Here's a great quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt: "In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility."
We live too often by cliches. Eleanor Roosevelt was a liberal, but her words her demonstrate that we are all responsible to make -- and remake -- our lives. A client recently came to me and said he wanted to a resume so a "recruiter can find me a job." I told him that plan wouldn't work for two reasons. First, he wasn't advanced enough in his career to make it worth the recruiter's time and effort. Second, a good job search is all about taking charge of how we look for work. My clients who do work with recruiters are very proactive in how they deal the recruiters. In the end, as Roosevelt said, our professional and personal happiness depends on the choices we make.
When I ask clients to name their strengths, they often point to broad qualities or skill sets, such as, leadership, communication skills, and flexibility. Too often that’s where they stop. The trick to good personal branding, networking, interviewing, and resume writing is to take this kind of strength and project it to the different audiences you interact with. For example, a senior sales professional and an office manager both need good communication skills, but they are different. Sales representatives present, negotiate, and train to sell. Office managers negotiate to buy products and train employees in job skills. They might also lead meetings. Whenever you are promoting yourself as a professional, think about the person or group you are addressing. What do they need to know about you? What is their biggest concern? Give them what they need to know, and they will give you the kind of respect that opens doors.
One of my clients recently said people won’t need resumes soon. He had read “something on the Internet” that said employers would “find” 80-90% of employees on LinkedIn or through profiles on job boards. The problem with this kind of thinking is that it leads to a passive job search, waiting for a job to find you rather than looking actively to find a job.
I don’t buy the claim that there will come a time where most hiring will come through recruiting. There are two problems with this approach. First, recruiters would spend a lot of time having to weed through people who are in jobs and don’t want to move. Second, what would happen to salaries? If employees knew employers had to come to them, they could ask for more money. Under the current employers have the ball in their court. They can set the terms of employment, especially if the person they are interviewing is unemployed or anxious to leave his or her current job.
My biggest problems with stories like the one my client read is that they give the wrong idea about how to look for a job. Executives and professionals at the top of their fields should work with recruiters. They are most likely to be found on LinkedIn. For the rest of us, a good job search must be active. Following the great advice of Richard Nelson Bolles, I recommend using at least three ways to look for work. For most people, that means networking, responding to posted jobs, and pursuing jobs with companies that you most want to work for. LinkedIn is a great tool for doing all of these things. Think of it as a resource for an active job search. If someone finds your profile and calls you for an interview, that’s a bit of good luck. Don’t count on it. Stay active and manage your career. That’s the best way to find a new job.
Too many people have the wrong idea about how to look for work. They update their LinkedIn profile and wait for a call. They send their resume to some recruiters, and then they wait. It's time to stop waiting.
Career coaches have a name for the kind of job search that relies on waiting: the passive job search. Workers on all levels -- entry to executive -- find a new job faster and get more offers when they perform an active job search. This method requires that the job seeker take charge and look for the job him or her self. It's hard to make the contacts needed for networking or spend nearly an hour to fill out an online job post, but that's the best way to reach employers and market your skills. Track what you've done to move your job search forward. When you get stuck, try to find new ways to locate and contact potential employers. Looking for work is hard and often frustrating. However, if you follow a passive job search because it's easy, the only thing you might achieve is waiting for the phone to ring. Get active.
Many clients will tell me that they want to find a job through a recruiter. Often that is not a realistic option. Recruiters usually work with professionals who have high incomes or special skills. They make their money as a percentage of their clients’ first year salary.
Do not confuse recruiters with companies that provide contract work or temporary positions. This type of job often limit employees in three ways. First, the work they provide is short term. Second, pay is limited since the contract/temporary employment firm takes part of the fee from employers to cover its cost. Third, employers often will not hire temporary or contract employees to full time positions because they have to pay a fee to the company providing the labor. Is it ever good to work on a contract basis? Yes. If a firm offers great pay or a path to full time employment at a great company like Microsoft, a contract job can be a way to move forward. For many workers, especially those making less than $15, it is often a dead end.
If you have a high salary or unique skills, try to find a good recruiter. But don’t let that be the only way you look for work. Continue to network and respond to posts for open positions. If you are considering working for a temporary or contract firm, think carefully about the arrangement. In most cases, it is more beneficial to take charge of your job search and find a full time job where you are employed by the company you are working for. Some companies are now only hiring employees through contract firms. If possible, avoid such arrangements.
What’s the worst way to look for a job? By waiting for someone to find you. Job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder and social Media such as LinkedIn let us post our resumes, which is a good thing. Some employers will use those tools to recruit employees. However, most employers still expect prospective employees to come to them through networking or by answering a job post.
Posting your resume and waiting is called a passive job search. As the name implies, you’re doing little to find the employer. When you network and respond to job posts, you are conducting an active job search. Job seekers who post and wait often get no calls. Or they wait much longer to get a job than those who apply for jobs and do whatever they can to work their network.
When clients ask me about the best way to look for work, I say they should put a priority on networking while still applying to job posts and identifying companies that need their skills. I do not tell them not to post on job boards, but that action should be a low priority.
LinkedIn is a little different than posting. It’s important to have a good profile because some companies use it to double check your resume. LinkedIn also offers several tools that enhance networking and enable posting for jobs. Learn how to use this tool as part of an active job search.
The most important thing you can do to find a job is to know what you want and work hard to get it through an active job search. If an employer happens across a resume you’ve posted or your LinkedIn profile, call yourself lucky. Every job search involves some kind of luck. The more you look for work in a focused, persistent manner, the luckier you will be.
Today is America’s shopping holiday, Black Friday. Bargain hunters scour print ads and websites to find the lowest prices and best values. They make lists and plan routes to go from store to store. We need to follow a similar method in managing our careers and looking for work.
1. Write down your professional goals for the next year and next five years. Start with salary. Then dig into how you want to work and what kind of responsibilities you want to have.
2. The next step is strategy and planning: How can I achieve my goal? Use your list to develop a strategic plan. For example, is it logical to achieve my salary goal in my current position with my current employer, or do I need to change jobs and possibly take on more responsibility? Do I need to go back to school or get a certificate? Who can help me achieve my goals (networking)? What resources do I need (LinkedIn, career websites, professional associations, alumni groups)?
3. Here’s the most important lesson from Black Friday shoppers: Go for it. We’ve all heard stories of mobs, fist fights, and arrests. None of this is good. However, behind all the negative news lies something very positive. Tens of thousands of people are going after what they want as consumers. What if they did the same thing in their professional lives? A motivated person is more likely to succeed. When looking for a new job or changing your career, take a lesson from the people packing the malls today: Have a goal, make a plan, and go for it.
I attended a great seminar on LinkedIn yesterday. Over the next few weeks, I hope to put what I learned into practice and share it with blog readers. LinkedIn is a great tool, and everyone who wants to move ahead in his or her career should be using it. That said, there is a right way to use the tool and a way that is less effective.
Job seekers should use LinkedIn as a tool for an active job search, a way to contact people you know and connect to others through them. In an active job search, you will be meeting people and talking to them on the phone. You will not be looking for email that will never come. LinkedIn also provides strategic information about companies, alumni networks, and professional groups that can give us both information about potential employers and ways to reach them. Should you still respond to job posts? Yes, that’s part of an active job search. Anytime you are contacting a potential employer or someone who can help you make a connection, you are being active in the job search.
In the past, I’ve condemned passive job search in which job seekers post their resume and wait for the phone to ring. Over the past 5 years, major job boards such as Monster and Careerbuilder have improved the search functions of their databases. Some of my clients have gotten jobs by posting resumes. LinkedIn ups the ante. More employers will search LinkedIn, and jobs seekers have more ability to sell themselves. Every job seekers should make an active job search the first priority. However, it is also important to practice smart passive job search techniques. A good job search will include both active and passive job search strategies.