We’ve all read the news about the job market, and none of it is very good. Even though the broad economy looks like it’s moving into a recovery, everything out there indicates the job market may lag as much as a year behind. So – we are going to be looking a little longer than maybe we’d planned. That’s the pits, but there is some hope out there. In fact, we are seeing a genuine increase in positive job search activity among clients. People are landing interviews, finding leads and accepting offers at a much better rate than even 3 months ago. So while the job market may not rebound as soon as we’d all like to see, we can take great comfort from stories and advice from people who actually landed jobs in the last few weeks.
The stories and advice can be grouped into a few broad categories, and in order of prominence in the advice and stories, here are tips from successful job seekers in this market.
1. Networking. It really is all about networking. Every single story we’ve heard reinforced this theme. One successful person said, “Talk to anyone and everyone since you don’t know where the discussion and networking might ultimately lead.” Here’s a direct quote from another success story. “Network – Tell everybody. Don’t be embarrassed to admit that you’re unemployed and looking for a new “opportunity.” (Notice, I didn’t say I was looking for a job.) I wasted 2-3 months early on hedging my bets about “who to tell.” Use “Linked in” and alumni resources to network. Have your “elevator speech” down cold. Be specific and don’t hedge about what’s important to you in your next job. Networking opened up doors that were otherwise closed and led me to explore opportunities that I would otherwise not have known about. Networking is NOT overrated!” Other successful job seekers found membership in networking groups helpful and another suggested using job fairs as a networking vehicle. The bottom line is that networking is the single best job search method. Nothing takes its place. But – there are tools to enhance your networking efforts.
2. Networking, Part 2 – Social Media – Linked In is the social media outlet of choice for most of our successful candidates. One person said, “Absolutely use Linked-In. This was one of the most useful tools for me during my job search.” Another told us, “Utilize all internet networking opportunities including Linked-In, Facebook, Plaxo and Twitter amongst others.” We continue to see people getting great value from a variety of social media sites, but for professional networking, nothing seems as good as Linked In. But we are seeing an explosion of effective networking at Facebook and Twitter, so make sure you take a hard look at every available networking tool, and make good use of the ones with which you feel the most comfortable.
3. Maintain a Positive Attitude. I love this quote from a recently landed client of the firm. “Most importantly, maintain a positive attitude. People don’t want to talk to or hire people who wine, vent, blame and dwell in self-pity.” It’s true. While you’re in transition, you need to remember that you are “on an audition” for how you might behave as an employee 100% of the time. Keeping a positive, upbeat attitude sends a powerful message that you will make a positive upbeat contribution to your next employer, too. But – the down days are going to come. One person told us, “There will be down days and periods … it happens so anticipate it will and be ready for it when it does happen.” Make sure you find things to do that help with these dark days. Volunteer, exercise, read, listen to music, or anything else that helps you cope with down days will work. I can’t really say it better than this client. “Stay Positive and Be Flexible – Rejection is hard. Sometimes you just want to give up, especially if you make it to round 2 or 3 and THEN get a “thanks but no thanks” response from a prospective employer. You can quickly fall into a desperate or “woe is me” funk that is definitely not the kind of attitude you want to display (even subtly) with any prospective employer. When I found myself getting down on me, I took a break. I walked. I read a book. I listened to my smooth jazz albums. I watched a DVD movie. I did anything to get my mind off being rejected by a prospective employer. And, I also reminded myself that my sense of self-worth is NOT defined by not currently having a job. I also reminded myself of all my previous successes–so I can’t be all THAT bad. I repeated this mantra: ‘Your day will come, your day will come, your day will come. ‘ That’s how I got through it.” And a final great reason for staying positive – especially about your former employer: “Resist the temptation to feel bitter toward your employer and the people who work there, they may have helpful leads and contacts.”
4. Set Your Priorities and Be Organized. “You do need to prioritize your activities and time so you don’t focus too much on low payback probabilities,” is a nearly perfect piece of advice in any endeavor, but it’s especially true in job search mode. It’s very, very easy to get pulled into activity that might feel good in the moment, but has little long term chances of yielding a good lead, contact or useful information – such as simply surfing the net. One client found that maintaining a structured day helped. “From day one, continue your personal schedule and routine (get up at the same time, shower, get dressed, etc.)” Another aspect of getting your priorities set is that you can take ownership of your search and have a sense of purpose or direction for your efforts. One successful client told us, “Creating a list of the top 10 criteria (prioritized) for a job situation early in the search helps a lot when situations arise and you could get swept away in the moment.” The same client also said, “You’re the one in control of the process — how fast or slow it move depends on you. Many people are more than willing to help but you need to set the pace and take the initiative.” When you stitch these tips together, you get some really helpful advice. It’s your search. You own it, and if you can establish a set of priorities to guide your efforts, you set yourself up for success, not failure. Another client offered a tip that really blended the positive attitude idea and focus into one very interesting statement. “Step back and take stock — what do you really enjoy doing, where have you had the most success, what area created a real sense of energy and excitement. Focus on opportunities that align with those areas.” I could not agree more. There is no reason NOT to take a good look at what you really want, and then seek that out in your next role. Here’s a great quote from a successful client that summarizes the whole point very well: “Narrow the focus of the search to the job/role where you will be the most attractive as a candidate. Build on your strengths.”
5. Stay Focused on Others. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s really great advice. Networking is the single best method to finding a new job, but you can dry up a network very quickly if all you are doing is asking for a job. You need to work on the relationship building part of the process, and that means paying close attention to the people you meet. For instance, one client said, “Help others more than you get helped — what goes around, comes around.” Another client said this, “Maintain regular contact with your network, send frequent status emails reminding them of your situation, however, don’t simply ask them to provide you with an opportunity, include humorous and/or informational content, also it’s not all about you, look for ways to help the people in your network as well.”
6. Persevere. Each of the successful clients who helped us with this great information looked for their current jobs for at least 4 months. It’s a long process in today’s market, but you simply cannot afford to give up. You really need to think in terms of a marathon and not a sprint. One client said simply, “Don’t’ give up!” Another way to look at the process is to remember, “It only takes one YES.” And, “Don’t take the no’s personally.” Other very specific tips included staying on top of job boards and company sites, keep close track of everyone you talk to during the search, and to stick to a routine – no matter the day-to-day results.
7. For Older Job Seekers – Make Age and Asset. Admittedly, this tip doesn’t apply to everyone currently looking for a job, but I loved the comment from our client. “Don’t hide the fact that you’ve got some experience. Be upfront. Don’t put everything in minute detail on your resume but don’t try to make yourself out to be 35 if you’re 55–or older. The workplace is changing. Experience is valued–assuming you’ve also got the personality and “fit” that goes with the specific work environment/job that you’re pursuing. Of course, it goes without saying you have to keep your skills current. I joined Yahoo Groups (Human Resources, Organization Development, Training, Job Search, among others) and did everything I could to read, search the Internet and, in general, keep myself up-to-date on what’s happening in my functional specialty. That’s important.” Amen. It’s one of the biggest challenges for older job seekers – proving they are in touch with current “best practices” and market trends. So maintain a willingness to learn new things, stay current and keep plugging away.