The process of finding a new job can be overwhelming.
It takes time, energy and focus — resources that most people don’t have in abundance. Job hunting can also be psychologically taxing and usually requires some degree of discipline and organization. In my experience, nothing will undermine a job search more quickly than a negative attitude. With this in mind, I’ve developed a list of the top ten strategies for finding a new job.
1. Make small career appointments with yourself
You may be thinking that you’ll wait until the weekend to work on your career because that’s when you have large chunks of time available. However, that’s the recipe for burnout because you will then lose your rest and rejuvenation time.
It’s more effective to schedule smaller periods of time — 60 to 90 minutes each — during both the week and weekend. This will decrease your feeling of being overwhelmed and help avoid burnout. In return, it will increase your productivity and personal accountability because you will be far more likely to do it when it’s less daunting.
2. Maintain positivity
A successful job hunt looks like this: no, no, no, no, no, no, yes! You will likely be inundated with rejections or a series of silences during your search. Being resilient and maintaining a positive perspective is critical to your progress.
If you start to engage in negative self-talk or focus on the economic state of the country, you will derail yourself energetically and behaviorally. You’ll get off course. You’ll be less productive. You’ll have a higher probability of increased rumination and anxiety. You will become depressed. None of this is helpful during the job search process. By keeping your focus on what you want rather than what’s wrong, you will maintain momentum and reach your goal sooner.
3. Use the Internet relationally
Very few jobs are found using the blind resume submission process or by posting your resume online. Most jobs are still found through personal contacts and connections. However, you can leverage your personal and professional relationships strategically by using the Internet relationally.
For example, LinkedIn is an outstanding website for professionally connecting with others. Think of it as six degrees of separation for job hunting purposes. It allows you to leverage your contacts to find targeted companies and individuals that can help you to: 1) land an interview, 2) get more information about an industry or company, and 3) secure an informational interview.
4. Stop asking for a job
Instead, start asking for an informational interview. It’s one of the most powerful but overlooked strategies in landing a job. It’s counterintuitive, but it works. Both parties feel better because one side doesn’t have to ask for a job and the other side doesn’t have to deliver a job. In the meantime, you both make a contact and there’s no obligation. It’s a win-win.
The objective is to schedule a 15 to 20-minute interview. Stay firm with that time length unless the other person offers to go longer. During the interview, ask powerful questions about an industry, job, company or strategy, as well as their own personal and professional experiences.
If you are someone they come to like — someone who respects their time and asks great questions — there are often opportunities to stay in touch or follow up, as well as offers of contacts, introductions, strategies, industry insight, interview leads and, at times, even a job.
Most importantly, at the end of an informational interview, send a handwritten thank you card and, if you really want to make an impression, include a $5 Starbucks® card to thank them for their time.
5. Know yourself
You need to know yourself — your strengths, your transferable skills, what you can offer in the marketplace — and you need to be able to deliver it in a polished way. This can be the difference between getting an interview and getting a job.
6. Do the research
It’s not enough to know yourself; you also need to know the company with which you are interviewing. Spend time doing the research so that you don’t ask questions that you would have been able to answer by doing a little investigation. By being informed, it demonstrates to your interviewer that you are interested and proactive.
Prepare a few great questions to ask. Given that many interviews begin or end with some variation of, “What do you know about our company?” or “What questions do you have about our company?,” you will be well-prepared to make a favorable impression and leave the interview on a very strong note.
7. Know exactly what you want
For both the individual seeking a job and the colleague or friend trying to help them, nothing is more frustrating than when the job seeker doesn’t know the exact job they want to target.
People often waste years ruminating about and questioning their right career fit, when a good career coach can take that energy and focus it on the right processes and questions and help them find the answer much more quickly.
The average adult will spend approximately 60 percent of their waking hours devoted to work-related activities over a 45 to 50 year period. Given this, the real issue is not finding a new job, but finding the right job — a job that you love, a job that lines up with your talents, abilities, and your core driver. That’s an investment that will return dividends for a lifetime! Further, a recent Gallup Employee Engagement Index indicated that 71% of those polled did not feel engaged in their work. If you can relate to this, then you’re not in the right job.
8. Write well or have someone write for you
Don’t send generic cover letters. A personalized, well-written cover letter that pinpoints how your skills match the requirements of that specific job is worth its weight in gold.
9. Remember — it’s a numbers game
Manage your expectations. Finding a new job can take much more time than you would like, but statistics show that you can speed up the numbers game and decrease the time it takes to land a job by using many methods simultaneously, including:
— Internet resources
— Personal contacts
— Classified ads
— Alumni career centers
— Message boards
— Community agencies
— Professional associations
— Employment placement agencies
10. Just do it
It’s almost inevitable that feelings of avoidance, fatigue, negativity and procrastination will set in and seduce you to miss a career appointment that you schedule with yourself. Don’t allow excuses or thoughts like, “I don’t feel like it” or “I’ll do it tomorrow” to sabotage your progress. Do it anyway.
You can find great job-hunting ideas by reading publications that have nothing ostensible to do with job hunting. Example: “The Sticking Point Solution,” a business book by marketing visionary, Jay Abraham. What, you may ask, does a book for entrepreneurs and marketing/sales professionals have to do with your job search? Nothing. And a whole lot.
You’ll find nothing in it if you’re content with ordinary job-search tactics. There are no mentions of networking, dressing for success, or answers to the top 10 interview questions, for example. But Abraham’s book (or any good marketing publication) can help you a lot if you extract just one new idea to use in your search for work. Because, ultimately, every job search is really a marketing campaign. To that end, here are two practical tips from Abraham that can get you hired faster ….
1) Get all you can out of all you’re doing
If you’re like most job seekers, you’re rushing from job-search tactic to another. And it’s understandable, given human nature, which makes us eager to rush after the “new” and “improved” rather than slog it out and get the most from existing efforts.
As Abraham writes: “Optimization and innovation are both crucial to your success, but the order is important.” He goes on to describe that, in marketing (as in your job search), you should make current activities perform as effectively as possible before seeking out new, untried options.
OK. Time for some hard questions:
Question 1: Before giving up on and moving on to Employer B after applying and not hearing back from Employer A, have you verified that Employer A actually got your resume? Especially if you emailed or submitted it via their web site?
Question 2: Have you tried blogging to attract recruiters and employers … for about two weeks — then given up and tried Twitter and/or Facebook?
Question 3: Have you tried “networking” by calling 10 people and asking if they knew anyone who was hiring … then given up and decided that networking didn’t work?
If you answered yes to one or more questions, you’re “innovating” at the expense of optimizing. And it’s prolonging your job search.
Action Step: Get the most out of your current job-search tactics before trying something new. Start by analyzing your efforts — if you’re not getting results, why not? Benchmark yourself against people who have succeeded. What did they do differently? How can you emulate them?
2) Prescribe solutions to employers, like a doctor
Another marketing tactic that can help your job search is consultative selling. Abraham defines it as “helping prospects get what they want, facilitating the cure.”
Which is exactly what you’re trying to do as a job seeker — help prospects (potential employers) get what they want, which is, ultimately, higher revenues, lower costs, or both. Imagine how powerful your cover letters and job interviews would be if you first researched employers to find where they “hurt” and how hiring you would provide a “cure”?
Example: What if you learned that your target employer, ABC Corp., was suffering from sluggish sales? What if, in visiting one of their stores, you noticed all the shopping hand-baskets stacked near the front door? What if your research found that hand-baskets displayed within the first 10 feet of a retail entrance tend to be ignored by shoppers and that scattering them throughout the store can increase sales?
And what if you wrote a cover letter to ABC Corp., that alluded to (but didn’t give away all of) your field research? Do you think this “prescription” might help you stand out among ordinary job seekers?
By the way, the foregoing data on merchandising is from the book, “Why We Buy,” by Paco Underhill. It took me five minutes to find it online.
Action Step: What can you learn about an employer’s problems and possible solutions? How could you deliver solutions as a “prescription” to make hiring managers view you as a trusted advisor — the same way you’d view a favorite physician — instead of a job-seeking supplicant? Now, go out and make your own luck!
Kevin Donlin is contributing co-author of “Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0.”