By Sam Aruti
Recently I wrote an article in this space entitled What to Do in the First Hundred Days, which described how you should approach a new job. Some of the feedback I received indicated that I missed an important point in that article: “What did you do before you got hired?” Here are some tips I picked up “on the job.”
For one reason or another you’ve decided to leave your current employer without having another job. You already know this isn’t a good idea but then sometimes it is the only choice. So, you are now unemployed or, as we unemployed like to say, “in transition” (the English language makes harsh things sound so much better). As nice as transition sounds, this really is an ugly place for most of us. The market today is better than it was during the dotcom bust as there are more jobs available, but as you will soon see it is just as hard to find one for yourself. With all the available talent in the market, hiring managers are being very specific about their “must- have requirements,” if you don’t have one or two of the nine requisite skills in most cases your paperwork won’t get to the hiring manager. By the way, rejected is another one of those harsh words, so some recruiters will just ignore you so they can avoid using it.
Getting Started Is Easy as 1-2-3-4
- Refresh your resume by making it current and relevant and then cutting it back to the obligatory two pages; relevance is more important than bulk. It is also important to make sure it is readable by anyone who reads it while making sure it also has lots of acronyms (ERP, CRM, etc.) so that resume scanners select it. If your TLA (Three Letter Acronym) is specific to the company you left, don’t use it, nobody will know what it means.
- Create a cover letter that can be used as a master. The best cover letter is one that has been customized for the job you are applying for and addresses what the hiring manager is looking for.
- Distribute your resume to all the folks in your network. This is the time to dig deep into your little black book and tell everyone you know that you are looking for work. Yes, everyone, including family, friends, neighbors, work associates (go back as far as you can in your work history), recruiters, anyone you can think of. Now is not the time to be embarrassed or shy. It is a proven fact that the majority of jobs are filled by word of mouth.
- Proactively wait.
Proactive waiting is where you aggressively work the process. It’s not enough to just publish a resume and hope it gets found. You have to think about this process as your primary job. You need to put in the same time, energy and effort for this process as you would for any other job. This is truly an entrepreneurial process and you are in charge of getting it done.
Job boards (Monster, Dice, etc.) are good and getting better. Some of the recruiters I’ve spoken to are starting to use them more aggressively. Your job is to learn how to use them. Their value in this process is to allow you to publish your resume, get more exposure, find some great tools (self-help white papers, salary and cost of living calculators, etc.). Reviewing the postings will give you a sense of what the market is looking for, such as locations that are hot and industries that are hiring. An important point to remember is that the boards are only one resource at your disposal; they are not the only one.
Some of the “tricks” in this process are:
- Refresh your resume every Friday
- Have a ZIP code in the location where you are looking for a job
- Be specific in describing your skills/attributes
Recruiters who use job sites create search rules such as show me all people who have posted a resume within the last week and/or live within X miles of the job location and have some specified set of key words in their profile. From the search results a recruiter will pick 5 or 10 of the most interesting candidates to call.
Networking is going to be the key to your success. As much fun as spending hours searching the job boards can be, networking is really what you need to focus on. Research and targeting can work but if the company you want isn’t hiring, you’re out of luck. That is, unless you find someone who knows you, likes what you have to offer and is at the right level to get you in the front door.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines networking as the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups or institutions. Assuming you told everyone you know that you are out of work it is now time to start joining groups and/or organizations. The purpose of joining is to introduce yourself to even more people. Don’t limit yourself to organizations that focus on your background and skills; you never know where or when you will meet someone who will help you either directly or indirectly. Some of the technology based groups I’ve joined in my search are TENG (Technology Executives Networking Group), AITP (Association of IT Professionals) and The Executive Round Table (part of Career Connections). Also look for local groups that have a social or volunteer component and have speakers and/or presentations. You are probably wondering, why join organizations that are not related to my field? If you are like me, a senior level IT person, then you are either going to work for a ‘C’ level person, or be one, so you need to meet people at that level or meet people who know people at that level. Think about this, the idea for my last article came from a speech I heard at one of the social groups I belong to.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, he goes into detail about how little things can make a big difference. An example he uses to find someone without actually knowing them shows exactly why you need to shout from the tallest buildings that you are unemployed and looking for work. The “six degrees of separation” concept will be a very beneficial tool. Check out www.linkedin.com for a real-life implementation.
You’ll know the hunt is over when you get promoted from “in transition” to “employed.” How long will the hunt last, hard to say, but you are the person who will make it happen. Let me leave you with three thoughts: Schmooze, stay focused and trust your instincts. Good luck!
Sam Aruti has held several positions, from system administrator to managing director, in the financial services sector over the last 20 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.