Ten Words That Will Power Your Job Search

What if I told you that with just ten words you can dramatically alter the success of your job search? Would you believe me? It’s true! These may be my ten favorite words in the whole world. Some are okay all on their own, while others work best in groups. Is your curiosity piqued?

Here we go …

The first three are Please and Thank You. Your mother told you about these when you were about 3 years old, but I am continually astounded at how they’ve been forgotten. It is much more common today to ask for something, without saying please and almost as rare not to heat thank you.

The next three are You Are Welcome. I think soon literary researchers are going to have to comb the archives to find uses of you’re welcome. What passes for “you’re welcome” is likely to be “sure”, “no problem”, “no biggie”, or nothing at all. This one pains me the most. When someone takes the time to show their appreciation for your help, don’t minimize their appreciation with a grunt or “sure”. Say it – “You are welcome.” That way they know that you heard and accepted their gratitude. You closed the loop – you helped them – they thanked you – and you acknowledged that thanks.

Finally, the big four of job search – Can You Help Me?   These four words will open doors like no other phrase. People are inherently good and will help – IF YOU ASK. If you don’t ask, they don’t know you need help and they have other things to do. If you speak those four words people will stop, look you in the eye and say “sure, what do you need.” Stick a “please” in there and wow, what a powerful combination. Follow that with a thank you and you have seven of ten – that’s one powerful exchange.

To borrow a line from Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, “I have always relied on the kindness of strangers.” That is the essence of networking – politely asking strangers for help, getting that help, and saying thank you. Then when someone thanks you, telling them they are welcome.

Try using these 10 words multiple times throughout the day, and see how much more effective your job search can become.

Talk to Yourself

Many years ago I attended a two-day “Train the Trainer” workshop. You may not be planning on becoming at trainer, but this experience also made me better at job interviews.

I conduct a lot of training but I don’t like to be called a “trainer”. Those people are too out-there for me – too extroverted – too theatrical. I’m an engineer at-heart so many of training techniques just seemed really odd and uncomfortable to me.

One of the assignments in that workshop was to prepare and present a 5-minute training session. One step in our preparation was to practice that training session out loud. I remember thinking Out Loud? Are these people crazy? Do they really want me to sit here, surrounded by other participants, and talk to myself?

The answer was yes and later that day the room was flooded with sound as fifty or more people talked to themselves – ignoring everyone else in the room. Some stood, some talked to the wall, some closed their eyes, but they talked.

I was blown away. Partially because I learned there that a good trainer can get the participants to do just about anything, but more because it worked – at least for me. I was used to practicing my training in my head. I would look at my PowerPoint slides and think about what I would say for each one, and it worked, kind of. What I learned at that session was that talking to myself paid off.

In earlier posts I advised you to have an “Elevator Speech” – a 30-second summary of who you are and what you are looking for. I also advise that you find lists of common interview questions and write out the answers to those questions. Both of these exercises start with writing, but should be followed with talking to yourself.

When you practice your material aloud, several things happen. You get a sense of pace and timing. What you thought would be a two minute response may turn out to be twenty seconds or five minutes long. You’ll find word combinations that are hard to say (so you can find easier words). By hearing the material you’ll better understand if you’re making sense.

Maybe most importantly, speaking engages a different part of your brain. The process of seeing the word on the paper and then translating that to speech will help you retain them. Repeating that process several times will make you more comfortable with the material. Soon you are able to give that elevator speech, or answer those questions easily and comfortably. When that happens, the interviewer sees the real you, not the nervous you, or the I’m-not-sure-what-to-say you.

Talk to yourself and don’t pay any attention to those funny looks you get from others. I will caution you though, this may not be the best technique to practice in public. 🙂


Do I Have to Network?

There are people that just are not comfortable with the idea of networking. Maybe they are shy, insecure or just don’t like meeting new people. I get that. I’m not one for glad handing myself. But at the end of the day, networking is how people find jobs.

Here’s a true story. When I was about to graduate college I wrote letters to the major banks in my hometown looking for a job. I was extremely fortunate that my letter hit HR right when one bank was starting a new department and was looking for new college graduates with my skill set. It was a fluke, but it got my career started.

That job ended three years later when that bank was sold and my department was eliminated – my first RIF. Since then I’ve been RIFed (or whatever you choose to call it) five more times. I’ve been on the wrong side of mergers, acquisitions, downsizings, restructurings, etc. During the intervening periods between jobs I’ve been out of work for periods ranging from two weeks to 13 months. Once I ran my own consulting company for about two years.

I’ve also quit two jobs – once when I got a call from a head hunter with an opportunity too good to pass up and once to take the job I have now. So that means that I’ve been hired nine times. For eight of those nine (excluding the fluke at the bank) I have networked to find the job. I met someone who knew someone who referred me to someone else who was hiring. I was never hired by a friend or a relative. Every hiring process was competitive and all of the jobs were advertised. But for all of them, I learned of the job (and often they learned of me) through networking.

During that same period of time I’ve also applied for lots of jobs that I’ve seen advertised. I’ve had lots of first interviews and I’ve been a finalist probably a dozen times, but I have never been hired for a job that I simply applied for. Maybe that says something about my inability to close a deal, but I’d rather not think that way.

I believe that things tend to work out the way they are supposed to. People find the jobs they need – and that need them. It takes patience, hard work, self-confidence and being honest with yourself about who you are and what you want to do. But using me as an experience as an example, if you don’t network, you don’t work.

Now, let’s get out there and knock on some doors.