5 steps to looking for a better job: There are dozens of macro or micro steps … this is what I would say is most important to people when we finish 2021.
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When I say ‘better job search’, I really mean to end your job search and win a job.
When I was on my failed and miserable job search in 2006, I remember thinking “I do not want to learn all this stuff of job search and networking … I just want a job!” Of course, you have to learn, and do, some of it, but I was not interested in reading hundreds of pages of books to tell me how to be looking for a better job. I thought that if I did that it would take me at least half a year to study, but I would not get what I really needed: a job!
With that in mind, I want to share 5 steps to better job search, finishing your job search and getting a job. The first is…
Finish your job search with a strong network
This is the first of 5 steps to finding a better job: creating networks … I get it. You probably do not like it. I hated it. And honestly, that sounds so clichéd. Networking has been a well-known tactic for decades. While many aspects of job search, and how you find a job, have changed, the idea that you might find your job because of someone you know, or someone who knows you, has not changed. I keep hearing people talk about getting a job through referral, dating or just old-fashioned and good networking.
I said I hate networking in my job search. That was before I really understood what networking was. I thought I must go to networking events, shake hands a lot and come back with a lot of business cards. It felt very superficial. It felt fake. I can go out with dozens of new contacts but … so what? Usually nothing happened, except for my pile of business cards in my top desk drawer growing. If anything, it got me out of the house, but that was not my goal. My goal was to find a job, and if I was online, I wanted my network to help. That would not have happened.
Eventually I learned that networking should not be in big frames with a lot of people. I can network one on one. I loved these meetings, usually during a meal, because I could spend a lot of time with the person and really have deep conversations. When I finally realized it was also networking, I was in heaven networking. I was looking for people to have meetings with … in the lobby, in a restaurant or in a conversation. Today, because of the epidemic and the massive transition to work from home, we can easily have time with people sharing a screen … the comfort is incredible. Literally.
I invite you to move forward from the bad feelings and ideas of networking and understand what effective networking means to you. It can all be virtual, on social media and via emails, or it can be on the phone, or you can try it out in person. Whatever works for you, do it. But do not neglect this first step, which is to build and cultivate a strong network.
Accelerate job search results with a strong personal brand
I guess because we’ve finished 1/5 with this century, and we’re so high-tech, I need not convince you that personal branding is real and powerful. Since 1997 we have heard about it (before that it was called “Reputation” or “Reputation Management”). Companies and personal branding consultants have sprung up, and professionals have begun to realize that indeed, personal branding is important.
Personal branding is easy. To have a personal brand you just have to do … nothing. Honestly, do nothing and you will have a brand. Everyone has a brand! Now, you may not have the personal brand you want to have. If you want to have a certain type of brand, or convey certain messages, then you have some work to do. I’m talking about it, and specific tactics, with me Personal branding course on Pluralsight. The cool thing is that like networking, you can (and should) work on your personal brand before, during and after your job search.
This is something that should always be worked on. You can let him skate for months here and there, and pick him up when it really matters, or you can spend a few minutes each day or week and work on your brand. Again, check My course To get tactics you can work on.
You have a brand. Is that what you want it to be? Can you even say what it is? I hope you can say what you want it to be, but is that what others will say? Until you are sure of the answers to these questions, and are comfortable with it, I would say you have some work to do.
3. Accelerate your job search with information interviews
Since 2006 I have been trying to figure out what might be the money ball for a job search. For years I could not understand it. The job search is so simple and so complex. “You should” or “everyone gets a job this way” tips were too general. It did not take into account how a job search for a nurse is different than for a treasurer than for a programmer. General advice did not take into account a small city versus a rural city versus a large city versus another country.
As I presented mine Career Management 2.0 Presentation (which became no Pluralsight course, here) Around the world I would talk about networks and branding … and start talking about Information interviews. I would ask an audience how many of them used information interviews in their job search strategy and maybe five or ten percent gave up. I would ask if it works for them and maybe, just maybe one person will say yes. Then, I output (unplanned):
“If I had started looking for a job today, I would have spent 95% of my time in information interviews.”
This is a very strong statement. It shocked me when I said that. I stopped to think about it, during that presentation, and came to the conclusion, since, I would spend almost all of my time in an information interview strategy. It does not mean all my time in information interviews, but all the things that go into an effective information interview strategy, such as:
- Identifying companies and teams I wanted to connect with
- Finding names of people to talk to
- Investigate these people
- Get in touch with these people
- Prepare for each interview with specific and relevant conversation points
- 20-minute information interview
- Tracking each person (maybe several times)
- Continue introductions from each interview
- Following again … I can not stress this enough
These are the steps you need in any network strategy. Informative interviews make your network more focused, more purposeful. The more you do, and get closer to the companies and teams you want to work for, the more laser focus you get. This is why I call information interviews “creating networks on steroids”. It’s networking on a whole different level. And this is something you should definitely do. Look at my … PluralSite Information Interview Course To learn more, then start working.
4. Keep your eyes (and ears) wide open during your job search
I love learning from others. My mom tells me when I was a baby, I would sit there sucking and sucking and watching my big brother in the crazy stuff of the big brother … I would just watch. I would watch him do things and then watch my mom’s reactions, and learn from it.
As a job seeker you must observe. Listen to opportunities, listen to problems. Look who is recruiting for what. Keep up to date on issues in the industries you follow or want to work on to understand what is happening now that may be affecting opportunities. Listen to hints from people you connect with about who else you should talk to, which companies / organizations should get on your radar, maybe who you should stay away from, or other roles that might interest you.
Listen and observe and a new world may open up. When you learn about someone you need to talk to, ask for an introduction. As you learn about new organizations or opportunities, research, learn, and then follow this new information.
In 2006, in my job search Big Fat Failed, I was looking for general manager positions or business analyst (others, I know, but I looked at smaller companies as well as massive organizations). I’ve never heard of a product manager who turned out to be my dream job. Once I came across this (which was on a job board) I was able to narrow down my job search and focus on a job that was better for me. I was able to focus better on my network efforts. I was also much more enthusiastic than I was looking for.
Your job search may lead you to a very different path than you planned. The goal, however, is to achieve the job of your dreams. The journey there may vary depending on what you learn along the way. Enable this flexibility as you gather new intelligence.
5. Find the job of your dreams by helping others finish their job search
This is the last of the 5 steps to finding a better job, but it is no less important than the others.
This post is pretty heavy on the net. Much of what I talked about is network related. Let’s stick with this issue. Maybe this’s why 85% (or whatever the number you read recently, I saw different numbers) of jobs are through networking.
One of the most enjoyable experiences I had in my job search was getting really close to winning the job and then referring someone else. That someone else was much more suitable, and the job offer I was about to get was not perfect for me. I met and managed to finish this guy’s job search – he got the job!
I do not suggest you take your offers, or your best prospects, and deliver them all. This is just one experience I had that was rewarding. Not only did I feel great when I helped this guy finish his job search, I contacted him where he felt he really wanted to help me.
At the beginning of my job search in my Big Fat Failed, in 2006, I went to networking meetings with the intention of “getting”. My goals included getting a certain number of new contacts. When I left I would measure my success based on the number of new contacts. It was not fun, nor was it effective.
But something has changed. One day I realized I needed to give. And so I went to those networking events and wondered how to give to others. I gave introductions, I gave advice, I gave support and hope. I tried my best to make connections … when someone said he wanted to talk to a designer, I would make an acquaintance. If anyone wanted information about a company, and I knew someone in that company, I would make an acquaintance.
Job seekers should be network people, and if that is the case then you should be rich in acquaintances. I understand you give them when you trust others, but do not think that because you have no income you have nothing to give. Focus on giving and build relationships of grateful people that can pay off for years, maybe even decades.
So this is … these are 5 steps to looking for a better job. I think if you take one of these steps, at any level, you will have more fun in your job search. You do not have to feel alone, or lonely. Bring others in, let them help you, you help them, and it may be a fun part of your career instead of a period you wish would not happen.