Seven Things Job Seekers are Doing Right
"There are too many don'ts, and not enough do's out there. Who are the experts that can tell the public what to do, rather than what not to do? Getting a LinkedIn account isn't a solution. I'm assuming the career space wants you to pay for the answers, which is why DON'T articles are free?"
One issue with "here's what to do" articles is that they seem cliche, general and vague. Many times they seem like they're written by someone who has never been through a real, or a difficult, job search. An article written for the masses might not apply to someone at a certain level, in a certain region, or in a certain industry or profession. Here is a list of "do's" that I've seen work:
1. Get out of the house.
As a job seeker it isn't easy to get up when you want and sit around all day. Seriously, if you watched five movies in one day, no one would really know, or they might not care (you need a day off, right?). Yet I have seen job seekers keep a tight schedule, just like they did when they had a boss and time clock. Get up, shower, get dressed (shoes and all), even if you are home for the day. But try to get out of the house to meet with other human beings -- whether you go to a network meeting, meet someone for lunch or just work in the library or at an office park for a few hours.
-- Are you applying for jobs? Find out what they pay.
2. Help others.
I see many job seekers volunteer at the local networking clubs. They might be spending time with someone at lunch, sharing what they've learned and helping keep depression away. They give job leads to others and make important networking introductions. Whether the good karma will be rewarded with a job offer down the road or not, I can't say. But the feelings you get when you turn your focus from your woes to helping others is powerful, and much needed during your job search.
3. Network with a purpose.
Scott Allen recently wrote brilliant blog, titled "It's Time to Practice a Little Selfish Networking," about how too many people network, give and help without having a "selfish" purpose. He's not saying you should only be selfish, but warns not to lose yourself as you do the fun, easy part of networking. When you meet with people, know what your purpose is. You'll be asked, "how can I help you?" and you should be able to respond with something more than, "I don't know, but I'll let you know when I do." If nothing else, ask for introductions to people who work at any of your top three target companies.
4. Follow up with contacts.
Keith Ferrazzi wrote a post about how to be better than 95 percent of your "competition." I'm not suggesting that you consider job seekers your competition, although I know it feels like that sometimes. His point was that all you need to do is follow up. You already know that, right? But can you tell me about the last five or 10 follow-ups that you did in the last few weeks? Too many times we focus on getting more contacts, meeting more people, and seeing how they can help us. Successful networkers, and successful job seekers, are following up with their contacts and taking the relationship to a deeper place. It is then, when you get beyond superficial, that the contact can trust you with some key introductions. But you have to get there, and follow-up is the key.
-- Explore new career options and what they pay.
5. Ask for help.
Have you ever been asked "How's your job search?" How do you respond? Too many job seekers respond in a way that shuts the conversation down. "Fine." "It's going OK." Responses like that don't help me know how I can help you, and if you go into detail about how you aren't getting anywhere, I've turned into a quasi-therapist (at best) or you've completely turned me off (at worst). Try asking for help in a professional way, like this: "It's going OK. I'm trying to network into a few companies -- do you know anyone at Company One, Company Two or Company Three?" Now you are asking a yes/no question, and if the answer is yes you can ask for an introduction. Much easier, much more effective, and you are helping them help you!
6. Maintain a positive attitude.
The job search, and this economy, is not fun for anyone. I know that, you know that, everyone knows that. If you are depressed, you aren't alone. If your self-confidence has taken a major blow, you aren't alone. If you've never experienced as much humiliation, you aren't alone. But you must maintain a positive attitude. Why? Because I don't want to introduce you to my key contacts if I think you are not going to be able to take that introduction and move forward. I don't want to risk those relationships if I think you might tell them how horrible things are. Not getting any network leads? This might be why.
7. Explore new options.
I wrote a blog post that suggested some alternatives to your job search if things weren't going well. I suggested you could go back to school, or change industries, and someone wrote back saying that was not an option for 99 percent of the people. Perhaps it isn't, but many people are facing some tough decisions after being out of work for more than a year. These choices might include changing careers, changing industries, starting businesses, buying into franchises, downsizing salary expectations, changing lifestyle, etc. Change isn't fun -- but sometimes we don't have many other choices. Perhaps your greener grass is in a totally different field?