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5 Ways to Reclaim Your Power in Your Job Search or Career

Humans have a primal need to be heard, acknowledged, and appreciated.  The job search process, even working, can give people quite the opposite experience. Putting yourself out there, crossing your fingers, and hoping that someone likes you enough to talk to is degrading.

The default mode of job seeking is reactive; you see a job opening posted, then you follow the instructions on the platform or in the job description to apply. You then get funneled in with all the other applications and hope that it is received and that your value is appealing enough to get an invitation to take next steps. The ball is in the other court this whole time.

But statistics show that we are in a very strong job-seekers market. There have been more job openings in the US than unemployed workers for a good year now.

How can that be? Wouldn’t that mean that all applicants would get a fair chance? No. Of course, you need a strong résumé, rich with keywords used in context to demonstrate your qualifications. However, using your résumé purely as a tool for job applications is a disempowered strategy.

There are things that you can do to make things happen in your job search, and you may not believe that it’s true until it happens to you. This means that you should experiment. Give a few, or all of these tactics a try and allow yourself 3 weeks of dedicated effort in job searching. During this time, stop spending your time on reactive activities such as scouring job boards and applying online. If something pays off with an introduction, interview, or offer, keep doing it and abandon what hasn’t been successful.

I’ll bet you’ll like how it feels to know that you can not only generate leads that you would never have found on Indeed, but that you can also get others to generate leads for you and multiply your results without multiplying your time. Generate leads, generate momentum, and then have your choice of position rather than only being able to consider those jobs that you found on job boards when everyone else is vying for the same jobs.

I’ll bet one of the methods below will lead you to have an interview for an opportunity that outside job seekers don’t even know about yet. All of the methods below have worked for my clients, so they have already been proven to succeed.

In order to make this work optimally, you will need*:

  • A branded résumé that not only qualifies you, but makes your unique value evident.
  • A complete, branded LinkedIn profile written in 1st person that supplements and compliments your résumé (not replicates it) and shows that you are a dynamic, interesting person outside of your work as well.
  • A target list of at least 25 companies that have cultures that will enable you to thrive – this activity will lead to positive momentum, and an acceptable job offer if you’re not wasting time making progress with companies where you ultimately would not want to work. THIS LIST IS NOT BASED ON JOB POSTINGS YOU’VE SEEN. This might sound counter-intuitive, but the point of these proactive efforts is to pursue organizations based on their fit to you, not whether they have an opening for you!

* If you don’t have all three of the following, schedule a free consultation with me.

1. Volunteer

It’s not always easy finding opportunities to volunteer, as strange as that sounds. I was new in business when I first started volunteering and I pursued well-known organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross, but opportunities seemed to be targeted at organized groups, not individuals. I spoke with a client who was also involved in local government and asked about opportunities in the community. Because of that, I wound up being a race marshal and handing out water to runners at a couple of 5Ks. These were great opportunities, and they got me started, but I didn’t meet anyone, and it wasn’t always clear when I showed up of how I was going to help. Sometimes I took it upon myself to help out in the best way I could, and then found out I was doing it wrong. This was still good experience for me, and you need to remember that some organizations are better at volunteer training than others.

But, it doesn’t matter how you start. Just start. If you’ve been undervalued at your job or you have been transitioning for a while, it is easy to forget why you are so valuable. Being helpful in any way can remind you of your value. It doesn’t always create a direct line to opportunity, but it can potentially. It’s led to many opportunities for me and my clients. Check out opportunities at See what non-profits leaders in your target companies support. Ask avid networkers you know where movers and shakers they know volunteer their time and talents.

In past articles, I encouraged you to volunteer at professional organization events, like volunteering to speak on a topic within your expertise that can help other professionals be more successful, or you can pick a cause for which you have passion. If you spend your free time worrying about a problem, you’ll gain power by doing something about it.

Volunteering is something you’ll want to add to your LinkedIn profile and it something that can look favorable to companies that value and promote community and social impact. Also, it’s much harder to validate that you are passionate about something if you aren’t spending time in it or doing it. You know you are passionate when you would spend your time doing something whether you are paid or not. Everyone says they’re passionate, volunteering proves it.

2. Approach letters

If you have a cover letter template, scrap it. I’m not talking about a cover letter that you attach to your online application, which can be a way to find out if you have strong written communication skills. I’m talking about a letter of interest that you send directly to your would-be direct supervisor in your target company. The qualification for who receives it is NOT based on the recipient having a posted job opening, but if the company has a need, challenge, or initiative that you can bolster by being part of the team. This is not a request for a job, but rather a request to talk further about the company’s future plans and how you can support them. It’s more like you are a consultant who is trying to identify whether you offer a skill or service that this company needs, but you do your homework ahead of time and drop some bread crumbs that entice the recipient to know what the recipe is.

The letter must explicitly lay out what you know about the company, and how that implicates your added value. Connect the dots between the problem and how you have added value to such endeavors in the past. The call to action is to invite the recipient to a 20-minute discovery call, just to see if what you offer is a match for what they need.

Even if you are committed to a full-time permanent opportunity, position yourself as someone flexible about terms. This also communicates that you are confident that you can add value in the short term.  While you are there adding short-term value, you can gain insights that enable you to pitch a long-term value proposition.  Make yourself indispensable, and you will have the leverage to ask for all the perks and benefits of a full-time employee, plus a signing bonus. This will require you to do some market research on an hourly rate that will help you cover costs an employer would normally cover, plus self-employment tax for working as a sole proprietor.

This approach requires being bold. Fortune favors the bold, in case you hadn’t heard. If your confidence isn’t quite there yet, volunteer your skills to a non-profit and add value until you feel confident moving forward. Again, this is an experiment, so try this with about 5 companies.

3. Take on a leadership role in a professional or community organization

60% of recruiters are specifically looking for this kind of engagement through your social media. It takes a village to run successful events and programs.

There are steps that lead to engaging as a leader in an organization. You don’t just jump right into it.

Step 1 – Observe. Check out several organizations to determine which one has the kind of people, programs, and mission statement that resonate with your career mission.

Step 2 – Join. Attend regular meetings where you will naturally become more acquainted with other members and the breadth of what is offered.

Step 3 – Volunteer. Many organizations crave doing more, but they need the manpower to do it. Look for the board names on the organization’s website. Ask them what initiatives they have tabled because of lack of manpower, or what additional help they could use to make their events and programs even better. If that doesn’t fit what you do, make a referral and keep looking for opportunities. Remember to follow up frequently. Many of these organizations are full of people who have other full-time obligations and won’t easily remember who offered what help.

Step 4 – Lead. Once you get to see events and programs from the inside you’ll better understand the undertaking of running them. It’s a natural progression to lead one event or get involved in the organization’s operations and strategy or do both. It comes with visibility, but is not without its conflicts – even the best organizations. It’s how conflicts are handled that will influence how long you remain involved in the organization, I have found.

4. LinkedIn outreach

Just to be clear, outreach is not the same as clicking on “send invite” for all of the people LinkedIn suggests or who appear in a search. That’s as good as spam; your low success rates will deceive you into thinking that people are not looking to connect on LinkedIn when that is exactly why they are on LinkedIn. People only make progress through REAL connections, not superficial ones. This means having shorter, well-vetted lists and custom invitations. You can increase your chances of having your invitation accepted if 1) the person you’re inviting to connect to is actually active on LinkedIn and 2) you engage with that person’s content.  The first step is to follow this person. This will be an option if they are active. (If they aren’t, see the next item on the list.)

Once you follow someone, you are notified when they engage on other people’s content as well as when they create and share their own. It matters little which you engage with, but if it is other’s people content, respond directly to their comment on it. If it is their original content, share it, tag them, and take care to write something insightful that will inspire others to give their content some love and attention. Then send them a customized invitation to connect, making mention of how much you appreciated their content.

Just like the approach letter, the goal is to take that initial connection to the next step, and connect offline via phone call, video chat, or in-person meeting.  Initially, just ask for 20 minutes. The point is to determine if there is enough synergy to invest more time. Make sure you have 5 good, specific questions based on their background that can help you understand who they are, where they’ve been and how they got “here.” Also, make sure you ask the #1 most important question – what introductions, resources, or support would help move your most important projects forward faster? Don’t just ask generally, “How can I help you?” This is a burdensome question. How could they know what you can do to help? Find out first what they want most, and then tell them how you can help. Also, deliver your call to action, which will help them self-identify that they are someone you are qualified to help.

This works! First, target people in your focus company, but do it also with other professionals in your field, fellow alumni, thought leaders, authors, and influencers.

5. Try a brand new platform

Recruiters are taught to go where the talent is. So, whenever a platform gains popularity, recruiters are tasked to evaluate how it can be leveraged to get in front of talent where other recruiters are not. It might surprise you to know that because of this, 63% of recruiters in tech companies are using Instagram.  That’s just recruiters, though. If they’re looking for talent here, could your future supervisor be also?

Marketers are always looking at ways that they can catch consumers in the flow of their day and interrupt their attention with messages that resonate. Where is your future supervisor hanging out? This may take a bit of research, and the findings may be very different from target to target.

I have had clients say “Twitter is stupid,” but they suspended their skepticism and tried it because a simple search showed that their targets were active with personal and company handles. If you are involved with an organization that uses Slack, try it out. There’s a learning curve to any new platform, but a good three weeks will get you comfortable enough to leverage it. Just like organizations, observe first, then engage. Try a few different things.

Other platforms are, Reddit, Quora, Snapchat,, AngelList, f6s, and I’m sure you’ll find some Listservs and Yahoo groups that are still being used. There are abundantly more platforms and there will continue to be more. You don’t have to learn them all, but if you find out that people you know, respect, and would want to work for are on them, get familiar.

Companies have needs well before they have formally posted job openings. This is the “hidden job market” you may have heard about but weren’t sure existed. It exists, and it’s a gold mine of opportunity for those who can unlock it. The best part is that the hidden job market is where you are the driver of opportunity. Once you know how to access it, there’s no unknowing it, but you might fall back into reactive job searching if you don’t make it a habit.

Once you find one or two methods that work for you and your target employer audience, dedicate most of your job search time to it. Abandon what disempowers you and fails to generate opportunity.

Then the challenge shifts to keeping track of all of that momentum. You’ll spend more time in meetings, interviews, and negotiations, and there will be little time for job boards and online applications, anyway.

Because of that, you’ll want to be very selective from that point forward on what companies and leaders you invest time getting to know better.

Most importantly, you’ll be able to spend more time doing the things you love.

The success will be a natural motivator, so you won’t have to push yourself every day to make efforts.

You may even start to enjoy creating career opportunity so much that you form habits that you maintain during your employment and you’ll never have to be out of work ever again.

That’s power!

Snap – I ve Got The power

“The Power” is an electronic pop hit song by the German music group Snap! from their album World Power. It was released in January 1990 and reached number-one in the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, as well as the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play and Hot Rap charts.

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (, is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.

Plans A Through D for Getting Noticed by Employers

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Flat out– I cannot guarantee even a cover letter I write is going to be read by human eyes. Even though I identify and research my client’s most logical next boss, find out what is most important to them, target their hot buttons, and write a subject line that cannot be ignored for an email sent directly to them AND instruct my clients to send a printed copy snail mail in a letter-sized envelope labeled “CONFIDENTIAL” (a technique that goes back before e-mail, but what is old has become new again as fewer people use the technique), there is still no telling if the intended recipient will receive the communication. There certainly is no insuring that, as compellingly as it is written, that it will be read.

That is pretty frustrating, right? I mean the investment to have me write one deeply researched, highly targeted cover letter is $125. Even though our clients recognize that the letter could not be written any better, and if the recipient is not going to read it, there is nothing we could send that would be any more compelling to open. It is still a crapshoot.

So many people perceive the importance and relevance of cover letters so differently that there is no one right answer to whether they are read or not. This depends on multiple factors, including how many cover letters the individual receives, whether they feel anyone could say anything distinctly enough to make reading a cover letter a good investment of time, and whether they really care who is above and beyond the résumé. There are a lot of things that I and you can do, however, to increase the chances that you will be able to use a cover letter to stand out among other prospective employees and land an interview.

All of these things are already covered in my very popular YouTube video.

Far too many people still think of a job search as a numbers game. Think about this, though– why do marketing experts tailor messaging to niche audiences?

The answer is because they increase their chances of converting prospects into customers or clients by appealing to what motivates different individuals to make an investment or purchase. This is a big part of branding.

Let’s assume that makes sense to you and you now see how campaigning to a select group of companies that represent your best chance to thrive and succeed will get you closer to your next great career move faster than what is called the “stray bullet” approach. This approach is also known as throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. I don’t know about you, but when I see stuff stuck to a wall, I don’t want to keep it.

Instead, you create a target list of companies and decide each week which ones you are going to focus your efforts on.

Plan A is actually to identify and engage an internal sponsor who will make sure that your interest in working for the company gets to the right person with a strong recommendation. These efforts can be ongoing, but in the meantime if Plan A does not work out immediately, Plan B is to engage me to write a deeply researched, highly targeted cover letter, or you write a letter of your own. Let’s say there is no response. Then what?

A critical part of each letter should be the expectation that you will be following up via phone the very next week to confirm receipt. Since you always want to be perceived as someone who does what they say they are going to do, follow up promptly. If I am able to identify the recipient’s direct phone number, obviously that is preferred, however nowadays dial-by-name directories are available on nearly every switchboard. Call the main number. Then what do you say should you reach the person or get their voicemail?

Obviously, you tell them your name and you tell them that you wanted to confirm receipt of a letter you sent last week (do not say it was a cover letter), then identify one thing – a pain, initiative, or challenge that you strongly suspect they are experiencing. This should be something that you also know based on what you have been able to achieve in the past, in which you can alleviate or accelerate. You really just want to tease them, so you do not tell the whole story – just the outcome. This will compel them to want to know more. You may also share with them a resource, such as an article, that you thought could be helpful.

If this is a live phone call, stop there and invite them to schedule a 20 minute phone call, in which you can share more. This assumes that you have consideration for whatever they were right in the middle of, and that you will not take up too much of their time. Should they be so interested, this phone call instantly turns into a phone screening. However, you will aim to ask questions, like a consultant. Do you understand better what is most important to them, what problems are causing the most pain, what initiatives are the most exciting, and what challenges are the most daunting?

If you happen to reach their voicemail, let them know you were also going to follow up via email in case that is the most convenient way for them to get back to you, and share the resource in the email. As with the live call, invite them to speak further for about 20 minutes.

Plan C is to try to find out what other media, social media, professional events, or social events enable you to capture their attention where few others will be vying for it.

Plan D, which is most job seekers’ Plan A, is to apply online.

If you identify yourself as one of those job seekers, I challenge you to do a little experiment– time how long it takes you to fill out an online application. Hopefully you are already keeping track of online submission activity. Add up how much time you spend each week applying online, and next week use that same amount of time to pick two-to-five companies you think would be ideal employers for you, and use the recipe in my YouTube video to write and send a deeply researched, highly targeted cover letter right to the person to whom you would report directly.

If you get a response, you know that you have used a much more effective method of making sure that you are visible and noticed. If you do not get a response, use my follow-up protocol and go to Plan C.


This might be way out of your comfort zone. I get it. But I want you to consider how uncomfortable looking for new job is when you are at the mercy of so many unknown and unseen forces. You will become more comfortable using this approach when you realize that you can make things happen.