Many executives in transition between jobs, or those who are employed but job-hunting, feel overwhelmed, discouraged and listless, to the point where procrastination becomes the rule and not the exception.
If this sounds too familiar to you, here are 12 thought-starters to ignite your might – based on sound marketing principles and my own experience as a hiring manager and job hunter over the years. Some of these are common sense, but they bear revisiting:
- You’ve got to move it, move it! The cliché of the job-hunter sitting around watching daytime TV in a bathrobe is so insulting but it persists and usually the photo shows a middle-aged person with fuzzy slippers and a bowl of chips in their arms. Let’s mash that myth and bash the biases that persist. At least five days a week, get up at the same time you used to when you were working full-time – or even earlier – and do some exercise that will get your brain as well as your heart pumping. Every day a new study comes out indicating the brainpower-boosting benefits of exercise. Doesn’t matter what you do, just move it, for at least five hours a week.
- Can we see a form of I.D.? I’m astounded at the number of job hunters who, because they’ve left a company’s employ, don’t carry their own business cards! It doesn’t matter who you were at your former company and what you did, if you don’t have a card that tells prospects who you are now, your expertise and what you’re seeking in your next position, you’re communicating that you are in a “holding pattern” with no contact information for the people you meet who actually want to keep your info handy. Always have business cards with you, even if you’re 22 and your card reads: “(Name) Hopeful Social Media Guru.”
- Would you like some company – any company? Isn’t it better to know the company you want to keep? To that end, have a top ten list of firms you want to work for, and do diligent research on them – their financials, their “About Us” information, their products’ challenges, etc. Make sure you also understand the “soft” side of the job hunt: what does their website convey in terms of style, culture and values? Can you connect with employees at various companies, through your LinkedIn network? If not, your search reeks of wanting to just land anywhere, and hiring managers can see right through that kind of desperation.
- Cover your assets – again and again. Who are you, what do you want, and how can the specific organization you’re contacting utilize your experience and expertise? A resume is not enough: many job hunters over 40 fail to realize that cover letters regarding the specific company’s market position, financial profile or other personalized insights can land them in an “A” pile that makes the resume a secondary priority. State your career objectives in cover letters, comment on specifics, detail clearly why you’re interested in the organization, and then customize your resume accordingly.
- Coffee, tea or what? Does your resume sell your strengths, fit and motivation to the organization you’re pitching? Not customizing your resume to serve the type of opportunity you’re seeking is like writing the same ad copy to sell food, wine or electronics. Customize your resume to the company you’re pitching.
- Missing Links? Get on it! LinkedIn, that is. With 259 million members in over 200 countries, most of them professionals, LinkedIn is where every recruiter, hiring manager, prospective client, customer, and employees will look to see your profile after they first learn about you – whether it’s via an email, cover letter, resume or phone message. I’m all for Facebook, but if you’re serious about your job search, then you should know that hiring managers from all over the world pay a special premium to LinkedIn so they get access to the best candidates. If the cover letter is “Hello” and the resume is “Here’s my background” then LinkedIn is your employment ad. If you’re not on LinkedIn, you’re missing the most important link of all.
- Who cares? Make sure you know the answer to that question by listing all the people you already know that could help you in your job hunt. Are they connectors, mentors or sponsors? Connectors can help you access information or introductions. Mentors guide and advise. Sponsors – the most valuable resources – are like your personal agents. Sponsors can be advocates and ambassadors for your candidacy.
- And Now A Word From Your Sponsor. Identify, research and cultivate at least five sponsors. Work that list, contact them for informational interviews by phone or Skype, and persuade them to introduce you to potential hiring managers or clients.
- Nada da Prada! As important and perhaps more so than individuals who genuinely care about you and will vouch for you, are those who might speak badly of you in reference checks. With social networks like LinkedIn, especially, employers can contact almost anyone who’s ever worked with or for you. If your default management style is like that of the Meryl Streep character in The Devil Wears Prada but you’re not applying for a low-level job in the fashion industry, then you’ll have a lot of explaining to do.
- Forget about beating ‘em, you’ve got to join ‘em! Lack of replies or interest in your cover letter and resume got you down? Get over it! The best way to access and approach hiring managers at the companies you want to work for is by attending low-cost meetings of professional groups and associations that represent their industries. Once you’ve attended a few networking events, you can choose the ones you want to join, and you should join, because association memberships are like passports to foreign countries. You declare your affinity, you become active on pertinent committees, and you enhance your positive visibility with people who can mentor, connect and sponsor you. LinkedIn groups are also perfect for this. Join selectively and comment strategically; not only will you increase your visibility, you’ll increase your connections. If you have the time and energy, start a blog, but it’s not essential.
- Friends and Family help you stay in it to win it. Not only do friends and family provide moral support, they can be great drill sergeants to help you maintain your sense of urgency, stick to deadlines and assume responsibility and accountability for your search.
- Do it full time, lose the fool time. Yeah, I know, tough love for job hunters, but if you’re really serious about the hunt, you should be working on it at least 9-to-5 every day, and not by surfing job sites, emailing people who don’t know you and, worse, who don’t care. Instead, use your evening and weekend hours to do research on your priority companies and hiring managers, customize your resume, or draft intro letters to those you want to meet. Your weekdays should be spending in meetings with connectors, influencers and hiring managers, or attending the strategic networking events these important resources also attend.