It is a job to find a job…and most do not do it well; in part because there is little time to find a new one while employed and, when unemployed, a sense of despondence, depression, or desperation may make it hard to perform at peak levels. Three steps can turn the average job seeker into their own search executive in charge of a stress-free campaign that is guaranteed to find a job and to grow as a professional from the experience.
Step I is to get clear about what you want to do next. Most do not get clear about what they want to do next because it is hard to do and because they do not want to rule anything out. Perhaps they hope to be pleasantly surprised by the jobs that others will just happen to offer them if they remain open.
Unfortunately, things do not usually work this way, except by sheer luck, especially for those well into their career. Asking a prospective employer to study a resume and propose a job is like a chef handing a restaurant patron a list of ingredients and asking what they would like to eat. It is too hard to do and the more experience and skills there are to look at, the worse the problem.
The odds of getting the job you want increase dramatically when you are clear about what you want. The preferred approach is to describe the ideal job in order to force a prospective employer to think about you in the context of something specific. This brings to mind corresponding openings if they exist and, if not, jobs that are near to it are likely to surface, first in the reader’s mind and then in conversation.
Job seekers need to get to the point where they can:
- Describe their ideal job in a single written paragraph or in a few bullets.
- Orally describe their ideal job in 30 seconds or less.
- Smoothly work their 30-second message into casual conversation.
Step II is to do some research to come up with a list of the organizations at which it would be great to have the ideal job. Select organizations in an industry and in a geography of great interest. There is no point chasing jobs only to reject them in the end because they are not in an area of keen interest.
Step III is to compile a list of people who might be able to refer you to leaders in the target organizations. Ideal referrers are themselves successful and highly networked. Such people almost always have time to help someone make a productive connection. Start by spending an hour with a person you already know who might be a good referrer, perhaps over lunch, and follow this script:
- Tell her/him about yourself and what you want to do. Tell her/him directly that you seek her/his advice and counsel.
- Show her/him the list of people you have targeted to network with. Let her/him offer to help connect you to those s/he knows and add to the list others that you may not have thought of.
- Show her/him the list of organizations at which you might like to work. Let her/him react. By this point they s/he be tuned-in to you and to what you are looking for. This is the moment in which the best advice will flow. Listen carefully and draw her/him out fully. Do not refute or otherwise disrupt the flow. Record what is said word for word. At some point s/he is likely to lift up from looking at your list and say something like: “You know who you ought to speak with….”. Urge her/him to have those persons contact you; or at least let her/him know that you have been encouraged to make contact. The best possible positioning is to have someone call you to discuss what you want to talk them about.
Refine the definition of the ideal job, the list of referrers, and target organizations based on input received and iterate through the three steps. Keep a running, prioritized list of the top prospective jobs. Focus on the top few prospects until an offer is received. When one offer comes in, use it as leverage to push other prospects to finally make offers as well. Your choice is then to either accept one of the offers or start the process over again!
In addition to helping to find a job, this approach also:
- Develops networking skills.
- Increases the extent to which you are networked.
- Provides access to information that will be useful later.
- Is fun, interesting and edifying.
- Teaches how to sell…in this case you sell yourself but the steps work no matter what you have to sell.