The GREAT JOB SOONER Blog

Job Search in Summer – Keep It Going!

Job Search in SummerMemorial Day is past, and many job seekers are easing off the job search accelerator and slowing down, thinking summer isn’t the right time of year to look for a new job.

Actually, there are several very good reasons to put your search on cruise control instead of downshifting.

While there may be fewer openings, there are also fewer people competing for them. So it’s easier to stand out.

Plant seeds in May and June to harvest a job in fall – or sooner! Yes, the pace of life in many offices accelerates in fall, and many recruiters work hard during the summer filling the candidate pipeline so they can have new people in place before they’re needed. Hiring processes take time – longer than they used to, in many cases.

Your job search efforts also take time: planning your strategy, polishing your communications, researching prospective employers and getting on their radar screen ahead of time through networking and informational interviews.

You wouldn’t plant tomatoes a few weeks before you want to pick them. The same goes for getting a new job. Seed your visibility in the right places. Feed your job search with the business intelligence you gather from informational interviews and networking. Prepare and cultivate now so you can harvest interviews and offers later – or sooner!

Activities to work on now:

Prepare good, concise, upbeat answers to key questions like “What do you do?” “What happened to your job?” and “What are you looking for now?”

Be ready to capitalize on summer networking opportunities like barbecues and parties. Avoid asking people if they know of any openings. The answer to that question is usually short and sad: “No, sorry, I don’t.”

Instead, mention what you do, what you’re looking for, and a few companies you’ve got your eye on. This gives them the opportunity to mention that they have a friend who works there, or used to, or is a vendor or competitor.

If you’re lucky, the conversation may go like this:

Guy at Party: “So, what do you do?”

You: “I’m in marketing. Right now I’m looking for a director-level position in a large Bay Area food or beverage company like Clif Bar, Peet’s, Ghirardelli or Jamba Juice – something like that.”

Him: “Oh, my friend Cheryl used to work in the Ghirardelli corporate office, although now she’s at See’s in South San Francisco. I could introduce you to her. They’re not hiring, though.”

You: “Well that’s perfect, actually, I’d love to talk with her about her experiences in both of those companies. If you’d like to introduce me, that would be great! Thanks so much!”

Take advantage of the more relaxed pace to line up coffee dates and informational interviews.

Get some exercise. It’s easy to get discouraged if you’re between jobs or unhappy in your current job. Exercise helps keep your mood upbeat and your energy level high.

Plan some time off, but otherwise commit to a steady schedule. Even if you’re employed and can only spend a couple hours on the weekend, make commitments to yourself and keep them. Buddy up with a friend, or join a job search club like one of the California EDD’s Experience Unlimited groups. Find sources of structure and accountability.

If your resume and LinkedIn profile aren’t the best they can be, now is the time to get them in shape. If you need help, realize that good resume writers / career coaches are often unavailable on short notice, especially during their busy season, August through October. Shop around now so you can choose a pro on the basis of quality and rapport, not short-notice availability or quick turnaround.

The same goes for interview preparation. An interview is like an exam where an “A” is worth thousands of dollars. Don’t just cram at the last minute. Read books and/or get coaching well ahead of time, so a “pop quiz” (a phone screening) won’t catch you unprepared.

Don’t buy into myths and excuses. The truth is, a great new job offer can come at any time of year.

Job-hunt in December! Here’s Why.

Job-hunt in December! Here's Why.Contrary to popular belief, December is a really smart time to work on finding a new job, for several reasons.

First and foremost, there’s less competition. Recruiter survey data cited by Monster.com show that although hiring may be at lower levels in most industries, “recruiters are determined to fill the year’s remaining openings by December 31, and the supply of applicants dwindles as Christmas and the new year approach.”

Meanwhile, there are unique networking opportunities as holiday socializing provides natural occasions to reconnect and meet people.

While the holidays may be an extra-busy time for some, for others there are lulls. A coffee date or informational interview may be more do-able than usual. Even if your invitation or request is turned down, you’ve reminded someone of your existence right before January and February, two of the busiest hiring months of the year.

To jump in January, get ready in December. Prepare to respond quickly to opportunities by improving your resume and online presence (especially LinkedIn), preparing a list of SOAR stories and polishing your interview skills.

This is also a great time to make a list of companies you’d like to work for, prepare a personal marketing plan and launch a proactive campaign to gather inside information and contacts before positions open up.

Finally, if you’re planning to seek assistance from a resume writer / career coach, decide who you want to work with and schedule time with that person. Calling a career coach in January is like calling a tax person in April; they may be too busy to help you on short notice.

Whatever you do for your career in December, give yourself a big pat on the back for being wise, diligent – and ready to land a new job. It may be the best Christmas present you can give yourself!

Afraid to Make a Career Change?

Afraid to make a career change?Are you hanging onto a job you don’t like, because you’re afraid of looking for a better one?

Why is it that the fear of change so often trumps the desire for fulfillment?

Human beings have a built-in tendency to be anxious and risk-averse – what  neuropsychologist and author Rick Hanson calls the “negativity bias.”

“The nervous system has been evolving for 600 million years, from ancient jellyfish to modern humans,” wrote Hanson.

Our ancestors had to make a critical decision many times a day: approach a reward or avoid a hazard — pursue a carrot or duck a stick.

Those “sticks” were potentially fatal: dangerous wild animals, physical attacks from competitors, starvation. The “carrots” were rewards like food, socializing and sex. (Still popular after all these years!)

So a risk-averse caveman might fail to take a risk at killing a mammoth one day, but live to hunt again the next day. While a too-daring caveman might just die young.

You can see how evolution favored risk-averse people.

do we really need to be that fearful now? In terms of looking for a new job, we may be terrified of rejection, failure, stress, disruption – but these problems are survivable.

Fear is very unpleasant, and there are ways to decrease it, for example by working to change the beliefs that are making us fearful. But some fear will probably persist, so we also need to learn to live with it.

The key is, we can choose not to let it rule us. We can start doing whatever it is we would do if we weren’t afraid.

Feel the fear but take action anyway.

Make a plan, take steps toward your goal (even “baby steps”!), and find sources of support – a buddy, a good self-help book, a career coach. Do it even if you don’t feel confident.

Your mind is going to worry and fear, in a misguided effort to protect you. There’s no need to get angry about that. In fact, appreciate your mind for wanting to protect you.

Fear doesn’t have to stop you. Start doing what you really want to do.

Getting a Job: How Long Will It Take?

Getting a Job: How Long Will It Take?There’s a common rule of thumb among career coaches that finding a job takes one month for every $10K of salary. Now, let’s talk about the real question

What can you do to make it happen as soon as possible?

The answer is: Spend your time and effort on activities that have been shown to work. I could write a book about what works – and how we waste time – but for many job seekers the most crucial factor is job boards versus networking.

Don’t be a slave to the job boards.

I am not saying you shouldn’t reply to suitable openings you find online. But only about 20% of jobs come from this activity, so why spend more than 20% of your time on it?

(And if you’re going to do it, be efficient: Set up saved searches on a meta-searching site like Indeed and have the results emailed to you. And don’t waste time and energy replying to jobs that aren’t a strong fit.)

Solve your networking issues.

Most job offers come about through networking. If the mere mention of networking makes you want to throw up your hands – or just throw up! – identify what the problem is and seek a solution. Don’t decide “It’s not for me.”

Networking is not just for extroverts. You can learn to do it well. You can even enjoy it. Get really curious and analytical about the subject of how you can become a solid networker. Read my three-part series on networking, for an approach that may transform your experience. Here’s the first installment.

Balance your networking and online job search, and you can celebrate a big step you’ve taken toward getting a great job sooner.

Find a Job after a Gap in Employment

Finding a Job After a Gap in EmploymentIf you haven’t worked in a while, it can be hard to convince employers that you’re ready and able to jump back in.

It seems odd and unfair that employers question the “employability” of someone who has been out of work for a couple of years, or even six months.

Don’t they understand that “life happens”?

Well, gaps in employment are more common since the start of the recession, so employers are somewhat less inclined these days to imagine negative reasons for the gap. However, it’s still true that most prefer candidates who are currently employed, or who have only been unemployed a few months or less.

Constantly on guard against costly bad hires, employers can be a little paranoid. Warning: I’m about to tell you what their fears are. I’m not saying this is what I believe about you, the person reading this! These are perceptions that you need to be aware of.

Negative Perceptions of the Long-Unemployed

Employers may be worried that the candidate…

  • …has been passed up by other employers for good reasons;
  • …may be depressed or bitter;
  • …may have a mental or physical illness or drug problem that will interfere with work;
  • …is “too old” and would lack energy or not relate well to younger customers and co-workers;
  • …is unmotivated;
  • …is “rusty” in their skills and workplace knowledge, requiring a steep learning curve if hired.

Furthermore, returning from a gap often involves a change in career path, and employers may doubt whether the candidate is really committed to the position they’re trying to fill.

What Can You Do About It?

You can counteract these possible perceptions. To present an image of being highly capable, committed, healthy, positive, motivated and up to date you must both make it so and make it show.

Positive Perceptions: Make It So

If you aren’t positive, capable, etc., it’s hard to seem like you are! You may need to polish up your skills through training, an internship, or free-lancing. Build health and a vital appearance through exercise. Find ways to work through any emotional issues you may have about the hard knocks you’ve experienced.

Make It Show

Prepare strategically crafted communications – your resume, your online presence, your elevator intro, your interview messaging – to counteract employers’ worries.

Be thorough, from your email signature to your LinkedIn photo. Prepare answers to common questions like “Why have you been out of work so long?” (Tip: Keep your answer very brief, upbeat and future-focused.) Find and correct any weak links in the image you’re conveying.

If your career is taking a new direction, prove your commitment to that path by enrolling in a course or taking free seminars / tutorials, doing pro bono work and/or joining the relevant professional association. Add these items to your resume.

Smart Tactics

Realize that your big opportunity will probably not come about through applying to a job you found online. Networking is especially essential for those with gaps, since the online application process favors people with “ideal” work histories. If you feel some uncertainty or distaste toward networking, you may want to try a different approach to networking.

Many people who read this article will think “Hmm, some good ideas here,” and maybe act on a few of those ideas, but not others. They will be blocked by obstacles or feelings of overwhelm. They will do a halfway-effective job search, cross their fingers and hope. They may get a job, but it may take a long time and it may not be as good a job as they could have gotten.

If you are thorough and dedicated in researching, designing and implementing a smart job search campaign, you will be miles ahead of the job seeker whose approach is “halfway & hope.”

You will run into obstacles. Be curious about them. Search for solutions. Find sources of help. Use your head and your heart. Impress yourself by working smarter than you ever have before.

And congratulate yourself for setting up the conditions for success.

Find a Job Online: Beyond Monster & Craigslist

find a job, get a job, internet job searchSearching for jobs online is not the be-all and end-all of job search, but it has its place, so you want to know how to do it right.

Even if you’re not yet ready to apply, it’s wise to start looking at postings ahead of time. (See my post “Job Postings: Better Uses for Them” for many reasons why.)

Here are some tips on setting up an efficient online job search:

Search many sites at once.

Metasearch engines or “content aggregators” like Indeed and/or SimplyHired search thousands of other sites – including big job boards like Monster and CareerBuilder as well as major specialty boards like the high-tech site Dice – and bring the results all together in one place. For a metasearch of companies’ own career pages, you can use Linkup (not to be confused with LinkedIn, the very useful professional networking site).

Fill in the gaps.

The aggregators may not do it all. If you have your eye on specific companies, you may want to check their websites individually just in case Linkup doesn’t cover them. Company websites are important because some jobs here may not be found elsewhere, since companies don’t always want to spend the money to post on job boards.

Note that our old friend Craigslist does not allow content aggregators to access its job postings, so if you want to search Craigslist you have to do it directly.

Use “advanced search.”

Try setting up several advanced searches based on different combinations to keywords and criteria and see which searches get the best results; later you can delete the ones that are returning irrelevant results.

Get the search results emailed to you.

Many sites have this option, which makes it harder to procrastinate or forget to check for job openings. One email per day (from each of your saved searches) may be best if you’re very busy or just don’t want to be overwhelmed. On the other hand, some prefer to get each post as soon as it appears. It is often true that “the early bird gets the worm,” although the urgency is usually in terms of days, not hours.

Now what?

Soon you’ll be seeing more postings than you know what to do with. Subscribe to this blog for smart tips on how to use the information!

Why Many Job Openings Are *Not* Online

A large proportion of job openings are never advertised online. This is true at all levels and across most industries.

hidden job marketThese unadvertised jobs are often known as the “hidden job market.” To access these opportunities you need to be known to an insider, either by chance or by making yourself known – through networking.

Why would an employer not advertise a job?

1)    It’s expensive. No company wants to spend money unnecessarily.

2)    It brings in an overwhelming flood of applicants. This is time-consuming for employers.

3)    People naturally prefer to hire someone they feel they know and trust. A candidate with whom they’re already acquainted (e.g., through networking), or who is referred, seems like a “safe bet” compared to hiring a stranger who answered an ad.

4)    The opening may be confidential for various reasons. The employer may be preparing to replace an underperformer who is still on the job, or may be concerned about revealing a planned business expansion to competitors and the media.

5)    The job is still in the pipeline. A lady I know found an excellent job by cold-calling an employer who, as it turned out, needed to hire someone – but hadn’t yet gotten around to doing anything about it. From the employer’s point of view, this candidate appeared out of nowhere just when they needed her. She had virtually no competition.

In all of these cases, networking can position you to get an interview before the job is ever announced.

If the word “networking” evokes a shudder of dread, images of shaking numerous strangers’ hands at boring events, and memories of being told “Sorry, I don’t know of any openings” – please check out my Networking Jumpstart package.

Even “natural networkers” will find that they can improve their approach and pave the way for getting phone calls like this:

Are you still available? Because there’s something opening up, although we haven’t posted it …