Let’s begin by examining our job-searching mindset. Successful job seekers think one way, unsuccessful ones think another. What is the difference?
In today’s marketplace, it is no longer enough to think of oneself as a mere commodity hoping to be purchased by some company for a fair price. That is the approach of the unsuccessful job seeker.
Successful job seekers think of themselves as a brand, a niche product, one that needs to be marketed very specifically to the right target audience or to result in the right mutual agreement: the ideal job. Think of yourself as a marketer for a moment and imagine that you have been tasked with marketing a new food product designed for a specific user group.
What kinds of questions would you seek to answer to market this product? As a job seeker, one needs to ask these questions:
“What are my assets?”
“How am I different from the other candidates?”
“Where do I lack skills or attributes, and how will I manage an employer’s perception regarding these areas?”
“Who are my customers (i.e., prospective employers)? Where are they located?”
“How can I best reach my customers?”
Take some time to write out your answers to these questions; these can be a handy reference as you conduct your search.
One of the leading resources on personal branding for job searchers is Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand by William Arruda and Kirsten Dixson (Wiley, 2007). In their book, the authors outline three key steps to building a personal brand: 1) extract (identifying the assets that will comprise your brand), 2) express (your personal communications plan), and 3) exude (managing your brand environment).
Tailoring and diversifying your job search strategy
Remember that, on average, less than 20 percent of the job openings filled in a given year are ever published. According to the website www.jobstar.org/hidden/hidden.cfm, the percentage of placements that occur through job boards is significantly lower yet (as low as one percent for non-computer-related jobs).
Below is a collection of possible components of a diversified job search plan. While we have heard that there is a “hidden job market,” many people don’t know how to access it. Utilizing published and unpublished resources will yield the highest number of job opportunities.
•Help wanted ads (newspapers, trade magazines): published openings from companies and recruiters
•Employment agency recruiters: professionals hiring on behalf of companies for specific positions
• Internet job boards: online services such as www.monster.com and others that are industry specific and make published openings available to job seekers. A popular website for posting jobs in the not-for-profit sector is www.minnesotanonprofits.org/jobs.
•Job fairs: gatherings of employers seeking new staff-job seekers are invited to attend and distribute their resumes
•Networking (various types): meeting with individuals in targeted companies and industries to discuss their needs and identify potential openings
•Direct-targeted mailings: customized approach letters to specific companies within target markets identifying a potential need and summarizing the candidate’s background and ability to meet that need
•News event-generated mailings: targeted mailings to companies whose employees or firm appear in the news media describing recent events within the company indicating — often indirectly — a need for new employees.
Use of these sources, in particular unpublished sources, requires the job seeker to have a keen ability to spot an opportunity.
Customizing your search
As you prepare to start your search, it is important to set reasonable goals for each marketing tactic so that you can measure the effectiveness of each. Set daily, weekly and monthly goals. Of course, you will need to customize your search for your specific situation and personality. Following are a few examples:
The natural tendency for introverts is to send unsolicited résumés to recruiters and respond only to advertised openings and surf job boards. They may not be comfortable calling people they do not know or meeting for informational interviews.
While this is a powerful way to seek out an opportunity, introverts should try to minimize the number of networking meetings they have, while making sure that the obtained meetings are targeted and effective. Have questions ready to ask to reduce any anxiety.
The career changer
Often, career changers do not have the industry experience that a posted job requires. As a rule, only candidates that meet the minimum requirements will be selected for an interview. For this reason, career changers are strongly encouraged to rely on unpublished sources and networks for job opportunities.
Career changers are also encouraged to obtain experience by volunteering in the new industry or taking a related part-time job. This is a way to build credibility and gain expertise in a new industry. Restate accomplishments on your résumé in a more generic format so that they demonstrate clear transferability outside the prior industry setting.
Industry associations are great sources of information, and joining one is a way to meet individuals in the field. In addition to asking for help via industry associations, do not hesitate to make a proposal to an employer of interest. There is nothing to lose and a job to gain!
The job seeker with a fulltime job
When looking for a job while on a job, one is limited in their search due to their work environment. Making networking or follow-up phone calls from work is not advised and should be relegated to personal time. In this case, I suggest using a cell phone for your search during lunch or before or after work.
Diversifying your job search will expose you to a broad and strategic means of obtaining countless job opportunities. All you have to do is prepare, be proactive, and be open to new adventures.
Tammy McIntyre is owner of McIntyre Employment Service, an agency providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to tammy@mcintyre- employment.com.