Successful Job Hunting is a System
Working the system increases your chances of getting the job you want–faster. Working the system also helps relieve your natural anxiety about what you should be doing next.
The system is the same whether you are employed or unemployed, and even if you are not interested in changing jobs now. The system is the same whether you are looking for full- or part-time employment, consulting, or freelance work.
That’s because job hunting in a changing economy means: continuously becoming aware of market conditions inside as well as outside your present organization. And learning what you have to offer–both inside and outside your organization.
The time to become aware of your opportunities is not when the pressure is on to find a new job, but now.
The Job-Hunting Process
You select or target a job market by selecting a geographic area you’d be willing to work in, an industry or company size (small, medium or large company), and a job or function within that industry. For example, you may want to be a writer in the publishing industry in New Hampshire. That’s your target market.
Then conduct a campaign for the sole purpose of getting interviews in your target area. A number of those interviews might eventually lead to acceptable job offers.
Job hunting seems to have dozens of equally important steps. There are resumes and cover letters to write, personal contacts to make, search firms to contact, ads to answer, notes to write, and so on. You can lose sight of what is most important.
There are only four main parts in a job-hunting campaign: targeting, getting interviews in each target, interviewing, and following up. Do your best and put your effort into those areas. Everything you do in a job hunt grows out of your targets, which lead to interviews and then to offers. If you have targeted well, can get interviews, are well prepared for them, and know how to turn interviews into offers, you will be focused and less affected by mistakes in other areas of your search.
How Long Will a Job Search Take? The length of each step in your search can vary considerably. For example, selecting the area in which you want to work (see our books) can be as simple as saying, “I want to be a controller in a small firm.” Or it can be as complex as saying, “I want a position of leadership in a growing computer services business in any major U.S. city, where I can run my part of the operation–working with fast-paced but ethical people who are imaginative and leaders in their field. The job should lead to the position of partner.”
The entire campaign can be very short. Let’s say, for example, that:
- You have focused on a specific, realizable target.
- There are openings in the area that interests you.
- You know of someone in a position to hire you.
- You and the hiring manager “strike sparks” during the interview and it progresses naturally.
Start to finish could take a month or two. The average job hunt does take longer. Statistics show that for professionals and middle managers, it takes an average of four to six months or more to find the job they want. Career changers take longer. And people currently employed usually take longer to find a new job because they often don’t work as hard at the hunt.
It can take you longer than a month or two because, among other things:
- You may not be that clear about what you want.
- What you want may not be realistic.
- Maybe it is realistic, but there are no immediate openings.
- There may be openings, but you may not know where they are.
- You may hear of some openings, but may not know someone in a position to hire you.
- You may meet someone in a position to hire you, but the two of you don’t hit it off.
Devote a large amount of time and energy to your search if you seriously intend to find a suitable job. A thorough search is so much work that the job you finally land will seem easy by comparison.
On the other hand, job hunting is like any other skill: you’ll get better at it with practice. You’ll learn the techniques, and you’ll learn more about what’s right for you. You’ll become aware of what’s happening in your chosen field, so that when you start a formal search it won’t take so long.
The New Approach to Job Hunting Keep up with changes in your company and your target area. To compete in today’s competitive market, you must know:
- the market–both inside and outside your company
- how to compete against “trained” job hunters.
Job Hunting–An Everyday Affair
Job hunting is no longer something that happens only when you want to change jobs. Do it informally all the time to stay sharp in your present position.
You should always be aware of what may adversely affect your present security. Don’t expect your employer to tell you that the company or your department is heading in a different direction. Be ready when the time for change comes. Take advantage of changes so you can move your career in the direction you want it to go. Take control and “impose your own terms upon life.”
In today’s world, many people job-hunt virtually all the time. Twenty years ago, at a time when U.S. corporations were more stable, I met an executive at a major pharmaceuticals company. He had been with that company thirty years, and planned to stay there until retirement.
Yet, while I was talking to him, he reached into his bottom drawer and pulled out an up-to-date resume. He was not starting a new job hunt; he believed he should always have an up-to-date resume and keep on looking–even though he had been working at the same company for thirty years! A good number of his job hunts were “successful” in that his outside exploration got him to his high position in the same company.
Job hunting does not necessarily mean you want to change jobs now. Maybe you’ll make your next actual job change a few years down the road. Or maybe someone will change your job for you–without asking. When are you going to start thinking about your next move?
Plan Your Next Move
Plan your career transitions–your moves from one job to the next–don’t have them thrust upon you. First, know which job is right for you: a job in which you will excel and which you will feel satisfied doing. Then see how well your present job fits those desires. Don’t leave your job for another one that is equally unsatisfying. On the other hand, don’t remain in your current job out of inertia.
Career transitions are prompted by changes in a company–such as when it cuts back or introduces major technological or strategic changes–or by a change in you and your goals for your life. Be alert for a coming transition.
The preceding is an excerpt from The Five O’Clock Club Book Series by Kate Wendleton. The Five O’Clock Club, Forty-Year Vision and Seven Stories Exercise are registered trademarks of The Five O’Clock Club, Inc. All rights reserved.
- For more information on The Five O’Clock Club series of books for job hunters and career management, click here.
- For a FREE overview of how to conduct a job search, click here.
- To join one of our weekly small-group strategy sessions so you can get help with your search, click here.
Just take a look at these before and after resumes (pdf files), and you will start to see how you can build a great resume for yourself. Every resume positions you to the person who is reading it, but the positioning may not be what you want. After all, the average resume is looked at for only 10 seconds. What “story” does your resume tell in just ten seconds?
In scanning Elizabeth’s before résumé, we can easily see that she has had communications and advertising positions in a number of computer companies. That’s the total extent of her pitch. When she went on interviews, managers commented: “You sure have worked for a lot of computer companies.” Her résumé read like a job description: She wrote press releases, product brochures, employee newsletters, and so on.
Thousands of people can write press releases, so citing those skills will not separate Elizabeth from her competition. But we can get to know her better if she tells us about specific accomplishments.
Elizabeth agreed to do the Seven Stories Exercise. She didn’t feel like writing down “the things she enjoyed doing and also did well” because she felt as though she kept doing the same things again and again in every company for which she worked, and she enjoyed them all. Still, I urged her to be specific, details can make a résumé more interesting. And working on the Seven Stories Exercise is a sure way to develop a strong overall message. (For the rest of the story and for the steps Elizabeth took to create her resume, click here.)
(Make sure the resume link opens in a new page. In the article, the link to the resume pdf does not open in a new page.)
Also: for the free white paper on the complete Seven Stories exercise, which will help you do your resume, just opt-in blah, blah, blah.
And promote the resume book, if you want. (He said we should nto give them too many choices.)