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Job search advice only works when it’s applied!

Clearly, not all advice is good advice. No advice, however, works if it’s not applied!

Many job seekers look for ideas, best practices, strategies, techniques and other advice for hours each day.

Some, when they are with others, often talk as if they themselves are job search experts. They’ve learned it all… and yet, they are still unemployed.

The disconnect is in how much, or how little of the advice they’ve applied to their search.

Networking with others doesn’t work if you don’t reach out to contacts and potential employers.

Customizing your resume for each job doesn’t work if you don’t do it.

Sending a Thank You note after a networking meeting or interview doesn’t help you land a job if you don’t send one.

Interviews don’t go so well if you don’t take the time to prepare.

… and on, and on!

While some pieces of advice may not be as effective as others, and not all advice ought to be adhered to… many job seekers procrastinate and find excuses for not applying any of it.

The reasons vary.

Some are afraid of putting in all the effort without any results and becoming more discouraged.

Some are not willing to do anything outside of their comfort zones.

Some are convinced that their circumstances are different and none of the advice will work.

Some get stuck in “Analysis Paralysis” and can’t past the “research” phase.

Some are simply not willing to put in the effort.

Make a point of applying some of the advice you find today, and begin the process of becoming more effective in your job search!


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Networking doesn’t work for MY job search!

It’s not unusual for people to tell me that their situation is different than others, and networking doesn’t work for them.

Usually, it’s after they tried to connect with someone, or they reached out to someone that they found on LinkedIn and it produced no leads, referrals, or insight.

More often than not, it has more to do with HOW they try networking than whether networking works or not.

I heard a voicemail recently that was intended as a networking call to reach out to someone in the hopes of getting referrals. Unfortunately, it was a disaster. The message lasted over 2 minutes, the person rambled, repeated themselves, had no point to the message, and almost forgot to leave their phone number. It’s highly unlikely that they get many, if any, returned phone calls. It’s even more unlikely that they get any referrals or leads… not many people that receive a message like that would feel comfortable inflicting the caller on one of their acquaintances.

The caller probably believes that “networking” for a job search is way over-rated since it doesn’t seem to work for them.

Similarly, others run into friends or acquaintances at a mall or grocery store and ramble endlessly about their job loss and difficulties in finding a new job, and then are surprised when even friends don’t seem to be willing to share names and job leads.

They soon decide that their circumstances must be different, and networking doesn’t work in their situation, and they quit trying.

It’s not the concept of networking that’s the problem, but rather how they do it!

Preparation is key!

Know what you’re going to say! - Write scripts… for a conversation, and another one for the inevitable voicemails.

Brevity is a virtue! - Don’t ramble, be concise, get to the point.

Be direct! - State your objective soon and without fluff.

Practice! – The presentation improves with repetition.

Try and try again! – Nothing works every time. The more often you do it, the more likely you are to see results.

 

Don’t decide that networking doesn’t work for you! Find ways to improve until it works!


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Explaining a Bad Experience

Occasionally I hear from a job seeker that came out of a truly bad experience at their last employer. They either left or were let go through no fault of their own, but really were victims in the process.

The difficulty for them is to find a way to describe it to a new potential employer without sounding they are bashing the old one!

I met a woman who truly was victimized in her previous job. She was harassed, she was the subject of screaming and verbal abuse, and she was fired without warning because she resisted advances.

Other than the abuse by the owner, she loved her job and the people she worked with. She doesn’t want the stigma of suing her employer, and only wants to move on to a new opportunity. However, she finds it difficult to explain her situation without creating a series of awkward questions and doubt about what happened.

It is a challenge!

There are no easy solutions for that or similar situations. However, as with other questions that involved being fired, a direct, brief answer, followed by a question that directs the conversation in another direction is most likely to be effective.

In the case of the woman that was victimized, she may say something like…

 

While I very much enjoyed working with my co-workers, and was effective in my role, there were instances of inappropriateness and values opposed to mine from the owner that lead to my being let go recently. I am looking forward to a new opportunity to learn, and develop new experiences. Can you give me a better idea what areas this position would primarily focus on in the first few months?”

 

It’s short and direct. It points to the problem without trashing the employer with a great deal of detail. It indicates a positive outlook for a new opportunity, and asks a question to send the discussion in a new direction.

There is no answer that will work every time. However, using a formula like this is most likely to provide the best results.

If you’ve had a bad experience that will need to be addressed in an interview, create an explanation that can be brief, optimistic, and send the conversation down a new path!


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What LinkedIn Can’t Do Effectively

LinkedIn is an amazing tool for a job search. I’ve often claimed that LinkedIn has been a game changer for a job search these last few years. There has never been a resource as powerful and helpful before.

However, there is one scenario when LinkedIn can’t be effective…

Trying to pursue multiple career path possibilities at the same time.

For someone that has had multiple functional responsibilities in their career history, and very open to new opportunities in any one of those areas, it’s difficult to gain credible interest from their LinkedIn profile.

When they are pursuing a specific role, they can customize a resume to emphasize the most relevant skills and experience.

On LinkedIn, however, they don’t know what the recruiter or employer is looking for, so all their experience is listed to “catch” any interest they can. To that recruiter or employer, however, the background doesn’t compare well to other profiles they are reviewing that show more specialized experience. They are not likely to be contacted.

While it may seem to be a good strategy to keep your “options open”, the reality is it becomes much more difficult to land a position than to narrow your search to a specific type of role. Someone “open” to a number of types of opportunities seems less serious to an employer than someone that seems to know what they want to do.

Someone can focus their LinkedIn profile on one type of position. However, if they are pursuing something else, and that employer looks up their LinkedIn profile, it’s likely to raise red flags.

There is no easy solution to the problem. Being aware, however, of the limitations and likely impressions a “keeping options open” profile is likely create is important to recognize.

Deciding a career direction, and focusing all your effort in that direction is the most likely strategy to produce results.

LinkedIn is awesome, however, it can’t accomplish every objective!


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Find me? Contact me!

If you’re a job seeker, and you have a profile on LinkedIn so that recruiters, HR people, hiring managers can find you… how will they reach you?

If they are very impressed by your background and know they want to talk to you… they MIGHT use one of their InMail messages, or introductions, or find some other way to reach out. However, if you’re someone that looks interesting, but they’re not sure, it’s unlikely they will use their limited LinkedIn resources or put in the added effort to find a way to reach out.

It’s often that those “interesting” candidates get the job even if it’s not initially clear they are a great fit. If you’re too hard to reach though, the opportunity is likely to be lost.

Unless you’re a first level connection, LinkedIn doesn’t show your contact information to someone that finds you in a search.

So what’s the solution?

Put your phone number and/or email address in your profile! Near the top… where it’s easy to see!

Active job seekers miss opportunities all the time because there is no easy or obvious way to reach them. Getting found on LinkedIn requires a good profile, however, if you’re found, gain interest, and then make it difficult for them to connect, the profile doesn’t do you much good!

Be sure to include your contact information, easily visible, on your LinkedIn profile and see if it doesn’t improve your results!


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Networking for what you want, or settling with job boards

Job boards seem great. They have dozens, hundreds, or thousands of jobs in your area and seem like the perfect place to find that new career venture.

They are, however, one of the least productive resources for finding the job you want!

Depending on which surveys you read, only somewhere between 10% and 16% of job seekers find their new position through a job board.

Of those, a large percentage settle for a job they were able to get rather than a job they would really want.

The issue lies in the fact that once a job is posted online, it’s available for the whole world to see… and apply to. Dozens, or hundreds apply. The only applicants that are contacted are the ones that are an obvious fit. Those, whose resumes show they most recently worked in a role most similar to the one at hand.

For a job seeker that has transferrable skills, but not an exact match in experience, however, wants to expand their horizons with new responsibilities, will most certainly be out of luck.

Even for the job seeker whose resume does show they have recent experience that matches the job closely, they are typically one of many with similar qualifications. The odds are generally not in their favor.

If, with enough online applications, the job seeker does land a job, it’s often one that they were finally able to secure rather than one they would have really preferred.

Reaching out and networking within the companies you would prefer, whether an appropriate position is posted or not, produces much greater odds of landing a more prized role.

Ultimately, uncovering a role that is early in the planning process, and not yet posted for the world to see, is the best way to arrive at the desired goal.

Most job seekers spend the majority of their time surfing job boards and applying to an endless array of posted opportunities. Generally with negligible results.

Spending a majority of job search time pursuing contacts at targeted companies is the way to land the job of your dreams!

Don’t become overly attracted to job boards!  They generally only get you what’s left rather than what you want!


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Reconnect for results!

Often, job seekers aren’t as effective as they could be because they are only hit and run networkers!

They might chat with someone at a networking group, reach out with a phone call, meet someone for an informational interview, or connect in some other way, and perhaps get an additional contact or lead, or not.

Unfortunately, for most job seekers, that one meeting is all there is.

It’s not unusual for that contact to think of something a few days, weeks, or a couple of months later. At that  point, however, they either can’t remember how to connect, or assumes that the job seeker probably landed by then. Opportunity lost!

The solution?

Reconnect with every contact on a regular basis. Every 4 to 6 weeks, send out an email to everyone you’ve been in contact with regarding your job search so far.

People who have done this consistently, report that email to be the greatest source of new leads, referrals, encouragement for their job search each month. Previous contacts are reminded of your search, ideas that came to them earlier will likely now be shared. Their thought process for referrals is renewed. Or, at the very least, many are likely offer encouragement and hope. When a job search drags on, every bit of encouragement helps!

If you’ve been networking effectively, the number of contacts can become large. Personalizing a note to each one can become burdensome. Sending a group email is most practical, however, put all the email addresses into the BCC field so that each contact doesn’t see who else it’s going to.

Key points in the email are to show you’ve been active (not just waiting by the phone for a call), that you are pursuing all you can, and that you are still interested in connecting with others in the process.

An example might be something like…

 

 

I’m reaching out to reconnect regarding my job search. I’m grateful for all the ideas, insight, referrals and leads I’ve been receiving and have been very active at pursuing appropriate leads wherever I can. In the last month, I’ve had multiple interviews, a great number of networking meetings, and many new connections. It’s been a great process.

While I’m still in process on certain opportunities, I continue to be grateful for any additional referrals, contacts or leads. I appreciate any ideas or insight you may have.

Also, please do reach out any time I might be able to be of help to you in some way!

 

 

Including some specific examples of companies where you are being considered, or listing specific companies you’d like to target can add credibility, and generate additional ideas.

Reconnecting with previous contacts can be one of the greatest ways to become a more effective networker. Try it and see!


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Questions required!

One of the bigger mistakes job seekers sometimes make in an interview is to not ask questions when given the opportunity.

It’s very common near the end of most job interviews for the interviewer to ask something like…

Do you have any questions for me?”

Unfortunately, sometimes the response is along the lines of…

No, I think we covered everything!”

or…

No, I’m all set!”

Those kinds of answers can often bring the hiring process to an end.

Having no questions when prompted is likely to be interpreted as:

  • Not enough interest in the position or company to want to learn more

  • General lack of curiosity or desire to gain more knowledge

  • Over-confidence that an offer is inevitable

  • or… Not having a clue about what may be important!

 

As a recruiter, I have the opportunity to debrief with my client, the employer, after my candidates interview. Over the years, there have been occasions when the feedback I received has been along the lines of…

I thought the interview was going well, however, when I asked if they had any questions, they had none for me. If they don’t have enough interest to ask any questions, they aren’t the right fit for us.”

Always ask questions… even if you think you already know the answers! However, be wise about them…

  • Ask questions appropriate to the positions level and responsibilities. Asking about the company’s marketing strategy when interviewing for a Staff Engineer role and meeting with an Engineering Manager, comes across as irrelevant and contrived.

  • Don’t ask questions that were already answered previously in the interview. Coming to the interview prepared with questions to ask is a good idea. Asking one of those prepared questions even though it was already discussed earlier seems like a lack of listening.

  • Come prepared with a list of questions to be asked when given the chance. It shows the employer that thought went into the process before the interview. It shows you prepare. When the opportunity arises, it’s impressive to proceed with something like… 

    As a matter of fact, I do have some questions. I prepared a number of things I’d like to ask. We already discussed this one, and this one, however, one thing we didn’t touch on was…”

You will not likely have time to ask more than 3 to 4 questions. However, it’s a very good idea to prepare 15 to 20 so that regardless how much is covered in the interview, you will still have other topics to ask about.

Never take the opportunity to ask questions too lightly. It’s not just for your benefit that they ask, it’s a continuing part of their evaluation process of you. The curiosity, interest, passion and appropriateness of your questions tells them a lot about you as a candidate.

When given the opportunity… remember that there’s Questions Required!


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20 Most Common Job Search Mistakes

While it’s true that different people make different mistakes, and some mistakes aren’t a big deal to some potential employers…

there are some mistakes that are too common and can be fixed with some thought and effort. 

The effort is likely to produce dramatically better results!

 


Here are 20 (with potential help) in no particular order…

 

Negative, cynical, defeated or passive attitude 
          (See: The One Best Thing You Can Do For Your Job Search!)

 

Spelling mistakes and typos in a resume, email or letter 
          (See: Does Writing Matter?)

 

Spending the vast majority of time applying for jobs online
          (See: Want to improve your job search? Step away from your computer!)

 

Lack of networking
          (See: Do You Really HAVE To Network For Your Job Search???)

 

Using unprofessional or profane language when networking or interviewing
          (See: Watch Your Words!)

 

Looking sloppy or unprofessional when networking or interviewing
          (See: Are You Referable?)

 

Taking too long to follow up on leads, new contacts and referrals
          (See: Ya’ Gotta’ Be On The Ball!)

 

Neglecting to follow up with Thank You’s after networking or interviews
          (See: Do Thank You Notes Really Matter???)

 

Not being well prepared to state what you do or what you’re looking for
          (See: Your Elevator Speech: Keep It Simple Silly)

 

Talking too much / rambling
          (See: Are You a Talker???)

 

Not listening well 
          (See: Employers want "Emotional Intelligence")

 

Not practicing / preparing for interviews
          (See: One big lesson from the Olympics for your job search!)

 

Little or no knowledge of the company when interviewing
          (See: Preparing to Succeed)

 

No questions when prompted at the end of an interview
          (See: Interviewing the Interviewer!)

 

No specificity when asked what you’re looking for
          (See: The paradox of "keeping your options open" in your job search)

 

Poor time management
          (See: Time Blocks Prevent Mental Blocks!)

 

Asking tough questions
          (See: Ya' Gotta Ask!)

 

Not being organized in the job search
          (See: Are You Ready???)

 

Lack of online presence
          (See: Building A Professional Online Presence)

 

A damaging online presence
          (See: How Employers View Your Online Presence)


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In your job search… Don’t Ask For Jobs!

One of the biggest mistakes people consistently make in the networking process when seeking new jobs... is they ask for jobs!

"What!  Isn't that the point of networking??? To find a job???"

Yes ...and no!

I consistently have people approach me asking if I know of job in their field, and I hear them ask the same question of most others they meet as well. I'm a recruiter, and I do know of open jobs. However, not usually the kind of jobs they are looking for, and most people don't know of open jobs... even at their own companies. They are busy with their own jobs, and families, and other interests and have no reason to ask or pay attention to what jobs are open at any given time.

So, while they sincerely would like to help... when they're asked if they know of an open job, nothing comes to mind and they feel badly they aren't a better resource for you. The conversation becomes quiet, and awkward, and they walk away feeling useless, and you walk away feeling like this networking thing is a waste of time.

When you don't ask for anything in your networking conversations, the conversations seem to end in the same way. The contact may even say something like...

"I'll certainly let you know if I hear of anything!"

Which may sound encouraging, however, almost never produces any results. Typically, it's because they are thinking the same question you decided not to ask: "Do you know of any jobs in my field?"

The key in job search networking is to help them change their thinking, and look for worthwhile contacts for you that get you one step closer to an opportunity rather than the job itself.

If you're an Accountant, networking with the stay-at-home mom next door, having her think of her cousin that is also an Accountant gets you a valuable contact that is more likely to know of Accountants, or Accounting Managers at companies you may like to pursue. If you're brother-in-law is a sales person that might sell to companies that you have an interest in, the Purchasing Manager he calls on is likely to know who an Accounting Manager in his organization might be.

Realizing that the goal in effective job search networking is to get names of other people that may help you get closer to the right opening will help change the conversations and become far more productive. While someone is highly unlikely to know of an appropriate position for you... it's highly likely that they know someone that gets you closer to someone that does know of an appropriate role.

People overwhelmingly want to help in some way... they just often don't know how. As soon as they realize that you are looking for a job, they will certainly tell you if they know of one. They want to help, and that's the obvious question that comes to mind. It doesn't usually occur to them, however, that a name can be a tremendous resource for you.

Make it a point, in your job search networking, never to ask if they know of an open job, and see your results improve.


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Sincerity Overcomes Skepticism

After my last post titled "Give Before You Get", I had a great email from someone asking...

"How do I make sure I am not the slimy guy who's just helping people to get favours? How do I make sure that I stay genuine?"

I appreciated the note, and it's a great question!

I think each person has to ask this of themselves each day.

Zig Ziglar, an exceptional motivational speaker, often used to say:

"You can get everything out of life that you want! ...if you help enough other people get what they want."

I believe that's true. However, I also believe that motives and the heart with which you do those things matters greatly as well. If it's clear that you are "the slimy guy who's just helping people to get favours", it's unlikely that most of those favours will ever materialize... AND you'll have a reputation as a "slimy guy"!  Don't be that guy!

The answer is... Sincerity.

If you sincerely want to build relationships, and be a blessing, a pleasant surprise, a welcome connection, a valued resource and a friend to those you meet, it will become evident. It will be evident in your words, in your body language, in your face, and in your generosity.

In the 1970's TV show M*A*S*H, Hawkeye, in one episode was trying to get a date with a particular nurse, and was having no luck at all in charming her. BJ, his best friend and tent-mate suggested that instead of trying to find a way to play her... he try sincerity. Hawkeye's response was... "Oh, sincerity, I can fake that!"

It was a funny line, but everyone understood that it was a bad idea. Real sincerity can't be faked. Faked "sincerity" becomes evident quickly, and the "slimy guy" reputation is born.

Checking your motives and determining you want to be of value to others will make the difference in all of your phone calls, meetings, casual conversations, and interviews as well. Before every contact, remind yourself that you truly want to be of help to the person you're about to engage. It's an opportunity for a new professional relationship, or perhaps even a friendship. Take the time in advance and during the conversation to think about who you know, what you know, or what you could offer that would be of help or of value in some way. Not just a token contact name or uninformed piece of advice that you throw out to them, but something that truly hits the mark.

It's possible, and highly likely many times that you can't come up with anything... and that's OK. However, SINCERELY expressing your desire to be of help somehow goes a long way toward planting a seed for future further contacts.
Don't fake it, and don't be the "slimy guy".

True sincerity will quickly erase whatever skepticism your contact may have... and then they will be much more interested in helping you as well!


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Give Before You Get

Job Seekers often express discomfort about networking because they feel like they’re beggars for leads, referrals, and ideas. That sense comes from a misconception and mis-application of how great networking should work.

Finding ways to be of value to your contact makes the connection much more equitable and a professional give and take.

Job seekers doing a lot of effective networking in their search are inevitably building a very valuable collection of contacts. People in a wide variety of professions, in a variety of industries, at a number of companies, etc.

Some of those contacts may be a great resource to some of your new contacts!

Offering to help them reach out to people that would be helpful to them is a great value and a great way to reciprocate in the networking process.

Asking your networking contact what challenges they are facing in their position, in their company, or in their career may trigger a recollection of someone else that may have some insight, ideas, experience, or advice for their situation.

Asking what kinds of positions they are hiring for, even if it’s not for your background, may enable you to recommend others that may fit those other roles and help in their hiring process.

Asking about hobbies, sports and other favorite pastimes may bring to mind people with like interests that may be happy to meet others that participate in the same activities.

Asking a variety of questions about your contact will invariably lead to some ideas of how you can be a valued contact to them. Asking them about themselves gets them talking and makes you more interesting to them… people like to talk about themselves, and like people that give them the opportunity!

While networking may not be the most attractive part of a job search for most people, it can be a terrific way to build relationships, a valuable list of contacts, and a way to be of value to everyone you meet!

If your networking conversations are premised on a ‘give before you get’ philosophy, you’ll find them to be far more productive, and more enjoyable as well!


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