Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Ideas for Landing a Job in Today's Tough Market

This is the second in a series of five posts, each of which distills one of the presentations I made at the Commonwealth Club this month.

This one is on the art of landing a job in tough times.

It basically comes down to one surprising word: love. An employer can easily do a worldwide search for the perfect candidate. That means that hiring you is likely to be irrational--you're unlikely to be the best candidate in the world. And an employer is likely to make that irrational choice if s/he loves you. As you may know, love can make us do all manner of irrational things.

So the question is how do you get an employer to love you?

Coffee, not Cloud

1. Connect in-person or by phone or Skype rather than email, Facebook "friends,' etc. Many of my clients are landing jobs relatively quickly by scheduling at least three coffees, lunches etc. per week with people with the power to hire them, provide a lead, or advice.

2. Key in those meetings is to use a ten-second pitch that explains what you're looking for and why, if you're so good, you're looking for work. For example, "I've always received good evaluations as an accountant but feel I'm not making enough of a difference. I really would love to help revitalize hospitals in a low-income area."

3. In those one-on-ones, after just a bit of pleasantries, make your request for a job lead or advice. Spending too much time chatting about family may appear to be a transparent ploy. If the person says s/he can't think of how to help you with your job hunt, ask him or her to keep ears open and if, after a month, you're still looking, would s/he mind your checking back?  S/he'll usually say yes and thus you've recruited a scout. It's more likely the person will have a lead for you in the next month than on the spot.

The next part of such conversations is to switch to what matters to the other person. Try to unearth what's important for them these days. It's usually one or more of these: career, health, family, money, looks, politics, a nonprofit cause, or a hobby.

Make mostly "Moving toward" utterances, for example, a question to better understand their situation or a statement of agreement, empathy, or amplification, such as a compatible example from your own life. Beware of too much disagreeing and of offering unwanted advice.

The Influencing Packet

Of course, most hiring is done with both head and heart, so to seal the deal you also need to address an employer's practical concerns. I've written enough previously on the art of applying and of interviewing. (To see some of that, click on "Job Search" in the label cloud on the right side of this blog.) So here I'll focus on something less standard that is often key to landing the job: the influencing packet. 

In your application or as a supplement to the de rigueur post-interview thank-you letter, submit one or more influencers, for example:
  • A revised job description that matches the employer's needs as well as your strengths. To avoid seeming hubristic, preface it with something like, "Of course, I'm not privy to all the considerations but in light of what you said in the interview, perhaps this revised job description would better help you achieve your goals."
  • A White Paper. That is a few-page document on a topic of interest to the employer that would demonstrate your expertise in your sought-after work. For example, if you're looking for a job marketing B-to-B smartphone apps, you might write, "Seven Keys to Marketing B-to-B Smartphone Apps in 2013 and Beyond." 
A White Paper is a particularly helpful influencer when trying to land a job in which you have little previous experience. Google-based research can quickly yield you a fair amount of expertise.
  • A list of sales prospects. If you're seeking a sales or business development position, it can be impressive to send your target employers a list of prospects you'd contact if hired. You might, however, want to send only a partial list: "Here are 10. I have 30 more. Hire me and I'll show them to you."
  • A portfolio of your work. Of course, creatives such as graphic designers, architects, and musicians routinely submit a portfolio of their work, but showing samples can be effective in many fields. For example, a manager might want to include a a budget s/he crafted, a strategic plan s/he contributed to, the PowerPoint deck from a presentation on a topic that would impress the target employer, etc.
Finally, a word about ethics. In these tough times, it seems that more job seekers are being unethical: lying on their resume, using phony references, giving deceptive answers to interview questions, or hiring a resume writer to make them appear better organized and a better thinker and writer than they are. Yes, cheaters often win but I invite you to remember that job-seeking is often a zero-sum game. If your chicanery results in your getting a job over a more qualified human being, can you really feel good about yourself? The strategies presented in this article, applied ethically and diligently, will likely yield you an appropriate job in a reasonable amount of time.

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