7-Steps to Finding a Job
“Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.” ~ Oscar Wilde
On Tuesday morning, July 20th, I woke up and went to work just as I’d done for nearly 7 years, only to find that my company had “downsized”, and I wasn’t to be a part of the new, slimmer company. I went home unemployed that afternoon for the first time in my adult life. I should note that, considering there were only twelve people working there at the time, the whole process of “downsizing” seems (with the benefit of hindsight) to be ironically funny.
If you’ll recall, on August 4th I posted, “5 things to do if you lose your job”, as I’d become (understandably, I hope you’ll agree) focused on the subject, and felt that I had some good information to contribute. Still, it took me another 58 days to find a new job. For sake of simplicity, let’s just go ahead and call it 60. That’s two months my friends; 8 weeks. Two months without a paycheck is, at least to me, about 6-weeks too long, so my goal here is to review the lessons I learned while looking for a job so that if the same thing happens to you, you can hit the ground running sooner than I did, and find another job sooner than I did.
(1) Network, Network, Network
First, contact everybody you know, and everybody they know and put the word out.
*NOTE* You gotta be tactful about this because you don’t want to put a friend or a friend of a friend in an awkward position where they have to tell you “Sorry, got nothin for ya”. That could be an uncomfortable situation for all involved. And no, I didn’t make that mistake. The way to do it, in my opinion, is to say something like, “Oh, by the way, my company downsized and I’m lookin for a job. I know you know a bunch of business owners and such, and if you hear about any of them looking for someone with my qualifications I’d sure appreciate you putting a word in for me, or letting me know about it.” If they have a position *and* think you could be a good fit, they’ll let you know.
Networking is something you should start doing today, whether you have a job or not. It should become a way of life to you, like brushing your teeth, or reading this blog. And where’s a good place to network?
(2) Utilize LinkedIn
I was wrong about LinkedIn. Get your LinkedIn profile up to date and network, network, network. (see rule #1)
There’s been a whole bunch of really good, “How to use LinkedIn…” type posts out there, so get to Google’ing and git ‘er done!
(3) Be creative & separate yourself
There I was; unemployed & unshaven, browsing through a used book store looking for books about how to write resume’s, interview better, etc, and I saw the book: “Don’t Send a Resume”, by Jeffrey Fox. I started browsing through it and immediately knew that this book was the missing link. It was truly one of those “Eureka!” moments, and I ran out of the store naked, just like Archimedes. I haven’t been back since.
How did I know it was the missing link so soon? Here’s the blurb from the dust jacket:
“Everybody knows how to get a job: get together a detailed resume, starting with your job objective; send it out to plenty of personnel departments, the more the better so your chances of hitting a good company increase; wait for the phone to ring. WRONG! All that seems to make sense, and perhaps some people have gotten jobs that way. But if you want to find a great job, the best way to get it is to ignore the common wisdom and set yourself head and shoulders above the average guy.”
Stuff I highlighted in Chapter 1
“You are a product, and your resume is your literature. Super salespeople never send literature before meeting with a prospective customer. Super salespeople send literature after the first interview or bring it with them on follow-up calls. Super salespeople create interest in their product and use sales literature to reaffirm and to leave a footprint, a product remembrance. Your resume has much more validity and Velcro if the customer reads it after talking to you, hearing about you, or meeting you. This is particularly true if your resume is written for the hirer after you have interviewed the hirer. Your resume will validate your ability to deliver what the customer – the hirer – needs.”
Stuff I highlighted in Chapter 2
“All resumes look alike. Regardless of the style – experience resume, chronological resume, functional resume – they all ultimately look the same. Selling yourself depends on getting noticed, standing apart, being different from everybody else.”
Starting to get the point? Look, I’m not going to do a book review here – that’d be too much like actual work – so let me just share with you the big-picture concept that I took away from it; i.e., “the point”! The point is: Be Different! (or as Kawnar would say, BE DFFRNT) You gotta do something to stand out from the crowd. You gotta be creative. You gotta separate yourself from the other 200 applicants1 that all want the same job you do. This seems fairly straightforward and it really is straightforward. At least it should have been, especially for me. Having 10+ years of in-the-field sales experience has taught me that you can’t play by their rules and expect to win. If I’d stopped walking every time I saw a “No salesmen without an appointment” sign, or some similar “good-for-them but bad-for-me” policy, I’d have made far fewer sales. Yes, they want you to follow such & such procedure. They want you to follow “company policy”. They want you to send your resume to H.R. and if they’re interested, “they’ll call.” In other words, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”, which I call getting “Sugarloafed”, for obvious reasons.
Bottom line, if you try to play it straight in a crooked world, and you’re gonna lose more times than not. Loosen up, get creative, and play to win. Good things will happen.
You want a job at ABC Inc? Call somebody on the inside and get the scoop. Get the real scoop. You want a job in their sales department? Call one of their salespeople. You want a job in their marketing department, call the new intern they just hired and see what he/she can tell you. Figure out who their biggest competitor is and call them! Where can you find these people? LinkedIn. I’m serious, it’s the shiz. Get on it today.
(4) Resume: Hired gun or roll your own?
Fact: I sent out about 300+ applications and got *one* (as in, one more than none) offer. OffeR. SingulaR. One. Could I have reduced that hit:miss ratio if I’d had my resume professionally done? Don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. My position was (#1) I’m selling myself as a salesman and if I can’t do that, I have bigger problems to worry about, and (#2) I’m a pretty decent writer (not a word ladies and gentlemen, not a goddamned word) so fuck it; I’ll take my chances. And maybe it’d be just as honest to say that the $750 they were charging on “The Ladders” seemed outrageous to me, and I wasn’t about to do that. You gotta make the call on this as it’s your job (or not), but I’m happy with the choice I made, and I’d do it again. Hell, I may have to do it again. Plus, I got several comments from people who said that the only reason they called me was because they really liked my resume. However, I should note that none of the people who said that eneded up offering me a job.
As chance would have it I made a new acquaintance while writing this post whose job is to help you find a job. I don’t know all the details of his pricing structure, but I don’t think I’m mis-speaking by indicating that it’s roughly half the price the folks over at “The Ladders” were charging. If you’re interested, send a note to Efren at firstname.lastname@example.org. As the email address indicates, his focus is “All About You”.
(5) Don’t disqualify yourself
Yeah, yeah, the recruiters & H.R. people say you shouldn’t apply for jobs you’re not qualified for as it just wastes their time. Well that’s easy for them to say, they already have jobs, so I say fuck ‘em. I started out playing nice and playing by the rules, but a few weeks into not having a paycheck I was sending my application to every company that had a pulse. Open Heart Surgeon? No problem. I’ve seen “House” a few times; all I gotta do is get that medical school thing worked out. I honestly didn’t care if the H.R. person said to their co-worker, “OMG! Check out this guy’s application!” You don’t get if you don’t ask and most importantly, at least for me, it allowed me to feel like I was doing everything possible to be proactive about finding a job. If they don’t want to hire me that’s their prerogative, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to screen myself out of consideration to make their life easier. Don’t disqualify yourself. You gotta stay on your own side.
(6) Get a routine
Get a routine that includes some non looking-for-work time. Or you will eventually go insane. You can only look at so many job-descriptions before you start to run into diminishing returns. At first, it took me quite a while to sort through the 700+ “job opportunties” (And I say “job opportunities” because I didn’t consider 35 versions of “Sunglasses Sales at the Mall Kiosk” counted as even one legit opportunity, much less 35) but after a few days, I could go through the list in just a few minutes.
My routine became something like this:
Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. Found my way downstairs and drank a cup, and looking up I noticed I was late.
Late to start the job search that is. My advice, wake up at the same time you used to wake up for your job, and get after it. For me this usually translated into me starting my daily search around 7:30a. Work hard until lunch, and then take a break. Seriously. Get away from the computer and go get something to eat & drink. Go take a walk, play some music, clean the house…just do something that will allow you to forget everything else, even if only for a little while. After the break…maybe set back down to fill out some more applications, check your e-mail, whatever… but honestly, it shouldn’t take you long to get to the point where the 4-hrs you worked in the morning are about all you can do. So for me, the afternoon was time to “think outside the box”. Go to websites for companies that weren’t even looking, and fill out applications. Read through applications for jobs you’re not qualified for, but which look like cool jobs nonetheless. Get on LinkedIn and snoop around. And when the rest of the family is back in the house, shut the laptop and spend time with them. If you don’t have a family, shut the laptop and do whatever it is you want to do. Hang out with friends, play video games, watch a movie, read a book…whatever. The point is to *not* think about not having a job. Free your mind.
(7) Be Yourself
This of course assumes you’re not an incompetent asshole, in which case you have more problems than just finding a job. But assuming you are a good person, don’t try to be somebody you’re not just to get a job. You won’t be able to keep up the ruse forever, and ultimately, both you and your new employer will be dissatisfied. You want a company to hire you for who you are, not for what they want you to be, so just relax, be yourself, and don’t fuck it up. With competition like this, you may not get many “at bats”.
Did I say “Relax” yet?
- I’m not making this up. Every recruiter & H.R. person I spoke with…every resume screener…all had received at least 200 resume’s for the position. Many of them reported receiving 300 or more. Now, to be fair, I’m told that about half of them were just people applying for a job so they could be truthful on their unemployment paperwork. But still, let’s just be conservative and say that you’re “only” competing with 100-150 people for 1 job. Hell, let’s cut that number in half, call it 50-75. Still like your odds? Cut it in half again. And again. Now, if you’ve made the first five cuts, you’ve improved to maybe 1 chance in 10. That’s what the job market for “Sales” was like in Kansas City between July 20 and October 1 in 2010. At least 10:1 ratio of applicants to jobs. You’d do better at the Blackjack table.