|Get Ready . . . Get Set . . .|
Want to hit the ground running in fall? Then use the techniques and strategies below to re-focus and re-energize your job search now.
Autumn is one of the most active times of the hiring year. Companies, resuming their normal hiring activity following the slower pace of summer, now focus on meeting the staffing needs of programs and projects beginning concurrent with the government’s new fiscal year, for workloads of some industries that increase in the fall, or in anticipation of needs for the coming calendar year.
It is also the time of year that many job seekers, aware of this end-of-the-year hiring potential, jump enthusiastically back into their searches! But the issue becomes when do you begin and what do you? Many of your job seeking colleagues will wait until the passing of Labor Day. And, if you have been searching for a while without results, the challenging August-to-early September time frame can seem to offer a good time to take a break. After all, it can get frustrating waiting to hear back from companies that delay hiring decisions, interviews times, and responses to inquiries and application submissions until their own vacationing team members return and are back on board. For job seekers, faced with these delays, it can be disheartening.
However, you can get a jump on those who would wait until Labor Day and make good use of this end of summer time period right now. There are a lot of job search activities that you can do in order to keep your search moving forward, albeit more slowly during this time period, and to hit the ground running in Fall.
Beat the Competition
First and foremost, if you have an ongoing search, keep searching. Don’t put your job search on hold, don’t stop searching, and don’t give up. Use this slower time to your advantage. Many of your competitors will slow down or shut down their searches, unknowingly lessening the competition. Remember, hiring slows but does not stop. So keep on networking, applying, and interviewing whenever and wherever you can.
Renew Your Job Search
Second, use this time to analyze and re-invigorate your job search campaign. Think of it as performing a Job Search Campaign (Project) Audit with two distinct parts.
- Job Search Audit Part 1: Take a hard look at the way you market yourself by analyzing and refining your Job Search Marketing Tools. The goal is to ensure that your Marketing Materials accurately support your job search goal. They should show that you would be a good fit for the type of job you want to do.
- Job Search Audit Part 2: Review your job search activity. Take a hard look at how you portray and present yourself as a candidate for the type of work you want to do. Identify gaps and lapses in your performance, and strategize ways to fills the gaps.
Using this slower time in the hiring year to review your progress will enable you to clarify your focus, sharpen your strategy, and improve your marketing of YOU as the best candidate for the type of work you are seeking. So go ahead and begin your Job Search Audit.
Re-examine your job search goal and either confirm it or re-set it.
· First and foremost, take a look at the goal you set for the type of job you thought you wanted. Think back. When you began your search, you probably (at least I hope you did) thought about the type of job you’d like your next job to be, analyzed your capabilities, developed your Elevator Speech, Resume, and Marketing Plan accordingly, and then set about conducting your search. Maybe that was a month ago, a few months ago, or even at the beginning of the year. Recognize that during this time as you worked at your search, you’ve learned a lot . . . about the employment market, the capabilities hiring companies desire, and yourself.
· Now ask yourself, based on what you’ve learned: “Is my goal realistic? Is it representative of the job I really want to do? Have I learned that there’s a better job type than that which I thought I wanted? Is there another field, industry, or sector for which I’m better suited?” Your answers to these questions will sharpen your focus and hone your goal. Now, use this time to research how to pursue your improved goal.
Update your Resume (and other marketing materials) based on what you have learned so that it better represents your abilities and better positions you as a desirable candidate for the type of work you want to do and where you want to do it.
· Review your resume. Does it really say what you think it says? A good technique is to actually read it ALOUD. Painstaking, I know, but it’ll slow you down, and you’ll actually read what you wrote -- not what you think you wrote.
· Reflect on the purpose of your resume: Its job is to get you through the employer’s door. It does not get you hired; it just opens the door to further consideration. So, your resume needs to show (i.e., sell) the recruiter and hiring manager that you can do the job and would be a good candidate to learn more about, i.e., interview. It does this via Accomplishment Statements that show the duties you performed and results you achieved that relate to a prospective employer’s requirements for a position. Showing results of your work is the strongest argument you can make for interviewing you.
· Ensure that your Career Summary, i.e., Professional Summary, positions you correctly. The most strategic part of your resume, the Career Summary needs to draw the reader in, persuading them that you possess enough of the experience and capabilities they are looking for to make them want to read on.
· Make sure your resume is current. Show recent professional achievements. If you are unemployed, and have been searching for a while, but have also taken some time to do contract or consulting work, oversee a project, take a course, publish a report or article, achieve a new certification, etc., show this accomplishment(s) on the top half of the front page of your resume. If you are employed, show this activity in the section of your resume where it fits best.
· Check to ensure you are using current wording and jargon for terminology that may have changed or is changing.
· Review your resume to ensure that it is easy to read. Have readable type (no smaller than 11 point) and adequate white space. Change lengthy paragraphs of type to bullet points. Ensure it is free of typos and poor grammar; many interviewers find this type of easily correctable error inexcusable. If English is not your first language, have someone you trust read your updated resume and provide corrections.
· Check for negativity. Eliminate any descriptive phrases that allude to a past employer in a negative way. This damaging wording can stop a prospective employer in their tracks. Negative tones, or wording, can creep onto a resume (or cover letter) if the separation from the firm was a bad one, or the resume was written shortly after a termination, lay off, or reprimand.
· And, finally, yes Virginia, you do need to tailor your resume specific to each submission. If you haven’t been doing this, rest assured your competition does.
Update your Marketing Plan. Probably the most overlooked of the marketing tools, but it shouldn’t be. What a marketing plan does is really simple: It provides direction for daily job search activity, and creates order out of chaos. I have seen it help job seekers go from feeling overwhelmed to feeling in control, and go from “I don’t know where to start (or go from here)” to “I know what to do next.”
· Use a Marketing Plan to succinctly identify your areas of competency, those areas of skill, knowledge, and abilities you possess and that employers hire you for.
· Then list types of industries, and specific companies within those industries, that employ your competencies and that value (i.e. pay you a salary for) your skills and experience.
· Remember too that your Marketing Plan is a work in progress. It is never done. Add companies and organizations as you become aware of new ones and delete those that you learn don’t hire folks with your set of competencies. A strategic, targeted Marketing Plan will keep you barking up the RIGHT trees.
Update your Networking Plan. As with your Marketing Plan, your Networking Plan is a written plan, not just an Outlook Address book or a list that you keep in your head (especially not a list that you keep in your head). A well-conceived Networking Plan lists contact information for your network of contacts, and keeps a running tally of your interactions with them. It is a safeguard designed to prevent things from falling through the cracks.
· Networking is not “just talking to people.” But too often, this is exactly with job seekers think that it is. Effective networkers will tell you the opposite. Most will tell you they had (and have) a plan for their networking. They devised their plan and then they worked it. It was not happenstance or luck that led them to a key contact whose referral or recommendation to a hiring manger made the hiring difference.
· Networking is the name of the job seeking game. It’s said that well over 80% of opportunities come about via the Hidden Market; I personally think it’s even higher. The Hidden Market contains career opportunities that never, or at least not initially, see the light of day in open advertisements. These are either (1) actual but unadvertised open positions, or (2) potential ones that are not yet created but for which a need exists. The only way to access these opportunities is to work the Hidden Market via networking.
· Plan your networking in order to be most effective when seeking a new position or role. Create a written, comprehensive networking plan containing the names of and contact information for network contacts and referrals. And don’t make the mistake of limiting it to professional contacts. Your plan should include people from all walks of your life, listed by sector, including professional contacts, service providers, organizations / associations, clubs and hobbies, friends and family, etc.
· List those you know now, and expand it as you meet, interact with, and receive referrals to new contacts.
· Your networking plan provides a path initially to meeting, and meetings with, interesting people, and ultimately to a key contact or two who connect you with opportunity. Create, work, and consistently update your networking plan to uncover career opportunities.
Align your other Marketing Materials to tell a consistent story. It is really important that the rest of your Marketing Tools tell a story consistent with your newly revised Resume. Check to ensure they align with and support your job search goal. Revise your other Job Search Marketing Materials that should include but are not limited to the following:
· Elevator Speech – A self-introduction that accurately and adequately conveys your expertise and attributes in less than 30 seconds. This is probably the most frequently delivered marketing tool, so make sure it is attention grabbing and accurately conveys your expertise and unique strengths.
· Business Card – A Personal-Professional Business Card that tells the receiver at a minimum your name and basic contact information, and at maximum your profession / title and competency areas.
· Reference List – An annotated reference list shows not only the name and contact information of your reference, but also the nature of your professional relationship.
· Portfolio – A professional job search portfolio is another often overlooked marketing tool but one that make an impact as it provides “proof” of your claims of competency. It can contain items supportive of your claims of effectiveness and success such as: Resume, awards, training courses completed or taught, letters of recommendation, letters of appreciation, performance appraisals, certificates, publications, degrees/diplomas, etc. Formats can include physical portfolios (including nice looking binders with neatly organized materials) or electronic displays of your work.
· Cover Letter Template – A cover letter is a short, concise letter that is a sales letter. It offers you an opportunity to discuss what you can do and how you qualify for the position, share some knowledge you have about the hiring firm, and sell a prospective employer on the benefits of hiring you. In other words, it allows you a little literary license, thus differing from the resume’s straight-forward and factual presentation of your work.
· Thank You Letter Template – A short, concise letter that follows any and every interaction of your search. Choose the format that you think your recipient would be most amenable to: e-mail, a hand-written note, or even in some cases a typed letter. Send a thank you letter following interviews, meetings with recruiters at job fairs, meetings with a network contact, help rendered by a colleague, friend, family member, or acquaintance, an encouraging word sent by a network contact, a former boss who takes the time to talk with you and offer suggestions and advice, etc.
· LinkedIn Profile – A professional social media tool. Your profile provides a focused description showing who you are, what you do and how that benefits others, and why you deserve to be noticed. A standard hiring tool, LinkedIn is used by employers to search for and research candidates for jobs. It should not just be a regurgitation of your resume; your Profile allows you a little literary license to go beyond facts and figures and show prospective employers more of who you are on the job, i.e., how you might approach a work assignment, how you get things, why you are effective.
Part 2:Identify your performance gaps and fill them.
How’s your sales technique? Job seeking is nothing more, and nothing less, than a sales process. Thinking and acting like a salesperson will make the job of finding a job easier.
· Finding a job is all about sales. So, don’t forget to think and act like a salesperson. Astute salespeople don't approach prospects with laundry lists of their product's or service's features. Instead, they show how these features will help, or benefit. They show how their product will help the customer solve problems, stem shrinkage, and facilitate growth. Your marketing tools should do the same for you.
· Remember too that people buy benefits. Accomplishment Statements on your resume show the type of results you are able to achieve, and how you benefitted previous employers. They also serve as talking points for interviews. Draw upon these Accomplishment Statements when an interviewer asks you: “What would you say are your greatest strengths?” Or “Tell me about a problem you have solved.”
· Too often, I have heard from job seekers who are reluctant to toot their own horn. Uncomfortable saying positive things about themselves, they hesitate, feeling that they are bragging. But by drawing on the facts and figures provided in their Accomplishment Statements, they often feel more comfortable.
Who fell off the radar screen? With your Marketing Tools updated and aligned with your revised or clarified job search goal, take time to review your past job search activity. (1) Dig out all the marketing letters (cover letters and thank you letters) you sent to target companies, hiring firms, and networks contacts. (2) Identify all the applications you’ve submitted. (3) Review them, looking for folks with whom you can re-connect in the following ways:
· Re-connect with contacts you approached with an e-mail or phone call and received either no response, or a single, limited, or luke-warm response. With your more accurate and better defined marketing materials, you may incite some interest that wasn’t there when your resume or elevator speech was luke-warm!
· Re-connect with companies, recruiters, and organizations that had positions or potential openings – whether you pursued them or not. Just as you may have changed during your search, so do things in companies. They may not have filled the position, or changed the requirements for what they desire in a candidate. Or, their first choice candidate may have quit by now. Happens all the time!
· Get back in touch with firms that interviewed you. Find out: What happened to the position? Did they fill it? Did they change it? Did the chosen candidate work out? If you felt a rapport with a member of the interview team or an employee in the firm, touch base. They may know about the position, other positions, or current needs. Or, they may have moved on to another firm and know of their new firm’s needs.
Do some soul searching about gaps and lapses. Be brutally honest with yourself. Where did your performance fall down? What did your job search campaign lack? What can you change about the way you work at your job search? Here are some typical trouble spots.
· Follow up. Many job seekers say they follow up, but only do a limited follow-up at best. One follow-up e-mail following a networking meeting, talking with a recruiter at a job fair, a submission to a target company, or an interview is not effective follow-up. Your follow-up should consist of regularly getting back in touch in a consist manner that you plan and track.
· Time spent working on their search. Job seekers often fool themselves into believing that they are working harder and longer than they think. They say they are really working hard, but when they begin to track their time, they soon see that they’re only working a couple of hours a day . . . if that! Oh yes, they’re on the computer . . . looking at Facebook, doing some shopping, reading the news, playing Solitaire, daydreaming in Starbucks, scanning the job boards but not proactively acting on any leads. Or, they work in bursts of activity – such as working all weekend – and then doing little for the next several days or even weeks. The most effective job seekers I’ve seen work differently; they work consistently day by day, approaching their search as their job. An aid to many job seekers is to set a schedule for their job search work day, identifying the times they will begin work, take breaks, and have lunch, as well as the tasks they will do each day.
· Failure to act on referrals. Referrals are golden. They open doors – if acted on in a timely manner. If not, the damage done will reflect on (1) you for not being serious and the (2) referrer for having exercised poor judgement in giving you a referral in the first place. If you are lucky enough to receive a referral, either act on it immediately or tell the referrer why you can’t do so now, and then arrange a realistic time when you can do so.
· Failure to act on leads in a timely manner. Many leads you will receive are time sensitive. If you tend toward procrastination, set a spot in your daily schedule for lead follow-up.
· Failure to understand that finding a job takes work. This failure sinks a lot of job seekers. They dabble in the work of job search, seeking short cuts and work reducing panaceas. They decide a search firm or a well-positioned relative or friend will “get them a job.” They look to a job search coach or an employment agency to do the job of finding them a job. But, while these resources can be very helpful, there is no substitute for buckling down, committing to the task, working at the job like it’s your job. Finding a job is a job . . . your job.
Examine the company you keep. There’s an old saying: Success is in the company you keep. When it comes to finding a job, the people around you can literally make or break your search.
· If you surround yourself with naysayers, you may find that your energy level drops and your confidence wanes. Self-doubts creep into your internal conversation: “Who am I kidding? I could never qualify for this job.”
· If instead you surround yourself with folks who are generally positive, the opposite occurs. Energy increases and so does your confidence. Your self-talk becomes a lot more positive. Understand that job seeking is an emotional experience, fraught with a lot of highs and lows. Positive people will help you manage through these highs and lows a lot more effectively.
· Choose wisely with whom you share your thoughts, doubts, and activities, and choose wisely how much you reveal. Revealing too much to the wrong person can hurt your job search campaign. Instead, identify a trusted advisor or two with whom you can talk things over. Joining a job search work team with fellow job seekers who are experiencing many of the things you are can also help a lot.
Check out and manage your social profile. Check out all those social media formats that you use, view, and contribute to.
· Check the social networks with which you engage including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.
· Check the media sharing networks you use such as Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube.
· Check any discussion forums in which you have participated, or bloggs you may have contributed to.
· Check any consumer review networks you may have contributed to including Yelp, Zomato, TripAdvisor.
· Google yourself. Find out what pops up when you put in your name.
· Look for things that may be damaging to your image as a serious professional candidate – things you may have said, and things said about you. Do any damage control you are able to do, by taking down negative information or amending a comment.
· Refrain, as much as you can, from contributing to social sites, other than LinkedIn and your own personal professional job search website if you have one) during your search. Even the most mundane of comments can be misinterpreted. Know too that prospective employers will be checking your social presence. More than one candidacy has met its end when an employer discovered negative things about a candidate for their job.
In summary, there’s a lot to do to make use of the slower time afforded you during the latter days of summer. You can make real strides in correcting the course of your job search in re-energizing it. Use this time to your advantage.
Best of luck in your job search,