28
Jul
09

Throwing your resume over the wall

I was recently a part of a recruiting effort that resulted in many people contacting me about a position.  I received over 50 responses within three days for an unpaid opportunity. 

The differences among the responses were stark.  Here are some of the responses I received:

“Yes, I am interested.”  [no further text.  or attached resume.  seriously.]

“I’m probably not what you are looking for, but I’ve attached my resume anyway.”  [can’t wait to read it.] 

“I am very interested in this opportunity”  [and here is how I do not meet any of your most basic qualifications: …]

Do these people have any sense of their competition?  I received fantastically written e-mails, clearly and concisely laying out how they meet the stated qualifications, followed by a pitch on the additional value they bring to the table.

In a hot job market, a candidate may be able to get away without strategically marketing themselves, but today there is simply too much competition.  You can’t just throw your resume over the wall.  You must pitch yourself if you want consideration.

The New York Times posted a great article by Phyllis Korkki about how many candidates don’t hear back from companies, because there are so many “unqualified people clogging the system.”  The article recommends the following steps:

* Network through LinkedIn to get to the hiring manager

* Focusing on your personal network

* Expand your professional contacts

I gave similar advice just last week: first build your network infrastructure via LinkedIn, then strategically work your way through your list. 

And for goodness sake, include a compelling pitch.  If you communicate to a hiring manager that your resume isn’t worth reading, what do you think will happen?

—————————-

By the way, the only candidate so far who has been selected was not perfectly qualified.  She had, however, crafted a compelling pitch and was offered an alternative opportunity that was a great fit for her.

20
Jul
09

LinkedIn: don’t just join. Use it.

I know, you are probably on Facebook. (What do you mean, you aren’t on Facebook: the world’s biggest reunion party?)  And I know, Facebook seems more fun than LinkedIn.

But LinkedIn is an incredible app you should not only use, but maximize for professional networking success.

I first learned about LinkedIn back in 2003 at a networking seminar run by Dan Williams of The Networking Community.  I joined, but few other people I knew had joined.  So I was only able to link to a few people.  With a LinkedIn network of fewer than 20 people, I didn’t see the utility of the app, and stopped using it.

My mistake, and I’m now playing catch-up.  Over the past two months, I have grown my LinkedIn network from 44 contacts to over 100, simply by searching for former classmates (LinkedIn makes this very easy) and asking my Facebook friends to link to me.  Some of my contacts have over 500 LinkedIn contacts – they have done a better job than I have of using the program.  Again, I’m playing catch-up.

Why bother with this app?  First, it’s an easy way to keep track of people.  So many of our contacts switch jobs, move, change e-mail addresses… By linking to them, you automatically have access to their current information.  I wish this had existed when I was in the management training program at First Virginia Bank.  People were just starting to get personal e-mail accounts back then, and there was no automated way to keep track of people.  (We all had Rolodexes on our desks – remember those?)  There were 70 new trainees per year, and we all networked through Team FVB, the young managers association.  It could have been fertile ground for a career-long network.  But everyone went their separate ways, and for the most part, we lost track of each other.  This wouldn’t have happened had there been LinkedIn (provided, of course, that we used it).

LinkedIn functions as an online networking database.  You can mine it for information, surf it to find more of your contacts, and network for new opportunities. 

How much of the profile should I fill in? 

All of it.  Get out your updated resume (you have one, right?  one you maintain regularly in case an amazing opportunity comes up?).  Use it to fill in the Summary, Specialties, Experience and Education.  Don’t just list the names of the companies, go ahead and put in your bulleted accomplishments.  Other people are receiving job inquiries, business opportunities and more from people networking through LinkedIn.  Don’t let them have all the fun!

Should I include a photo? 

If you want to increase your contacts, you should.  When I am searching for former classmates or colleagues, it helps when I can see someone’s photo and confirm that I am contacting the right person.  Your photo should clearly show your face, and be as professional as possible.  This is not the place for an artful shot of your foot hanging out of a car window.

What is a L.I.O.N.?

The acronym stands for LinkedIn Open Networker.  This means the person is open to linking to anyone/everyone, even if there is no prior connection.  This really goes against the purpose of LinkedIn, which is to provide online links between people who actually know each other. 

Who should I invite to be a part of my network?

Anyone you actually know: colleagues, former colleagues, former classmates, anyone you know from activities, your friends and family.  Anyone you would consider to be a part of your network can and should be a part of your LinkedIn network.  LinkedIn makes it easy to add contacts by allowing you to upload your e-mail addresses or Outlook contact list and to search via classmate lists.

Tell me again why I should spend time on this.

1. The best time to network is before you actually need to network.  Get your contacts in place now and begin the process of reconnecting.  People are more receptive when you aren’t asking for a favor.  Then when the time comes and you need an answer, a contact, or a job, you will already have your infrastructure in place.

2. The job search landscape has changed in the past few years.  While recruiters are still networking face-to-face, they are also surfing and searching LinkedIn for prospects.  By making your profile complete and public, you essentially show them your resume.  If you are a fit, they can work to make a quick placement – which is a win for both of you. 

3. Check out About.com’s guide to job searching for LinkedIn success stories.

What else should I know?

Ask and give recommendations.  LinkedIn recommendations  provide a way to capture positive feedback for future job references.  This can be hard to reconstruct years later, so it is helpful to document it at the time. 

Here is my LinkedIn profile.  If you know me, please link to me once you’ve set up your profile. 

What has your experience been with LinkedIn?

14
Jul
09

Play the telephone game to test your networking prowess

Do you remember the telephone game from when you were a kid?  Everyone sat in a circle, and one kid made up something to say.  He whispered it in the ear of the kid next to him.  The message went all around the circle that way, and then the last kid would say what she heard.   It was almost always very different from the original message.

So how is it different when you network for your job search?  You mention to a former colleague that you are looking for a job.  Maybe you provide a few specifics.  What does this colleague remember weeks later, when they hear of an potential opening in your field?  Can they accurately relay to the decision maker why you would be a good fit?  Do they even remember enough about you to bring you up in conversation?

Take this networking test:

Talk to someone in your network – someone who is a good sport – and give your elevator pitch.  Have a nice chat.  Then ONE WEEK LATER, give that person a call.  Ask them to tell you what you are looking for.  What type of job, etc. 

What do they remember?  Is it accurate?  If not, you need to work out something shorter/more specific/more memorable.

Yesterday, I blogged about how many job seekers are networking in a passive way

The best way to use networking as a job search strategy is to provide your network with a clear, concise, memorable sound bite about yourself, and then ask for a couple of specific action steps.

So play the telephone game and test your pitch.  How did you do?

13
Jul
09

Oops! Are you a passive job searcher?

A brilliant blog post by Grace Kutney at Sweet Careers shows how typical approaches to a job search can be passive, rather than active. 

One example from her post:

 

E-mailing or mailing generic resumes to hundreds of employers
Why this is a passive approach: You’re waiting for an employer to read between the lines of your generic resume to figure out how you’re the perfect fit for their position.

 

In addition to her list, I add this one:

Notifying your network that you are looking for a job.  “So if you hear of anything, let me know.”

Anything?  anything at all?

Why this is a passive approach: You are expecting members of your network to ferret out your skill set and ideal job description, voluntarily relay your information to the right person, and come back to you with a job opening.

Better: Be specific with your network – what kind of a job are you looking for?  What functional area/industry?  Possible job titles?  What experience do you bring to the table?

Best: Ah, that’s for another post.

Stay with me this week – I’m back from vacation and on a roll!

13
Jul
09

Back from vacation and ready to work

I just returned from a wonderful week at a resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It was so good to get away, and I enjoyed seeing job search skills in action in alternative settings:

Industry: My littlest got busy – and stayed busy – moving the sand into the lake, and moving the water onto the beach.  The task was large, but she kept plugging!

Overcoming fears: My biggest pushed herself all week and  progressed from a fear of the water in her face to comfort in the deep water.

Unapologetic self-promotion: Vendors at the famer’s market clearly explained the value behind their grass-fed/organically grown/hand-made products.

Industry, overcoming fears, self-promotion: all critical in a successful job search.

There was, unfortunately, evidence of the recession all around.  My husband and I made last-minute reservations at the finest restaurant at the resort.  Not only did we get the time we requested (8 pm), but we only saw three other parties that night.  And lobster tail was no longer on the menu.

The spa could only accomodate requests made at least 24 hours in advance.  Not because they were busy – they didn’t have enough business to maintain a daily staff.

All in all, it was a great vacation for us – and much better than our last one (which occured two weeks after my husband was laid off, thanks to aformentioned recession – will blog about that later this week).  Here’s hoping that 2010’s resort trip will be even better – for everyone.

02
Jul
09

Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living – or at least, get the job

I created a bit of a stir on The Wall Street Journal Online, when I suggested that job seekers work their search like a job.  I had recommended that Monday-Thursday, a job seeker start the day at 9 a.m. and work on the job search until 5 p.m.  Then let it go for the night.  Take Friday off.  Take the whole weekend off.  Then get back in there on Monday morning.  (Btw, with an hour break for lunch, this totals 28 hours/week, not 40 as some mentioned).

Here are some of the comments:

Why do all of these people blather on about pretending looking for a job is like a 9 to 5 office job.  I’d be more willing to believe these stories and recommendations if any of them had the whiff of reality about them: like “it’s like a 9 to 5 job except you can start with a shot of booze, blow some reefer and blow and watch porn in another window (turn off the sound if any prospective employer calls).”

You absolutely can NOT sit at your desk for 8 hours a day and look for a job. It is not possible and is a sure ticket to insanity and depression … Any tips on how not to find the day gone with me still in my pjs, teeth unbrushed fruitlessly looking at stuff on the internet would be much appreciated!

I don’t agree with any notion that unemployment is a good time to enjoy life, smell the roses. Job hunt 9-5. Take time off on weekends. Job-hunting mode is sales mode (commission-only sales, to be exact): either land something or you and your family don’t eat. It’s a 24/7 endeavor that’s certainly not fun. But every hour in a day is a chance to send emails to prospects to fill your pipeline and go grab a suitable job. If you have the means to take it a little easier during the job hunt, then you’re lucky. I have a feeling, however, that for a lot of us there’s a greater sense of urgency.

I love how some people thought my recommendation was too harsh, and some thought it was too lazy.  And I do not recommend pot, porn, or gluing yourself to the computer as effective job searching techniques.

Here is my point: Your job search is a marathon, not a sprint.  You need to conserve your energy and refuel.  Hence my suggestion to take nights, weekends, and even Fridays off.  During that time, you should see friends and family, exercise, take a fun class, go on a field trip – whatever will recharge you.

But.  You cannot let each day slip away, while you occasionally post your resume to a job board.  Then at 9 p.m., you start feeling guilty that you should be working harder on your job search.  Then the next morning, you feel depressed and tired, and don’t want to get started until after Ellen comes on T.V.

Work your job search from 9 to 5.  Then feel good that you’ve worked hard and deserve a break – and take one.

What are your thoughts?  Let the debate continue…

29
Jun
09

If you are an MBA, have been laid off, and would like to blog for the Wall Street Journal…

Alina Dizik of the Wall Street Journal has asked me to send her some potential bloggers for the Laid Off and Looking blog. You would write two 500-600 word posts per month, chronicling your job search.

A number of their current bloggers have found work, so they need new folks. If you are interested, please e-mail me and I will provide you with the details.

Please contact me by Wednesday, July 1, as Alina is looking to fill the slots asap.

sara@sarakcollins.com




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