job search

The Summer Rant

I hear it multiple times every year from clients and students, at both the beginning of the summer, and at Thanksgiving. 

“What’s the point of continuing my transition process?  Everyone’s on vacation, not much is going on, so I think I’ll take the time off myself and reconvene in September (or January).”

Big mistake.  Aside from the fact that both August and January tend to be high volume hiring months, abandoning a search leaves the field to your competition.  Just because some businesses slow up during holiday/vacation times, doesn’t mean that building relationships stops. 

Your competition will be lying on the beach on the Vineyard, visualizing their energetic return to action in September.  By the way, September is frequently a tougher time to get things going.  Not to mention the loss of momentum involved, which makes things even more emotionally draining than job search usually is.  I’m not suggesting that taking a break during a search is a bad thing – it’s actually a great idea – but to lose a whole season when everyone else is taking time off is not smart. 

As a matter of fact, reaching people you want to meet might be easier than usual.  Things do slow up, but there’s a good likelihood it could work to your advantage. 

Yes, some organizations do get slow during December or late August, especially in financial services, but does that mean companies are closed?  Of course not.  Someone is keeping the place open, right?  There is some business going on.  And there will be, therefore, valuable contacts to be made.

It’s also easier to get people to spend some time with you at these times; the overall pace is usually slower.  Many would rather talk with you than work!  And talking leads to business relationships, which leads to effective networking, which…

Just in case your relationship-building does slow down a bit during these times, it is also a perfect time to do your basic research, stay knowledgeable in your field, utilize the somewhat empty business libraries (in New York City, for example, SIBL), re-think your e-mail writing campaign, organize your resources and records, and get a lot done.  We’re now in the period following Memorial Day.  It’s time to step it up. 

SURROUNDING THE POSTING – Making the Low-Odds Technique Work More Effectively

As mentioned in many of my books, articles, and blogs, and in those of many others
in my profession, answering postings is not a very successful technique for career
transition - less than 10% market penetration. This statistic is even lower when
minor or major career changes are involved. I hope most job seekers learn this
quickly, and use their search time more efficiently.

There is, however, a method of making a job posting lead to improved opportunities
for interviews.

I was reminded of this the other day, when a client was discussing his search, which
had largely consisted of answering postings. Yet, something was different with his
approach. I was all set to go into my rant about not depending on online postings as
a primary source for job opportunities, when it became clear that he instinctively
understood that just answering wasn’t enough; he wanted to “surround” the
posting.

In other words, he should fully investigate the possibility of knowing, or getting to
know, someone in the organization. If he could find someone, he would contact that
person the same way one would contact anyone for an informational interview. A
method of finding that person (or persons!) could be research instruments that
would disclose personnel information (websites, data collections like Hoover’s or
Factiva) or investigating on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn, of course, is a valuable tool for finding the right people. Try to find
someone whose role is connected, in some way, to the role posted. Write a
personalized invitation, even if you have Premium service, saying that you see that
the two of you have things in common, like ________ and ________, and you’d welcome
the opportunity to be part of her network. Chances are good that you’ll get a
positive response, which is your opportunity to write a standard approach email for
an informational/due diligence/market research meeting. As usual, you’d prefer in
person, but if not possible, Skype or phone will do.

At the meeting, treat it as a standard networking meeting, without, of course, ever
saying the word “networking.” Mention towards the end that you have applied for a
position posted at that organization, and are curious if she knows anything about
the area. She’ll get the point. Don’t ask for a direct introduction; if you’ve made
your credential apparent through your excellent opening pitch, she’ll possibly offer
some advice or information, or maybe, if you’re lucky, even an introduction for an
exploratory conversation. The very least you’d hope for is some insight into the
organization and/or position. The best? The direct introduction.

That’s “surrounding” the posting. Answering the posting is only an initial step.
Doing more than that might help a low-odds job search approach become a more
successful one.

Career Transition Mythology - Part Two

The more I think about it, the more career transition myths I come up with, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll keep it to ten – for now. Here are five more to add to the previous list:

1) The myth: If you have a terrific interview, with instantaneous great feedback, the odds are good that you’ll get an offer.

The reality: Think of the interview as just the first part of a process.  What happens after the interview is almost as important as the interview itself.  

A follow-up email is imperative, within 24 hours. It’s not a matter of etiquette. It’s about marketing, and about solidifying the points you made on the interview. You want to reiterate why you think the position is a great fit (“fit” being one of my favorite job search words). You may want to add something that you may have not had the opportunity to include in the interview. You know how you sometimes leave an interview and all of a sudden realize that you left out a critical element? The follow-up email is the opportunity to fix that.  

Keep the email short and business-like, with short paragraphs, or perhaps bullet points. Make it easy to scan, like all business communications. Reiterate your interest in the position.  

Another follow-up element is staying in touch. Never let more than five to ten business days elapse without some sort of contact. It should be a low-key voicemail or email, just “checking in” on the status of your candidacy. Maybe if the process drags out (more common than not), you offer to come in again to make their process easier. Maybe that sounds a bit presumptuous, but I think it’s a “why not?” if the process is lagging. Nothing to lose!  

2)The myth: Spending a couple of hours a day calling contacts and answering postings should just about do it for allocating time to any job search.

The reality: Time management and prioritization are critical elements of a successful career transition. For the unemployed, it’s a full-time job. Research, building and maintaining a contact database, maintaining accurate records of all activities, reaching out, and aiming for as many as five live meetings a week should create an extremely busy schedule. A truly proactive search is time-consuming.    

For employed people, it’s tougher. I highly recommend a quota system for those on a search, i.e., a certain amount of dedicated time per day. Even if it’s just 15 minutes of reading about a targeted area, that’s part of the process. The key is to maintain momentum by aiming for some time every day, whether it’s reading or making a phone call, or trying to get one live meeting per week.

3) The myth: “Networking” means calling everyone you know, and asking for job leads and new contacts.  

The reality: Real networking is a process.  It’s not a quick introduction, or one meeting. As with sophisticated sales technique, it’s cultivating relationships – over a period of time. It’s also more subtle than just asking friends for leads. Another label for the concept is “indirect marketing.”  

Each meeting should have three objectives, which is a good way to measure its effectiveness. 

  • First, the relationship itself is key; so is maintaining it after the initial contact.  
  • Second, the meeting should be structured around prepared questions that both reflect your knowledge of the industry, and the self-marketing questions you wanted to ask in the first place. 
  • Third, what you may have thought the whole thing was about, a chance to expand your network by asking if there’s a possibility of referrals to others who might be helpful.  

4) The myth: A great 15-second “elevator pitch” is critical to your success in any career transition.

The reality: The very idea of a 15-second pitch strikes me as ridiculous.  Yes, it might be appropriate for that elevator, but who wants to be pitched on an elevator? It also might work well at a social or professional gathering, since you don’t want to corner anyone with a full pitch. Your objective there, after all, is just to get some business cards for future reaching out.

A pitch is a 1 ½ - 2-minute summary of who you are, what your skills and experience have been, something memorable that makes you different from others, a one-sentence job history, and a summary of all of it to cement what you’ve already stated. 

A great pitch is one of the hardest aspects in transition and one of the more critical. It’s not only imperative for the “tell me about yourself” question on an interview, but it’s also a great introduction in a networking meeting, a way of establishing yourself on a new job, a good outline for scripting your approach and follow-up emails. In other words, it’s your brand, and you want to use it as the cornerstone of your transition.

5) The myth: Cast a wide net in your search. Apply for everything. Talk with everyone. The numbers are bound to work in your favor.

The reality: Designating clearly defined targets (Plan A, Plan B, and maybe even Plan C) is the critical first phase of any transition. It’s not necessarily what’s available out there; it’s what you want, and what is feasible.  

After figuring out what the possible targets will be, it’s important to then research what their markets are. If it’s a target which may have only two or three organizations that might hire into those positions, it’s not a great statistical target – unless the other(s) have more possibilities. Overall, you want a high probability of success, contingent on a large number of possible options in the target.  

An unfocused search might work, just by sheer randomness – but not that often. A targeted search will work faster and better, assuming you’ve performed a basic due diligence on the feasibility of those targets first.  

Here’s a good philosophy to stick to: The best work situation is one where someone in career transition looks for what fits his/her life, rather than fitting the life to the career. This will add to the necessary focus.  

Avoiding these myths will help keep any career transition on track.  

Ellis

For a quick course on networking, pick up my Ebook, Networking: How to Make the Connections You Need

If you're looking for more in-depth advice on your job search, In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies that Work is available in paperback and Ebook.