NEWS + ADVICE
10 Job Seeker Questions
- Where do you start?
- What should you focus on?
- What do you spend your time on?
- You can do lots of things. How do you search for four or six different types of jobs?
A beginning job seeker can have a lot of questions on their mind as they begin to pursue a career change, and can waste a lot of time spinning their wheels. But it doesn’t have to be like that if a job seeker gets some good job search direction up front.
And that’s exactly what a group of beginning job seekers did recently at a daylong event designed to provide current information on how to conduct a job search. The event was hosted by NMR Consulting, and offered the expertise of several local career experts, human resource professionals, and successful job seekers.
The group asked lots of questions. Since their questions are representative of those on the minds of most initial job seekers, I’m sharing their questions and my answers to get your search off on the right foot.
1. How Do I Get Started
By understanding a) What a search is, and b) How to go about managing it.
a) What a search is
A job search is an exercise in sales – selling yourself. When you are looking for a new job, new role, expansion of your current role, or venturing off into a new independent contracting, consulting, or business role, you are in sales. You are selling, or offering, your unique set of capabilities and attributes to your potential customers, i.e., prospective employers, who have a need and are willing to pay, i.e., a salary, to acquire your services.
Why is this important? Because it will help you understand how to talk about yourself in networking and interviewing, and how to describe your experiences in your resume, cover letters, etc. In a nutshell, identify the benefits of hiring you and learn how to describe those benefits that you have provided your past employers and will provide to your future ones.
b) How to go about managing your job search
Managing an effective job search is akin to managing any important project, with two differences: You can’t predict 1) how long it will take, and 2) exactly where you’ll end up. However, whether you are beginning a new search or seeking to revitalize an ongoing search, plan to employ the project management skills you would use on any important project in order to achieve your goal.
Preparation is key to succeed at finding the job you want. Firing off unfocused resumes at any and every opening that comes along – shotgunning — is usually an exercise in frustration, wastes time, and frequently results in jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.
- Learn the steps involved in finding a job, and prepare a job search strategy.
- Identify your goal: The type(s) of job, or expanded role, you are seeking and write it down.
Continue your planning with market research.
- Gain information and knowledge about the need and market for the type of work you want to do.
- Identify what industries, companies within those industries, and locales hire your skill set.
Acquire the project management tools you’ll need to get organized and perform the work of your project. This is an important step. Don’t skip it, or you’ll feel like you’re playing catch-up throughout your search and often find you’re spinning your wheels.
- Establish your workspace. Set up your work space or office, and reserve that space for your use alone during your search. Take the time to organize your office, computer, phone, files, etc.
- Create or update and revise your marketing tools. Focus your tools on the specific type of job you want. Your marketing tools include your resume, elevator speech, personal-professional business cards, annotated reference list, marketing plan, and cover letter template . . . for starters.
Market and Implement
With your goal clearly in mind, your work space or office organized, and your marketing materials focused on your goal, set off on your search in earnest. Implement your search.
- Organize your work day to include time for research, networking, attending events, and eventually interviewing for ideal jobs and then negotiating your offers.
- Plan your strategy for contacting and connecting with target employers.
Begin at the beginning
Invest the time up front to get organized and plan a strategic job search. The investment will speed you on your way and pay off in conducting a more focused, faster, and rewarding search.
2. How Long Does it Take to Find a Job Today
Nobody knows. It will take as long as it takes.
Not the answer you were hoping for I know. Remember (See Question 1) that while a job search is a project to be managed, it does have 2 differences from that of most projects you’ve probably managed in the past: You can’t predict 1) how long it will take, nor 2) exactly where you’ll end up. The challenge for some job seekers is developing a comfort level with this ambiguity. Landing your new position or role will take executing a pro-active search, effectively marketing yourself, working consistently, persisting through obstacles, and . . . some luck too!
It always concerns me when I see ads and articles for job search assistance with headlines like:
- Jobs in 30 days or
- Buy this service and you’ll have 30 offers in 2 months
It simply doesn’t work that way.
The shortest route to your new job is thorough and effective preparation, and knowledgeably marketing yourself to companies and organizations you have identified that have a need for your skills and experience. While shotgunning (See Question 1) might SEEM the quickest route to finding a job, it is not.
Employers today want to know, in short order,
- What you bring to the table in terms of experience, capabilities, and talent and
- How it can benefit them.
To do this requires thorough preparation and the ability to make a convincing argument as to why you are the best candidate for the job. That takes time, but is truly the shortest distance between looking for a job and finding it.
3. How Do I Search for 4 or 5 Different Types of Work at the Same Time
Here’s some good news! There are a lot of things to worry about when beginning a job search . . . this isn’t one of them. The reason: This will sort itself out just by virtue of doing the work of your search.
Here’s what happens: I often describe the beginning of a search as akin to a funnel – widest at the top and narrowing toward the bottom. A search is shaped similarly.
At the onset, as you think about your multiple skills and interests, it seems like anything is possible. So many work options to pursue.
What happens is this: As you seriously explore your options via networking, researching, attending events, taking a course, and interviewing for various types of work, the work you are doing makes clearer the types of work you really don’t want to do and narrows the options for you. So, while you may be interested in 4 or 5 vocations, you come to see that a couple are really only hobbies and you don’t want to work at them on a daily basis; the other 2 or 3 may be actual possibilities.
A note of caution: It is difficult to search for more than three types of jobs simultaneously and do justice to each type. I suggest only two at a time. Developing different strategies, creating the marketing materials, and implementing searches for three or more search directions becomes unwieldy. So take some time up front, to really determine what are two, or at the most three career directions you honestly want to purse.
4. Can You Write a Company Directly
Absolutely. Not only can you, but you should be directly targeting companies that your research shows hire your type of skills, knowledge, and experience.
In targeting and then contacting desirable firms, make sure your research identifies some internal people to whom you can direct your resume and cover letter. Use both interpersonal networking as well as social media to accomplish this.
Two good internal targets are (1) A manager who works in the area of your interest, and (2) An employee in HR, the manager or one of the staff. If you have an internal contact who can refer you to the manager or HR representative, so much the better. A third internal target is the CEO or President of the firm or organization, particularly if you have a referral from a contact, colleague, or acquaintance of that individual.
So, feel free to contact all your target firms directly:
- There’s an opening: If there is a current opening for your type of work, follow the application process as outlined by the company. Then, in addition, up the odds of your being contacted by also directing your resume and cover letter to an internal hiring manager or HR employee.
- No openings: Contact your target companies anyway. Get the name of a manager or HR employee – NO “To Whom It May Concern’s.” Then, send a resume, with letter explaining your interest in the firm and noting you will follow up to arrange a possible time to talk.
Hint: Look for other ways to connect with employees of your target firms such as through social media, a professional association or a job fair.
5. Will Anyone Hire Me with 25 Years of Experience? Or the Converse – Too Few Years of Experience?
Yes they will. But, you’ve got to keep looking to find the right match.
I’m asked this a lot, and my frequent answer to this question is this: “Everybody’s got something” to overcome.
- Too old, too young
- Over-educated, under-educated
- Too much experience, too little experience
- Salary was too high to get hired currently, salary was too low to be taken seriously
- Not enough “hands-on” experience to move from a managerial level to a technical or lower level position; too much “hands-on” experience to demonstrate managerial ability
- The wrong security clearance for the position of interest
- and on and on it goes.
Never say never. BUT there is rarely a perfect candidate for most positions, and there is rarely a perfect job or company for most employees. Everybody’s got something! The important thing is to identify what strengths you have that will benefit the hiring organization and meet the majority of its requirements, and then mitigate your areas of weakness to the extent possible via explaining that you are a quick-study, taking a course, getting the required certifications, doing some self-study, volunteering for a role that will develop that missing capability.
Because they come from a trusted member of the network of the person you are contacting.
Referrals are golden! Value them, and handle them with great care.
When a network contact trusts you enough to refer you to one of his or her colleagues, they are putting their good name on the line. The referral will generally connect with you, via phone, in-person, or e-mail, due to professional courtesy. Any failure to follow-through on the job seeker’s part will reflect back negatively on the person who made the referral. So don’t make this destructive mistake, because your contact will be reluctant to make any additional referrals in the future and you’ll lose a valuable source of contacts and a possible reference.
7. How Do I Make My Resume Pop
To set the stage for the answer to this question, let’s first take a step back and look at your resume in its entirety. Your resume is, in effect, your “sales” brochure. Simply put, it is effective if it is relevant to the job applied for. It should:
- Tell the reader if the job seeker is a possible fit for the position without too much work on the reader’s part. In other words, it should be relevant to the requirements of the position.
- Tell the reader not only what duties you have performed and skills you used that relate to the job requirements, but what results you achieved. Every duty listed underneath a position on the resume should show what you achieved as a result of performing that duty: We call these Accomplishment Statements.
Now, here’s the problem: Far too many job seekers deflect the interest of readers by submitting resumes that go on for 4 or 5 or 6 pages. These lengthy resumes, often containing big blocks of paragraphs, filled with jargon, are daunting to get through. Recruiters just don’t have the time to wade through. So, they don’t!
There’s a better way. Learn to think differently: Think of your resume as a product that sells you. Learn to think, talk, and write about your work experience in a way that focuses on:
- The needs and requirements of your customer – the prospective employer.
- Tasks or duties you perform that satisfy that employer’s needs and requirements, and
- How your performance of these duties made the life of previous employers easier, i.e, better and/or less problematic. Show the benefits of hiring you.
8. What Is a Resume Career Summary and Why Is It Important
Recruiters today admit that when a resume comes across their desk it only gets seconds of their time in the initial read-through. We used to say 30 seconds or less but today that number has dropped to 6 -10 seconds. Yes, you read that right — 6 – 10 seconds! That means that if a recruiter does not see the information they are looking for on the first page, and even more specifically on the top half of the first page, they will move on to the next candidate.
What appears on the top half of a resume underneath the header is information generally referred to as a Career Summary. This Summary Statement, generally a short one-paragraph synopsis of you as a worker/performer, contains phrases that briefly describe your capabilities. Also labeled as a Qualifications Summary, Experience Summary, Areas of Expertise, Career Overview, etc., it must show the following information:
- Your profession – What type of work you are seeking; be open but specific
- Areas of expertise and knowledge – What are you known for?
- Strengths (can include skills) – What are your strengths that will accomplish the requirements of the job?
Optional as appropriate or relevant:
- Interpersonal skills and abilities – that will aid in performing a job
- Certifications/Designations – that are required to be hired, or that will aid in performing the job
- Languages – that are required to be hired, or that will aid in performing the job
- Awards / Commendations / etc. that will get you noticed
If you don’t have your security clearance at the very top of your resume, then make sure it is in this section and no lower.
How to do it: The trick to producing an effective summary statement is to present key information that:
- Supports you in achieving your goal, and
- Relates to the employer’s requirements for the position for which you are applying.
When to do it: Write it last. Don’t try to write your summary statement following composing your header. Instead, focus on writing about your work experience, education, professional development and training, and other relevant information. Then, with an eye on your goal, decide what information about you that you want your summary to feature. Using this method, I won’t say it will write itself, but it will come to you much more easily and quickly, and probably more correctly focused as well.
9. Do I Really Need to Tailor My Resume for Every Job I Apply for
Yes. Yes. Yes. And, here’s why. If you don’t go to the trouble of tailoring your resume to show that you meet the job’s requirements, you can bet that your competition will. So, it’s your choice – tailor and up the possibility that you will be called for an interview, or don’t and reduce the possibility. The choice is yours.
10. What Do You Do When You Find a Job?
Ah-h-h-h-h! I got my new job. I can put away all my job search stuff and just focus on my new job. No so fast. There’s still work to be done on completing this round of your job search.
Chances are that as you networked, interviewed, contacted folks, and attended meetings, job fairs, and conferences, you met a lot of people. People who helped along the way. As you conclude your search, it is now your job to contact each of these individuals to:
- Thank them for their help.
- Update them on your new position, telling them the name of your new firm, the title of your position, and a little about your responsibilities and why you are enthused about performing them.
- Offer your assistance to them should they ever need any help from you.
- Assure them that you will stay in touch.
- And, actually stay in touch!
- Bonus – For those members of your network who went above and beyond in assisting you, make the effort to thank them in a special way, such as offering a dinner, a lunch, a special gift that may be meaningful, an introduction to someone they have wanted to meet, etc.
Why go to all this trouble if your search is done? Because, if there are any certainties in life, besides death and taxes, it is that things inside companies change, affecting our jobs. Should you find yourself in either the position of having to look for another job or just wanting to, sustaining and nurturing your network is a Smart Strategy.
Bonus Question: Is There a Magic Pill
No Virginia, there is no magic pill. It’s up to you. You’ve got to do the work.
That elusive magic pill, that cure-all that if you could only find it would make everything so much easier! Well, there isn’t one for:
- Losing weight
- Getting out of debt
- Getting rich using this simple technique
- Earning your degree in a nano-second, or
- Finding a job!
This question is asked by beginning job seekers in many different ways, but it basically boils down to this: There are no magic pills to accomplish these tasks. None are easy. Each takes commitment, some knowledge building, and a willingness to put in the time and do the work!
If it sounds to good to be true, be wise and beware: If the solution sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
I continue to hear promotions for “jobs in 30 days,” or “30+ job offers in 2 weeks,” yada, yada, yada. And I often hear the flip side of: “Former executive out of work for 3 years, living in their car, destitute.” Or, “Submitted 1000 applications and never got one call back.” When I hear either of these extremes of the job seeking spectrum, they don’t ring true.
After years of working with 1000s of clients, the truth is this: If you want a job, you’ve got to do the work. Certainly seeking out the assistance can help, but you can’t abdicate the task to an employment agency, head-hunter, or job search coach. Luck can play a part. But for most finding a job is a process that takes some time and involves:
- Planning a strategy
- Learning about, developing, and using your marketing tools
- Proactive networking, leading to proactive interviewing
- Negotiating offer’S’ of employment
- And planning ahead for continued career growth!
Advice: So, if anyone tries to offer you a magic pill, run – don’t walk – the other way! Remember, a job search is far more like a marathon than a sprint. Plan, prepare, put in the work, work smart, follow-up and you’ll find your next opportunity. It’s up to you. You’re in the driver’s seat of your own career, and would you really want it any other way?
Nancy Gober is a career strategist who has helped thousands of job seekers find employment. She’s also been a popular resume reviewer at our Cleared Job Fairs. You may reach Nancy via email at [email protected]. Follow Nancy on Twitter @AfterJobClub.This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 8:02 am