The process of finding of job is in itself, a full-time job.
It takes determination, hard work and no small amount of discipline, just as a regular full-time position requires. Therein lies one of the biggest challenges for many job seekers.
Some of the elements of a successful job search — networking, cold-calling and self promotion — are skills normally associated with a sales position. Many executives find them uncomfortably foreign to their experience or comfort level. The bad news is that you cannot escape the reality that it is precisely those skills that will determine how quickly you succeed in your quest for a new position.
Put another way, a job candidate I know once told me he was envious of my job. He had been laid off three times over a five-year period through no fault of his own; bad timing and some bad luck led to his career turmoil. “I wish I could do what you do,” he said with no small amount of exasperation in his voice. “You actually help people get jobs. I think that is wonderful.” I couldn’t help but laugh because my friend failed to realize the painful reality that goes with any job like mine — whether you are a partner in a search, audit or consulting firm, a lawyer, investment banker or any number of businesses, we are all looking for work every day.
Even those of us who are experienced in the art of finding work can struggle at times like anyone else. For example, I am a terrible cold-caller. I would rather sit back and wait for people to come to me. But even with all my blogging, the weekly podcast and my video series and a sizable LinkedIn network, I still have to do that which I do not like to do — pick up the phone and call someone, or attempt to get through the barriers of switchboard operators and executive assistants to hopefully connect for a few moments with a potential client. Some days the rejection or simply being ignored is frustrating and if I am not careful, the pain of being ignored can cause me to break from the discipline of my calling routine. This can be disastrous because that break can derail my company’s lifeline, finding work.
Sometimes we use terms like business development or being a “rainmaker,” but at the end of the day being successful requires discipline — doing it every day without fail.
So, in the end, the secret to finding a job is not that much of a secret.
Here are some hints to make the process a little easier:
Be disciplined. When you are doing the kind of work which is not part of your normal routine it is easy to become distracted or to find excuses about why today is not the right day to do this or that. The truth is the fear of rejection takes no holiday so unless you like staying home all the time while your friends hold productive jobs that are advancing their lives, you need to be disciplined and get busy.
Build a strong network of relevant contacts. Unless you work the network you develop you will not accrue any benefit from the relationships. LinkedIn is a tool, not a solution. The more visible you are with your networking in terms of posting and commenting — the more engaging your online persona — the more likely you are to connect with people who will take your calls, and you can use the LinkedIn InMail feature to approach targets for your cold calls. LinkedIn allows you to leverage your time because you can do this initial “contacting” at night or weekends.
Call the people who can advance your goal. For me that goal is finding new business. I am also looking for candidates, but without new work (read; finding a job) there is no reason to be in business. There are a lot of people I know who I can call each day and enjoy the conversation but they are usually not the people who can help me find new work. That group are usually people I do not know as well. So, back to the cold-calling issue.
Do your homework, add value. You do not want your first call to the contact to be the last one he or she takes. There are two important must-dos: be prepared and add value. Do your homework on the organization and the person you are calling but be careful how you use that information. Do not use it to impress, use it to succeed. Adding value does not mean you have to offer them something. It could mean that you ask good questions about their market or organization and what they see as their biggest challenge and human capital needs, now and in the future. Always offer to help them with their own networking for talent or other industry information as you complete the call. Always be mindful of your contact’s time constraints.
Develop a routine. This is where the discipline comes in. You must discipline yourself to do each one of those things you do not care to do, every day. Every night I plan for tomorrow. I make a list of people I should “cold call.” I set aside time for that activity, blocking my schedule to ensure that I stay disciplined.