Resuscitating your job search

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DefibIs your job search showing no signs of life? Are its vital signs weak?

Today we have a guest post from Duncan Mathison, who is the co-author of the book “Unlock the Hidden Job Market: 6 Steps to a Successful Search When Times Are Tough” with Martha I. Finney (FT Press, 2009). You can check out their Web site at www.unlockthehiddenjobmarket.com.

Job Search CPR:  How to Bring Your Job Search Back From the Dead

The difficulty with evaluating the progress of your job search is that there is only one true sign of success – a new job. So when you don’t see a lot of progress in this awful job market, you have to ask yourself, “Am I doing the right things to land a job or am I simply missing the mark?”

OK, so your job search might not be completely dead, but if it is not showing much life it is probably time to check its vital signs. Here are the signs of trouble and the right treatment to bring your job search back on track.

Your calendar is blank.  You have no job interviews or networking meetings scheduled except coffee with an old friend.  You might also have next month’s networking mixer mostly attended by other unemployed people.  Your search is on life support.

The treatment: Start by scheduling the activities that will fill your schedule with interviews. In addition to meetings, schedule the time you will check job postings, research companies, and catch up on your professional reading.

Schedule specific telephone time to follow-up with every networking lead you have including those intimidating, very important and hard-to-reach people.  With busy people, it is easier to schedule appointments a few weeks out than next week when they are heavily booked. Sure you want to be working instead of networking next month. Be happy that you won the appointment.  If you land a job before then, the meeting can always be cheerfully cancelled.

Nonresponsive employers after a having “for sure” job interviews.  It has been weeks since a promising job interview after which you heard nothing. Even your follow-up calls have not been returned. Careful, this can be a job search momentum killer.

The treatment: Grit your teeth, give out a low growl and vow never to treat a job applicant like that once you are in a position to hire. Sorry, but this is pretty typical (and inexcusable) behavior of employers. It’s time to move on. The best cure for a job that does not pan out is to have another two in the hopper. While you are at it, vow never to ease up on your job search just because you have a hot prospect.

Flat-lined with no new job leads. On-line job search tools significantly cut the time it takes to find any posted positions in the open market both for you and everyone else.  As a result, employers are often buried in applicants and competition can be intense. Often employers bypass posting positions preferring informal sourcing instead.

The treatment: Apply only to posted job ads that are a fit and skip the long-shots.  Adjust how you invest your time and go after the hidden job market through targeted identification of possible employers and, of course, the holy-grail of any job search: networking.

Exhausted network with no pulse.  You have talked to “everyone” and they don’t know of any jobs “out there.” Now you are starting to feel like a stalker and you soon will have no friends left much less networking contacts.

The treatment: The important thing about networking is to know that networks tend to form in clusters of smaller groups. Network clusters can be insular and you may find yourself operating in a closed loop of contacts, thus the impression you have talked to everyone possible. If so, it’s time to “cluster jump.”

Start with the “100 rule.” Make a list of 100 people you know regardless of their relationship to your profession as well as industry experts such as authors, professors and consultants.  Make sure every one of those people know the type of job you are looking for, the typical job titles of someone who would be your manager, and the industry you could work in.  For bonus points, give them a list of 75 employers you think might hire someone with your skills. Ask them if they know of anyone who might know something about employers on the list.

Not enough major employers. You think you know who they are. You have established who among the top local employers could hire people with your skills, you have spoken to the hiring managers and they have your resume. Now what?

The treatment:  According to government statistics, about 50% of all jobs are with employers who have less than 500 people. It’s time to dig deeper beyond the darlings of the local business media. Consider that many companies could have small field offices and R&D operations in town.  Can’t relocate? In today’s virtual world, your job may not require you to be in an office or at corporate headquarters. Look outside of your community for employers if your job can be done remotely.

What have you done to revive your job search? Has it worked?

49 Comments
  1. Kate,

    Interesting points and information.

    The holidays are a great time to develop a “Job Hunt 2.0″ program.

    I know from experience and observation both that recruiting takes a large hit during this time of year. Not only because recruiters/hiring managers are on holiday, but most large companies are at the end of their fiscal years and reassess open positions and headcount to close out the books. They want earnings to be maximized before the books are closed out.

  2. There is nothing new in the advice given in this article. Networking only helps if you know people who know people who are hiring external candidates. In this market, little of this is going on. It is frustrating to keep reading the same advice over and over knowing it is not effective in this market.

  3. My recent experience has been unbelievable. The rudeness and inconsideration at which interviewers treat new potential employees. I had interviewers actually rush me out the door because I didn’t have the skills not listed on my resume. They didn’t even bother to read it and had me travel 40 or 50 miles for such treatment. I have sent thank you letters off the HR people who conducted the interview only to not even get a response back. I have had HR people degrade my professional level of competence even though I finished a masters degree with a 4.0 in college. One of these days, the shoe is going to come back and kick them in the royal proverbial rear!

  4. I just feel hopeless. I understand all the tips and advice this article is giving me but it doesn’t seem like telling my best friend’s mom will help with my job search. I have my degree in the field of human services and it seems like everyone I interview with just has more experience and I can never triumph. I have had 3 interviews in the last 2 weeks and nothing. Seriously…. I am very stressed out about this. I was thinking about volunteering in my spare time to get some more references and people that vouch for my skills and work ethic.

  5. Great article and much needed when we all get into that slump. Just landed a 3 month contract with a major utility company through networking, like my last 3 gigs, so I am a firm believer in talking to former colleagues. Not resting though…still on the hunt for that full-time marketing/event position.

  6. I would like to encourage the volunteer idea. Though still employed, I won’t be at year’s end and getting through all the current protocol to be a weekend volunteer at a local hospital gave me the feeling of being “hired” and will be a new reference on a list that was a little old and short

  7. Sorry, but a lot of this is not new, many already know this and some searchers use this approach at great personal time and expense (They can’t afford) but, few interviews result from great effort and,today, few call backs. I find the most successful approach is employment agencies. There are many, some are career specific and some also do direct hire, I’ve used and I still get emails from these agencies years later. If you’re good at your job and can prove to be a valuable investment to the employer, you can usually find temp agencies that will hire more readily and this may develop into more permanent work.

    We need to be real here also, there are just not enough jobs out there for those looking. If you’re going to give advice on job search, dealing with this disappointment emotionally and psychologically should be a major focus in the information you’re trying to impart.

  8. I understand it all but in the south its all about who you know. You can talk and network til you turn blue in the face. Got to know the right people to get a good job.

  9. I agree with most comments about networking…so many unemployed they are not going to gi=ve up their own findings..I have also had employers be uncaring about a potential hire that could possibly improve their bottom line and help greatly with their company’s success.Also, I have had an interview scheduled and it was canceled as I was ready to leave dto go.I have been hired for a 15 hour pt job and got only 4 hrs week and was usaully on call to get those 4 hrs.

  10. I agree with the majority of posts that this is just basic job hunting information. Most folks will have already accomplished such networking in their efforts to secure empoyment. What we really need is a fresh approach to reaching employers. What do we do when all our efforts, and all our diligence in following the advice of experts has still left us unemployed? How has the playing field changed with the change in the ratio of candidates per position, and how do we shine in such an environment. I’ve about given up on traditional employment, and have struck out on my own. Like one poster has mentioned, I am also looking into short-term contract positions – just to make some money. It may not be the ultimate opportunity, but at least it will put food on the table!

  11. This article contains the same ole same ole…..networking only works if you know someone to talk to who knows who’s hiring. It’s the problem of who you know, not what you know. There are a lot of qualified candidates who are unemployed that can’t even score an interview. This artcle certainly doesn’t help. The bottom line is there are not enough jobs for the number of people who are unemployed.

  12. Pingback: Networking Made Easy for Introverts « Job Search Engineering

  13. Pingback: Freshers Yaar! » Blog Archive » Networking Made Easy for Introverts

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