THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN JOB SEARCH
by Greg Fall (currently submitted for publication)
Frequently, I am asked is: “what is the most important aspect of a job search?”
Response #1 … If I don’t have time for discussion, I answer: “get noticed.”
Response #2 … If I have time for discussion, I answer: “It really depends on many variables, such as: your marketability, the condition of your target industries / markets, how much you are in demand, the quality of your preparation (including resume), your top barriers to success, the depth of your contacts – particularly in target companies, how compelling your story is, and so on …”
Both responses are correct. And while most people don’t relish the complex discussion that response #2 sets up, it is accurate because job search is different for each person. This is something missed by many career coaches, experts, and writers because the answer doesn’t fit in to a nice, neat marketing package.
OK, we’ll save an in-depth discussion for a coffee break. In the meantime, here are a few factors which will be critical to the success of just about every career transition …
Yes, I know this is from “response #1” above, but it is critical. Ever since the early 2000s when the employment market changed (that’s right, it was nearly 10 years ago, not just in the last couple of years), employers are in the driver’s seat and good jobs are extremely competitive. If you can’t figure out how to stand out from the crowd, don’t even waste your time. You must get the attention of hiring managers. Choose to stand out.
Just do something. Ask for forgiveness later. Make plenty of little mistakes so that you can learn from them. Certainly, we need to pay homage to the venerable maxims “be ready to go to market” and “you don’t get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression,” but, please, take action. If you are currently unemployed, you should be spending a minimum of 5-6+ hours a day on job search. Place the excuses in the trash. Find a way to overcome your anxieties and barriers. Don’t accept other people judging you. Identify and deal directly with your motivators and de-motivators. Take responsibility for your action and inaction – no one is going to do this job search for you. Choose to get to work.
Know Yourself AND Open Your Mind
Neither is easy to do, but together? A tough combo. Assessments related to personality, career, values, and other areas can help keep you honest about remembering who you are (and why some positions and cultures will or will not be good fits), but then it is critical to keep your mind open to constructive feedback, unlikely opportunities, new concepts, and the newest trends in your area of expertise. When you network and ask others for help: be mindful about which filters you are using to take in information and make sure to listen intently – committing to a real understanding of the subject matter. Choose self-awareness and an awareness of alternative perspectives.
Compelling and Consistent Brand Messaging
This is foundational. Consider this: What if a product or even a presidential campaign had multiple brand messages – each delivered by a different vehicle …
Billboard: “Vote for Sally Sample. Freedom through Unlimited Texting.”
Web Ad: “Vote for Sally Sample. She Cares about Cats.”
Brochure: “Vote for Sally Sample. A Chicken in Every Pot.”
In Person: “Hi, I’m Sally. I’m a really good person and really good leader.”
Your brand message must be well defined, compelling, and delivered consistently across all communication vehicles, such as your: voice, résumé, email messages, and LinkedIn profile. Perception is reality. Choose to create a powerful brand message and deliver it consistently.
This doesn’t mean wasting your time searching for jobs online (no more than 2-4 hours per week) or posting a digital résumé. This doesn’t mean “hiding behind” the web so as not to make phone calls and meet people face-to-face. This doesn’t mean (if you are over 50) pretending that email alone will cut it and this doesn’t mean (if you are under 30) that you know how to market yourself effectively and keep a clean digital footprint. This does mean: setting up and using a LinkedIn profile, getting rid of MySpace-like profiles / cleaning up your digital footprint, researching target companies to develop specific strategies, participating in webinars and blogs, using an email / contact manager / calendar combination effectively, setting up your own webpage(s) or blog, posting articles, and networking intelligently. An online presence is now looked at by most employers as mainstream, normal, and an indication that you have nothing to hide. Don’t agree? Well, it’s the truth, whether we like it or not. You are at a significant disadvantage without an intelligent and professional digital presence. If you need help in how to market yourself online, then pick up the phone and call (or text!) someone who is digitally savvy. Choose to market yourself online.
Network for Quality, Not Quantity
Networking – arggghhh! You just knew this would be in here, didn’t you. Well, it is critical. Each week, most full-time job seekers spend about 20+ hours online and less than 5 hours networking by phone or in person. You need to almost reverse these numbers (taking into account that an email or personal digital message may be very appropriate for initiating contact and acknowledging gratitude). Apply for fewer positions and network with more people, but make sure they are quality contacts. As Seth Godin, “Tribes” author and social media marketing guru, maintains – it’s about quality. My rule of thumb is voice contact with 2 new people per day (or 10 per week). That’s a lot. But networking needs to comprise over 50% of your total effort, after the first couple weeks when you are polishing the resume and organizing your search campaign. Also, remember 2 rules: 1. if you network with authenticity and gratitude, people will appreciate being asked to help out and 2. look for ways that you can also be helpful to others. Choose to connect with 2 new people each day.
Take Care of Yourself and Your Family
Wait a minute – isn’t your family supposed to take care of you? Of course they will try their best, but your family members may be dealing with their own anxiety as well. It may not be fair, but you need to prioritize taking care of your own emotional, mental, and physical needs while looking out for your family’s needs. This is the single biggest indicator of my clients both shortening their job searches and landing positions for which they are a good fit. You need the capacity to ride the job search roller coaster effectively. A tip - remind yourself of past situations of higher stress for your family and think critically about what you did (caring for yourself and for them) which worked. Choose to be deliberate about good health.