what type of position you’d be most qualified for, and exactly what type of company you’d like to work at where such a job exists, the more effective your job search is likely to be. The key is to narrow your focus as specifically as possible.
2) Prepare an Effective Résumé.
If you ask 10 professional résumé-writers what a good résumé should look like, you’ll get 10 very different answers. There is no perfect one-size-fits-all formula for this. As a recruiter who reads and reviews résumés all day every day, my own STRONG personal preference is to see chronological résumés rather than so-called “functional” résumés. What I can tell you is that it is of the utmost importance that your résumé be a door-opener for you. An effective résumé should clearly explain who you are, what type of job you are seeking, and most importantly — why someone should hire you over someone else. That means not just simply describing your past responsibilities, but rather trumpeting your successes, quantifiable results and achievements in each of your prior positions. The main purpose for any résumé is to pique the interest of the reader … to have them want to learn more about you … to get you an interview! I highly suggest you read the following blog articles on this topic if you need help in this area:
► The Brutal Truth on How Résumés Get Eliminated
► The Résumé Test & Checklist: Does Yours Pass?
► Explaining Short Job Stints and Employment Gaps
► Beating the Résumé-Elimination Game: Where Do Recruiters’ Eyes Go?
3) Learn the Basics of the “T” Cover Letter.”
Job-seekers often ask whether or not it’s worthwhile including a cover letter with their résumé. It’s a question that many people struggle with. In my opinion there is only one format that is worth considering … it’s called the “T” Cover Letter. The blog article I wrote on that topic receives more hits on this site every week than almost all the other articles combined! It includes templates that you can download and modify to create your own “T” Cover Letters. Here’s the blog article you’ll need to read for help with this topic:
► The “T” Cover Letter – The Only Type Worth Sending
4) Develop a Target List of Companies.
Every job-seeker should have a target list of companies that are specific to their industry niche, and are likely to have jobs that fit their background and experience. Your goal should always be focused on getting in front of the people who are either decision-makers in those companies, or are directly connected to those decision-makers. If you don’t have such a list of target companies, stop everything else and make one!!!! This list is critical, and should be your road-map for moving forward on your job search. This takes some research. My advice is to use a professional business database like Dun & Bradstreet’s Million Dollar Database Premier or ReferenceUSA Business. Anyone with a public library card number can log into those databases from any home computer! (Ask your local librarian for help if you don’t know how to do this.) This gives you access to full information on millions of companies, including every business in the U.S. and the leading businesses in Canada. Use the advanced search mode to generate a list of companies that are the most likely to have jobs like the one you think you fit. To do that, put in search criteria that fit your profile. Company look-ups can contain multiple search criteria, including location by zip or area code, industry, size, products, number of employees, revenue, and specialty fields. Try using keywords specific to your niche. Keep narrowing the search criteria until you get the list to under 100 results. If this is your first search, I’d say to go even further and narrow it closer to 50. (You can always go back later and widen this list to get more targets if you exhaust your first list.) Print out the list and look it over carefully. You can probably eliminate quite a few companies based on things you already know – places that you’ve heard bad things about, places that you know are in financial trouble or any number of other personal red flags. Simply cross those places off the list. What’s left is your first target list!
5) Write and Practice Your “Elevator Pitch.”
Every job-seeker should know what an “Elevator Pitch” is. Put simply, it’s a short introductory speech designed to be given in the time span of an elevator ride – approximately 30 seconds to 2 minutes. It’s a standard tool in the world of sales, where people want to interest someone else in their product quickly, without sounding too pushy or intrusive. The fact is that a job-seeker IS a salesperson … and the product is YOU! [Read “Why Job Hunting is a Consultative Sales Position” for a more detailed explanation of this concept.] The basic idea is that you never know when or where you’ll run into someone who might be a prospect for you – a potential customer, a networking partner, a key contact or decision-maker at one of your target companies, or an actual potential employer. Being able to instantly deliver your Elevator Pitch to anyone, anywhere and at any time is something every job-seeker should be prepared to do. Read the following blog article if you need help creating an effective Elevator Pitch for yourself:
► Is Your Elevator Pitch Taking You UP or DOWN?
6) Become an Effective Networker.
Networking activities are considered by most job-seekers and staffing professionals to be the most likely to produce success in today’s ultra-challenging, highly competitive job market. 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. Read the following blog articles for details on how to network your way to a job using these five steps:
► Looking for Networking in All the Wrong Places
► How to Network: A Step-by-Step Guide for Job Searching
► Targeted Networking: How to Effectively Reach Out
► The Art of Giving: the Key to Effective Networking
7) Manage Your Time.
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? If you need help with how to organize your time to conduct an effective job-search, read the following blog article:
► Time Management: Recipe for a Well-Balanced Job Search
8) Brush Up On Your Interviewing Skills.
Scoring an actual interview with a company is often looked upon as the Holy Grail for job-seekers — second only to receiving and accepting an actual job offer! Interviews can be on the phone, in-person, on in many cases where the opportunity is in a remote location — on Skype. Being prepared for each of those types of interviews involves critical skills that need to be mastered. Don’t ever assume that you don’t need help in this area. In my many years of experience coaching candidates for interviews of all types, I’ve found that the people who don’t think they need help are the ones who do the poorest! I always get very nervous when I represent someone who says something like: “I’ve interviewed dozens of times — I don’t need coaching — I know how to handle myself!” After someone I represent finishes an interview with a company, and I do a de-brief with that candidate, I’ve noticed a very predictable pattern: When the candidate tells me something like: “That went great! The manager loved me! We really bonded! I expect an offer to be coming soon!” … more often than not, the feedback from the company is not so great, and that person rarely actually gets the job. On the other hand, when I hear things like: “I’m not sure how well I did. I couldn’t read the interviewer. I forgot to bring up a few things that I wanted to say. I don’t know if they liked me.” … those interviews usually went much better than the person thought, and the feedback from the interviewer is generally positive. Is it overconfidence that kills an interview? It’s hard to say. I can only stress that even the most experienced and savvy job-seekers can benefit from help and brushing up on interview skills. Read the following blog articles for help with interviews:
► Phone Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips
► Face-to-Face Interviews: Secrets, Tricks and Tips
► Skype Interview Tips … Welcome to the Future!
► Nuggets: A Secret Interviewing Technique
► Answering the Dreaded Salary Question
► 20 Surefire Ways to Blow an Interview
► “So, Do You Have Any Questions?” Nailing the Interview Closer
► Cool InfoGraphic: “What You Wish You’d Known Before Your Job Interview
9) Follow Up and Stay Organized.
Staying in touch with the key people you talk with and/or meet with is a critical component of any job search campaign. As you keep reaching out to and meeting with more and more targets and decision-makers (or people who can refer you to those targets and decision-makers) your network will grow larger and larger. And it will be made up of key people in your industry who all tend to know each other and are “well-connected.” The longer you’re at this and the longer your list of network contacts becomes, the more important it will be to stay organized and avoid getting confused about who you met when, and who you need to follow up with. You should keep careful records on everyone you talk or meet with from your target list, and devise a system you are comfortable with that allows you to remain in touch on a regular basis. You’ll need to set yourself reminders (perhaps on your calendar) to not forget to follow-up regularly with each and every networking contact you connect with on your target list. There’s nothing more disappointing than having a great networking meeting that lacks any follow-up. It’s kind of like having a first date where you think you really clicked with the other person, but then you never hear from them again! The onus is all on you here – don’t drop the ball. If you want your targets to remember and help you, you must make the effort to stay in touch! Read the following blog article for more on why follow-up is so important:
► Following Up: An Essential Key to Success.
Final Thoughts: Attitude is Everything!
I’ve coached thousands of job-seekers during my many years as a recruiter. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the entire process that holds true for almost every industry and every position, it’s this: the number one most important factor that determines who gets hired and who doesn’t is NOT who is best qualified, who has the most experience or skills, or who has the best résumé. It’s attitude! People hire other people that they like, and want to be around. Real enthusiasm for a position or a company, true passion for your work, a sense of humor, and a genuine projection of positivism and optimism are the qualities that make a person attractive to others. It’s nearly impossible to fake those qualities. There’s no question about it: job-seeking can be a real drag, and certainly has the potential to grind a person down. Don’t give in to negativism. Stay upbeat and positive, and keep the faith. Everything described in this 9-Step Guide actually does work, and good things can happen to people who project positive energy!