how to find a job

Posted: August 26, 2015
By: Clay Cerny


Recently, I met with Jake (not his real name), a mid-career sales professional, who said he wanted a basic resume. Jake told me, “The facts speak for themselves.” It’s not that simple.

I want to be honest in representing clients, but it’s important to do so in a way that highlights each individual’s qualifications and strengths. The resume also needs to show qualifications for the job you are applying for. Too often, clients have given me resumes that are very detailed – very factual – about jobs they want to leave behind. A good resume will demonstrate what you can do for your next employer, not the last one.

I worked with Jake, and together we produced a strong document that will speak to the kind of employers he wants to work for. Because we’ve called out some of his strongest selling points, we’ve taken the facts and made them show Jake’s value over other applicants. If you can do that, the phone will ring.

Posted: July 9, 2014
By: Clay Cerny


I’m working with a recent MBA graduate in her late 20s. She loves Chicago, but has no ties to the city. Her family is spread across the country, and she is single with no children. Most importantly, she is open to relocation, which gives her a big advantage in a job search. Rather than having to find a job in one city, she can go anywhere to find the job she wants. I recommend that clients in this position choose two or three cites where they would like to live.


The next step isn’t to hit the job boards. Instead, the best first step is to learn about the business climate and companies in those cities. Try to find the kind of companies you want to work for before you go back to the job board. Go to the websites of your preferred companies to learn more about them and explore open positions. Use LinkedIn to see if you have any networking ties in those cities.


Finding a job – like sales – is a numbers game, but the game is best played if you have a strategy.  If you’re able to relocate, find a place you want to live and then test your ability to find a job and build a career in that city. Moving might be the first step in finding your ideal job.

Posted: February 18, 2014
By: Clay Cerny

As Seth Godin says in his fine book The Dip, winners know when and what to quit.  I met a client today who is taking some smart risks in managing his career and life.  Fred (not his real name) left a job where he had worked for more than 10 years.  His position was becoming impossible, and a new boss was promising to make it even worse.  At the same time, Fred and his wife are selling their house as well his mother’s house. Fred and his wife, who is employed, have saved some money.  So instead of staying at a bad job while looking for a new one and trying to fix up two houses, Fred decided to take one thing at a time.  First, he quit his job.  Next, he will prepare both homes for sale.  Finally he will focus on his job search.

Not everyone has Fred’s resources or time, but his story has value for anyone who is trying to find a new job or change careers – It takes time and focus.  I’ve seen many clients who put so much into the job they hate that they don’t have the energy or time to find a new one.  In other cases, job seekers have responsibilities to their families that pull them away from looking for work.  Fred’s story should be an example of how it is important to give yourself the time and energy to conduct a good job search.  Even if you can’t quit the job you hate, or even if you have a serious family obligation, find a way to put the time in you need to find the new job.  It’s not easy, but it’s better than staying in a job that is not helping you live better or be happy.

Posted: November 29, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

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.

Posted: September 10, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

One of my clients is very talented.  However, she was very hesitant about networking.  She thought no one would want to help somebody else get a job in a competitive market.

I asked her to start networking in a simple way:  Call the three people who are her references, let them know she is looking for work, and ask for advice.  Two days later she had an interview with a company much better than the one that laid her off.  Networking doesn’t always work this way.  Sometimes clients have done everything correctly, and networking brings no results.  That said, everyone should network, especially people who are looking for work.

Make a list of 10-20 people who know you as a professional. Here’s my suggestion about how you should ask for help:  “I want to call you because I’m looking for a new job.  You know me and how I work, and I’d appreciate it if you’d take a few minutes and give me some advice.  What do you think I should do in my job search?”

Keep the conversation open and listen carefully.  If a network contact gives you advice that is bad or useless, take it for what it is and be grateful for the time your contact has given you.  If the advice is good, follow up quickly and let your contact know that you’ve done so.  If your network connection suggests that you contact a certain person a potential employer, ask if you could use her name or if she will make an introduction.  Always end your conversations by finding out if there is any way you can help people in your network.

Networking isn’t easy, and it doesn’t always work.  However, a good network connection can lead you to jobs you didn’t know exist.  It can also open doors quickly.  Make networking part of your job search and career management strategy.  Start with those people who know you best, your references.  If you’re like my client, an interview with a great company can be in your future.

Posted: August 21, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Is your job search stuck in park or, worse still, moving in reverse?  Over the last 8 years, I’ve worked with clients who are unhappy with the progress of their search.  Often the biggest problem isn’t that a job seeker isn’t putting forth a good effort. The problem is more often preparing for a focused job search.

Before you write your resume or apply to a job, the first step is to do some homework.  Start by collecting 5-10 job posts that would be ideal positions for you.  Review the job requirements and note how you are a good match for this kind of position.  Next, consider how you might have transferable skills and experience that an employer would value.  Finally, note the little things such as computer skills, certification, and compliance.  These details are very basic and they are also easy to use as a way to scan a resume.

Note all of your selling points and put together a resume that will speak to the employer’s needs.  Don’t get caught up in a situation where you have to check off every job requirement bullet.  Few if any applicants will be able to do this.  Use the gut check test: If you think you can do a job, apply for it.  However, be sure to do your homework.  That will the first step in making the phone ring.


Posted: May 29, 2013
By: Clay Cerny

Clients frequently ask this question.  They want to find the best place to find open positions.  I understand their frustration, but I start by taking them in a different direction: Let’s think about the best ways to look for a job.

1.  Networking remains the best way to find a job.  Nothing opens the door to a new job faster than a good word from somebody who has the ear of hiring managers.  With the advent of social media, we have even more ways to connect with people who can help us open door.  Build your network all the time.  Don’t just think about it when you’re out of work.

2.  Identify and pursue opportunities with companies that you want to work for. Find companies in your industry that will let you build a career. Searching by companies is also a good way to control – and limit – your commuting time.

3.  Use job board websites, but use them wisely.  Don’t simply register with a site and wait for them to send you listings.  Similarly, don’t post your resume and wait for the phone to ring.  Learn what functions each website offers and take advantage of those that fit the goals of your search.  Since you don’t know where a job might be posted, I also recommend using multiple sites.  You don’t have to check each one everyday. But you should set up a schedule you use to check for new job posts.

4.  Transition to a full time job through temporary or contract work.  This advice always comes with a warning.  I’ve known some clients who parlay one temporary or contract position into another.  The problem with that strategy is that this type of work generally pays less and frequently offers minimal benefits.  Some tech jobs can only be accessed via the contract route.  Otherwise, my feeling is that contract and temporary work should only be used as a bridge to a full time position.

The most important factor in finding a job is focused activity.  If you only do one thing and you do it half-halfheartedly, the job search will be long and unhappy.  The more you look, and the better you use different ways to look for work, success usually comes faster.  There’s no magic bullet – or website.  Finding a new job starts with hard work.

Posted: October 5, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

Big Think features a post by blogger (and University of Michigan professor) Jeff DeGraf on how to find a job.  I like the advice DeGraf gives because it isn’t clichéd or easy.  Following the professional service model, he tells job seekers to know their strengths and sell them the right way.  My favorite bit of wisdom is “fish where others aren’t.”  Too often job seekers look for the easy way to get hired or the big company where everyone wants to work.

DeGraf finds opportunity in strange places (depressed cities, near bankrupt companies), places most people won’t see as a good potential employer.  However, what if the company or city turns around?  You can find an opportunity others ignored.  Such advice isn’t easy to follow because it requires thoughtful risk taking, a spirit DeGraf links to innovation.  This short post should be read by everyone who wants to move past looking for work and build a career.  It's advice is solid.

Posted: July 3, 2012
By: Clay Cerny

One of my clients moved to Chicago and started looking for work about 8 weeks ago.  Today she called to tell me that she landed a job.  How did she do it?

1.  She targeted the type of company she wanted to work for and made a list of those companies in Chicago.  At the same time, she networked whenever possible and checked job boards every couple of days.  She stayed active, focused.

2.  We wrote her resume to play up her ability and willingness to play more than one role.  It’s one thing to say, “I am a team player.”  It’s another thing to show how you can be one for you next employer.

3.  Once she started looking for a job, she didn’t stop.  Too many job seekers quit looking after a month.  Or they quit when they don’t hear from the job that “was perfect for me.”  Or they stop because they are interviewing with a company.  Simple advice: Don’t stop looking for a job until you have one.

4.  She knew when to say, “No.”  A network connection led to an interview soon after my client moved to Chicago.  The job only offered $9 an hour with no benefits.  She politely declined the offer and put her effort into finding the kind of job that fit her qualifications.

5.  She was flexible about the locations in which she would work.  The job my client took is a little longer commute than she wanted.  However, the job pays what she needs and offers a chance to move up.

Can everyone find a job in 8 weeks?  Of course not.  However, the more a job search is focused, disciplined, and persistent, the more likely it is that success will come quickly.  Know the market.  Know what you have to offer the market.  Go out and sell hard.  Don’t stop until you hear, “Yes.”