by Laura Levine Labovich
Every job-seeker needs a strategy; it is the foundation of any effective job search. In our lives, we build planning, strategy and training into the fabric of the American dream. We embark on driver’s education, before we are awarded a license; we draft (or hire someone else to draft) a blueprint before we build a house; and we scope out, identify and select a wedding planner to help make our big day so special. So, why, then, are we haphazard with something as important as our livelihood? I believe it comes down to the simple fact that we don’t know that there is a better way; a more effective way. We’ve never been told that there is, in fact, driver’s education for job search.
In the morning we are ambitious. We spend our days applying for jobs online: logging onto our computer, sifting through job boards, sending out resumes, and waiting (and waiting and waiting) for that perfect job to come to us! We hit the send button, as if it were the holy grail, and we hope for the best. It is a stressful, frustrating and wholly ineffective process. But, honestly, what other option do we have?
Before I share with you why chasing job openings is futile (and how to target companies instead), I’ll let the statistics tell the story.
- 85 percent of jobs are never posted in the first place. These jobs that are never posted are what experts like to call the hidden job market. [Editor’s note: See our article, Is the Hidden Job Market a Myth?.]
- The unpublicized job market means that when we use the one approach of applying to jobs that are already open, we are only posting to 15 percent of the total “opportunities” that are available. And many of us spend 60, 80, 100 percent of our time doing so.
- Only 2 percent to 4 percent of job-seekers who apply for a job online actually get a job from an online posting. Staggering, but true.
The bottom line is this: chasing job openings and focusing on “who’s hiring” is futile. These posted jobs are going to candidates who are known already. Candidates who got there before you did!
These candidates who arrived there first are called insiders; they researched the company and met with key folks on the inside, before there was an opening.
And they did so with a blueprint.
Anatomy of a Job Target
You may be thinking, so how do I get there first? (I’m glad you asked)!
You target. And, here’s how:
One job target includes three things:
- A specific geographic area (City, County, State, etc.).
- Specific industry or organization size.
- Job function/title.
A job target must include ALL three.
A few examples may include:
- A Marketing Manager, in the DC-metro area, focused on Healthcare.
- A Communications Specialist in Anaheim, CA focused on Publishing.
- An Administrative Assistant, 15 miles “from my house” in Non-Profit.
Once you have selected your target, it is essential to quickly follow it up with a target company list. Head to the library or research on the Internet and begin to uncover some companies that “wow” you, impress you, or get good press. This list is not exhaustive; it’s a starting point. Now, include at least 40 companies, write them all down on paper (they do no good in your head), and you’ll be well on your way.
This list is what many call a Personal Marketing Plan (PMP), and it is useful in lieu of a resume. Try this: next time you are at a networking event, BBQ or with anyone to whom you would consider handing your resume, show them this PMP instead, and ask him or her: “Could you briefly look over this list and see if you know anyone in any of these companies?” Then boldly ask for an introduction. If he or she offers to send your resume to the referral person, kindly thank him or her, and say: “May I ask you for his/her contact information? I’d love to follow up after he/she’s had a chance to review it.”
Identify the Influencers
Once you have your PMP built, aim to get meetings with people inside these companies. Your goal is to identify people at the right level at which to hire you, and network with them in advance of an opening. Work to establish a connection and cultivate a meaningful relationship. Tap into Linkedin.com connections, professional association memberships, colleagues, neighbors, friends, among others.
When you get in contact with a decision-maker at the right level, simply ask for a bit of their time (no job exists right now, so he or she is less likely to be overwhelmed with resumes and more likely to meet with you). Here’s a good start: “I know there’s no job right now, but I’m really interested in your company. I really believe I’d like to work here in the future, and I hope you would have just a couple of minutes to speak to me.”
Final Thoughts on Job-Search Success
Don’t detour. Keep working your list, making meetings, and sharing information with people on the inside. If you conduct your job search with a strategy, by scheduling meetings at your target companies with rigor and laser-focus, you will find that — before you know it — you will become an insider at your companies. Then, when there is an opening, you will find yourself as the known candidate who is tapped in advance of an opening.
Which (as it turns out) is a whole lot more effective than hitting send and praying for the best!
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
This article is part of Job Action Day 2010.
Laura Labovich is a job-search, career coach, and seasoned HR professional with more than 15 years of experience in HR at Fortune 100 companies, including Flagship companies such as Walt Disney World and AOL Time Warner. As president of Aspire! Empower! Laura provides customized career and job-search coaching services to individuals and groups nationwide. She specializes in helping her clients create customized and effective job-search marketing plans that help them increase momentum and achieve breakthrough results.
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