But Do I Have To?

I talked to a guy last week who had recently lost his job and was struggling with finding a new one. His former company had provided him some outplacement assistance, but he told me, “All they want me to do is this networking stuff and talk to all these people that I don’t know. I don’t really want to do that, do I have to?”

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that of course my answer was “No, you don’t have to do that. It’s hard, and I know you don’t want to do it. You don’t have to. I’m sure that if you put ‘new job’ on your Christmas list that Santa will hook you up. Plus, if you expand your financial investment strategy via playing the lottery, that will easily provide enough income for your to live on. And didn’t your parents just finish off their basement?  I’m sure they won’t mind if you sleep on the couch for awhile.”

Okay, I recognize that sarcasm may not be an effective communication tool. My apologies.

The real answer is; if you want access to the best jobs, and if you want to find your next job as quickly as possible, then yes, you need to network. And the more you do it, the faster it will work.

To maximize your job search, you must use every available avenue, simultaneously. You need to look at job boards, you need to look at company websites, you need to read the want-ads, you need to do volunteer opportunities, you need to use social media, and you need to network. You need to make sure that as many people as possible know who you are and what you do best. You need to create the situation so that when a job comes open, somebody in that loop already knows about you and calls you, rather than posting that opening online.

Networking will do much for you beyond finding you a job. Networking will build your self-confidence, improve your communication skills, and allow you to meet a whole lot of wonderful people who are willing to help you. And then, when you flip that around and become a networking resource for someone else, networking allows you to teach, guide, and give back.

For many people, networking is uncomfortable and unnatural, but I’m afraid it remains the biggest and best key to effective job search. No, you don’t have to do it, but be prepared for a longer and less effective job search.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to network, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Available as an eBook and soon in print! Click here for more details.


Change – But Don’t

So, how goes your search? Have you been at it a while? Frustrated? Here is one of my favorite quotes (from Einstein), “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Can you apply this to your job search?

The secret to finding your next job is networking – meeting people, telling your story, learning from them, and asking them to introduce you to others so you can repeat the process – over, and over, and over. Sounds like insanity doesn’t it?

It can be, and it can be tedious, exhausting and frustrating; but you have to do it. So how can you change, and still stay the same? Here are some ideas:

  •  Shake up your “elevator speech” and try different variations
  • Meet at different locations
  • Hold some meetings virtually via Skype, chat or over the phone (face-to-face is best).
  • Try arranging the meetings via email instead of telephone
  • Try to meet with two people from the same organization at the same time (group networking)

Yes, networking can be draining, but it remains the primary key to the kingdom. So, shake it. Find some ways to make it fun. Make it a game and compete with yourself. Do whatever you need to do, but don’t stop – AND, don’t let those you are networking see that you are tired and frustrated. Your appearance of desperation will not improve the quality of your networking.

Now, take this Memorial Day holiday to step back, stretch, reflect, and remember those that have meant so much in your life. Then, tomorrow, let’s get busy and find you that next job.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


Are You a Veteran?

Last month I was fortunate to attend an event sponsored by the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) and the Center for Transitional Leadership (CTL). The topic was Hiring from the Talent Pool of US Veterans. The primary focus of this event was on assisting veterans who are transitioning from active duty to civilian life. I received many good ideas that I can use as an employer to hire more veterans, but (if you are a veteran) I also learned a number of tips I can share with you to help you find that next job.

Veterans need to find someone who can help them translate their military career into business-speak. The military is famous for its acronyms and jargon that most civilians do not understand. Even words like platoon or battalion need to include manpower equivalents. A great number of military activities and training have a direct business correlation, but it is the responsibly of the veteran to provide that translation, not to assume that the civilian understands.

I learned that soldiers, and especially officers, need to learn to listen. The military trains them to be decisive and work within a very structured command and control system. That does not always translate well to businesses. Soldiers were also encouraged to be very introspective about what their skills, strengths, and weakness are. Attributes that are strengths in the military may not carry the same value in the business world.

An important consideration is that veterans often leave the military without a large network of non-military contacts. They don’t know people in business and therefore it is harder to find a job. LinkedIn was cited as a critical resource. What many veterans don’t know is that they have an enormous informal network of former military that have already made the transition. Working with LinkedIn and with a few known contacts (possibly through AUSA or CTL) soldiers who are about to be discharged can begin an active networking process and build substantial relationships before the leave the military.

Finally, veterans, like everyone else, need to be persistent. Two of the speakers at this event shared that they went 1-for-150 and 1-for-90 respectively on job applications. For the first man, a Colonel, he had to apply for 150 jobs before he was hired.

The secrets here are universal truths, regardless of your military background:

  • Successful job seekers need to make sure they present their background in fashion that whomever they are talking with can relate that background to their need,
  • You need to listen – as my Mom said, that’s why God gave you two ears but only one mouth,
  • You must network and tap into the hidden job market, and finally,
  • You must be both persistent and patient.

Now, let’s get busy and find you that next job.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


New Year – New Elevator Speech

It’s a new year and you are hitting the networking scene. You are cleaned up, you’re carrying some copies of your freshly updated resume, you’re set – right? Have you thought about what you’re going to say? You need to have a great elevator speech – a 30-second summary of who you are, what you do, and what you want. Nancy Collamer does a fantastic job of describing how to develop your elevator speech in this blog post.

Then, when you think you’re ready, I want to watch this Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy. If you’ve seen this before, watch it again. The power of body language is incredible and should not be ignored.

Finally, reread this blog post from last May on First Impressions.

You have a story to tell, and you have skills to offer a new employer. The information in these three sources will help put you in a position so you can use those skills. Your elevator speech, your body language, and your first impression will open doors. If you neglect these three items you may have a long a challenging job search.

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If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


New Year – New Targets

In my last post, I talked about updating your resume and cover letter – two of the three most critical documents for a job search. With absolutely no data to back me up, I will bet that 99% of job seekers (for professional jobs) have resumes and 75% regularly use cover letters. These documents have been used for centuries.

I will also bet that document number three, however, is only used by 25% of job seekers (or less) and I will guarantee that if you will use it you will have a distinct advantage. Document number three is a Target List.

A target list is a list of 15-25 organizations where you think you might like to work. They don’t necessarily have job openings and you don’t have to be convinced that this is your dream employer. These organizations are in the industries, locations, markets, or whatever, that interests you. Maybe they are on a best-places-to-work list. Maybe you’ve heard they have over-the-top employee benefits. For whatever reason, these are places where you might want to work.

So, I can hear you thinking, how does this list help me? Let me give you three ways:

  1. Organizations go on the list only after you have done some research. Should you get a networking opportunity or an interview with an employee from that company, you’ll be prepared with some background and questions about that organization.
  2. When you are networking and ask the question, “Do you know anyone else I might talk to?” you will get the answer, “No.” When that happens, you pull out your target list and ask, “Do you know anyone who works for any of these companies?” You will be surprised how often the answer to that question is “Yes.” That contact may not be in the area or department you are interested in, but now you have an ‘inside’ contact to network with.
  3. The target list gives you direction. Without it, your networking will take you wherever it takes you. While that may not always be bad, there are benefits to focusing your search and conserving your energy.

Now that I’ve convinced you that you need a target list, here are three tips to make that list more effective.

  1. Format the list to look like your resume and cover letter. Use your letterhead, same paper, same font, etc. With all of these documents, you are building and maintaining your brand.
  2. Resort the document often. The companies on the list need to be in some order or grouping. Maybe they are ranked by your preference. They could be sorted by industry. They could be alphabetical. But, if you are going on a networking meeting with someone who works for a manufacturer, and if there are manufacturers on your list, move those names to the top of the list.
  3. Continually update the list. After a networking meeting where someone tells you about how horrible an organization is to work for, take it off the list. Show the list to your friends and ask for other ideas to be on the list. Spend a rainy afternoon searching the net to find reasons to add or delete companies on the list. Keep it alive and in the front of your mind.

A well-developed, maintained, and deployed target list will increase you networking effectiveness significantly. I’d be willing to say (with no data and no consequences of being wrong) that using a target list will make your networking meetings twice as effective in generating new networking contacts. This list will give you a strategic advantage over your fellow job seekers who don’t have a target list. If you don’t have one, make one today.

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If you want more advice on target lists, how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2015!

By all accounts, this looks to be a good year for the job hunter. The economy is growing and adding jobs. People are moving between jobs and creating opportunities. The new year means that companies are opening new budgets with new positions. The new year also brings a new energy as companies shake off the holidays and get back to business.

So, are you ready to greet this new year? Have you refreshed your resume and included quantified accomplishments? Do you have your elevator speech down pat? Have you updated your target list and know where you want to go?

Over the next few weeks I plan to go back to basics and make sure you have the tools to capitalize on the opportunities that will start opening up on Monday.

For this post, I want to implore you to network. The vast majority of jobs that are filled are never advertised. They don’t show up on Indeed or CareerBuilder, they don’t appear on industry job boards, and they may not even be posted on company websites. They get filled because the hiring manager (or HR) already knows someone who is qualified.

Now, if you are sitting at home scanning the want ads, you might feel that is unfair. If they don’t advertise the job and give you the chance to apply, how will you ever get a new job? If that is how you feel, get over it. Put yourself in the hiring manager’s shoes. If you have a choice of advertising, screening, interviewing and then hiring a stranger (all of which might take 8-12 weeks), versus hiring a fully qualified candidate that was referred to you by a friend and whom you had coffee with two weeks ago, which would you prefer?

If you want to find a good job, you must network. You need to tell everyone you know your story and ask them to refer you to people they know and repeat the process over and over. You are not asking these people to hire you. You are asking them to spend a few minutes, to get to know you and your abilities, and to suggest to you other professionals with whom you can do the same. Through that process, you will meet someone who has a job to fill and who feels you are the person to fill that job.

Believe in yourself, believe in the process, and be ready to get back to work.

If you want more advice on how to network, how to write a resume, or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.


In Honor of Veteran’s Day

Today is Veteran’s Day. I hope you will all join me in extending a personal thank you to those who have served in our armed forces. If you are not a veteran, sometimes it is easy to overlook or downplay what they have done for us. Granted, not every veteran went into battle, but collectively, if they had not done what they did, I might not have the freedom to sit in my home office and write this blog post about anything I want to write about. I might not have the choice to travel as I please, to worship as I wish, to work where I do, or so say just about anything I want to anybody who wants to listen.

We cannot underestimate that freedom, but we can put a price on it. That price is the 850,000 soldiers who have died in battle and the 433,000 others who died while on duty. The cost includes the 2.7 million soldiers that have been wounded. It also includes the 38,159 who are still missing (source). That is the true cost of our freedom – and for that we are eternally grateful.

Here are some other unfortunate statistics about Veterans. First, according to the BLS, the civilian unemployment rate for non-veterans as of October 2014 is 5.4%. The unemployment rate for all Veterans of all ages is 4.5%, but the unemployment rate for those ages 18 to 34 is 8.6% which is slightly higher than the rate for non-vets of the same age (8.0%). So, while veterans are holding their own in the job search market, more could be done. In almost all categories, the percentage of unemployed veterans is higher than the comparable population of non-veterans and our younger veterans need the most help.

On a sadder note, while veterans make up about 8.8% of the total population, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, they make up about 12% of the homeless population and the majority of those suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or both. Finding, and keeping, a job is key to a veteran staying clean and staying off the streets.

So when someone calls you for networking, help them. If you learn that person is a veteran, help them again. You would not be where you are without them – and they need to know that you appreciate them for it.

For more details about I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another, click here.