Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Finding Your Next Job - Job Hunting Skills

Job Hunting Skills

This is my first installment of a two part series. Next I will write about the interview process.

Finding Your Next Job

That’s it, it is time to find a new job and move on! We probably have all had this same feeling. Sometimes it passes, sometimes it never goes away.

Let’s just say that I am not an expert job hunter. I have one successful job hunt on my resume and one under way. But, I do have 15 years of marketing experience and a job hunt is the process of marketing your talents and selling your self.

Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan!
This common phrase says it all. You need to have a plan! You are your product. To sell yourself, you need to set up the right marketing plan. You need to look at the process of finding a job as a job in itself.

Still working? You have to budget time to stage your hunt – nights, weekends, breaks or days off. This is stressful and hard on the family time, but the reward will be worth the price.

Unemployed? This is your job!

Make finding a job your job!
1. Send the kids to daycare.
2. Go to your “office.”
3. Have a schedule and to do list.
4. Act professional.
5. Put in a full day’s work.

Whatever your situation, get a pen and paper and make your plan! You should follow the four P’s of marketing (roughly) Product, Price, Place, Promotion. I would define these like this:
Product – You and your talents
Price – Your expected salary
Place – Where, geographically, you want to work
Promotion – Your value to a new employer – Selling “You”

These are pretty simple, but you need to define them and get a handle on each of them to successfully stage your job hunt. I am only going to speak to Product and Promotion, you have to figure out your Price and Place.

Part of your planning is to figure out what you want to do next. Most people know where they want to land next, a very specific company or position, or maybe a general area. But for some, this may be a time for transition. Now is the time to dig into your soul and decide what you what to do. Once you know what you want to do, it is time to start your plan.

First things first. Discover and investigate the product you’re selling, You! Get your resume up-to-date. If you have been following the advice of about every expert, you have updated your resume every year. This is great to give you an update on what you are really doing at your job, but it makes this part of your job hunt much easier. There are several types of resumes – chronological, functional or a combination of the two. Pick one that works for you and start writing. There are lots of great books and websites to give you direction. Really put some effort into your resume. There are bound to be lots of qualified applicants out there and for many jobs, a complete, attractive and accurate resume may be what sets you apart from the crowd. If you have a computer, a decent printer and some basic skills, you can build your own resume. If not, there are lots of people willing to help. Some are family and friends looking to help you. Others are people in the business of making you look good. Either way, make yourself look spectacular!

Remember to use your resume to show your value to the company. How you can save them money, make sales, build the brand. Every position is different, but you need to show them how you will make the company profit and your hiring manager look good. If you do not hook them with your resume, you probably will not get an interview and the chance to sell yourself one-on-one.

Now that you have your resume done, get ready to change it. The beauty of our electronic age is that you can tweak your resume to the nuances of each job you choose. This is good and bad. It is good to customize your skill set to match the job. But bad, in that you must be extra couscous about catching errors.

Next, get your basic cover and thank you letters written. This gives you a quick start when you need to get information to a contact fast. In today’s electronic age opportunities move fast and you have to be ready to jump!

Microsoft Word is the most universal format for documents being sent electronically. Also, you can make your documents into PDF files that allow most everyone to read the files on any computer. Most Mac users seem to have no problem with either of these file formats.

Something that should go without saying is to be immaculate with your words, written or spoken. This is probably your first communications with this person and company. The better your look now, the higher you will rate when they are making their decisions. Maybe a better way of putting it is – If you start off looking bad, your resume will hit the garbage first.

Write a 15 second pitch about your product. Time is money. Most of the time you get one quick shot to hook the person’s interest when you call them. Do your thinking now and write out your elevator pitch, what you would say to promote yourself to their company if you only had 15 seconds? This will be essential when you start cold calling companies.

Now that you have your basic documents ready, you can move on to the next step – working your network. Everyone has a network, some are just bigger and more refined, some smaller or less refined. Friends, family, coworkers, classmates, past employers, vendors, clients, salespeople, dealers, bankers and car salesmen - the list could go on forever. Depending on your current employment status, let as many people possible know you are on the market. How you communicate to them is up to you – a quick comment or question when on the phone with a friend, an e-mail to your complete contact list letting them know not to contact you at your last place of business, or a heart-felt explanation about your desire to move into a new career that will let you fulfill your lifelong dream. But the note should give them the details needed to help you out. Never, use this as an outlet to vent about your “terrible” last job, boss, clients, etc. Keep it positive. You may have certain people that you want to speak to face-to-face, some by phone, others by e-mail. This is a very delicate process if your current boss does not know of your plans. For many of your contacts, this is a courtesy, others may be key to your future success. Stay in touch with these people, you never know when a renewed friendship will spur an opportunity. Every contact made is an advertisement for you.

I try to connect with one person each week. This is not to solicit a job, but to stay in touch. If they can help me, great! Otherwise, I am still renewing a friendship. With a large network, this keeps you in touch with those that are not normally on a call list for your current work.

Get Noticed!
1. Be great at your last job.
2. Make a website.
3. Post your resume.
4. Get published.
5. Participate in local or industry groups.

Here’s your first list – Figure out where you want to work. Depending on where you live now and where you want to be with your next job, this may be easy or extremely difficult. Your career choice is another factor that may make your list very long or quite short. The internet is a great help. Search the local chamber of commerce website(s), industry websites, economic development sites, yellow pages – the list goes on. Search by job title, search by every topic you can think of. Once you get your list of companies together, rate them by your level of interest. Pick the top five or ten and do more research on these companies. Websites like,, and the company website will harvest you some information. Keep digging until you find enough to satisfy your needs. Find out who would be your boss. That is your hiring manager; get their name, phone number and e-mail. Use your research to find what value you bring to that company.

Make contact! Call the hiring manager. Be persistent! In today’s world, it may take weeks to catch the right person. Be ready to leave a concise message – your name, reason for calling, quick value statement, and contact information. If they answer, great, identify yourself and your reason for calling. Ask “Do you have a minute?” Sure this gives them an out, but politeness will win you points in the long run. If they are busy, ask when you can call them back – stick to that time! If they have time, hit them with your 15 second value pitch. Ask to meet. Ask to take the next step. Take notes. Be ready to take the next step and send a cover letter and resume. In your letter, explain you value to the company and include points from you conversation and your research. Ask for action. Follow up with this person.

List number two – Keep track of your contacts. Know who you called and when. Draw a line through complete dead-ends, mark who to call back (and when), who to follow-up with and when to follow-up. Keep as much information as needed – company name, contact name, phone number(s), e-mail address, contact date, notes. Keep this in a database or Excel spreadsheet to you can sort and search as needed.

As you progress, watch websites – local papers, regional job boards, national sites, and of course the site of any company on your target list. Your search will determine the most successful websites for your search. Many sites, such as, pull job openings from several sources, these can be very helpful. There are many job hunting sites that list jobs and allow you to post your resume and push job leads to you –, are just two of the bigger ones. There are literally hundreds of these sites, some are free, some sell upgraded services. Don’t forget to check state job service, industry and association sites, they can be an exceptional resource.

What to Watch
1. Company websites.
2. Job boards/websites.
3. State job service websites.
4. Industry websites.
5. Chamber of commerce websites.
6. Blogs.

Bookmark websites for the sites that work for you. Watch for job listings and news articles that may be helpful. Read the chamber of commerce newsletters. This may seem obvious, but read the business section of the newspaper, magazines and industry papers. Many of these also have websites that are updated daily or weekly. Get RSS feeds or e-mail newsletters to keep you up-to-date on any news that may be relevant. All this research will gain you posted job openings and leads. The news may shed light on changes that may give you the break you need. Work these leads to get the interview.

Don’t forget to contact recruiters! They can be a great resource to find some of the hidden job market and an inroad to many companies. Most of what I have heard and read is that the reputable firms are always paid by the hiring company. If they look to you for payment, stay away.

The biggest part of a successful job hunt, other than luck, is work. Get to work! Put together a plan and work that plan. Stay focused, stay positive and it will happen. It may take longer than you want, but you will find your new job.