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People Want to Help Your Job Search, But YOU Need to Let Them Know How!

A point I continuously make to encourage job seekers to network with as many people as they possibly can is this;essentially, people want to help you. Every one of us has known a close friend or colleague that has experienced an unexpected job loss and wanted to do whatever we could to assist in their securing a new job. Unfortunately, too often the job seeker takes for granted that a colleague who has offered to help instinctively knows how to help them. In reality, most either don’t know many specifics on how to help or could use more guidance from the job seeker as to ways to assist. So, before you the job seeker become frustrated at people that promised to help you but haven’t come through, make sure that you have provided them with the following information:   

What You Are Looking For. Don’t assume people know as much about what you do and your areas of expertise as you think. This often leads to people giving inappropriate contacts or referrals, which frustrates you. But  if you don’t follow up, your referral source understandably feels hurt or unappreciated, and likely hesitate offering further assistance. Once someone has offered to help, providing him or her a copy of your résumé is an obvious first step. If you have a LinkedIn profile, share that as well. Also, outline the various titles of positions you typically apply for. Your contacts then have a better point of reference regarding people they might know in similar titles and fields they can refer you to.

Where You Are Looking. I recently received a great tip on this topic from Jason Alba, author of I’m on LinkedIn, Now What? He recommends to always keep the names several of your target companies on your mind. Then, whenever you discuss your job search with someone, identify some of these companies as places you hope to get a foot in the door at. That way, if your friend or colleague has a contact at one of the companies, they can provide you with it. Even someone outside or with little knowledge of you field may have contacts at certain companies and can easily make a referral.

How Your Search Is Progressing. In my book Networking for the Novice, Nervous or Naïve Job Seeker, one of the ongoing steps I recommend is to send your contacts periodic email updates regarding your job search. Outline specific jobs and companies applied to, interviewed at and interested in. (Jason Alba is also a big proponent of this). Doing so not only reinforces points made in the first two recommendations, but also serves to keep you and your search on colleagues’ radar screen. This increases the likelihood that when one comes across an appropriate contact or opportunity, they’ll associate it with you and try to make the connection. Include within the updates new information, stories and the like you have discovered throughout your search that may prove beneficial to the readers. Remember that networking works best when all parties benefit. As a job seeker speaking to many contacts in your field, you likely will come across a lot of information that may be of interest to your colleagues. If you discover something potentially beneficial to a particular contact, notify them in a private email immediately, reinforcing your willingness to help them as well.


A Letter to Send When You Don’t Get the Job Offer You Really Hoped For

We have all heard many numbers related “rules of thumb” throughout our lives. To help write this post, I tried to look up a marketing ratio I’ve heard through the years- That’s that it takes an average of six contacts with a customer to make a sale. (According to Google Answers, the only research one could find that supports this particular number is a data piece from the Direct Marketing Association in the 1960’s). Regardless of the source, I have often used this ratio to discourage job seekers from crossing a highly desired company off their wish list once they interview for a position, but are not selected. Far too often, once a candidate finds out that a hiring decision will go in another direction, he or she mistakenly eliminates that company or agency from their target list and focuses elsewhere. Here again is where need to understand what sales and marketing professionals must learn in order to succeed. It often takes several contacts to land a sale. Just ask any sales professional you know how much success he would have had if he never followed up with potential customers that turned him down once.

The next time you’re a runner-up at for a job or company you really wanted, why not let the company or hiring manager know how impressed you were with the job, company and opportunity? Then add that you want to stay in touch to learn firsthand about future opportunities. How can you do that? Well, after a turn down, rather than being angry or feeling rejected, try drafting a letter similar to this:

Dear XX

I want to express my gratitude to you as well as (Company Name) for allowing me the opportunity to interview for the position of (XX). I came away from the experience with a highly positive impression of you, your company and the staff I met. The work you are doing is something I would love to be a part of at some point in my career. (Expand on particulars).

Obviously, I was disappointed by not receiving an offer. I wish you and the candidate you selected the best in a successful transition. I also want to try and stay in contact with you. Based on my impression of you and your company, I am certain you will have continued success and growth. With this most surely will come new opportunities. I hope that by staying in contact, I will be able to position myself to take advantage of future opportunities.

 I can cite countless instances where sending such a letter has resulted in a subsequent hire-sometimes even for the position one originally interviewed for, when an unforeseen development happened to the selected candidate. Each time I present the concept of such a follow up letter to a group, members can also cite examples where they have seen it succeed.                                                                                     

Employers know when they have had a difficult selection and enjoy knowing that their company has made a positive impression. Plus, the next time a need arises, it saves much time and expense to it with a candidate already screened and interviewed. Sending such a letter offers a great chance for a win-win result.

Set a Fall Goal to Improve an Area of Your Job Search

There are several strategies involved in a successful job search. Unfortunately, most people concentrate on the strategies they have the greatest level of comfort with. In a labor market as competitive as the current one, such an approach will likely extend a job search. Think about some job search activities you’re not comfortable engaging in or familiar with. Use the start of fall to target one of these and make commitment to work on improving it. Some possible suggestions:

Social Media-Do you utilize Twitter at all for your job search? What percentage of your LinkedIn profile is complete, and how many connections do you have? Select one or both of these and start learning more about how to use or increase your value from them.  For a resource, pick up a copy of Jason Alba’s book I’m on LinkedIn, Now What.

Networking-Since hiring data consistently shows that more than half of all jobs continue to be filled through networking, how close to fifty percent of your job search time do you spend on networking activities? Set some goals designed to increase your level of networking activity. These could involve scheduling more informational meetings or interviews, joining networking groups or attending networking events. If you struggle getting started in this area, I’m more than happy to plug my book Networking for the Novice, Nervous or Naïve Job Seeker.

Job Fairs-Fall is a popular time for job and career fairs, and you can expect standing room only crowds in the current labor market. Don’t let this or the fact that many employers now will not take a résumé but advise you to apply online deter you. The fairs offer you an opportunity for personal interaction with company representatives that can differentiate you from candidates they only see on paper. In such a competitive market, a job seeker needs to use every possible advantage to full potential.

Job Fair Strategies II

Some tips for how to make the best of your attendance at a  Job Fair

Hopefully, upon arrival you will receive a list of attending employers with the locations of their booths. Take the time to review this. Most likely, it is more up to date and provides better details about positions than the fair’s web site. Walk around and observe. Some employers sign up late and do not appear in the directory.

Target  and prioritize your list of what employers you want to see. I strongly recommend that before visiting a top priority booth, stop at a couple of companies you have only limited interest in. This allows you to “dress rehearse” your introduction speech. Work out any flaws in your delivery prior to hitting up your main targets. Another helpful strategy can be to wait on line at a booth next to a prime target. See if you can hear any questions your desired employer asks each candidate. This can help you prepare a stronger answer for once you get there. 

Once you meet employers, provide a strong a handshake. Speak confidently with good eye contact. Since the employer will speak with literally hundreds of candidates that day, you will need to find some way of making yourself memorable. Try to provide a detailed, specific story about an achievement or key project you worked on that has relevance to the company. Don’t overlook something as simple discovering a common bond with the company representative, such as school attended, common colleague or association membership. Each could provide a point of reference beneficial when following up. 

A common recent job fair complaint I hear is that many companies will not accept résumés at fairs; preferring to instruct candidates to apply on line. Rather than become aggravated by this, make sure you get the company representative’s business card. Jot down any notes about your meeting on the card. Once you complete the online profile, follow up with an email to him or her indicating you have done so. Reference your meeting with a specific detail about your conversation, thank them again, and establish a schedule for following up on you candidacy.

Job Fair Strategies I

With Labor Day now approaching, one career activity tends to appear on more calendars-Job Fairs. Fall and Spring remain the most popular times to hold such events. As long as the unemployment numbers remain high, expect for local news stories showing the long lines of job seekers flocking to the job fair sites. With such high volume of candidates attending, many job seekers wonder if it’s worth the time and aggravation to attend. A growing complaint revolves around many employers no longer accepting résumés at the fairs, choosing to nstruct candidates to apply on the company Web site. Some reason that with that the end result, why not save the time and aggravation of battling the crowds and just apply online at any company ‘s site you see on the job fair list.

Keep in mind that companies incur costs involving both staff time and booth rental fees to participate in these fairs. They would not continue to attend if they did not find the events beneficial. You want to look at a job fair as a chance to make the best of a face-to-face meeting with a company representative. Look at it as an opportunity to set you apart from the growing volume of faceless paper candidates on the company Web site.

First, find out what companies will attend. The sponsoring agencies usually have such a list available with at least attendee names. Some also include the openings being recruited for. If not, check out what jobs they have listed on their Web site. If a company you have interest in will attend but lists no openings in your skill area, consider attending anyway to possibly establish a contact.

Next, develop a strong, concise introduction speech. The general parts of this include your name, skill areas, level of experience, and what positions you seek. Then you will need to adapt it to the specific jobs you hope to speak about as well as the companies.

Demonstrating to a company representative that you have researched the company and have ideas about how your talents can benefit them can go a long way toward moving you ahead of the crowd. Practice this speech in front of a mirror and with friends if possible. the more you rehearse, the more confidently you will deliver the speech.

 Next post I’ll discuss strategies once you get to the job fair.

Two Job Seeker Worries Where Being Concerned Likely Means It’s Not a Problem

Career advising often involves assisting job seekers navigate their way through activities that most seldom engage in otherwise in their careers or personal lives. I want to focus on two topics people often struggle with; following up with employers and “selling” oneself. In both cases, job seekers need to realize that simply having certain concerns about conducting these activities most likely indicates that they need not worry about how they perform them.

 A successful job search requires a great deal of follow up, after both résumé or application submission as well as each stage of interviewing. Frequently, job seekers indicate a hesitance to keep calling back an employer out of concern of appearing too pushy or aggressive. I reassure them that such fears are unwarranted, primarily because pushy and aggressive individuals typically don’t seek permission. Then I cite a survey by Careerbuilder from several years ago in which 96% of the employers said they expect follow up from applicants.

 I’m often asked about time parameters. One week following a résumé or application submission should be fine. Once you make contact, as well as following any interview, ask the employer when would be an appropriate time for your next contact. Should they try to leave this open-ended, offer your own date. Ask “If I haven’t head by X, can I call you?”

 Another struggle for some occurs regarding how much to stress and document their career accomplishments and achievements, not only on résumés and applications but in interviews as well.  They worry that doing too much makes them appear boastful. Just as I reassure those concerned about pestering employers, I remind such individuals not to worry about perceived ego problems and point out that conceited people never have concerns about appearing to be so. Keep in mind the adage “It’s not bragging if you can back it up” as well the reality that if you don’t say it about yourself, nobody else will.

 Sadly, what often turns around the thinking of job seekers that struggle with either of these questions is losing out on an opportunity go to a less skilled and experienced candidate that does not hesitate to follow up or freely discuss achievements and accomplishments.

 I have always believed that job seekers need to approach these situations the way sales professionals do, since in a job search one markets and sells his or her skills and talent to potential employers. Good sales professionals can’t say enough positive thinks about their products or services and never view themselves as pushy or an inconvenience when following up. Contrary to stereotypes, this is a sign of ego but  their belief that what they sell will benefit the potential buyer. If you feel confident that your talent can benefit a company, never hesitate at any opportunity to speak with someone there about what you can do for them.

The Stigma of Being “Unemployed”

When the current recession began, I recall brainstorming with many other career professionals about whether the huge round of job cuts would lay to rest any stigma associated with being laid off.  The majority agreed that, in light of the unprecedented economic conditions resulting from financial market collapses, employers would likely view layoffs as beyond the control of most candidates.  A year and a half later, two recent articles made me want to re-examine the issue of stigmas laid off job seekers face.  The first addressed job seekers describing how they feel such stigma now, while the second documents where some employers flat out instruct the unemployed not to apply.

Since I deal with both job seeker and employer points of view, I’m inclined to believe this may reflect more of a labor market struggling with unprecedented numbers than a growing discrimination against unemployed people. Three factors to consider:

The increasing lengths of unemployment periods. I know from tracking Bureau of Labor Statistics that currently nearly half of those drawing unemployment benefits have exceeded the initial 27-week period. As recently as 2007, only seventeen percent reached this length. Employers reviewing résumés and applications are not accustomed to seeing such long gaps in unemployment. During normal times, such long periods have been viewed as a red flag for employers and many may be falling back on such biases since they have no other baseline. It will take successful performances by employees hired after long gaps to erase such long held biases.

Unprecedented volume.  Yes, the current economic conditions favor employers. But they now receive unprecedented levels of résumés and applications. It’s not only high unemployment numbers driving this. The Internet allows so much more access to company web pages, local announcements etc., making applying for jobs just a mouse click away. Evaluation methods employers previously used to reduce the résumé pile down to manageable levels barely scratch the surface today. Additional criteria must be applied. While one article cited cases where unemployed candidates were told not to bother applying, such cases appear isolated. More commonly, employers may increase the level of qualifications or factor in previous or salary requirements to whittle the pile down.  

There must SOMETHING wrong! We all struggle with reconciling misfortunes that happen to us. Some tend to want to blame things outside of themselves, certain that employers are discriminating against them due to age, gender, race, ethnicity, unemployed status-you name it. Others assume they must be a making a mistake or have a flaw somewhere in their search strategy.  I want to share with you the experience of a C-level executive I recently worked with I’ll call Gil. A few months ago, Gil landed after a search that lasted more than two years. Countless times, we reviewed his approach to opportunities that had not resulted in an offer. Based on everything he read and was told about job search, Gil believed he was doing all the right things, but could not understand why no offers had come.

Shortly after he accepted his position, the company authorized filling two new positions in his department. During his extended search, Gil built a very strong network, even going as far as facilitating his own semi-monthly professional networking meetings. In addition to the standard company recruiting channels, he put the opportunities out to his network as well. The response amazed him in terms of both the volume and quality of the candidates expressing interest. As he proceeded through the hiring process, he was impressed at how each candidate followed all the protocols he had both read about and encouraged in his group meetings.  Having gone through such a search himself not only gave him a special empathy for those he did not select, but a better understanding of how tough a labor market we face today. He witnessed several dozen talented people present themselves very well and do all the correct protocols, but had to select the one best suited for his needs and company. Gil made sure he reflected how difficult a decision he had while offering encouragement to those not selected. Plus he also realized the volume and quality of candidates forced him to clarify more about what he believed was most important for the position rather than introduce arbitrary criteria just to cut down the numbers.