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Catch Your Next Job with the Right Tools

Photo courtesy of Casey Bisson of flickr creative commons. http://bit.ly/fishjob Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Photo courtesy of Casey Bisson of flickr creative commons. http://bit.ly/fishjob Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Trout season is approaching in Pennsylvania! Would you try to catch those fish by throwing stones at them? Throwing stones could possibly work, but using a fishing rod is a much better idea. We’ve all heard the saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Learning how to fish is great, but you’ll still need the right pole. A rod used for fishing in a serene lake is very different from a rod used to fish in a choppy river. You also can’t ignore the importance of a good lure, bait and a hook. Not being able to catch fish means starvation, especially if you’re dependent on that catch for your meal. At the very least, you’ve wasted your time and energy with efforts that don’t pay off for the day. How many days can you do this before you give up? Likewise, when it comes to job opportunity, skills are crucial, but you still need the right set of tools and a good location to reel in an employer. Like a fish, a good employer can provide substance in the form of financial security, a sense of purpose, and putting your passions to use.

Find a place to start by creating a plan:

If you were going fishing, you wouldn’t start by running to the closest creek and casting your line. First you would decide on what type of fish you’d like to catch. Then you would research an ideal fishing location, and ask a few fishermen to tell you about it. Next, you would get your gear in order and you would be certain to make sure you have the right pole for the situation. You can think about job hunting in the same way. You locate your ideal employers, research the company, work your networks, manage your brand, revise your résumé and review it.

In my article, “Become an Effective Job Hunter: Work Smarter, Not Harder!”, I wrote that you can see tremendous results in fewer hours than you think, if you put your time into the right resources. A lot of job seekers may be tempted to apply online through job boards and internet searches, because they think they’ll be missing out on opportunities AND because it’s a habit. Or they perhaps they work during the day and feel that the job boards are the only resource they can turn to after work hours. However, the percentage of people hired via internet searching is shockingly low. Less than 10% of people are hired by employers through this method. In fact, only 5% of your time should be spent looking for work on job boards, after you’ve set up your agents and have validated suitable results. Choose two days per week to check your agent results and add those companies to your target company list, research them, network and market yourself appropriately. Relying solely on job boards is like going to the ocean to catch fish. The fish are plentiful and so is the competition. The chances of getting the fish you actually want are slim. This concept can be summed up succinctly by Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, “The fishing is best where the fewest go.”

Picking your employer and role:

Do you want to work for a large employer, or a small company? There are positives and negatives associated with employer size. A smaller company will most likely have you wearing multiple hats. In other words, all of your skills will be put to use. If you’re the type of person who likes doing multiple jobs that take advantage of your dynamic skill set, a small company could be a great fit. If you prefer to do a specific job, and you don’t mind being slotted into one position, a larger company may be a better fit. It really depends on your needs, and your ability to identify those needs. These are typical characteristics of jobs at smaller and larger companies, but there are also exceptions. Your target list goal, if your criteria defy those typical characteristics, would be to identify those exceptions and research, network and market to them appropriately.

Once you have a company size in mind, and a possible employer, it is time to research that company. Job review sites like Vault or Glassdoor are great places to get a feel for employers, including salary rates. There may be companies worth flocking to. Other companies may raise too many red flags, or may not be a good cultural fit. I wrote extensively about this process in my article, “You Can’t Afford Not to Investigate Your Next Employer!” In addition to salary and healthcare benefits, vacation time can be considered as part of your compensation package. At this stage you’re still at the pre-qualification level, not unsimilar to when an employer determines if you meet the minimal qualifications for a job. At this point, you’d really want to do as thorough a job searching them as they would do to qualify you. There are some great research tips within the Daily Job Search Tips on the Accelerfate Facebook page.

Work your networks:

Networking is the number one tool in your job seeking endeavors. The word of mouth has serious power; according to a 2012 ABC report, 80% of job seekers land their position through networking. It is similar to the way a fishing buddy can help steer you to the right fishing spot. Start with your professional connections, friends, family and even alumni for job leads. Reaching out to employees and hiring managers at companies you’d like to work for could result in a job. It is through these professional and personal networks that possible job openings can be discovered. When companies have exhausted their internal candidates, they will often rely on referrals from employees and job seekers they’ve met at informational meetings. In short, networking is the lifeblood of a job seeker. Many people don’t think that they have a network. Other people assume that their network doesn’t know anyone. There are also people who’ve tapped their network, but got few to no results. Without connections, finding a job becomes significantly more difficult. I discuss how to tap into these networks in my vlogs, “How Does Your Garden, uh, Network Grow?” and “Get Interviews in Your Network.”

Your personal brand:

Networking is an outlet for your personal brand, and your brand messaging should be consistent with networking as with your content. A well-crafted online presence can be thought of as a lure for job recruiters. For working professionals, LinkedIn is absolutely the best place to be. Over 97% of recruiters looked for talent on LinkedIn in 2012. It also serves as a great tool to engage with recruiters, and further research an employer. You can receive job postings along with company news through the service. The postings are a great way to become aware of opportunities and to find out who you know that could recommend you for the job. If you haven’t updated your LinkedIn profile recently, make sure you’re not using a default headline and that your profile doesn’t mirror your résumé. Make connections to your corporate and school alumni, if you haven’t already. You can also take your experience on LinkedIn to the next level by joining groups within your industry.

Facebook and Twitter are other platforms for your personal brand. You can cultivate your presence on these networks in order to capture the attention of employers. These are great tools for sounding off about your industry, keeping abreast of news, posting news, and following influential people within your industry. Professional blogs are also a great way to demonstrate your knowledge about your industry. Workers with a passion for their field, and those who take the initiative shine brilliantly, and stand out from the competition. Again, if your personal brand can be likened to a fishing lure for employers, bold and bright lures tend to capture attention. It’s like being the most attractive, juicy bait for your ideal catch.

Hook employers with your résumé and cover letter:

A fishing pole, lures, and other types of bait aren’t very useful without a good hook. No one wants to work hard with networking and personal branding, only to let the job get away. A well-polished résumé and cover letter can get an employer to bite. A personalized cover letter is the result of your research on a company. It stands out and makes it impossible for a hiring manager to ignore, even if the company isn’t hiring at the moment. A generic cover letter makes it much easier for a recruiter to ignore and weed out potential candidates. My vlog, “Our Cover Letter Secret Sauce” discusses how to write a customized letter. A well-tuned, well-customized letter can garner same-day responses from top executives at highly attractive employers. After all, taking the time to write a great cover letter shows an employer how passionate you are about the position, and how you could bring that same passion to the workplace.

A résumé is the deciding factor in getting that all important interview and most hiring managers only spend a few minutes looking at them. Taking the time to invest in a professionally written résumé can help you stand out from other job seekers. You are competing with hundreds of other potential candidates for the same position, and hiring managers are inundated with résumés and cover letters on a daily basis. The key is not just having a powerful, branded résumé, but getting it in front of decision makers.

You have your job skills, and you’re very good at your job. Think of landing a position at a new employer, like catching a great fish. Locating a spot where few reels are cast by others, wrestling with the fish, the excitement of pulling it into your boat and ultimately tasting the success of your hard work is a thrilling reward. Not only are you great at sustaining yourself with the job hunt, you can easily do it again the next time you’re ready to move on. New employment opportunities can bring greater financial gain, and renewed passion in your professional life, especially if you feel stagnant at your current employer. To get to the next level of your professional life, you’ll have to reel in a great employer, and you’ll need a good set of tools and the right techniques to stand out from the crowd. These techniques consist of brand management, going to where the recruiters are, and reaching out to hiring managers to ensure that they see your cover letter and résumé.

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Getting life back on track after personal tragedy

Angela is a talented Junior Writer on the Epic Careering team. This week’s topic was very personal to Angela, so I invited her to guest post. Because I have seen my clients through so many more life changes than just job changes, from births to deaths, I know that the challenge of finding a job is not met in a vacuum; it is met in the stride of and sometimes against the stride of other life challenges. I trust that her experience will be inspiring to those of you who are facing multiple personal traumas and tragedies. 

Photo courtesy of Yamanaka Tamaki "mud boy in the rice field" - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) (http://bit.ly/stuckinmud).

Photo courtesy of Yamanaka Tamaki “mud boy in the rice field” –
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) (http://bit.ly/stuckinmud).

I stared at the wall, unable to process the task of getting my life back on track. It was mid-February and I just learned my sickly father would soon pass away. The news hit me like a train. It turned my carefully structured life upside down. As I was in the process of getting the details from my sister on the phone, another call came to deliver the news of his death. Just like that, my father was gone. I was left slightly shocked and dumbfounded. All of the plans I had been making for a job transition came to a grinding halt. My father lived out of state, so bringing him back to Pennsylvania wouldn’t be a quick task. I waited a week, and was told by my sister that his funeral service wouldn’t be until September. That’s a long time to wait to say my final goodbye. In the meantime, there was the matter of getting back into the job search.

First I decided to give myself time to grieve my father’s passing. All work that I deemed unnecessary was put on hold. I took time to feel sadness, loss and to appreciate the time I had spent with my father. Additionally, if I needed to turn my brain off, I wasn’t above playing a video game or catching up on a few TV shows. During past hardships I told myself that pursuing my hobbies seemed inappropriate, but by denying myself a way to escape from my grief, I only made my sadness worse. Because I wasn’t burdened with the task of handling my father’s funeral preparations, I allowed myself to mentally decompress.

Most of my mental decompression consisted of putting my emotions into a box when I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t want to shut myself indoors, nor did I want to think about how upset I felt. Storing my emotions helped me get through the first few days. When I felt better I allowed myself reflect upon my father’s passing, and how he affected my life.

Growing up, I wasn’t very close to my father. I lived with my mother, and she raised me as a single parent. Before I reached my teenage years, my father reached out to me. From the time he came back into life and until his passing, he spent much of his time trying to build a relationship with me. I didn’t appreciate or fully understand his efforts until I reached adulthood. The major lesson I learned from his efforts is that it’s never too late attempt to mend what has been broken.

These broken things can consist of relationships, dreams or even failed efforts. The result may not be perfect, but the process of trying can yield fruitful results. Not trying only builds up a sense of resentment and regret. In the case of the relationship with my father, had he not tried to be a part of my life I would have known very little about him. Worse yet, I doubt I would have cared much if word of his passing had reached me. He didn’t raise me, so why should I care? Because of his efforts, I had fond memories of him as a teen and as an adult. Personally, it took me about three weeks before I felt up to the task of getting back into the job search.

A job loss can be like losing a loved one:

The sudden loss of a job can carry as much impact as losing a loved one. The process of unexpectedly being let go by an employer can bring about fear and anxiety. A part of you is missing. Self-identity, self-worth, your co-workers and a sense of stability can all disappear in a flash. The future seemed so certain and now it is unknown. Additionally, if a job search fails to land a job, depression and discouragement can set in. These factors can make it difficult to resume a career. Even when the job search resumes, the first few rejections can put you right back into the grieving process. The process can trigger a downward spiral of demotivation. The chances of moving on to something better seem more distant and settling for less than what you’re worth becomes all the more tempting. The past seems brighter than the future ever will. The feelings of powerlessness can be strong, and there are days when seeing the light at the end of the tunnel seems like an impossible thought. The light is there, but the effort it takes to reach it can be daunting. Opportunity rarely falls into our laps. Taking the effort to get your life back on track ensures that you can create the opportunity to advance in your career after a loss. In my case, I asked Career and Income Optimizer Karen Huller for job seeking advice to help get on track after being derailed.

Don’t ignore your emotions:

Karen succinctly told me “what we resist persists.” In other words, it is crucial to allow yourself to experience negative emotions. Feelings of sadness, rejection, doom and even listlessness are common. If you need time off to grieve, or come to terms with your situation, take it. Allow yourself to decide how long you’ll remain upset by the situation. The benefit of setting a period of time for yourself is that you’ll have the power to eliminate the feelings of letting people down, not doing enough, or the sense that you should be doing something. This gives you the breathing room you may need to continue the grieving process, unhindered by life’s responsibilities. As I said earlier, it took me three weeks before I was ready to resume my life. You may end up choosing to take a few weeks or a few months to get back on track, depending on the severity of your personal situation. A personal tragedy may shape short and long term events in your life, but it doesn’t define your worth.

Getting back to a sense of normalcy can be a great first step. In my case, I had suspended my job search, but I continued to work part-time at night. Part of me found it comforting to stick to a normal routine among my friends and co-workers. At the same time, I felt a surge of sadness whenever anyone came up to console me about my father.

Getting back into the swing of things:

Getting back into the job hunt was a little harder. The first task was to back on a daily schedule, including reconnecting with my social networks, networking, and targeting potential employers. In short, putting the train back on the rails is critical to moving forward. I’m not going to say the transition was entirely smooth; chipping away at my goals is a much better alternative to not doing anything at all.

I strongly believe in moving forward in life, no matter how long the process may take. When the darker side of life comes into play, it can be easy to become depressed and discouraged. On a personal level, it doesn’t take much for feelings of meaninglessness and worthlessness to capture my psyche.  It is a constant battle between optimism and pessimism. Staying still and wallowing in my own grief for too long of a period of time is like sinking into mud. The longer I allow myself to sink, the harder it is to free myself from the quagmire. Pressing forward to reach my goals allows me to keep my pessimism at bay and to get myself unstuck. The more the pessimism fades, the easier to it is to see and create opportunities in life, especially when it comes to the job search.

I’m fond of the biblical teachings about adversity in the New Testament. In short, it’s not if adversity strikes us, but when adversity strikes, and how we choose to endure and overcome it. For some of us, it may be a minor blow and for others adversity can be as powerful as a punch that knocks them flat on their back. All your efforts you’ve undertaken to create a good life can be scattered in instant. The process of getting back on track can be daunting. No matter what, it is important to deal with feelings of loss, to take the time needed to cope, decide how long to cope, and get back into the process of reaching the career goals you’ve set for yourself.