Job Search Tips from the Olympics

simoneJob search has more in common with the Olympic Games than you might think.

Both require a participant to do their best in a high-pressure, competitive situation. And every great athlete knows success is not due purely to physical prowess; mental preparation is huge.

A study of Olympic athletes has shown that four key mental skills were crucial in their success.

One: Positive Self-Talk.

Here’s an Olympic runner:

Immediately before the race I was thinking about trying to stay on that edge, just letting myself relax, and doing a lot of positive self-talk about what I was going to do. I just felt like we couldn’t do anything wrong. It was just up to us. I said, ‘There’s nothing that’s affecting us in a negative way, the only thing now is to do it, and we can do it . . . I just have to do my best.’

I’m sure Olympic athletes have unhelpful thoughts, too – the equivalent of a job seeker’s “I’m so awful at interviewing” or “I can’t call that hiring manager, I’ll make a fool of myself!” But they can’t afford to let those thoughts go undisputed – and neither can you.

Instead of kicking yourself when these thoughts occur, just kindly replace them with positive thoughts like “I’m working on my interviewing skills and getting better all the time” or “I’ll get ready for that call and I’ll make a good connection” or “I’m calling him five minutes from now and we’re having a great conversation.”

Two: Visualization (a.k.a. Creative Imagery or Mental Practice).

These athletes had very well developed imagery skills and used them daily. They used imagery to prepare themselves to get what they wanted out of training, to perfect skills within the training sessions, to make technical corrections, to imagine themselves being successful in competition, and to see themselves achieving their ultimate goal.

Visualization goes even further than positive statements. Saying to yourself “I’m calling the hiring manager and we’re having a good conversation” is good – and vividly imagining is even better.

For tips, see my article Mental Practice for Interviews.

Three: Setting Goals.

The best athletes had clear daily goals. They knew what they wanted to accomplish each day, each workout, each sequence or interval. They were determined to accomplish these goals and focused fully on doing so.

We all know determination is important. How can you be determined to accomplish something if you don’t know specifically what it is? The overall goal of “get a job” is a start, but you also need smaller goals that will get you there. Set objectives like “10 networking conversations this week” and apply your determination to those.

Four: Simulations.

The best athletes made extensive use of simulation training. They approached training runs, routines, plays, or scrimmages in practice as if they were at the competition.

Practice aloud for important phone calls. Do mock interviews. Be realistic, making sure your posture, facial expression and tone of voice are the same as they should be in the real situation. For interviews, do a dress rehearsal at some point.

Follow these four pointers in your job search and perform at the top of your game!

Messaging via LinkedIn: Be a Pal, Not a PITA!

Messaging via LinkedIn: Be a Pal, Not a PITA!Have you ever wanted to send a message to a LinkedIn member you don’t know?

The ways to do this – and there are several – aren’t immediately obvious. That may be a good thing, perhaps limiting how often we hear from Strangers with Potentially Annoying Messages (SPAM).

(No, that’s not *really* the origin of the word “spam.”)

Who is this LinkedIn member you don’t know, but want to know? If you’re looking for a new job, he may be someone who is highly knowledgeable about your field and/or the companies in it. If you’re looking for new clients/customers, he may be a prospect, or someone with whom you could have a mutual referral relationship.

Rather than call this person your “target” – because we don’t want to be aggressive here – I’m going to call him your Prospective Professional Acquaintance through LinkedIn (PPAL).

Be a pal, not a PITA (Pain In The Anatomy). Be courteous. Make it clear what you have in common  and why they might find it interesting to be in contact with you.

Here are four methods.

Message the person through a group.

If your PPAL belongs to any groups you belong to you can message them through that group unless they have switched this capability off in their Settings. If you’re not a member of the group, why not join? You can always leave the group later if it doesn’t suit you.

Here’s how to message a fellow group member:

  • Click Interests at the top of your home page and select Groups.
  • Click the group’s name.
  • Click the Members tab.
  • Use the group’s Search box to find the person’s name in the list.
  • Click the Send Message link.
  • Write your message and click Send Message.

Send an InMail.

Little-known fact: You don’t need to upgrade your membership to send an InMail! You can simply send a single InMail message for $10.

  • Go to Privacy and Settings (by clicking your little thumbnail photo in the upper right corner of the screen).
  • In the “Inmails” box (top row, near center), click Purchase.

Invite her to join your network.

Go to the PPAL’s profile and click Connect. You can include a very brief message in your invitation. Of course, if she accepts, you can then message her freely.

In the form that opens next, you’ll be asked how you know her. The options are:



We’ve done business together




I don’t know (name)

(The “Groups” option will not appear if you have no groups in common with her.)

Remember: Your PPAL is not your Friend (at least, not yet)! If you click “Friend” and you’re actually a stranger, this is likely to annoy her. If she rejects your request by clicking “I don’t know this person,” you may be restricted by LinkedIn, which is not a pleasant experience.

Ask to be introduced.

This method involves asking someone for a favor. Use your judgment in determining whether it’s appropriate.

Do you see a “2nd” or “3rd” icon near the target person’s name? (Look for it in the upper right corner of the “snapshot” portion of the person’s profile, which is the white box where their name and photo appears.) If so, you can proceed as follows.

  • Click the drop-down arrow next to the Send InMail button in the snapshot.
  • Select Get Introduced.
  • Follow the instructions. Read carefully, for example where it states “may get forwarded to (name of PPAL).” You are potentially writing to both people at once here!

A note about requesting introductions through a third-degree connection – somebody who knows somebody else, who in turn knows your PPAL: Obviously you have less chance of success here, and a not-insignificant chance of being perceived as a PITA. Use this feature with great care – or not at all!

For screenshots related to some of the above techniques, here’s a useful post on the Tech for Luddites blog.

More Easy Ways to Build Your Target Companies List

More Easy Ways to Build Your Target Companies ListIn last week’s post I shared two easy ways to build your target companies list – a powerful tool for a proactive job search – by using LinkedIn.

In this post I’ll share two more methods from The 2-Hour Job Search by Steve Dalton. These methods use (1) and (2) news sources related to your occupation or industry.

With your target companies list you can go after opportunity in a proactive, strategic way that gets better and faster results than applying to online job postings.

Time Management Alert: Avoid getting overwhelmed or wasting time. Commit to spending only 10 minutes on each method. You may be surprised what you can accomplish in a few minutes if you stay on task. (You may want to set a timer!)

Do a quick Indeed search to find employers of interest.

Using Indeed’s advanced search feature, type a few keywords into the box labeled “With all of these words.” Include the location where you want to work.

Example: MBA marketing “san francisco”

Now, instead of getting sidetracked into reading and applying to the postings (along with the hundreds of other job seekers who are applying to them today), just skim the list for companies that are not yet on your companies list and find 5-10 companies of interest that aren’t already on your list. Add them. Stop, and move on to the next method.

Time Management Alert: If you see an opening you want to apply to, do it later. First, stay on task with the more proactive, strategic approach we’re talking about here. (If you’re not sure why applying to these online jobs shouldn’t be your top priority right now, read my article “How People Get Jobs.”)

Next method: Look for companies while reading news and trends about your field.

What websites or trade publications do you read for news about your profession and/or industry? Spend 10 minutes looking through this material with an eye open for companies that are doing interesting things. Add those companies to your list.

This method may yield fewer companies than the other methods, but the companies may be especially interesting, trend-setting ones – so don’t skip this step!

Have you got at least 40-50 companies yet? If not, no worries, simply repeat one of the steps in this article or the previous one – whichever method worked best for you – until you reach that target.

A word about information management:

What you’re developing here is a personalized database of your target job market and contacts within it. You’re going to need to organize all this to use it effectively. So do use some kind of contact management software. There is actually a product that is designed specifically for job seekers, called JibberJobber. It’s all web-based, so there’s nothing to purchase or download, and you can use it for free unless you want the premier features. I’m quite familiar with it and I recommend it to my clients.

What’s next?

Dalton’s book goes on to describe his techniques for filtering and using your companies list, and I may share that in a future post. Prioritize your list and use it to network your way towards your new job. If you haven’t already read my post “Networking With a Marketing Plan” this would be a good time to check it out.

Ultimately, what you’re accomplishing with these methods is to become known to insiders in companies where your next job is waiting to open up. That way you’re positioned to get that wonderful phone call saying “We thought you might be interested in an opportunity…”

Networking Is *Not* Bothering Your Friends

Networking is NOT "Bothering Your Friends"I’m going to tell you a secret. I dislike reading job search books.

Nevertheless, I’m enjoying Highly Effective Networking: Meet the Right People and Get a Great Job by Orville Pierson, and not just because it’s well written and has an encouraging tone.

This book does a great job of dispelling the myths that making your networking a loss less enjoyable and effective than it could be – or stopping you from even doing it.

In job search networking, the one most important thing is to make everyone you talk to comfortable. Why? If they’re not comfortable, nothing will happen … If they’re not comfortable, you’re not comfortable.

Isn’t that awesome? It seems there’s actually a way networking can be comfortable.

Another big stumbling block for many of us is that we don’t want to bother people. We don’t want to impose.

Here’s what Pierson says to that:

“Don’t forget to look at it from the other person’s point of view. If you were a friend of mine and had something important happening – like a job search, maybe – and you didn’t include me, I’d wonder if we were really friends. If I heard from others about it, rather than from you, I might actually be offended.

“Now … it’s also true that you need to help your friends help. They probably don’t know much about a highly effective job search. Most people don’t. Everyone thinks of ‘job openings’ or ‘who’s hiring.’ Then they feel helpless and unable to assist you because they don’t know much in either of those categories. When they’re uncomfortable, the discussion becomes awkward.

“Don’t let that happen. … Help them help you.”

How do you learn to “help them help you”? Read the book. Or, for a quicker introduction right now, read my article “Networking with a Marketing Plan.” 

I’ve been coaching my clients in networking approaches very similar to those of Pierson and LHH. I actually worked for LHH for a year in 2008, right after I was laid off from my last corporate job at the beginning of the Great Recession. I never met Orville, but I taught job-search classes that he probably designed, and I saw how well it worked for those clients.

As one of my own private clients wrote more recently,

Thea’s approach put my contacts and me at ease.

If you’d like customized, one-on-one assistance in setting up networking habits and activities that will help you get a great job sooner, I’m here to help.

And you don’t have to “bother” anybody!