“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” John Wooden was one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, and was well known for his motivational quotes. In this particular quote, Wooden relayed to his players that time is precious and of the essence, we may not always have a second change to optimize our efforts. The world of job-hunting is filled with missed opportunity, but taking the time to start the search in a smarter-not-harder way can go a long way in finding success. Recognizing the ways in which opportunity can be missed means you won’t waste your time on job search efforts that yield poor results. The cost of searching for a job can be expensive. Depending on your needs and the services you opt for (resume writing, traveling to events, a career coach, etc.) could cost you at least $2,000. If you are currently employed and make $100K per year, your gross income per day could be around $260. A prolonged job hunt could easily burn through much of your daily income, especially if you spend more than 5% of your time searching and applying for jobs online. Think of the hours you waste per day by filling out impersonal job applications, when you could spend the time creating meaningful connections with people through networking and researching target companies. Jim Rohn, a motivational speaker said it best: “Days are expensive. When you spend a day you have one less day to spend. So make sure you spend each one wisely”.
The conclusion I’ve come to is many job seekers skip out on the activities that get them the best results because they perceive that they require more time and their efforts have a questionable pay off. Networking and personalizing your search also requires facing people, and for some reason we find the thought of facing people to be scary at times. The best jobs and the best opportunities to find those jobs can’t be obtained by the simple press of an “easy” button. Developing relationships with people isn’t the difficult part of a job search. It takes a couple of weeks to generate momentum before you can powerfully articulate your value and the contribution you want to employers with straightforward requests. The TIME is the part that requires some patience, perseverance, and self-assessment to arrive at the clarity necessary to develop those messages. People are the EASY part, as long as we can hurdle our fears; many people have been in the similar position of seeking a foot in the door and are willing to give advice. The work may be time-consuming at first, but the payoff means more job leads, references, interviews, and even landing the job. Furthermore, once these connections are established, it will become much easier to utilize your network to help find your next opportunity.
Growing the Network:
Establishing or growing your personal and professional network is the first step in generation the momentum you need to articulate your value to employers. It is a necessary step because very few job seekers land a position without networking. In fact, about 80% of jobs are landed through networking. This is true for most positions where personality is just as important as skills and qualifications. This means connecting with former friends and colleagues you might not have talked to since your previous job, or even since college. Don’t count these people out just because you didn’t keep in touch. That IS the purpose of social media. It is completely acceptable, if not expected, to reconnect with people with whom you lost touch through social media. Friends and family may be able to provide you with valuable leads, or they may connect you to someone who can provide you with these leads. A quote from Sesame Street defines personal connections perfectly: “The people in your neighborhood, the people that you meet each day.” These connections can be anyone with whom you are on a first name basis—dentists, mail carriers, hair dressers, clerks at the bakery or deli are just a few examples. Your professional connections can consist of alumni, co-workers, hiring managers, recruiters, and even former bosses. Through these connections you can discover job openings, and obtain referrals.
If you have yet to tap into your personal and professional networks, or if you have, but have not been able to gain any traction with your network I cover these topics in two vlogs. The first vlog is “How Does Your Garden, uh, Network Grow?”. The second vlog is “Job Help for the Discouraged Job Seeker”. All of your connections are important because they could lead you to your next career opportunity. You can also optimize your network by prioritizing contacts, and by creating lists sorted by relevance. Have meaningful interactions with contacts in your field. The quality of the interaction is important. You won’t get far by reconnecting with someone just to ask them for job leads. Make it about a genuine interest in finding out more about them, how they’ve been doing, and what you can do to help THEM. For some, this will feel like less pressure than making it about asking for favors. Don’t ask for favors. Watch my vlog, “Get Interviews Through Your Network” for a better way of obtaining an interview. For others who have been experiencing an emotional tailspin, facing people means having to show how vulnerable you have become. Facing people when you feel embarrassed or less than is the LAST thing you want to do. I recommend you watch Brene Brown’s TED Talk on the power of vulnerability. Relationships are a give-and-take. If you help someone out in your network, it demonstrates how valuable you are, and they will naturally want to extend help to you.
Attending Networking Events:
Networking events are a great way to further expand your network. Professional conferences, job club meetings, community service groups and career fairs provide opportunities for job seekers to meet employers, hiring managers, and recruiters at local events here: U.S. News & World Report Money has compiled a list of common professional networking events. Obtain a list of employers prior to attending the event, so you can research the companies beforehand. Doing this will allow you to narrow down the employers in your field, or the companies you’d really like to work for in the future. You will be able to tailor your conversation and questions to the individual company, which will leave a lasting impression on recruiters. Even if they’re not hiring, they could remember you when positions do open.
Often I have heard from people who have landed exactly the job that they wanted, that it was all due to one event that turned into several meetings, which generated several more meetings. In this way, JoMo (job momentum) can build VERY quickly. The key is making sure that all of your conversations cover a small agenda:
- Find out what the other person needs.
- Offer to help (and do so within a week).
- Let them know what contribution you want to make for your next employer.
- What qualifies you to make the contribution.
- Who your ideal employer is, either as a profile or name specific companies, then explicitly ask if they know anyone who works in a company like this.
- Ask them to make an introduction within a week.
- Schedule a follow-up.
Networking events are about creating and maintaining connections. Take some time to talk about your background and find shared experiences. If you have any great work-related stories to tell, share them. It could be about the time you saved a major project or exceeded your company’s goals. Some of these stories may seem like another day at the office to you, but they can illustrate your best qualities as a person and employee. On the flipside, take time to learn about the recruiters you meet at networking events, and ask them what they like best about working for their company. Don’t linger with one recruiter for too long, as they are eager to meet other job seekers. This can be a balancing act. While you don’t want to monopolize someone’s time, it can be awkward to cut a conversation short when there is evident synergy. If you find this is true, offer to meet up with someone after the event. When the event is over, take the time to write a “Thank You” note to the recruiter to demonstrate you’re interested in their company. The stronger the impression you leave on recruiters, the more likely they are to remember you.
Make LinkedIn Work for you:
A 2014 Jobvite survey discovered that 73% of recruiters plan to increase their investment in social media recruiting. LinkedIn is the social network of choice to help find and recruit job seekers. In other words, LinkedIn is one of the best places to find and establish a relationship with recruiters, HR managers, co-workers and others in your professional network. If you haven’t used the social network in a while, give your profile a nice cleaning. Differentiate your LinkedIn profile from your résumé, customize your default headline, and carefully craft your keywords. Taking the time to make these adjustments to your LinkedIn profile will ensure that you stand out from the crowd and that you grab the attention of people who you want to create a connection.
Once your profile is spruced up, take the time to join a few industry groups. These groups will allow you to show off your industry knowledge, and you’ll expand your network with new connections. If you find articles or blog entries relevant to your industry, comment on them and engage in meaningful discussions. You can also add to discussions by writing your own articles, or sharing the articles of others within your industry. You’re an authority in your field, and you want to be a go-to person for knowledge. Putting a few hours of work into your LinkedIn presence each week will demonstrate your passion for your industry, and make it easier for you to connect with others. If you need or want help strengthening your LinkedIn profile, we’re here for you.
Keep Track of your Goals:
Creating a list of measurable goals can help you maintain your career transition effort by staying focused and disciplined. More importantly, you’ll be able to keep your momentum going. Some examples of goals to set and meet are: making three calls to contacts per week, scheduling two meetings per week, and helping two people in your network per week. Do small things such as spending an hour each day engaging with industry groups on LinkedIn. Do bigger things such as reaching out to two or three contacts a week, and taking a day out to network with at least one of them. Go even bigger by attending two industry events per week. Start with one per month and work your way up! Ease yourself into these events by starting small, and increasing the number of events you attend each month. If you find yourself losing a lot of money every day you spend searching and not landing a job, you may want to go big from the get go. In my article, “Break Out of Your Comfort Zone and Accelerate Your Job Transition,” I wrote about the strategies for trying new things in your career transition. Having goals and sticking to them will help you get out of your comfort zone and out of the house to network with people. Don’t stop networking just because you had a great interview and you expect to be offered your dream job. ANYTHING can happen, and it usually does. Plus, having a great job offer is a great position to be in, but an even better position is having two or three great job offers and having the employers compete for you. This can make a $20K+ difference in your salary.
Starting off your job search by networking is the most effective way to begin your career transition. Think about it. Spending your time applying online is time-consuming and expensive. You spend your time searching without a payoff. Networking can land you a job faster by leveraging your personal and professional connections. Making connections through social networking sites liked LinkedIn is a great start, but attending networking events is also important. You can learn about your local employers and meet local professionals in person. You can add them to your network by connecting with them on a personal level. It is through your network that you will learn about job openings before they’re ever posted to job boards (if they are ever posted), and gain important referrals that get you to recruiters, and ultimately interviews with hiring managers. Taking the time to do it right means building your network and creating goals for yourself. Doing these steps will save you time and effort. The money you save is by landing sooner and by making more! The larger and more relevant your network is, the easier it is to utilize it when you start a career transition.