Starting A Job Hunt

I am starting a new series of posts on news and advice for both job seekers and employers.  This has been a hot topic for me for a long time, and my continued unemployment has made it even hotter.  I am involved with several unemployment support and networking groups, most notably WIND Networking (who I highly recommend).  I have studied job hunting like a science, and have learned many lessons from my own process, and from listening to others.  I don’t claim any special training in this area, but I have studied it for a long time, and what I do works well for me.  I have also been on both sides of the fence (interviewing and hiring others as well).  Since this topic is important to me, I added a new category (Employment) for these articles.  You can read all posts related to employment at this URL.

Years ago I had a series of pages on my old website about job hunting, but when I started porting it over to my new website, I found some of the information dated.  I will certainly copy over some of the content, but I think posting articles on topics will be more helpful than creating static pages again.  Please send me any and all comments and ideas for future articles.  Some articles I have already planned are preparing for a technical interview. time management, and establishing a presence online.

This article is on starting your job hunt.  There are several steps you should take once you “have gained increased daytime freedom”.  I cannot stress enough, though, that much of this you should be thinking about before you lose your job.  I will be driving that point on several of these suggestions.

Start your record keeping system

It’s essential to track all your correspondences, networking events, and job applications.

  • It will help you build a list of target companies, and when you last checked their list of openings, and when to check again
  • It will help you track which companies already have your resume.  A company that already has your resume will not talk to another recruiter, even if it was originally sent for a different position.  That really aggravates recruiters and the target company
  • Your unemployment office may ask you for these records to prove you’re actually looking for work.  In MA, if you’re on Extended Benefits, it’s an actual requirement
  • When you get that garbled message from a recruiter on your voice mail updating you on a position, you’ll be able to figure out who it was
  • If you include the job description in these records (asI do) you will be better able to talk about them when the recruiter or employer calls

I suggest doing this first, because some of the information you’ll record will be hard to remember later.  I will admit to taking this record keeping to the extreme.  I have a whole format standard I use, so macros in my editor can list every job I’ve applied for and and optionally all subsequent activity.  I have the text of every job description I’ve applied to (and the original URL), records of phone calls with companies and recruiters, and every time I attend a networking group.  When I do get an interview (even a phone tech screen), I record everything I learn in a separate file with the company name and date in the filename.

Figure out what you’re looking for

You will rarely get what you want if you don’t know what it is.  Most people know pretty much what they want to do, but it helps to have it written down and well-defined.  It also help to make sure you are using the most popular (and modern) words that everyone else is.  Here’s a trick I love: Indeed.com has a trend graphing service that lets you type in keywords and graph the frequency of those terms in their job ads.  It even lets you type in different terms and graph their frequency in job ads so you can compare them.  You can use this to find the right job titles or names of technologies, or choose which technologies are more in demand.

I recently learned of another technique for finding target organizations and markets: Don’t just focus on what skills you have, also focus on what problems you can solve, then identify companies and markets that may have those pain points.  This may lead to a very different set of targets that straight skills.

When assessing your skills, don’t forget your soft skills.  If you happen to speak multiple languages, then think about companies that market internationally.  If you’re a Software Engineer but you can speak to non-technical people well, that’s in demand, especially for implementation positions.  If you’re a hyper-organized person like myself, consider positions that also have a bit of project management in them, or “unofficial management” positions that manage others unofficially.

Develop your marketing material

That starts with your resume.  You will hear a lot of conflicting advice on resumes, in part because different people need different kinds of resumes.  Technical people generally have longer resumes that include a list of hard skills at the top, and a long list of jobs they’ve been laid off from 🙁  Sales and marketing people generally have a resume with a section listing their success stories.  You get the idea.  But if you’ve been working for more than a decade, do not believe the people that say you must have a one-page resume.  Yes, you only have about 20-30 seconds to get them interested in the top of your resume. but there’s no reason not to give them more selling points to get them hooked.  I expect I will expand more on technical resumes in a later post.

A very useful tool is to have a file with text about yourself and your skills, separate paragraphs for different markets and job types you’re targeting, and your elevator pitch. Once you have this clipbook of quotes, you will be amazed how much quicker it is to apply to new jobs online.  All you have to do is grab whichever finely tuned paragraphs you’ve already written and put them in the email or web form.  It turns a 20 minute process into a 5 minute process, and reduces the likelihood of typos.

Notify your network

The more people who know you’re looking for a job, and exactly what you’re looking for, the more opportunities will just fall in your lap.  Update your status (and your bio!  Don’t forget that!) on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Groups, and Google Groups.  If you have a collection of recruiters you trust, bring them up to speed.  Don’t forget your social mailing lists!  Let your friends know, because they know you and care about you.  When you spread the word, others can send you leads on openings, people they know in your target companies, and encouragement.  Since this is a way of job hunting when you’re not doing anything at all, it’s very important.  Employers search LinkedIn and other social networking sites, so let them sell you.  Fill in a detailed profile.  Get past co-workers and managers to add recommendations for you.

Why do I suggest doing this after all the previous things, when it’s so important?  Because you need to know what you’re looking for and have your message polished before you send it out.  First impressions are key.

What?  You say you’re not active on LinkedIn or other social networks  (and by active, I mean not only having an account, but linking to people you know well, joining relevant groups, and following questions in the forums)?  This is the most essential thing to be doing all the time, not just when you’re looking for a job.  I cannot stress this enough.  So if you don’t, then first invent a time machine.

A word on Twitter: I have been a Twitter holdout.  I could not think of a worse waste of time than keeping track of what restaurant my friend went to last night, or telling all my friends how I was going to go shoe shopping yesterday but I had a headache.  I was recently convinced at the Meetup Opportunity network group to use Twitter as a means of tracking industry leaders and getting instant news updates.  80% of the people I track on Twitter are involved with the open source community, Agile practices, news sources like Boston Globe or Wired, or institutions like MIT and Harvard.  I do send tweets too, but not that much.  Things I come across, retweeting others’ tweets, and other things I think might be interesting to the people I want to track.  It’s another way of spreading the word.  Free advertising, if you will.

Start leads flowing towards you

Get computers working for you, too.  All of the job search sites let you set up search engines that will email you daily with matches.  You can also set up multiple searches with different keywords and criteria.

If you can, set up your mail system to deliver these emails to a separate folder, or identify them somehow.  Make sure to keep an eye on your spam filters to make sure you get them.  The follow-up is just as important.  If you don’t follow up on these emails, though, they won’t do any good.

Expand your network

The best way to expand your network is by getting together with other people who are also looking for work.  This may be counterintuitive, but everyone is looking for something slightly different, and they’re wading through all sorts of leads that aren’t right for them, but may be for you.  These groups can help you with every other suggestion on this page, including honing your resume, identifying target markets, and perfecting your elevator pitch.  There are networking groups all over the country.  Some focus more on entrepreneurs, some on technical people, but many are for all unemployed people.

Remember when you’re there to be explicit in what you’re looking for.  Also remember that networks are two way.  You cannot expect to get a lot of help if you don’t also try to help others.  So when you swap business cards with someone, write on the back of it what they’re looking for, so if you see it you can let them know.  Pay it forward, because everyone wins when employers and job seekers unite.

Just as important is that it gives you a reason to get out of the house.  It’s very easy to sit in your room and not talk to anyone, but that is the path to negativity.

Smile

Job hunting can be mighty depressing.  Be diligent in your search, but remember to stop every now and then and laugh at funny pictures.  I’ll talk about this in future posts, but keeping upbeat is very important when interviewing, and will help you keep going until you get one.

If you like this article, please comment.  If you don’t like this article, please comment.  And please follow posts related to this topic at this URL.

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2 comments

  1. David,
    Thank you for a well-written, informative piece! You’ve outlined the basic, yet critical components of a successful job search. Thanks especially for your points on resume writing: (1) Length is not the guiding factor – relevance is, along with a dose of effective layout; (2) Think creative marketing – one size does not fit all. One’s resume needs to highlight core skills and accomplishments and have enough detailed information to form a picture in the reader’s mind. As you’ve said, industry-specific and occupation-specific knowledge guides your choice of format and key words.

    I look forward to reading other articles.
    Stephanie Legatos
    Career Counselor & Coach / Certified Professional Resume Writer
    That’s So You! Color / Wardrobe Consultant

  2. Very informative and topical. Will keep it handy as some useful tips all along. Nice attention to detail. Overall meticulous work.

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