New Years: Remembrances and Resolutions – Part 2

Yesterday we talked about remembering 2015.  I hope you did that and celebrated how far you’ve come in life.

Okay, now spin your chair around 180° and let’s look into the future.  What does 2016 hold and how are we going to be prepared for it?  Inc.  Magazine asked people what they wanted to accomplish in 2016.  The number one answer was to enjoy life to the fullest (read the full list here).  Your resolution might be to find a job -not just any job – the right job.

If finding that new, better job is one of your resolutions, allow me to make a few suggestions to increase your likelihood of success.

Make a plan – Regardless of what your resolution is, there are three things you can do that will help you live it: 1) write it down, 2) include milestone dates and measures, and 3) make it public.  For your job search, set goals for how many people you are going to network with each week, how many emails and phone calls you will need to set up those networking meetings, how many new companies you will to research, etc.  Remember, looking for a job should be a full time job.  Make a plan that uses 8 hours a day – productively – two finding that best job then share that plan with a few key supporters – maybe even post it on Facebook.

Network – I can almost guarantee that you will not get that next BEST job, unless you network.  My suggestion is that each week you meet 5-10 people you have never met before, tell them your story, and ask for their help.  You will be amazed and what happens.

Be prepared – Every time you go to a meeting or an interview, be prepared.  Have your polished resume and target list with you.  Know as much as you can about who you will be talking to and the job/company you are interviewing for.  Be sure to have and practiced (aloud) your answers to common interview questions.

Be thankful – Say thank you – send thank-you notes – let people know how much you appreciate their time, their energy, their encouragement.  Even when you don’t think they were very helpful, thank them.

Be persistent – The economy is rebounding.  There are more jobs available, but I still tell people to plan for their search to take one month for every $10,000 in annual salary they hope to earn.  A $50k job might take 5 months to find.  Not any $50k job – but the right $50k job for you.  Plan the work, and work the plan.

If you are reading this blog thinking “but I don’t know how to do these things,” then you’ve come to the right place.  Search this blogs for tips on all of these subjects.  Or, buy the book (see below).  Or read someone else’s book or blog.  The help is there – the jobs are there – we just need to get you connected with one of them.

Speaking of resolutions – I resolve to help you find that next-best job in 2016.  Happy New Year!

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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.  Now available in both print and eBook formats!  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.


Welcome to … The Holiday Zone

For those of you old enough to remember this – imagine some twinkling music in the background and Rod Serling’s voice saying …

“Job seeker, you’ve noticed something has changed – there are fewer openings – no one returns your calls – everyone seems distracted. It’s because you have entered —— the Holiday Zone.”

I don’t have any factual data to back up what I’m about out to tell you, but I do have 30 years of experience. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a frustrating time to be a job seeker. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it is reality.

From an organization’s perspective, now is not the time to try to fill a job. They know that people who have jobs, stop looking for new jobs during the holidays. They know that they have spent their recruiting budget, and wont’ be buying any new advertising or creating any new jobs until after the first of the year. Everything slows down until January.

The same is true for the employed job seeker. They will spend their weekends and evenings shopping, wrapping, and attending holiday parties, not looking for jobs.

So, if you are unemployed, what do you do? Just put your search on the shelf for a month? No, you keep working, but you work smart.

Use holiday parties as networking activities. Meet new people, tell them your story, and ask if you can connect after the first of the year to exchange information and contacts.

Take this time to do some more intensive corporate research. Look at the local news websites to find which companies are in the news for charitable giving or other social outreach; then add them to your Target list and make plans to contact them in January – and when you do, mention how you support their good works.

Volunteer to work for a community organization that helps families over the holidays and do some networking with other volunteers. If you do schedule a networking meeting, take a few holiday cookies as a thank you gift.

Spend some time on your resume, maybe its time for a complete resume makeover; reorganize, rewrite, and refresh.

The point is, you can’t control the calendar, you can only control how you respond to it. You can curl up in a ball and wait for January, or you can spend your time productively. You won’t see as many postings, and you won’t get as many interview, and people won’t be as available to network; but that does not mean you can’t keep looking and making yourself better so that come January 1, you are ready to knock their socks off.

Enjoy the season, recognize your blessings, and get ready for a fantastic 2015.

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


Can You Help Me?

In 1951, famed journalist Edward R. Murrow launched a radio program called This I Believe. The idea was to have people, both famous and not, write and then read essays about what they believed in. NPR revised the idea in the mid-2000’s. I tell you this because if I had the opportunity to write such an essay I would write about the incredible ability of people to step in when others need help. I am constantly amazed and inspired by the generosity of humankind.

You can see this generosity in your job search. You just need to utter the magic words, “can you help me?” It is common for the networking-novice to ask, “Do you know anyone who is hiring?” The answer is inevitably, “No, sorry,” and that’s the end of the conversation. But, when you instead ask for help, people will. Asking for help can start a conversation that might lead you to your next job.

Is it really that simple? No, it’s not. When you ask, “can you help me?” the response will probably be, “I’m happy to if I can, what do you need?” If you follow that with, “Do you know anybody who’s hiring?” you’ll be right back where you started.

So how does that conversation go? Try this:

You: “Hi, Bob, Steve Jones said that you might be able to help me.”

Bob: “I will if I can. What can I do for you?”

You: “I recently lost my job and I’m meeting with other professionals like you to expand my network.”

Bob: “I’m sorry but I don’t know anyone who is hiring …”

You: “No, no, no, I ‘m not asking you for a job. I wouldn’t put you on the spot like that. I’d just like 10-15 minutes to tell you about my background, and then maybe you can suggest a few people you know who might be willing to do the same thing. As I connect with more people, eventually one of them will be hiring.

Bob: “Okay, tell me your story.”

Trust me, I’ve had this conversation more times than I want to admit, and people will help.

If, at the end of the conversation the response is, “I’d love to help, I just don’t know anyone that I think can help you,” then you pull out your target list and say, “I understand, maybe this will help. Here is a list of 20 companies that I would like to know more about. By any chance do you know anyone that works at one of these companies?”

People can be amazingly generous and helpful. You just have to ask for their help. Now, if you were to write an essay for This I Believe, what would you write about? Wow, that would make a great interview question …

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


New Year’s Resolutions …

Happy New Year!

New Year’s Day is about putting last year behind us and making plans for a new beginning.  While it may be a bit corny, New Year’s Day is about making resolutions.  If you lost your job in 2013 and you want to start a new one ASAP, here are some resolutions you might consider…

In 2014 I resolve to …

  • Make a target list of at least 25 companies that I might like to work for and update it weekly with new information I learn
  • Identify and reach out to at least 10 new contacts every week so I can tell them my story and ask if they know anyone I can network with
  • Have a human resources professional critique my resume and cover letter for content and appearance
  • Write a list of at least 10 accomplishments from my career that I can mix-and-match on my resume based on the job I am applying for
  • Identify job clubs in my neighborhood and attend at least two meetings per month
  • Ask a friend (or professional) with good typing/page-layout skills to help freshen up my resume and cover letter
  • Work as hard at finding a job as I am willing to work at my new job
  • Search the Internet for lists of interview questions, then write out my answers to those questions and practice saying those answers out loud
  • Keep myself healthy so I can interview more effectively and be a better worker once I land that job
  • Stay positive – I will find a job this year that utilizes my skills and helps me to provide for myself and my family

Clearly there is a theme here.  Finding a job is hard work – but it is work that is proven to have rewards.  The economy is improving.  January is traditionally a good hiring month.  Let’s work together and get you back to work.

Best wishes for a fantastic 2014!


Who Are You Targeting?

I often am asked to network with job seekers.  Having been in their shoes six times I usually agree and freely give out advice and contacts as appropriate.  Most job seekers are much more adept at the search process than I was when I first went through this it my first time.  They have good looking resumes; they know how to network; and they are getting better at being prepared and doing their research.  But most still have not prepared one of the most important job search documents.

If you are job seeker you need a target list.  This is a list of 20-25 organizations where you think you might want to work.  These organizations may not have job openings, but they’re place who might be a fit  for you due to their size, industry, location, reputation, what-have-you.

Inevitably, during a networking meeting you ask, “So, do you know anyone that I should talk to?”  All too often your host says “No, I can’t think of anyone.”  The prepared job seeker then pulls out the Target List and says “Here is a list of organizations that I’d like to know more about.  Do you know anyone who works at any of these?”  Now the conversation can begin anew.

That list of companies will spark some potential contacts, “Oh, my next door neighbor works for XYZ Company.”  You may also hear, “You don’t want to work for that company; they’re a sweat shop.”  Whatever the feedback, you’ll have more information that you did at the beginning of the conversation and that’s what networking is all about.

Target Lists should be updated continually, adding new companies and removing those that aren’t the fit you’d hoped they were.  Format the list to look like your resume – same headers, fonts, paper, etc.  You want this to be a professional looking document that has the same feel as your other search related papers.

So, if your networking is not yielding the success you need, add a Target List into the mix.  It is guaranteed to make your networking sessions more productive and speed you on to that next career adventure.