Overwhelmed by all of the job seach advice? Do this …

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Have you ever attended a job search meeting and felt bombarded by all of the various advice and recommendations? Do you hear something different from everyone you meet to the point of being overwhelmed with what to do?

Recently I attended a highly valued networking meeting of management level job seekers that also included several representatives from respected recruiting/retained search firms.

During the meeting the representatives from the recruiting/search firms had the opportunity to answer questions and provide many tips, tactics and approaches they believed vital to landing a job. Some of the information was valuable. At the same time some of the other advice provided in particular by one representative who has a considerable number of years in his field to me wasn’t valid and actually counter-intuitive . Having conducted a job search a few times in my career I have learned what works consistently, what works some of the time and in certain situations, and what only sounds good in theory. Equally important, I learned what works for me may be slightly different than what works for someone else.

No one has all of the answers, all of the right tactics, or all of the right approaches and methods to a job search, and yet this person presented his ideas as of if only those approaches worked. No one approach or person can state there is only one approach in job search. Why? Because quite simply every person is different and therefore, every hiring manager is different. Therefore, no two interviews and hiring processes are the same, no matter how many you have experienced. I have learned not to trust, or rather, question every job search approach or tactic no matter the source. Yes, consider it, evaluate it, but also question it.

What is the right course of action for you in your job search?

Question everything you hear or are directed in a job search. Why? Because what worked for another person may not work as well for you. You have your own style and may excel at one job search tool or approach than another. For sure, you must have a solid resume and practice at being able to convey who you are and your talents. Attempt to use all tools available and yet use what works for you and feels right. I have also discovered much of job search is not about a tool or tactic and rather comes down to using your own skills and trusting your intuition as to how to conduct a job search.

There are a myriad of job search tools and tactics and I do recommend you consider at least reviewing them. Then decide what works best for you, or rather, how to use the tool, but in your own style and ability. For example, I believe networking is a vital component of a successful job search. Initially I failed miserably at networking fearing it was like cold calling someone and I simply was not comfortable with that approach. Once I learned how to network through a referral process, I excelled at it because I had the opportunity to learn about someone in one-on-one. This approach has proven to be much more comfortable to me and fit who I am and my style. Meeting someone in person continues to be an extremely valuable venue for effective networking.

Further, and most important, I found for me, that simply, some tactics touted by many, are not effective. Specifically, having spent years researching personal development I discovered that many tactics touted as being effective often lacked an understanding of the way people think, act and believe.

For example, I don’t believe in elevator speeches as they are too rehearsed and say little. Sure, understand how to explain to someone what makes you a special hire, but I have found other approaches to delivering that information. The human element behind the concept of producing an elevator speech is partly about you being able to state what you do, what you excel at, and how you do it, all in 30 seconds. The real importance is for you to decide what you want to be when you grow up. What do you want to do, what matters to you, where do you want to go and why are you good at it? Most people struggle with those questions. Once you answer these questions, then an elevator speech isn’t an elevator speech at all. Instead of sounding rehearsed, your information will flow smoothly in a relaxed style. If you want to turn someone off, just start spouting an elevator speech. If you watch the recipient’s body language, it will strongly tell you that they stopped listening a few seconds after you began your speech.

I also don’t believe in target lists, although it is a constant promoted approach in every job search meeting. Some people believe they work great. But I have seen how they hindered many candidates. (But that concept is for another day as I will soon publish another article and post on this specific topic.)

One key I learned is our own inner thought process, our beliefs and actions determine our job search success more than any tactic or approach. To put this in perspective, when we are employed we are making decisions every day regarding what project to work on when, who to meet with to collaborate on a project, and much more. Conversely, when unemployed, it is easy to feel as if someone has grabbed the TV remote control from us. Hence, we feel out of control. We are at the mercy of when someone returns our call, or responds to an email, or simply waiting to hear on the status or outcome of an interview or potential job offer. As you have discovered, there are some factors you can control and impact, and there are some factors out of your control. Knowing how to manage the factors you can impact and understand mentally and emotionally how to deal with the factors for which you have no control is the essence of a job search.

If we are seeking response from an email, voicemail, or interview we begin to think like waiting to hear from someone after a first date: Will they call back, when will the call back, what should I say when they contact me, how long should I wait to contact them if I don’t receive a response, and does no quick response mean they are not interested? Spending time on these questions can distort our view of reality potentially making you appear too aggressive, or impatient or potentially bothersome to the hiring manager. At the same time understanding that the hiring manager during the interview potentially was more focused on meeting an urgent deadline or responding to an important email after the interview are challenges few discuss yet every interviewee encounters. You are sure to hear all sorts of suggestions from others on how to manage this challenge. Sort through the potential options and do what works best for you.

But if someone tells you that it should only take a certain amount of days for you to land a job or not to use a tactic for which you found value, such as not talking to anyone you meet at an networking meeting outside of the meeting, then don’t follow that advice. Consider it, question it, and then decide for yourself.

The confusion in job search and requirement that we question everything is best demonstrated by asking someone for advice on a resume. Ask 20 people and you will receive 20 answers. Instead when I first conducted a job search 15 years ago, I asked for a copy from everyone in which I met, especially from those who landed a job. From there I pulled what struck me as highly effective as well as incorporated some of their input.

In your job search, listen to everyone, but determine what makes sense to you. Often people providing job search advice have never been on the other side of the table; your side as being interviewed. Sure, you can ask many a hiring manager why they didn’t hire someone. We all hear many stories, of crazy answers to questions, not being prepared, mistakes on resumes, and much more.

But in the end getting hired boils down to what really is the most nebulous factor of all: that you are a good fit. Only the hiring manager can describe what a good fit is to them. At yet every hiring manager will have a different belief on what constitutes a good fit. The greatest challenge in the interview is seeking to determine and convince the hiring manager that you are a good fit – and I would contend this can be more important that being able to fix their immediate problems which is often stated as the key to interview success.

From my experience there are 2 vital components of a job search that have the greatest impact on landing the job. These 2 components can’t be provided or directed by someone else. Only you can determine and must decide what exact type of job you want; you must know exactly what you want because often a hiring manager isn’t sure. Hiring managers often are not sure exactly what they need other than someone to fix an immediate problem. And often that problem is not revealed in a job description and rarely fully conveyed in a job interview. I often discover from researching a company, talking to my network about the company and officers you can determine how to help the hiring manager. Having worked a many size companies, I have found that your experience can often provide you insight into what the hiring manager needs, sometimes before they do.

The other vital component is self-confidence. You radiate your self-confidence of lack of it, to everyone you meet. Everyone can feel if you are cautious or confident. When confident, you will be much more relaxed and the real you will be revealed to each person you meet. Answering interview questions and projecting your knowledge will flow easily in words and body language.

Most likely some of you will not agree with some or all of my suggestions. And I can say, good! Question what I have said and determine what works for you. The key is to understand no one has all of the answers. Determine what works and feels comfortable and use what intuitively feels right. Tactics don’t land you a job, you land a job. Believing in your ability sets the stage for an effective job search. And you can question everything, and even question yourself. And when you answer with confidence you are ready for landing a new job.

The strange reason you didn’t land the interview

 

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How many times have you seen a job description for which you believed your experience and skill set matches exactly and yet never landed an interview? You submitted your resume and networked and yet never heard back, leaving you to ponder what you might have done wrong in the submission process.

You also take that a step further and begin to doubt if your experience is lacking somehow to have failed in at least obtaining a response from the company. Was it your resume or something on your LinkedIn profile, or did you not submit your resume on the right day at the right time, or should you have called the hiring manager, or maybe your cover letter was lacking?

Most likely it was none of those reasons. A job description can have 20-30 criteria and although you can make the assumption they are listed in order of importance, often they are not. Wouldn’t it be great for job seekers if these criteria were weighted to show you just how important each requirement is to the hiring manager? Unfortunately, there is another factor: the criteria changes over time – even during the hiring process.

All of this leaves job seekers in a quandary and most certainly a large degree of frustration. I am sure you have been on interviews only to discover even the job title does not match the listed job requirements or the perceived grade level of the job responsibilities.

With this said, the question is really “What can you do about it?” There is something you can do, and at the same time nothing you can do. Business and people are all different and it is important to understand you will never understand their actions or decisions. At the same time this scenario screams for why it is imperative you have a powerful network. You at least need a chance to get in front of the hiring manager and discuss your experience in detail and ask questions. However, this still may not be enough, but at least you give yourself a chance.

In the end if the hiring manager decides she must have someone with extensive industry experience similar to the company, and yours is modest in that industry, then as hard as you sell yourself, it may all fall on deaf ears. But you need that chance in front of the hiring manager, and if you aren’t granted one, even with great referrals, step back and consider that was not the best fit for you.

Maybe during the entire interview process senior management pushes a project to the front and demands most resources be focused on timely completion of that project. Although you may have been in the running at one point, you may now be moved to the back of the line because someone else has more experience solely in that project completion. Networking at least gives you a chance that you might be heard.

The other challenge is that the hiring manager may not be exactly sure of what he really wants. Sure, we know every job description asks for every conceivable job expertise, but which ones are really the key drivers for the hiring manager? The hiring manager often is not exactly sure what the best combination of skills and talents is for the job – almost as if he will know it when he sees it. Unfortunately, for you the job seeker, that puts you in a major dilemma – how can you possibly answer questions not really knowing what the hiring manager wants if the hiring manager is not exactly sure? This is another reason why asking questions in an interview is more important than having cute answers.

Consider the job search process from the hiring manager perspective. If you have ever been in this position, you first look around for someone internally to fill the position or ask around if anyone knows anyone. Eventually HR and even Legal push you to write a job description and in haste you put down everything you can think of to require of a candidate. Yet if the hiring manager was going to talk first to a referral of an internal candidate for example, the hiring manager would not have this extensive list of requirements in mind. Instead the hiring manager would be more focused on if the person was a good fit in a key areas. See how crazy this is? Bottom line, you can’t really be sure if your experience and expertise is what the hiring manager really wants.

But what if you never receive an opportunity to interview and your experience aligns perfectly with the job requirements? Sure, as we know there are hundreds of other candidates with similar great experience and something in their background caught the hiring manager’s eye. However, remember that a job search comes down to fit, and that fit has to be there from both sides. I have discovered that when I was turned down or was never provided an opportunity to interview at a company that eventually not only a job offer came from another company, but the opportunity proved to be better than I had planned for.

This is not just wishful thinking. Looking back I can see that my skills and expertise would not have been fully utilized at some companies, or the company ended up years later struggling financially, or merged with another company changing their culture. At the same time the company where I landed was always the right company for me to learn, grow and excel as long as I remained focused on what I truly was looking for and desired in my next position. Most important each company set me up to take on the challenges and responsibilities of my new position.

About 10 years ago there was a company at which I interviewed and wanted to work, believing the position looked like a great fit. There was another company at which I interviewed, and yet of which I knew little about them. As it turns out the first company got buried in the economic collapse of 2008 (they were a home builder!). I did not get the job at the first company and instead I landed at the second company and eventually was given more responsibility than anticipated and it turned out to be a perfect growth and learning opportunity.

So remain vigilant and know there is a place where you belong and where you will excel. Instead of lamenting a lost opportunity, or negative thinking on how the company made a wrong decision in not hiring you, realize instead the right decision was made in not hiring you – because you belong somewhere else to achieve goals and add skills and make a difference.

10 steps to effective job search networking

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I often hear job seekers ask how to network. Misperceptions have caused this valuable tool to not be used near enough. Networking is by far the most potent tool in your job search toolbox.

First, let’s start with what it’s not – networking is not simply connecting to someone you don’t know on LinkedIn by merely sending them an invite to connect. (I will explain later how linking is a small first step in the process) Second, networking is not about cold calling; picking up the phone and calling someone you don’t know. (There is a time when you can use this technique, but with the right foundation).

I have found networking to be fun. Seriously, with the right approach, networking is actually one of the most pleasurable parts of the job search. Further, once you learn how to network properly, you will never stop. And lastly, spending time at job search groups seeing the same people week after week will no longer be necessary.

While everyone looks for the one new technique to break through in their job search, the age old technique of networking effectively is your key to land your next job.

Here are 10 steps to make your networking extremely effective and create a break- through in your job search results:

  1. What vendors/firms have you worked with? The best place to start with networking is connecting with people you worked with who did business with your company. Having a finance background I met and interacted with dozens of people from banks, law firms, insurance companies and brokers, and auditors. I always kept in contact with them and when unemployed met them at their convenience to talk one-on-one.

    No doubt that you know someone at a company that did business with your firm. These people know key personnel at other firms and can be a great referral into other companies. Often these people know if another company is hiring or better yet, if someone just left a company. This gives you an edge to get your resume in first.

  2. Meet people anywhere – Strike up a conversation with someone everywhere you go; at the grocery store, at the gas station, in an elevator or with a neighbor – anywhere. Don’t start with explaining that you are unemployed and searching; rather, find out about them. What do they do? Where do they work? Make casual conversation. If you go around immediately discussing being unemployed, you will be similar to the life insurance salesmen everyone stays away from. Instead, get to know the other person. The more interest you show in them, then the more interest they will show in you.
  3. Meet everyone you can one-on-one – Once I ramped up my individual networking I had little time to go to weekly networking meetings – where I often saw the same people. Networking effectively is about meeting new people and spending time over a cup of coffee to learn about them. Yes, I said, learn about them. You probably have heard that we all have 6 degrees of separation. Everyone knows somebody. So start by asking questions to your new connection. Ask where they grew up, what college they attended, how they ended up at their current position, why they came to live here and even why they chose their profession.
  4. Ask and determine how you can help them – Yes, the hour you spend with someone is to determine how you can help them. I know, you thought you were there about your needs. Well, when you help someone they in-turn want to return the favor. And most important, by hearing what they need, you will uncover who they want to meet and who they know. Use your growing list of connections to help make an introduction to your new connection. And as you ask more questions and learn more about your new friend, you will find they often know someone you want to connect with. My wife summarizes this process exactly in stating that for effective networking, just like with a bank account, you can’t make a withdrawal until you make a deposit. Make as many deposits as you can. There will be time later to make a withdrawal.
  5. Build your connections similar to multi-level marketing – The true basis of multi-level marketing is to meet someone who can introduce you to 2 people, and in turn, those 2 people each introduce you to 2 more. As you continue this process you will build a downline of connections that all started with one person. And think of how many downlines you can build stating with all of the people you know now.

    How do you get the names of the 2 people to meet? You ask your new connection. During your conversation they will have brought up the name of someone you want to meet, or if not, then at the end of your meeting, ask for the names of 2 people they can introduce you to. They will always know 2 people, anyone, even the person at the grocery store they know, who seems to know everyone. Those are the people I want to meet – because they know many people. I will say it again, I have networked for years and it is always fascinating and highly exciting. Why? Because every time I meet someone I end up surprised at who they know.

  6. The introduction – When networking effectively, your new connection is most happy to make an introduction to other people on your behalf. The most standard method is via email introduction where you and the new connection are introduced to each other. From there it is quite easy to respond, set up a time to meet, and you are on your way to meeting someone new – starting the process all over again. You can also call them if provided a phone number. This is not a cold call as your existing connection will have reached out to your new connection making an introduction. Then your call will be expected and flow much easier with no pressure compared to cold calling.
  7. Following up – This process is not complete without follow up and follow through. Reach out to your new connection as soon as possible simply setting up a time and place to meet. Then after you meet your new connection, send an email to the person that referred you and not only thank them for the introduction, but tell them how valuable the meeting was and what you learned about your new connection. This follow-up is critical as a thank you is always appropriate both to the person you met and the person that referred you. By doing this you further cement your growing connection with this person, and they want to know that when they referred you to someone, the new person responded and was helpful. A great meeting with someone new can only make your referral happy and glad to help you again.
  8. LinkedIn connections – This article can’t be complete without mentioning LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a wonderful tool like any other if used properly. You can be a member in up to 50 groups for free, and I suggest you get in 50 of them. The groups can be related to your job search, career, self-help and much more. If you find yourself involved in a discussion in one of the groups and give and take input from a couple of people, then use that as a basis to make a connection on LinkedIn. BUT, write something in your request to them when connecting that explains why you want to connect. Don’t send the “I want to connect with you” wording. I run from those invites. Instead, explain that you enjoy their posts, you learn much from them, and that being in the same group may prove you have more in common. Help make the other person be excited to connect with you, and continue your dialogue. But only reach out to connect with someone when you are intent on building a networking relationship.
  9. Keep a spreadsheet of connections – Having a finance background spreadsheets are second nature to me, and if they aren’t to you, determine some way to track all of the people you meet. Sure you can save their phone numbers, email address and where they work in your iphone. Yet, I recommend you keep additional information, such as: when you met, who they referred you to, and who referred them to you. The key here is knowing who referred someone to you, and then who they referred you to. You will find it is quite valuable to contact all of your connections periodically providing an update of your job search status and how they have helped you. My list of connections got so large that I carried my spreadsheet with me to networking meetings because I often referred back it.
  10. Hang out where your boss would hang out – Often job seekers are directed to target companies to land a job. You can do that, but that targets a few companies. Networking targets all of them. So determine where the hiring managers would network where they meet many people at the same level from other companies. Years ago in my Treasurer role I reported to the CFO and I looked to where CFO’s would attend conferences, seminars, networking meetings, etc. My goal was to be there to be introduced to CFO’s no matter the company at which they worked. Why? Because I could build a long term relationship with them never knowing when they might need me. Further, they know other CFO’s who might be hiring. Often one CFO will call another CFO who they met through networking and ask if they know anyone to fill an opening.

One quick point on quantity vs. quality. When I networked while unemployed I could build a database of a couple hundred connections very quickly. To some degree quantity has value as you never know where you will meet someone who can be your best referral. At the same time I did strive for quality. Generally I wanted to be around people in my profession or along my career path. I was not trying to get to 1,000 names as a contest. Rather, take the time to get to know your connections and build relationships.

The biggest key to all of this process is to get to know the other person and determine how you can help them. As you do this you will learn who they know. Most important you want them to be eager to get to you know you, the real you, with your great expertise, experience and skill set. This is extremely critical because having all of these connections is similar to having your own sales force. All of these connections will be eager to sell you to their business friends. But they can only do that by getting to know you, and have people eager to get to know you. You do that by demonstrating how you can help them.

In the end networking is about building lasting relationships. As you build these relationships, you will find that although there is an advantage to knowing many people, networking is most effective when your hundreds of connections know you. When they know your ability and passion, then they become your greatest asset. These connections will easily out power what you have on your resume as they make personal introductions just for you.
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Warm regards,

Gary
Have a question? Contact me at gary@garyspinell.com.