Thursday, March 23, 2017

Job Search Management - Getting Organized

A Job Search Strategy . . . Get organized in 7 key areas
Invest the time up front to get organized.  It will speed up your job search in the long run!

Just beginning?  For those of you planning to begin a job search in the new year, and thinking you have to wait until January to begin work on your search, doing the things described in this article can help you plan and move into your search more quickly in January.

Already searching?  For those of you already conducting an ongoing search that has not gained much traction, or keeps falling short of getting the interview or the offer, you may spot some areas of "disorganization" that are holding you back.

There is nothing as frustrating and time wasting as not being able to locate a critical e-mail or updated resume the nano-second you need them, such as when a recruiter unexpectedly calls during dinner and you can’t find the customized resume you sent to his company.  Or you’re all set to leave for a meeting, and then you realize you can’t find the e-mail that contains the address of your meeting.  Getting and remaining organized in 7 key areas can help.

So, begin at the beginning by setting up the supporting materials and tools you will need to conduct an effective search.
  • Doing so will increase your efficiency, since you’ll be able to put your finger on things you need . . . when you need them, like resumes you’ve sent, e-mails you’ve received, and materials you’ve filed. 
  • It will save you time.  
  • It will speed things up.  In just doing the activities involved in getting organized, it will help you think things through.  This will pay off in enabling you to conduct a more focused, faster, and rewarding search.
Set up your Job Search Tools
Although it may not feel like it as first, this time you invest up front in preparation of your work space and job search tools is the best investment you can make in your job search.  Or, if your search is ongoing, and you continue to hit stumbling blocks that seem to derail your progress, going through these seven actions may help you spot the trouble spots.

Do yourself a favor, and spend the time to get organized by taking the following seven actions to organize your job search:          

✓    Action 1:  Set up your Office

✓    Action 2:  Set up your Computer

✓    Action 3:  Set up your Phone

✓    Action 4:  Set up your E-mail

✓    Action 5:  Set up your Marketing Tools

✓    Action 6:  Set up your Portfolio

✓    Action 7:  Set up your Budget

Action 1:  Set up your Office
Establish your workspace.  If finding a job is a job  --  and it is  --  establish and set up your office or work space as you would to do any job.  In other words, set up a work space conducive to getting the job done!

If you don’t have an actual office, I recommend that you carve out a space in your home, or facility available to you, that will be designated your office workspace for the duration of your search.  It is yours and yours alone, so ask roommates, family, friends, etc. to respect your space.  Your productivity will be higher and qualitatively better if you are not continuously setting up temporary work spaces, re-organizing, and endlessly shuffling through and searching for things.

You'll need office tools to conduct and manage your search, as you would with any project.  Take the time to gather office materials you’ll need to set up your workspace.  For those of you who are successful in a paperless environment, glean organizational ideas from the concepts below that are appropriate to your situation.  For an efficient work space, secure tools such as:
  • A desk or table with adequate surface space to spread out
  • Good lighting, such as a desk lamp, or even a “sunlit” lamp for burning the midnight oil
  • File folders and desktop file stand to hold current files you’re working on  
  • Comfortable chair, with good lumbar support since you’ll be spending time here
  • Office supplies  --  Stapler, tape dispenser, paper clips, scratch pads for taking notes, color highlighters, desk file stands or trays for files, paper, envelopes, etc.
  • A notebook  --  or 2 or 3  --  that you take to all meetings to jot down information, as well as take notes during phone conversations.  A notebook containing the notes of your communications, kept chronologically, will be a useful reference source to refer to for keeping on top of To Do’s, writing cover, referral, and thank you letters, and to refer back to when trying to recall information.  While many choose to use a computer notebook, a pen and paper notebook come in handy to make a quick note, and are less obtrusive during a meeting.  And it doesn’t cause the person you’re meeting with to wonder if you’re checking e-mail or Face book!
If you have the means, the additional equipment listed below can be helpful to have on hand, and save you a late-night trip to the office supply store for copying and printing services:
  • Copier
  • Printer (many combine copying, printing, and faxing functions)
  • File cabinet  --  Why would you need a file cabinet when most companies and network contacts request your resume and applications be sent on line?  Because paper copies can still be useful.  Keeping paper files can be a good back-up to your computer files, especially those items that will be helpful to show a network contact or interviewer, such as:
    • Your resume (have a few copies in a file folder ready to go) 
    • Marketing plan 
    • Work examples / awards / certifications, etc. 
    • It may be helpful to you to also have in your file cabinet:
      • Submissions to companies (in file folders each labeled with that company’s name)
      • Correspondence you receive from contacts and companies  
      • Information you gather from meetings, conferences, and research  
Make it comfortable.  You’ll be spending time in your office daily, especially when you are just beginning your search and developing your marketing tools.  So make it a comfortable space  –  one that you like spending time in.

While many people have gotten comfortable working in open spaces such as coffee shops, libraries, community work spaces, etc., there are times it is going to be more productive if you have a quiet, private space to work in.  A door you can close, or at least a private space you can carve out away from the noise and hustle and bustle of your household, will be helpful as you do tasks that require: 
  • Concentration, for writing resumes and letters, and developing your marketing plan 
  • Confidentiality, as you “sell” your capabilities or negotiate compensation packages when talking with recruiters, hiring managers, and head hunters (i.e., executive search firms and employment agencies). 

Action 2:  Set up your Computer
Whether you are using a desktop computer, a laptop, or notebook, set up your computer to keep track of the information that will grow exponentially if you conduct a pro-active search.

Initially, you can keep up with the e-mails and resumes you send to two or three or even a half dozen companies and organizations.  But if you are conducting a very pro-active search, that will generate a lot of correspondence to respond to and information to keep track of.

Set up your computer with file folders and label them correctly and specifically (Any paper files you set up should be labeled identically; this can be a good cross reference.)  For instance, if you send a resume to a company, set up a file folder with that firm’s specific and correctly spelled name.  Misspellings can get you tossed out of the competition before you even begin.  All correspondence related to that company goes in that file folder.

Remember, a file folder labeled Resumes Sent won’t be very helpful when you receive a call at dinner time from a recruiter, and you find yourself sifting through dozens of resumes it contains to find THE ONE you sent to THAT recruiter!

To organize your computer, create file folders for the following typical job search categories listed below.  Customize and expand your folders for your particular needs as your search project proceeds.  There is no definite number or set of categories, but the following categories are typical of those needed to start you off, and to get and keep your search information organized.  Initially set up file folders labeled:
  • Master Resume File Folder 
    • A master resume contains your complete professional history, so put everything you’ve ever done on it.  Go back to the beginning of your work history, and work your way to the present. NO ONE WILL EVER SEE IT BUT YOU, so don’t worry if it turns out to be a lengthy document!  It will save you a lot of time and angst in the long run.
    • Here’s why:  Each resume submission for a job today requires customization for that specific job.  Starting from scratch for each submission can take a lot of time.  You begin to feel that all you do is write resumes, and justifiably so.  Instead, use your Master Resume as a basis for all submissions.
    • Here’s how to use your Master Resume:  Copy it and paste it into the file of the company you are applying to.  Then, delete from the resume any information that is not relevant to the job you are applying for.
  • Generic Resume(s) File Folder
    • There are some non-job specific activities for which you need a resume.  Attending job fairs, meeting with network contacts, etc. require a resume.  So have one generic resume that represents you and your skill set overall.  Then, after the networking meeting or talking with recruiters at a job fair, customize your resume in relation to the needs expressed by each of the people you met with, and re-send it to them.
  • Letters - Templates of letters that get results File Folder 
    • You’ll be writing lots of letters.  Cover letters, thank you letters, referral letters, letters requesting information or assistance, etc.  As you develop letters that seem to work well in generating responses, insert 1 or 2 of your best into this folder and keep them as templates for future correspondence of each type of letter.  It will save you lots of time in the long run.  
  • Marketing Plan File Folder
    • Develop and keep a few copies on hand of your Marketing Plan.  While its primary purpose is to give you both long-term and daily direction aimed at achieving your goal, it is also a helpful document to take to networking meetings.  Viewing it will provide your contact with a quick overview and clarification of your interests, job search activity, and goal.  As a result, they will be better able to assist you.  
  • Companies/Organizations File Folder  --  You have 2 choices:
    • Set up a folder named for each company you target and apply to.
    • Or, set up a general folder called “Companies/Organizations,” and within it set up sub-folders for each company you apply to or target.  (I recommend this choice to keep things easier to find.)
  • Network Contacts File Folder  --  You have 2 choices: 
    • Set up a file folder named for each network contact, or, 
    • Set up a general folder called “Contacts,” “Network Contacts,” or “Networking.”  Then set up sub-folders within it for each person you interact with whom you deem helpful and a good person to stay in touch with.  (I recommend this choice to keep things easier to find.)
  • Job Fairs File Folder
    •  Keep track of the fairs you attend, and recruiters and hiring managers you interact with.  Keep names, contact information, and date(s) of interaction(s) so you can: 
      • Thank them for their assistance.
      • Have a name to send a resume to when you apply for a job in their firm.
      • Have an inside company contact you can keep updated on your activity.
  • Professional Associations / Conferences File Folder  
    • Keep track of associations you find useful.  They may have meetings that are informative, a website with great content, helpful people on the help desk, and / or conferences that attract top names in your field who present state-of-the-art knowledge.  These associations provide you with an opportunity to meet key people in your field.
    • Keep good detailed files from conferences you choose to attend.  The networking alone can justify the cost.  When the conference is over, get and stay in touch with contacts you’ve made, both presenters and participants as well as conference staff.
  • Industry/Profession/Job Related information you acquire File Folder
    • This generic catchall file is a good place to store information you deem to be helpful and that may come in handy for purposes such as writing a letter to a target company, preparing an answer for an interview question, researching folks you anticipate meeting, ensuring your terminology is current and correct, etc.

Action 3:  Set up your Phone
Your phone becomes as important a management and organization tool as your computer when it comes to searching for your next position.  It also serves as a marketing vehicle for you via the voice mail message folks hear when they call you, as well as messages you leave with people you call.

Most people today operate off of their cell phones.  However, some people maintain both a cell and land line.  It’s your choice which you prefer to use.  But whichever you choose, make sure it is a reliable phone that you can depend on to receive calls, get messages on a timely basis, make calls, and comfortably talk with people.

If you have a phone or phone service that drops calls, or use VOIP and are sometimes hard to hear, figure out an alternative.  Having to repeat what you or the caller is saying repeatedly gets annoying, and recruiters, hiring managers, and network contacts may just give up after a while.  A good, reliable, clear phone service is one place it makes sense to invest some dollars.  Your next job may depend on it.

Choose one phone number.  To avoid confusion and lost opportunities, settle on one number that will become the primary phone number you give to people during your search.  It should appear on any of your correspondence as well as your personal-professional business card.

Consider using Google Voice or a similar service for your job search if you'd like to keep your cell phone number private.  Using this type of service also lets you know that an incoming phone call is related to your job search.

To further avoid lost opportunities, inform family members or friends that during your search this is the phone and the number you have designated for your search.
  • Solo phone service:  If your phone is used by you and you alone, this becomes a non-issue unless someone else may answer your phone occasionally.  If they do, ask family and friends to answer politely stating that the caller has reached you (have them state your name), but you are not available, and may they take a message?
  • Shared phone service:  If you share a phone with other family members or friends, inform them that you will be receiving lots of calls during your search, and that how the phone is answered is critical to your success.  As stated in the point above, ask family and friends to answer politely stating that the caller has reached you, but you are not available, and may they take a message?  Suspend the antics of the family jokester who answers the phone with fun greetings like “Joe’s Bar and Grill” until your search is over.  And, work out a method to ensure that you receive your messages.
Keep it professional.  Phones today can do all kinds of things, and it’s cool to have a phone whose ring tone is fun and a voice mail message that is even funnier.  However, this tool needs to work for you . . . not against you.  Minimize the chance of annoying or even offending people by keeping it professional.

Ring tone.  A jarring or outrageous ring tone may be fun, but not when it goes off during an association meeting, conference, networking meeting, or interview.  Remember that people are judging your professionalism from any contact they have with you, and, in many cases, are judging you with little actual knowledge of who you really are.  So, don’t give them an excuse to eliminate you from their network or from the candidate pool.  Set a ring tone that is simple.  An old-fashioned phone ringing sound will work just fine.
Voice mail message.  Same as Ring tone:  Keep it professional.  This is not the time for callers to hear your favorite song, your child’s voice, a message containing 4-letter words (Yes, I’ve heard them in messages of clients and candidates I’ve called in the past.), off-color or offensive jokes, your political or ideological leanings, religious messages, or controversial issues.  Simply, tell the caller (1) who they have reached, and (2) what you will do upon receiving their message. That’s it!  Include in your message:
  • Your full name - Recruiters and HR folks respect your confidentiality and will not leave a message if they are not sure they have reached the right person  –  you.  For additional clarification and confirmation that they have reached the right person, some job seekers also state their phone number as part of their voice mail message.  That’s fine, but don’t leave a number in place of your name.  So state your name so they know they have reached you.
  • The action you want them to take: What information (name, best time to call, reason for their call, information they desire from you) do you want them to provide so that you can return their call effectively and move the action forward?  Not doing so can result in days of “telephone tag.”
  • The action that you will take: You can assure them that you will return their call as soon as possible, or provide a time frame such as within 24 or 48 hours, etc.
  • Your voice mail message could sound something like this: 
    • “Hello.  You have reached Sarah Jamison.  At the sound of the beep, please leave your name, contact number, and the reason for your call.  I will return the call as soon as possible (Or, I will return the call within 24 hours, 48 hours, by COB next day, etc.).  Thanks for calling.”
  • Any additional relevant information.  For instance, if you will be out of the office for an extended period of time, relay this information and some idea of when you expect to be returning calls.
Answering your own phone.  Keep it professional by answering with a greeting such as:

“Hello” or “Good Morning,” and then stating your full name:
  • “John Smith speaking.”  Importantly, this assures the caller that they have reached the right person (important to recruiters and HR folks to whom confidentiality is important).
  • The caller will then generally jump in and tell you why they’re calling.  However, you can also add a phrase after your name, such as  “How can I help you?” if it would make you feel more comfortable if this formality is a little uncomfortable.  
Check it!  You’ve gone to a great deal of effort to professionalize your phone image.
  • Call yourself and see how your message sounds.  Change it if it’s not clear or not quite right.
  • Check your voice mail 2 times a day, at a minimum.  All of this work and preparation is for nought if you forget to check your voice mail and miss important messages.  Recruiters, and even network contacts, will call 2 or 3 times, and, if unsuccessful in reaching you, move on to the next candidate.
  • Return calls as you said you would in your voice mail message.  It’s important:  Do what you said you would do in your message; doing so shows your professionalism.  Not doing what you said you would do detracts from your image and credibility.

Action 4:  Set up your E-mail
Your e-mail is next on the list of management and organization tools.  Although some paper
correspondence is still done, primarily your correspondence is going to be carried out through e-mail.

As with your phone, e-mail also serves as a very important marketing tool via the image you project and the impression you make when one of your e-mails shows up on a recruiter, hiring manager, or network contact’s computer.  As with your voice mail message, the reader makes an instant judgment about you and your professionalism, seriousness, educational level, and capabilities based on what they see when they receive and read your e-mail.  Misspellings and typos  –  especially the recipient’s name or company name, hard to read text, inappropriate images or words, inappropriate tag lines, etc. don’t reinforce the fact that you are serious about your job search and a professional they might like to work with.

Choose one e-mail address.  To avoid confusion and lost opportunities, use one e-mail account for all of your job search correspondence.  All of your job search correspondence should occur only on this account.  Doing this lessens the chance for missed opportunities because all your job search-related e-mails go to one place.  It makes checking your e-mail a lot easier too.
  • Create an e-mail address which is easy for folks to remember, or even figure out, if need be.  Use your name.  Add a number(s) if the version you want is not available: or
  • Your e-mail address, like your phone number, should appear on any of your correspondence as well as your personal-professional business card. 
  • Consider getting a new e-mail address if you're using an older e-mail service provider.
A big advantage of E-mail is that it provides you with an avenue right into the offices of network contacts, target companies, associations, conferences, etc.  Think about it  --  You don’t even have to drive to their office and knock on the door!  It’s an ideal entree.

But, as with your voice mail message, this tool needs to work for you . . . not against you.  So, keep it professional:
  • Learn to write a professional e-mail.  It should be clear, correctly spelled, grammatically correct with correct punctuation, and to the point!
    • Save the popular abbreviations of words for your text messages.  Spell out the words correctly and in their entirety in your job search e-mail correspondence.  Don’t take shortcuts.  Assume your e-mails may be forwarded such as in the case of a referral.  All of your e-mails to contacts and companies need to read like professional letters.
    • If business English is uncomfortable or unfamiliar, or English is not your first language, find an editor.  Set up an arrangement with a trusted confidante to read and review your e-mails and other written materials you produce to ensure they are correct.  Learn from what they tell you to do, and consider taking a course in business English. 
  • Address the recipient.  The typical address, or salutation in a traditional letter, is: Dear Mr. Smith or Dear Joan.  While some may choose to begin with “Hello Sam” or “Hi Sarah,” traditional and conservative keep you safe.  When it comes to job search, err on the side of the conservative and traditional, until invited by the firm or contact to do otherwise.
  • Keep the content succinct, relevant, and to the point.  E-mails that go on for pages have little chance of being read, and certainly not in their entirety.  A treatise on your philosophy of work or life  --  don’t laugh, I’ve seen it done by candidates  --  while interesting won’t get the results you desire.  Instead, think through what you want to achieve with your e-mail and try to accomplish this in 3 - 5 paragraphs or lessWhat is your objective in sending the e-mail?  While each e-mail should be customized, following the format outlined below should up the odds that your e-mails will be read:  
    • First Paragraph:  State your purpose for writing in Paragraph 1.  If you are unknown to the recipient, briefly introduce yourself by name, profession, and if a referral to them, mention the name of the person who referred you.  That in and of itself will get your e-mail read.
    • Paragraphs 2 - 4:  The body of your e-mail containing relevant content.  For example, in a letter to a recruiter, you will want to list some key qualifications, possibly an example of your stellar work performance, some key accomplishments, and a statement or inference that your abilities could benefit the recruiter’s firm.
    • Last Paragraph:  State your goal in writing to them.  For instance, with a recruiter or hiring manager, your goal is a meeting, opportunity to talk, or interview.  With a network contact, it’s a meeting.  State that you will look forward to hearing from them, but that you will also follow-up (and state when if appropriate.).
    • Closing.  Close you letter with a standard closing.  Close with Best regards, Best, Sincerely, Sincerely yours, etc. and follow with your first name, or full name if more comfortable, underneath.
  • Setting up a signature that will automatically appear on each e-mail you send will save you lots of time, ensure consistency of content, and prevent errors and misspellings.  It will provide the recipient with accurate contact information for you that they don’t have to search for.  Opportunities have been lost by candidates who failed to include contact information.  After a while, the recruiter or network contact just gives up looking for it.  A simple signature is just fine, but you should include the following information: 
    • Your full-name.  If you go by a nickname, write your full name and insert the nickname in parentheses: Robert (Bob) Cannfield, PMP, MBA.   Add titles you normally use after your name. 
    • A generic title for your discipline:  Field Engineer, Administrative Assistant, Security Analyst, Management Development, etc.  This also subtly tells the recipient of an organization you target that you perform the tasks of the type of work their firm does.
    • Phone number.  This is your primary phone as discussed earlier. 
    • E-mail address.  Yes its part of the e-mail itself, but it’s helpful to the recipient to have all of your contact information in one place to make it easy for them to contact you or add you to their address book.  Additionally, if the e-mail is copied or printed, sometimes content gets lost. 
    • LinkedIn url.  LinkedIn is considered to be the social media forum for professionals.  If you have a LinkedIn profile (unless you are in a field which does not allow it), you may personalize the url to a shortened version of your name.  Contacts and companies are going to look you up On LinkedIn when they hear from you.  So have a good representation of your work and professional activities on your LinkedIn page. 
    • Your own website.  Some job seekers choose to create a website for their search, showing their job search marketing materials.  It can be a very effective vehicle to show more detail about your work, your approach to work and tough assignments, etc. However, word to the wise: If you create a website, keep it current.
  • Check it!  You’ve gone to a great deal of effort to professionalize your e-mails.  You have a template for your signature and know what a professionally written e-mail should look like.
    • Send a test e-mail to a friend or trusted confidante to check your signature and also see how your e-mail appears on the page.  While an e-mail may look fine on your computer, it may translate differently so check it before you send any.
    • Check your first few e-mail letters that you intend to send to contacts or companies by first sending them to a friend or trusted confidante to see how your text appears on the page.  Ensure the type is a readable size, there is space between paragraphs, and white space sets off your text.

Action 5:  Set up your Marketing Tools
Create, or revise, your job search marketing tools.  To many job seekers, this means only a resume, which no one would argue is an important marketing tool.  But your marketing tools go way beyond a resume.  It is only 1 of 6 of what I consider to be basic marketing tools, and not even the one you will actually use the most!

To begin your job search, you need to be able to:
  (1) Talk about yourself and your capabilities,
  (2) Write about yourself, and
  (3) Sell customers, i.e., companies, on what you can do for them.
If you are prepared with the basic set of tools, you can do all three.  With the basic tools prepared, you can hit the ground running, and not lose traction because you haven’t thought things through.

So, don’t walk out the door to begin your search without having developed the following basic tools:           
1.    Resume
2.    Elevator speech
3.    Business Cards
4.    Reference List
5.    Marketing Plan
6.    Cover Letter Template
7.    Portfolio

With the basic marketing tools in hand, you have what you need to begin your search and to be able to handle any of the things that come your way and manage an effective job search.  You won’t find yourself stuck or unsure of what to say or do.

As your search develops, you will develop additional tools:

8.    Networking Plan
9.    LinkedIn Profile
10.  Thank You Letter Template
11.  Bio
12.  Follow-up strategy.

Action 6:  Set up your Portfolio
Your professional portfolio, comprised of samples of your work, is both another critical management as well as marketing tool.  Why?  A portfolio allows you to put your money where your mouth is!  It enables you to show proof of what you say you can do.

All job seekers make claims about their capabilities, professional experience, and results they’ve achieved.  But few show any real evidence to back up their claims.  A portfolio allows you to get ahead of your competition by showing evidence of your claims.  Assembling materials in an attractive format, such as a presentation binder or case, provides employers with greater certainty that you’ve done what you said and could do great things for them!

Developing a portfolio will set you apart.  It’s a real competitive advantage.  So, take the time to set up a portfolio (in a case or binder), or develop an electronic portfolio.  Your portfolio may also include these work examples on your LinkedIn profile.

What do you include:
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Awards 
  • Presentations
  • Writing samples
  • Code you've written
  • Commendations / Letters of appreciation
  • Published articles / Articles about you  / Books / Publications
  • Performance appraisals    
  • Reports written / work samples
  • Models created 
  • Degrees / diplomas / certificates (High quality copies work fine.)
  • List of trainings attended / developed / conducted
  • Professional photos
  • Resume

Action 7:  Set up your Budget

Question:  How much does it cost to run your household or lifestyle? 
    Don’t know?
Answer:  Find out, before you start your job search.

Why is this important?  Certainly, the obvious answer is that you need this important number in order to operate your life and household in a financially responsible way.  Any financial coach would tell you so.

But, there’s another reason why this number is important, solely related to your job search.  And, it is this:  You need to know your true bottom line in order to negotiate your job offer’s salary or compensation package.

First, you need to know how low you can go and still operate your household and conduct your job search.  Having a general idea of what you need to run your household is not nearly good enough.  You need to know precisely what it costs.  The number below which you CAN NOT go is your bottom line or line in the sand.

Many job seekers believe that their immediate past or current salary (if they are employed) is that number below which they can not go.  IT IS NOT!  Sometimes an opportunity may come along that is lower than your salary and that, in and of itself,  isn't a reason NOT to take it!

If you run a really pro-active search, many opportunities will come your way.  While many pay above your past or current salary, some really interesting and enticing jobs may pay below your current or immediate past salary.  That alone is not a reason not to take them.  Why?  Because some of these positions that may require a brief dip down in salary NOW, in order to move ahead in your career in the FUTURE.  This can be well worth it, if you can afford it.  But how will you know if you don’t know your true bottom line?  Without a precise knowledge of your current financial situation, you really don’t know if you can afford a salary dip in the short term in order to realize a higher salary in the long term.

Second, you need to know your true bottom line for negotiating salary increases.  Doing your homework to find out what your capabilities pay in the marketplace will give you an idea of what a reasonable salary increase might be for your new job.  Then, taking into consideration your financial goals for the future and what it will take in income earnings over your projected remaining years of work to achieve them, will help you figure out what your desired optimal increase would be.  And it will help you ask for it with more confidence because it is based on real calculations..  Obviously keep it reasonable.  But, you will negotiate more powerfully and from a point of strength when you know what your goals are, what you want, what is attainable and reasonable, and what number you can not go below.

Third, job searching can be expensive.  There are costs associated with many aspects of conducting an effective search.  These are integral to effectively managing your search and marketing yourself to achieve your goal and out-perform your competition.  The costs associated with running a great job search campaign can include:
  • Printing business cards
  • Miscellaneous printing, such as address labels
  • Basic office materials
  • Paying for the coffee at networking meetings (When you invite, you pay or at least offer to pay for the coffee!)
  • Professional association monthly meeting fees
  • Occasionally taking a key contact out to lunch
  • Travel to meetings   –  gasoline and other car maintenance expenses, public transportation fees, tolls, etc.
  • Additional phone usage
  • Additional computer usage
  • Fee to attend a conference important to your field of work
  • Purchase of portfolio materials, presentation folder or binder
  • Purchase of a computer, laptop, or notebook
  • Fees for additional computer service

So, do your budget.  As part of your management preparation, prepare to be fiscally responsible.  Doing a budget will tell you not only what your line in the sand is, but it will also tell you a lot more.  It will point out areas where you may be able to reduce costs during the time of your search, especially important if you are unemployed while searching.  Your budget will tell you:
(1) What you can afford
(2) What you can’t, and where you can make cuts or trade-offs in your spending.

Beginning at the beginning by taking Action, as described in Actions 1 – 7, sets you up for success. 
By way of doing the work of getting prepared and getting organized, you’ll actually feel more confident, capable, and in control –  all qualities sought by employers in their employees  -- and you'll show it too!  It just makes good sen$e!  And, it will pay off in enabling you to conduct a more focused, faster, and rewarding search.

Wishing you great success,



Be a Project Manager to Find a Better Job, Faster

Use Project Management Techniques to Find a Better Job, Faster ...
           An Overview of the Process for Finding the Job You Really Want
Ever been a project manager?  Or, have you ever managed a project or a program from inception to fruition? If you answer Yes, then you’ll find that a job search is nothing more, and nothing less, than a project to be managed.  That’s it!  

If you’ve been working hard at your search for a while but are mystified about how to gain traction, or if you have been putting off beginning a search for a new job because you didn’t know where to start, beginning to think in terms of your search as a project to be managed may help.

As with any project, whether large scale, such as building a bridge or designing a new IT system, . . . or small scale, like cleaning out a closet or moving a piece of equipment from one office to another, being successful requires starting off on the right foot.  A successful job search is no exception.  It will take:
Planning and organization
Acquiring information and knowledge
Learning new skills
Developing and learning to use project tools
Performing the work
Monitoring and tracking progress
Engaging your support team
Building your support team, or network
Course-correcting when you get off course 

Understanding the process and adopting the tried-and-true steps of project management, as applied to your job search, will help make it a whole lot easier and a whole lot less frustrating and intimidating.  Starting off your job search project on the right foot will help you achieve success more quickly.  And, you’ll find yourself less stymied by the challenges and obstacles that will inevitably cross your path, and be better able to navigate your way through them, if you know:

  • What to expect 
  • What to do and what NOT to do 
  • What’s a good use of your time and what’s not, and 
  • Just as importantly how to ‘think’ about your search 

Step 1.  Project Initiation:  Initiate your Job Search Project
Anticipating and understanding what lies ahead of you is a key first step.  How you initiate your project is key to success.  Take a little time up front to learn about what lies ahead.  So, DON’T just jump in and start sending out resumes helter-skelter!  Investing time up-front to familiarize yourself with the process and the steps outlined in this article, and thinking through your goal, will save you time in the long-run, so DON’T SKIP THIS STEP!
  • Learn about what it will take for you to be successful, including the traits and skills of those job searchers who found success (6 Traits of Successful Job Seekers). 
  • Learn what it will require from you and other people in the way of managing your project and day-to-day actions. 
  • Learn about what to expect as you navigate the ups-and-downs of your search so that these highs, lows, and emotions don’t get in the way of making progress (Navigating the Ups-and-Downs of Job Loss . . .and Job Search). 
  • Learn how to view and what to do in negotiating your new job offer when the offer comes along and managing the close-out of your job search project.
The items listed above are all topics to research via online and offline research during this phase.  Conduct online research via information and articles available at as well as the Internet in general.  But don’t neglect equally important offline person-to-person research.  Tap into your network by asking a few trusted network contacts (not your entire Rolodex) about their job seeking experiences.  You’ll learn a lot, subtly acquaint them with the fact that you are about to take the plunge, and engage their support. 

Step 2.  Project Planning:  Planning and Strategy
Just as with the Initiation Phase of a job search project, the Planning and Strategy phase is key to a successful job search.  So DON’T SKIP THIS STEP EITHER!  You’ll get further faster.

Many folks get ahead of themselves.  They begin calling anyone and everyone they know, asking for a job.  They pull out of an old resume, red-line it, insert their most recent job, and start papering the street with it.  However, this thoughtless activity can do more harm than good.  Without having thought things through, a job seeker can give out erroneous messages about the type of job they are looking for. 

You can’t un-ring a bell!  The result is they double their workload.  As they get clearer in their own minds about the type of job they want, these job seekers, with their credibility now a bit lessened, must now re-contact their network to correct the earlier erroneous message they gave out.  As they say, “You can’t un-ring a bell!  So, do yourself a favor and work through the steps below before you tell contacts in your network the type of position you are seeking.

Strategic planning and good preparation will set you up for a more efficient and effective job search.  It’s the step that may SEEM like it’s costing you time in the forefront, but it will SAVE you time in the long run. 
  1. Clarify your goal. Spend time up front to clarify your goal(s).  Analyzing what you want in and from this next job will help you do this.  It will also help you in developing your marketing materials, or as I call them your marketing tools.  Being goal-directed, i.e., strategic, will help you separate the wheat from the chaff.  It’ll help you make decisions about what activities are a good use of your time and what are not; which network contacts should be helpful and which won’t; and what leads should be researched and pursued and what leads are likely to be unproductive. 
  2.  Organize your job search project.  Just as you would when getting any other project underway, ensure you have the infrastructure to support your work.  Set up a work space to ensure you have a place where you can work consistently at your search.  Set up your computer to accommodate your search, as well as other communication tools such as phone, printer, fax, etc.  
  3. Develop your job search tools.  Develop your resume, your Marketing Plan (to both plan for
    Good tools will get the job done!
    and track your job search activity, along with other key marketing tools that include:  Elevator Speech, business card(s), portfolio, Linked-In profile, cover letter template, reference list, and thank you letter template.
  4. Develop your budget.  While you can’t know exactly what all your costs will entail, you can anticipate a good many of upcoming costs.  Budget for them and set some money aside in anticipation of your needs.  Assume some costs will be incurred from:
    1. Networking, ranging from “buying the coffee” when a contact agrees to meet with you to fees for attending association meetings. 
    2. Is there a professional conference(s) or convention(s) you should attend to get state-of-the-art information and meet key people in your field?
    3. Infrastructure:  Is there equipment you will need to conduct your search, such as a more reliable computer, new phone, copier, etc.
    4. Supplies:  Business cards and other printing needs; office supplies such as paper, file folders; portfolio
    5. Travel:  Include costs for local networking, interviewing, meetings, etc.  If you anticipate conducting a long distance search, anticipate costs for initial travel to a new geographic area in order to scout it out, do some networking, etc.  (Not to be confused with actual interviewing long distance when the hiring firms should pay your costs for travel and accommodations).
  5. Decide on your work schedule.  In a nutshell, this means decide to work at your search like it's a job. 
    1.  For those job seekers who are unemployed, work at your search like it’s your full-time job.  Commit 6 - 8 hours a day to search initially; you may find this time grows as you move into the implementation phase.  Realize you have the luxury to spend all your time pursuing your goal.
    2.   For those job seekers who are employed, determine the hours you can spend prior to and after your regular work day on your search.  Chipping away by scheduling, for example, one hour in the early morning and two-or three in the evening will get you further faster than saving all the work for the weekend.
    3. Note that the type of activities you are doing will change as you move from one phase to the next.  During the initiation and planning phases of your project, you will be spending more time on your own researching and developing your marketing approach.  During the later phases, more of your time will be spent marketing to and interacting with target companies and network contacts.
Step 3.  Project Implementation or Execution: Marketing, Networking, & Interviewing
Time to rock and roll!   You are ready to move into the employment marketplace.  Begin by executing your Marketing Plan, using the marketing tools you have developed. 

Marketing yourself, networking, and interviewing are the key activities of the Implementation Phase of your job search project.
  •  Marketing yourself.  In this phase of your job search project, your time and daily routine turns to identifying positions that can use your skills and applying for those positions.  Those jobs found via the Internet, newspapers, search engines, company or association websites, etc. are listed on what is termed the Open Job Market.  And a lot of jobs are advertised here.  However, this is only one part of the equation; the Hidden Market, accessed via your network, is the other. 
  • Networking. Equally, if not more important to finding a good position, is to begin to network.  Networking allows you to inform people you know: 
      •  (1) That you are on the market and 
      •  (2) What type of position you are looking for. 
    • Networking will lead you to find not only open positions that are advertised on the Open Market, but to find positions via the Hidden Job Market.  Your network will help you access the Hidden Market by helping you identify organizations that have:
      • (1) Unadvertised openings that could use your capabilities,
      • (2) A need for your skills and expertise but for which they have not yet created a formal position. Interacting early with such an organization can help you get a jump on things. 
    • The Hidden Market provides the more significant source of positions for any job seeker.  It is where some of the best jobs are located, where there is less competition since the jobs are not advertised, and leads to formal interviewing.  And, for those job seekers who are beyond entry level, this market is key, if not critical, to finding a job you really want.
  • Interviewing: Informal and Formal.  Most people think of an interview as that formal, nail-biting, nerve-wracking meeting in which a candidate for a job is “grilled” by an interviewer or interview team.  It is not! 
    • Interviewing occurs continuously throughout your job search  – whether you realize it or not.  Every networking meeting and conversation with colleagues, friends, and neighbors is, in fact, an informal or mini-interview, with its goal being to lead to what is generally thought of when contemplating interviewing:  The formal interview.
Step 4.  Project Control:  Monitoring and Measuring Your Job Search Progress
Periodically throughout your search, ask yourself this question: “How am I doing?”  It’s helpful and insightful to ask this question, regardless of whether you’re doing great (and think it’s a waste of time to stop and analyze your progress) or making no progress at all. 

Taking a moment to stop and look at your activity, and the results you are generating, is simply a part of your project management of your job search project. 

This analysis is a GOOD use of your time.  Don’t be put off or intimidated by the concept.  It’s neither a highly complex task nor highly technical part of the process.  Just assess your output and review what’s coming back by asking and answering some fairly simple questions: 
  • Assess your output: Add up the numbers.   
    • How many letters (e-mail, paper, notes) have you sent over what period of time?
    • How many calls have you made to get networking appointments or to contact target employers?  Over what period of time?
    • How many networking events have you attended?  Over what period of time? 
  • Tally the response to your output.  
    •  How many responses have you received to your letters?  
    • How many people called you back? 
    •  How many new contacts did you make at networking events?  How many of these did you contact, or follow-up, via e-mail, a call, letter, or meeting? 
  • Review the quality of the responses.  
    •  Identify those that were substantive and “moved the action of your job search forward.”
    • What did you do differently in those interactions that may have been different from others that went nowhere?  
    • Based on your tally and review, what types of activities do you need to do more of and engage in more fully?  What activities appear less effective?  Why? 
 What’s working?  What’s not?  Scheduling time for regular, periodic monitoring of your job search activity and results will alert you to successes, failures, and trends.  It’ll tell you what you’re doing well, what you’re not, and what areas are targets for change.

For instance, if your analysis shows that poor organization is costing you time, productivity, and quality, get organized.  Or, if you find you’re failing to follow-up with new contacts from networking events, schedule time to do so following each networking event.  If you are contacting only a couple target companies per week, research, identify, and target more companies.  If you discover you are sending out too few letters, set a daily or weekly goal and don’t stop until you’ve met your goal. 

Scheduling time for the simple analysis of Step 4 will help you redirect any non-productive behaviors and actions, and steer you toward actions that will help you achieve your goal more quickly.  Schedule this step periodically throughout the duration of you search.

Step 5.  Project Closure:  Negotiation and Landing
Project Closure . . . This is what it’s all about!  Getting job offers is what you’ve been working toward.
  • Negotiation:  Note we said offers. . .  plural.  Your goal, and my goal for you, is to generate multiple job offers so that THE CHOICE IS YOURS!  Structuring your activity and aspiring to receive multiple offers sets you up to have a choice so that you can both:
    • (1) Select the best job for you, as well as
    • (2) Negotiate your offer so that the opportunity you select allows you to function at your best for yourself and for your new employers. 
  • Closure:  Done?  Not yet.  The sentiment “it takes a village” is just as true for job search as any other project.  You did not achieve your goal alone.  A lot of folks helped along the way.  As part of your project closeout: 
    • Say thanks:  Take the time to offer your sincere thanks to everyone along the way who helped you achieve your goal.  Differentiate the great contributors to your success from those who helped a little along the way and express your appreciation accordingly.  For some, a sincere thank you note, noting how they helped you, along with some particulars about the job you will be doing, will suffice.  For others who made a more significant impact on your search, a small gift, lunch, or dinner may be appropriate.  Thank everyone! 
    • Lessons Learned:  Also take some time to identify lessons learned.  Ask:  “What do I know now that I didn’t know then?”  The fact is that most employees will have many
      jobs before their career ends.  The new knowledge you have gained about how to look for a job, and how to market yourself, can be useful to future career transitions you will make.  Many job seekers hope that they will never have to search for a new job again.  It’s a false hope for most.  So mine this valuable knowledge now, so that should the need arise, you will be prepared.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In summary, a job search is nothing more, and nothing less, than a project to be managed.   Yes, there are some differences from typical projects you may have managed in the past, which are:

 First, you can’t predict how long your search will take.
– a major difference from a typical project in which you are assigned a specified length of time to complete the project.  In a job search, too many factors exist beyond your own planning and determination, and these affect the length of your search.  Factors range from the amount of demand there is for the type of work you do, and the depth of experience companies are seeking and willing to pay, to the state of the employment market and the economy itself.  Whether the type of work you do is fairly common and there is a large demand for it, or rare with a small demand, will affect the length of your search, despite how hard you work.

Second, you can’t predict where you’ll end up.  
Factors such as those just described above will affect what the position you end up with will look like.  Another factor is you . . . yourself.  As you work at your search, and learn about the job types you can perform and responsibilities you can fill, your own specs may change.  And, for many job seekers who learn about new types of rolls and positions they can fill, and who change their focus, it turns out to be a better fit and ultimately more satisfying.

Following the logical steps of project management will keep you organized, focused, and on track.  It will help you anticipate obstacles and challenges, so you are not derailed by them when they occur.  And ultimately, this logical approach will lead you to be a successful job seeker.