Thom Singer on the Job Search

Thom Singer has a great post with his job search advice.  Thom is not a job search or career coach, but he is a networking expert (he has multiple books on networking) and a really keen networker who actually meets people and tries to nurture relationships (not common amongst networking authors, I’ve found).

Thom has four points that he calls “four common job hunting mistakes.”  Here they are (in red) with MY commentary (in black)… read his full post for Thom’s no-nonsense thoughts.  Of course, he’s spot on.

1. Pride Kills Opportunities. Never be afraid to reach out to your network. If you have properly invested in establishing real “mutually beneficial” relationships with others, they will be there to help you in your hour of need.

When I sat down with a job counselor, after I finally admitted I couldn’t do this job search on my own (it was about a month into my job search), he asked “who do you know?”  I had mentally disqualified everyone (family can’t help, friends can’t help, past coworkers can’t help, I can’t reach out to past clients, etc.) and said “no one.”

I was so wrong to think that… but I was also too scared/proud to approach those people.  Humility will go a long ways in your job search, and pride will allow you to see all of the fake barriers that prevent you from moving forward.  Read Thom’s comments on this point.

2. Blindly sending resumes does not work. No matter how good you are, a blind inquiry will most likely not produce interviews.

Getting your resume (or LinkedIn Profile, or business card, or whatever) is going to be a lot more effective if you have someone hand it to the hiring manager or decision-maker – as opposed to a cold email.  There is one tactic I’m exploring that might produce different results, and that is having a targeted resume distribution sent out to recruiters and HR who are in your space… more on that later.

I was amazed that I sent out dozens and dozens and dozens of recruiters and got NO response.  It’s like my email was directed to the BLACK HOLE.

Then I came to understand that recruiters can get hundreds of resumes a day… what set mine apart from all of the others?  NOTHING.

Network your way into the job!

3. A bad attitude will keep you unemployed. How you think about your own situation will have an impact on your success.

SImilar to #1, of course… your attitude will have a huge, significant impact on your success.  Have a bad attitude?  No one you network with will want to introduce you to the person you need to talk to.  They don’t want to risk their “relationship capital” by sending someone so negative and hurt to their contact.

The perfect post to read with regard to your attitude is also one of my favorites: I Smell Blood is where I share a time when I had a bad attitude and an HR exec called me on it.  Favorite line?  “HR can smell blood from a mile away!

4. Don’t just focus on yourself. Help others. Even when you are having a tough time, finding ways to helps others can make you feel good and bring good karma.

I stopped focusing on myself after I had read Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone.

Know what?

That’s when my job search got FUN. Seriously.  The stress started melting away as I focused more on helping others, and feeling the rewards from that type of service.  Try it – it’s almost magical.

Thanks Thom, for your four points!

5 thoughts on “Thom Singer on the Job Search”

  1. He’s dead on. Thanks Jason for posting this. I think #1 is particularly pertinent. But I don’t think, at its core, that pride is the issue. I think you were on track when you said you were scared to reach out. We build huge scenarios in our mind when we are vulnerable. We assume what people will think of us, and we use those stories as our excuse. I’ve been having what I now call the “fear conversation” with several clients in the past couple of weeks. They use fear as an excuse. I ask them what the worst possible outcome would be. Every time, when they face the “worst” they find it’s not nearly as bad as the nameless fears they have allowed to build up.

    So don’t be afraid to reach out. Many times what you’ll find is that the person you reached out to was also afraid to reach out to you. And when you both reach and metaphorically grasp each other, some really cool things can happen.

  2. Thanks for posting this Jason. I just read it and it was eye-opening for me. Even I see many of the mistakes that the gentleman has made in the NY Times article. It’s “nice” that he has the financial resources to survive 2-3 years while sorting through and figuring out his next career move. Most of us, i.e., me, don’t have this luxury.

    Although I’m guilty of neglecting my network and cultivating it for the time I would need it, at least I recognize that it’s a huge mistake and am trying to fix it. Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone” is now on my bookshelf, I’m about halfway through it, and the ideas he has have already made an impact on my own efforts.

    Thanks again for pointing to this post. I never would have seen it on my own.


  3. Good points all. And here is another hurdle, perhaps a subset or variant of the first point on this list, but a lot of my friends who are still unemployed still buy into it. It’s not sufficient to “just be yourself”; you need to be yourself in a way that appeals to the employer. When I was younger I bought into this fallacy too; the patter in the job seeker’s head goes something like: “After all, I wouldn’t want to work for an employer who won’t like the person I really am.” And the result is that the job seeker fails to improve his or her resume and does not prepare adequately for interviews — or for a career.

    Here’s why it’s a fallacy. First, all of us are more than just employees, more than just our careers; we have families, friends, hobbies, personal interests, dreams, fantasies, and biases. There’s no need to drop everything in front of an employer — just showcase the elements that are relevant to the job skills needed, and show the employer why they are valuable. When the job seeker just shows everything pell-mell in the name of “being his/herself”, it’s like they just went through their entire house and garage and picked objects at random; what are the odds this collection will make sense or be attractive to someone who does not already know them? Pretty low.

    Second, it’s not just about your skills at the job. It’s also about your skills at job search. When you play the job search game well (have a good resume, interview well, etc.), you imply that you can also play other “job games” well — talk to clients, manage tasks, stay organized, navigate office politics, work on business development, whatever. It shows that you’re willing and able to learn the etiquette and unwritten code around a particular activity, that you value the employer’s time (by making it easy), and that you are professional and polished.

    By all means, everyone should “be themselves” in their job search, but it’s how they do this which can make or break a job search. Don’t be too convinced of the awesomeness of your resume and skills; get a second opinion from resume professionals, career coaches, friends in HR, etc., and do your homework.

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