I was reading a local publication in which a job coach was giving people advice on when and how to use employer resources during a job search. My approach is different: Never use an employer-owned computer, tablet, or phone as part of your job search. In many states, including Illinois, an employer can fire you if it learns that you're looking for another job. Does that every happen? Rarely -- but it can happen. More likely, an employer who knows that you're looking for work would make your life miserable and try to make you quit.
What's the solution? Never use an employee-owned device for you job search. Purchase a computer and phone that you can use for private matters. Another reason to do this is ethical. Put yourself in the employer's place: How would you feel if an employee were using your devises and paying for service that lets you look for another employer? A final thing to think about, if you were terminated without notice, what would you do to keep your job search going. You'd have to buy a phone and computer. Start by doing that, and you'll have no worries about what your employer will do.
One of my clients called me to ask about her job search. Mary (not her real name) has not looked for work for more than 10 years. One source of her frustration was the time it took to fill out applications on line. Unfortunately, there are no short cuts if you wish to apply on line. I talked to Mary about budgeting her time and not trying to do too much in one day.
Mary was also doing something that hurt her chances of getting hired. I asked her to give me a sample of the jobs she was applying for. 70% were in line with the focus of her resume, which was administrative support. The problem was that 30% were for positions that Mary was not qualified for. She has done some work in meeting planning and editing, but neither of those functions has been her primary duty. When she applies for jobs in those areas, she wasting her time and increasing the frustration that is part of every job search.
We talked about how to keep her job search focused on the kinds of job for which she is most qualified. It’s hard enough to find a job. It gets much more difficult when we begin pitching resumes and applications at any job. After Mary focused her job search, she began getting called to interviews. After about a month, she had a new job.
Albert Einstein said: "Imagination is more important than knowledge."
This quotation made me think about the advice I give as a career coach. Knowledge is vital. As job seekers, we need to know our skills and strengths, our industries, and potential employers? But, to play with the famous words of Donald Rumsfeld: "How do we know what we don't know?" That's where imagination comes in. When we're stuck and don't know what else to do, that's a good time to start thinking about new ideas, time to get creative. Imagination lets us find new ways to approach employers, find job openings, and network more effectively.
Here's a simple way to engage your imaginative power. Take a blank page, give yourself 15 minutes of quiet time, and write down all the new ideas that come to your head. Don't worry about how the ideas sound or if you are using correct grammar. No one will see this page but you. Repeat this exercise whenever you get stuck. Sometimes you might end up with a blank page. That's part of the process, and you should not worry about it. If you let your mind wander and discover, it will lead you to new paths. That's how geniuses like Albert Einstein achieved wonders that no one had imagined before.
A client recently told me that he was checking several major job boards for openings. He asked what else he could do. I asked about networking, which he was doing. Then I asked if he was checking the websites of companies he wanted to work for. He wasn’t doing this. Can you assume that the company you want to work for is posting on job boards? Are you looking at the job boards where they are posting?
Checking company websites is also a good way to learn more about your industry. The more you know about your employment market, the easier it is to network and target the best employers. There is no magic trick that will let you find a good job. What work in your most recent job search probably won’t work in the next one. Try to find different ways to look for work. Better still, build the kind of knowledge about your industry that will let you manage a career.
How much time should you budget for a job search? Experts I believe in say a good rule of thumb is 3-6 months. That sounds like a lot of time to find a job, and, for many people who have bills, it is too long. What I recommend for those people is a two stage job search. First find a temporary or part-time job to provide income. That process can take a month or two, and it can involve doing the type of work you do not want to do. However, that job will be a bridge to the job you want. The second step is to manage your time so you can look for work while you are working. People with a job face the same dilemma. It is never easy to find a job. To be successful in finding the job you want, you need to put in the effort, focus, and time that is need to reach your goal.
Have a happy 4th of July.
One of my clients, let’s call her Jane, has recently had four rounds of interviews with a company she really wants to work for. The interview process has covered over a month, and in that time Jane has not applied for another job or done any networking. When I asked her why she’s been so passive, she said that she wants to put all her effort into getting the job she wants.
There’s one problem with Jane’s strategy: What if she doesn’t get the job? Every job search is different, but to get a job quickly, it’s important to stay focused and keep applying for new positions and networking. Jane has wasted over a month. If she doesn’t get the job she’s currently interviewing for, she will have to start her job search from scratch. It’s important to keep momentum going until you’ve received an offer you want to accept. Even if you are confident that a company is going to offer you a position, keep pursuing other opportunities. You have nothing to lose. You can always turn down interview. Better still, you might receive a better offer.
What if your plan to find a new job doesn’t work? Do you have a back up? If you’ve performed different kinds of work, take advantage of that experience and give yourself more opportunity. I’m currently working with a client who is therapist. He is also pursuing positions that take advantage of his skill as a manager. To give himself even more opportunity, he’s networking to explore positions in counseling and training. This smart job seeker has given himself a Plan B and a Plan C. Examine your career and try to develop plans to take advantage of skills that might let you pursue a different kind of work. In most cases, that means developing a second or third resume and cover to support your different types of job searches. It’s a little more work in preparing to look for work, but it can give you more opportunities and choices in finding a new employer.
Somebody called today to ask about my services. She said that she liked what she heard and that she would call me back sometime in January. I asked her an important question: Why wait? This is a great time to get ready for your job search and, better still, to get a head start on your competition.
If you wait three weeks to start your job search and then take another week to three weeks to finish your resume, you’ve just lost six weeks. Even with the good job news that came out today (unemployment at its lowest rate in 5 years), there is no guarantee that your job search will be easy or simple. In fact, I can almost guarantee that the opposite will be true even when you work hard and are consistent in your efforts. With few exceptions, every job search is difficult. Why wait to get started?
I was working with a client today who is applying for residency positions. He will apply to positions in Internal Medicine and Psychiatry. He asked me if he should apply to positions that combine both specialties. His concern was that he would have to write a third personal statement. I recommend that he take the time to do so. Anytime we can give ourselves another good option in a job search, it’s worth the time and effort.
Whenever you’re looking for a new job, ask yourself this question: What’s my plan B? Do I have a plan C? Most of my clients who are sales manager could also apply for positions as senior sales representatives. Many HR generalists have experience in one aspect of the field, such as training, that would let them apply for plan B positions. A store manager or assistant managers have knowledge of products and store operations. They could apply for positions as sales representatives who market to retail stores.
How can you improve your marketability? Volunteer at work. Ask to be put on teams and projects that will let you develop new skill sets. If you’re unemployed, seek training or certification in areas that will give you new options. For example, an accountant with a background in tax preparation might look more to auditing or develop skills needed to be a controller. Build on your existing skill set, but do so in a way that will let you apply to different kinds of jobs. Always have a plan B.
Clients will often call me and ask me about how they can use LinkedIn or work with a recruiter. After I ask a few questions, the truth usually comes out: They are reluctant to look for a job. I don’t mean this as a criticism. I know no one who wants to perform this task. Looking for work sucks, but it’s the only way for most people to find a new job.
When a job seeker relies on a headhunter or a LinkedIn profile to find her next employer, she is conducting a “passive job search.” A few people find a job using this method. Most people, however, have to take initiative to network and reply to job posts, which is call an “active job search.” Employers tend to look for employees only when they are high skilled or have an unusual skill. Otherwise, they expect job seekers to come to them through network contacts or by responding to job posts.
Technology has made our lives easier in every way. It has made finding a job slightly easier, and it has given us tools like LinkedIn that we can use to improve networking. That said, we still need to be proactive in finding employers and convincing them that we are qualified for the position they need. In most cases, the job won’t find you. You have to find it.
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