When clients with stalled searches first contact me, they often see the cause as something beyond their control. They tell me “I’m too old (or young),” “I’m overqualified (or underqualified),” “there are no jobs,” “I’ve sent in countless applications with no response,” or “I don’t have enough (or the right) experience.”
While in some cases they may be right, most of the time I find that they face a different problem with a much easier solution. Below I’ve included the top seven ways you can jump-start your search, based on my experience of the real reasons for many stalled searches.
If you aren’t sure how to position yourself correctly, do research by a) looking at job postings for keyword ideas, b) looking at the LinkedIn profiles of those who do what you want to do, c) reading the blogs and journals that reflect your sector, and d) talking to people — get informational meetings with those in your target field.
One client’s resume initially highlighted his accounting, chief financial officer, and project management expertise equally, because he wanted to be sure he was considered for all of these opportunities. But his resume wasn’t getting any interest. The reason: He was watering down his message. For example, when he went for an accountant position, they chose the competitor resumes that were all about accounting. Once we created three different versions of his resume, one for each target, he started becoming competitive.
Don’t just passively drift around in the employment ocean, hoping the currents will take you to that island of your dreams. Actively seek out that island and then swim to it! That is, spend 80% of your time networking and contacting strangers directly who you want to meet, and just 20% on job postings and search firms.
Here’s what I mean by “potential.” One client wanted to be a chief marketing officer at a mid-sized organization, and she targeted six organizations where she wanted to work. That’s only six possible positions (since there’s only one CMO at each firm), and of course she needed to wait for one of the current CMOs to leave before she even had a shot! So her job search was taking forever. The solution: She expanded her search’s potential by targeting more positions, through adding organizations, new geographies, and additional titles.
Then you want to get enough meetings. If you are just hanging your hopes on one or two interviews, that’s not nearly enough. Get numerous conversations going (not just interviews, but informational meetings) with people in a position to hire you. Because it’s a numbers game, most of those won’t turn into anything. But a few will. Building up enough volume is key to success. Once people meet with you, new possibilities open up (even if nothing is open now), through staying in touch or getting referrals.
Don’t do what one client did before he came to see me. He said, “I’ve been looking for a year, with no results.” I asked, “Have you had any informational meetings?” He said that he had a number of great meetings a year ago, at firms where he wanted to work, but he hasn’t spoken to them since. I told him, “If you had kept in touch with these people, you probably would have had an offer by now” and he agreed. Remember, only 50% of successful networking is about actually meeting people. The other 50% involves keeping in touch to build real relationships.