First, let me mention that some great advice is being shared as part of Job Action Day 2009 by a slew of really talented career advisors. When asked what I thought the secret to getting hired in this down economy was, I decided to share 4 things I've actually seen work for job seekers in the last month. That's right - all the actions below were instrumental in getting people I know hired in this recession.
Here they are:
Daydream the details.
A recent grad I know dreamed of getting into the music management business in Chicago. Talk about a tough job to nab! Ironically, she initially chose to work with me to explore other career options in the event she couldn't land a music biz gig. As we contemplated alternatives, the only result was further clarification as to why she loved the music business. She would detail parts of her former internship and how much she appreciated the manager, company, job, industry, etc. So, I asked her what a day-in-the-life of her dream job would be. You could feel the enthusiasm through the phone. From that point forward, we agreed there was no another career option for her. She needed to focus 100% on the challenging job of finding work in this competitive field. That's why I told her to spend a few minutes every day dreaming about the ideal job, and then told her to use that energy to power her through the tough parts of the job search (i.e. writing cover letters, going to networking events, picking up the phone and calling strangers to set up informational interviews, etc.) She followed this advice and went back to her old internship boss and asked for referrals. She followed through on every name he gave her and constantly updated him on her search, relaying back with enthusiasm what she had learned from each interaction. Last week, he got funding for a new entry-level job. Guess who got the job offer without an interview? He told her it was clear how deep her love for the business was and that he felt confident she was the right candidate because she had proven her commitment to getting into the field.
SUMMARY: Daydreaming can give you the emotional fortitude and attitude you need to roll up your sleeves and do the not-so-fun stuff related to landing a job. It will also showcase your passion to the right people. Allow yourself to dream and then channel your excitement as a way to keep your spirits up and your job search moving forward.
Play it like a game.
A sales professional I know got laid-off. He was given 6 months of severance. The day after the lay-off, he called me and said, I know finding another job like the one I had is going to be really tough, but I am going to set the goal of having a new job by the time my severance runs out. I'm going to treat it like a game and I'm going win. I could tell he meant it. As I checked in with him periodically, he would update me on his progress as if he was keeping score. He had set up a strategy where he would do X number of things per day. He had running totals, complete with which actions scored better results than others. For example, he learned quickly that setting up a coffee and meeting just one individual in-person got him a lot more job referrals than if he sent out 3 dozen e-mails. By the 3rd month, his strategy had been dramatically altered and he was starting to land interviews. In the 4th month, he was offered TWO jobs. Imagine having a choice in this economy? FYI - He actually took the job that paid less than he was making before because the company was stronger and had better long-term potential. Playing the game gave him the ability to choose the right job, as opposed to taking any job. In short, he didn't just win, he crushed the game.
SUMMARY: Treat the job search like a game and play it by your rules. Everyone has a game-playing style that works for them. Use yours to be strategic. Find out what job actions work best for you and focus on using them to get you to the winner's circle.
Identify AND leverage your Unique Gifts.
As part of CAREEREALISM University, students are taught how to define their Unique Gifts. This exercise is particularly challenging. Why? Because people have trouble identifying what is unique about them. The problem lies in the fact that what makes each of us special are things that are natural to us, a.k.a. skills and abilities we have developed from an early age. Translation: They don't feel 'special' or 'unique' to us! We assume everyone can do what we do. And yet, when you learn how to identify these Unique Gifts in yourself, you can use the knowledge to market yourself more effectively in a job search. Here's an example...
A 20-something office worker I know got laid-off when the manager she supported took an early retirement package. She was desperately seeking another administrative assistant role. Unfortunately, she wasn't doing a great job of showcasing herself to hiring managers. When she got to the Unique Gifts exercise in CU, she really struggled. But after some discussion around things like A) what people sought her advice on, and B) what people asked her to help them with, she suddenly saw her real strength was working under pressure. People always seem to ask her to jump in and fix things in a pinch, or to put out a fire. Her positive attitude and ability to think quickly under chaos really showed in these kinds of situations. When she saw this in herself, she was able to tailor her cover letters, resume and even interview answers to highlight her Unique Gifts. As you can imagine, the effect was incredible. She got the very next job she applied for. Coincidence? Absolutely not! The hiring manager said the executive she was seeking an assistant for specifically asked for 'someone with a positive personality that can put out fires.'
SUMMARY: Finding what you are the 'go-to' person for and sharing it with the world is not bragging - it is good job searching technique. With so many people out there competing for the same job, your ONLY shot at standing out is share what is special about you. So, share your Unique Gifts in all your job search actions and you'll find it easier to attract the right hiring managers and land the right job opportunities.
Be sociable OUTSIDE of networking events.
Over the summer, I attended a birthday party for the children of some friends where the parents were invited too. When I got there, one of the moms of a child in attendance had to leave for another commitment. But, instead of packing up the whole family, her husband, who knew NONE of us, agreed to stay and hang out so their daughter could play some more. A really brave move when I'm sure he would have rather just head home and relax. As a result, everyone there took some time to chat with him. He turned out to be a pleasant, interesting guy. It also turned out he was looking for work. He didn't dwell on the job search, just mentioned his background, a few strategic accomplishments, and how much he'd like to find a management position locally, but then moved on and kept the conversation light and fun. The way he discussed it was so sincere, yet non-intense, I remember thinking, Wow, what nice guy. He'd make a great manager for the right company.
Fast forward to two weeks ago when a friend who runs a company called to let me know he was about to engage in a search for a new manager. People loved working for his company. In fact, he hadn't had to seek out a new hire in years. So, he was feeling a bit overwhelmed at the idea of starting the talent search process. He had visions of posting an ad and getting tons of resumes that would overwhelm him. Actually, he was dreading the search because he had heard that being an employer with an open position in this economy could be stressful. Fellow business-owners had shared stories of people, desperate to get hired, doing crazy things like calling their offices non-stop and clogging their in-boxes with e-mails. As he described what he was looking for in a candidate, the conversation with my friend's husband at the birthday party jumped into my head. He was a good fit. I scheduled the interview within days and they hit it off. My friend's husband got offered the job within the week. It was a win-win for everyone!
SUMMARY: Don't overlook opportunities to connect with people outside the normal job search networking options. When people get to know you for YOU, they are going to find it easier to recommend you for a job. People like helping people they like. So get out there and be likable!
I hope the above offered some insight into things that are getting people hired. For more great articles, check out these posts by members of the #CareerCollective.
Meg Montford: Job Action Day: Finding Your MOJO After Layoff http://coachmeg.typepad.com/career_chaos/2009/10/job-action-day-finding-your-mojo-after-layoff.html
Debra Wheatman: Plan B from outer space; or what do you have in case your first plan doesn't work out? http://resumesdonewrite.blogspot.com/2009/10/plan-b-from-outer-space-or-what-do-you.html
Heather Mundell: Green Jobs - What They Are and How to Find Them, http://dbcs.typepad.com/lifeatwork/2009/10/green-jobs-what-they-are-and-how-to-find-them.html
Erin Kennedy: Cutting Edge Job Search Blueprint http://exclusive-executive-resumes.com/resumes/job-search-blueprint/
Grace Kutney: Securing Your Career While Navigating the Winds of Change http://sweetcareers.blogspot.com/2009/10/securing-your-career-while-navigating.html
Hannah Morgan: Career Sherpa- Why Our Job Search Advice is the Same but Different http://hannahmorgan.typepad.com/hannah_morgan/2009/10/why-our-job-search-advice-is-the-same-but-different.html
Gayle Howard: The Enlightened Jobseeker http://www.theexecutivebrand.com/?p=500
Laurie Berenson: Making lemonade out of lemons: Turn unemployment into entrepreneurship http://blog.sterlingcareerconcepts.com/2009/10/30/making-lemonade-out-of-lemons-turn-unemployment-into-entrepreneurship.aspx
Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter: You Can Thrive In, Not Just Survive, an Economic Slogging http://careertrend.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/you-can-thrive-not-just-survive-an-economic-slogging/
Rosalind Joffe: Preparedness: It's Not Just for Boyscouts http://workingwithchronicillness.com/2009/10/preparedness-its-not-just-for-boy-scouts/
Rosa E. Vargas: Are You Evolving Into The In-Demand Professional of Tomorrow? http://resume-writing.typepad.com/resume_writing_and_job_se/2009/10/furture-careers.html
Dawn Bugni: Your network IS your net worth http://thewritesolution.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/your-network-is-your-net-worth/
Miriam Salpeter: Optimize your job hunt for today's economy http://www.keppiecareers.com/2009/10/30/optimize-your-job-hunt-for-todays-ecomony/
GL Hoffman: The Life of An Entrepreneur: Is It for You? http://blogs.jobdig.com/wwds/2009/10/30/the-life-of-an-entrepreneur-is-it-for-you/
Katharine Hansen: Job Action Day 09: His Resume Savvy Helped New Career Rise from Layoff Ashes http://www.resumesandcoverletters.com/tips_blog/job_action_day_09_his_resume_s.html
Martin Buckland: Job Search-The Key to Securing Your Future Career. http://aneliteresume.com/job-search/the-key-to-securing-your-future-career/
Chandlee Bryan: Where the Green Jobs Are: http://emergingprofessional.typepad.com/the_emerging_professional/2009/11/where-the-green-jobs-are.html
Heather R. Huhman, Take Action: 10 Steps for Landing an Entry-Level Job, http://www.heatherhuhman.com/2009/10/take-action/
Barbara Safani: Where the Jobs Are 2009 and Beyond: http://www.careersolvers.com/blog/2009/10/31/where-the-jobs-are-2009-and-beyond/