5 steps to a better job search: there are dozens of macro or micro steps… this is what I’d say is most important for people as we wrap up 2021.
NOTE: In the post below I recommend a few Pluralsight courses. I’m a Pluralsight author with 36 (and counting) courses in the Pluralsight library. If you don’t have a subscription, reach out to see if we have any 30 day passes left.
When I say “better job search,” I really mean ending your job search and landing a job.
When I was in my big fat failed (and miserable) job search back in 2006 I remember thinking “I don’t want to learn all this job search and networking stuff… I just want a job!” Of course, you have to learn, and do, some of it, but I wasn’t interested in reading books that were hundreds of pages to tell me how to be a better job seeker. I figured if I did I’d take at least a half a year to learn, but not get what I really needed: A JOB!
With that in mind I want to share 5 steps to having a better job search, ending your job search, and getting a job. The first one is…
1. End Your Job Search With a Strong Network
This is the first of 5 steps to a better job search: Networking… I get it. You probably dislike it. I hated it. And honestly, it sounds so cliche. Networking has been a touted tactic for decades. While many aspects of the job search, and how you find a job, have changed, the idea that you might find your job because of who you know, or who knows you, hasn’t changed. I continue to hear people talk about landing a job through a referral, introduction, or just good old fashioned networking.
I said I hated networking in my job search. That was before I really understood what networking was. I thought I had to go to network events, shake a lot of hands, and come back with a lot of business cards. It felt very superficial. It felt fake. I could come away with dozens of new contacts but… then what? Usually nothing happened, except my pile of business cards in my top desk drawer got bigger. If nothing, it got me out of the house, but that wasn’t my objective. My objective was to get a job, and if I was networking, I wanted my network to help. That wasn’t happening.
I evenually learned that networking didn’t need to be in big settings with lots of people. I could network one-on-one. I loved these meetings, usually over a meal, because I could spend a significant amount of time with the person and really have deep conversations. When I finally understood that was networking, too, I was in networking heaven. I sought out people to have meetings with… in a lobby, at a restaurant, or on a call. Nowadays, because of the pandemic and the massive move to working from home, we can easily get time with people on a screenshare… the convenience is awesome. Literally awesome.
I invite you to move on from the bad feelings and ideas of networking and figure out what effective networking means for you. This could be all virtual, on social media and through emails, or it could be on the phone, or you could try in person. Whatever works for you, do that. But don’t neglect this first step, which is to build and nurture a strong network.
2. Speed Up Job Search Results With a Strong Personal Brand
I’m guessing that because we are 1/5th done with this century, and we’re so high tech, that I don’t have to convince you that personal branding is real and powerful. Since 1997 we’ve heard about it (before that it was called “reputation” or “reputation management”). Personal branding companies and consultants popped up, and professionals have started to realize that, indeed, personal branding is important.
Personal branding is easy. To have a personal brand you simply have to do… NOTHING. Honestly, do nothing and you’ll have a brand. Everyone has a brand! Now, you might not have the personal brand you WANT to have. If you want to have a certain kind of brand, or convey certain messages, then you have a bit of work to do. I talk about this, and specific tactics, in my personal branding course on Pluralsight. The cool thing is, like networking, you can (and should) work on your personal brand before, during, and after your job search.
This is something you should always work on. You can let it slide for months here and there, and pick it up when it’s really important, or you can spend a few minutes each day or week and work on your brand. Again, check out my course to get tactics you can work on.
You have a brand. Is it what you want it to be? Can you even say what it is? I hope you can say what you want it to be, but is that what others would say? Until you are confident in, and comfortable with, the answers to those questions I’d say you have some work to do.
3. Accelerate Your Job Search With Informational Interviews
Since 2006 I have tried to figure out what the job search silver bullet might be. For years I couldn’t figure it out. The job search is so simple and so complex. “You should” advice, or “everyone gets a job this way” advice was too general. It didn’t take into account how a job search for a nurse was different than for a CFO than for a programmer. General advice didn’t take into account small town vs. rural vs. big city vs. from another country.
As I presented my Career Management 2.0 presentation (which became a Pluralsight course, here) around the globe I’d talk about networking and branding… and start to talk about informational interviews. I would ask an audience how many of them used informational interviews in their job search strategy and maybe five or ten percent raised their hands. I’d ask if it was working for them and maybe, just maybe one person would say it was. Then, I blurted out (unplanned):
“If I were to start a job search today I’d spend 95% of my time doing informational interviews.”
That is a very strong statement. It shocked me when I said it. I paused to think about it, during that presentation, and I came to the conclusion that, yes, I would spend almost all of my time with an informational interview strategy. That doesn’t mean all of my time in informational interviews, rather all of the things that go into an effective informational interview strategy, such as:
- Identifying companies and teams I wanted to network into
- Finding names of people to talk to
- Researching those people
- Contacting those people
- Preparing for each interview with specific and relevant conversation points
- Having a 20ish minute informational interview
- Following up with each person (maybe multiple times)
- Pursuing introductions from each interview
- Following up again… I can’t emphasize this enough
Those are steps you should have in any networking strategy. Informational interviews makes your networking more focused, more purposeful. As you do more, and get more introductions closer to the companies and teams you want to work in, you get laser focused. This is why I call informational interviews “networking on steroids.” It’s networking at a whole other level. And it’s something you should absolutely do. Check out my Pluralsight informational interview course to learn more, and then get to work.
4. Keep Your Eyes (and Ears) Wide Open During Your Job Search
I love learning from others. My mom tells me when I was a baby I’d sit there sucking a pacifier watching my older brother to crazy older brother stuff… I’d just observe. I’d watch him do stuff and then watch my mom’s reactions, and learn from that.
As a job seeker you MUST observe. Listen for opportunities, listen for problems. Look at who is hiring for what. Keep current on issues in industries you follow or want to work in to figure out what’s happening now that might impact opportunities. Listen for cues from people you network with about who else you should talk to, what companies/organizations should get on your radar, maybe who you should stay away from, or other roles you might be interested in.
Listen and observe and a whole new world might be opened up. When you learn about someone you should talk to, ask for an introduction. When you learn about new organizations or opportunities, research, learn, and then act on that new information.
In 2006, in my Big Fat Failed Job Search, I was looking for general manager or business analyst roles (different, I know, but I was looking at smaller companies as well as massive organizations). I had never heard of product manager, which turned out to be my dream job. Once I came across that (which was on a job board) I was able to narrow my job search and focus on a role that was better for me. I was able to focus better on my networking efforts. I was also much more enthusiastic about what I was looking for.
Your job search might lead you down a very different path than what you had planned. The goal, though, is to get your dream job. The journey there might change based on what you learn along the way. Allow for that flexibility as you gather new intelligence.
5. Land Your Dream Job By Helping Others End Their Job Search
This is the last of 5 steps to a better job search, but it’s not any less important tha the others.
This post is pretty networking heavy. Lots of what I have talked about has to do with networking. Let’s stick with that theme. Perhaps this is why 85% (or whatever the number is you recently read, I’ve seen various numbers) of jobs are found through networking.
One of the most enjoyable experiences I had in my job search was getting really close to landing a job and then referring someone else. That someone else would have been a much better fit, and the job offer I was about to receive was not perfect for me. I made an introduction and was able to end that guy’s job search – he got the job!
I’m not suggesting you take your offers, or your best prospects, and give them all away. That’s just one experience I had that was rewarding. Not only did I feel great about helping this guy end his job search, I created a bond with him where he felt like he really wanted to help me.
At the beginning of my Big Fat Failed Job Search, in 2006, I went to networking meetings with the intention of “getting.” My objectives included getting a certain number of new contacts. When I left I would measure my success based on the number of new contacts. It was not fun, nor was it effective.
Something changed, though. One day I realized I needed to GIVE. And so I went to those network events wondering how to give to others. I gave introductions, I gave advice, I gave support and hope. I tried my best to make connections… when someone said they wanted to talk to a designer I’d make introductions. If someone wanted information on a company, and I knew someone at that company, I’d make introductions.
Job seekers should be networkers, and if that’s the case you should be rich with introductions. I realize you give them out when you trust others, but don’t think that because you don’t have income you have nothing to give. Focus on giving and you’ll be building relationships of grateful people that can pay off for years, maybe even decades.
So that’s it… those are 5 steps to a better job search. I think if you do any of these steps, to any degree, you’ll have more fun in your job search. You don’t have to feel alone, or lonely. Bring others in, let them help you, you help them, and this might be a fun part of your career instead of a time you wish never happened.