Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville, NC

March 2009

If you have a job, don't take it for granted and do all in your power to hold on to it. February was the worst job-loss month, yet. The number of people receiving unemployment benefits climbed to an all-time high, and new jobless claims hit levels not seen since the early 1980s. And worse: these numbers are expected to rise.

These grim statistics are impacting my work. While my training business is down, my coaching business is up. I am helping quite a number of people package, present, and promote themselves for the job market and re-vision their lives.

I feel their pain. I am writing a new e-book on job loss, researching conducting workshops around the region for laid-off professionals, and exploring other ways I can be of service to these men and women. My concern is even showing up in my art. Take a look at my new art work.

If you are out-of-work, know I am holding space for you. And if you aren't, remember those who are.

This month, we'll review the best strategies for seeking work. If you have a job, the chances are that you know people who don't. Consider forwarding this article to them.

Job Search Strategies

Even if you currently have a job, experts say the average worker under thirty-five will go job hunting every one to three years, and those over thirty-five will conduct a job search every five to eight years. Sometime soon you may be looking for a new job.

Some of the more popular strategies for seeking a new job include:

  • Answering newspaper and Internet want ads
  • Filling out job applications
  • Contacting employment agencies and headhunters
  • Utilizing school and employment services
  • Mailing resumes and posting resumes online
  • Networking
  • Contacting potential employers directly
  • Interviewing for information

Since most employers don't advertise job openings, and up to forty percent of all jobs are found through networking, networking and interviewing for information are the most successful strategies.

Begin a networking campaign by listing all your contacts. Your contacts include:

  • Past employers, coworkers, direct reports, suppliers, and salespeople
  • Friends
  • Your parents' friends and your friends' parents
  • Family members and neighbors
  • Community contacts in groups such as social clubs, sports teams, and civic organizations
  • Professional organizations
  • Former professors and alumni groups

In his book Monster Careers: Networking, Jeff Taylor reminds us that we each know approximately one hundred people with whom we are on a first-name basis, and each of these people knows another hundred people. "In a strictly academic sense, you're one referral away from ten thousand people," he writes.

Once you compile your list, commit to contacting a set number of people each week by e-mail. Most clients set a goal of e-mailing five people a week. Your e-mail should include the following:

  1. A description of the position you are seeking, including three items from your ideal job environment list.
  2. Your unique selling proposition (USP), or those three things that separate you from other job candidates.
  3. Two questions:
    1. Do you know of any openings that match my qualifications?
    2. Do you know of someone else who might know of such an opening?

You will want to follow up each e-mail with a phone call within a few days.

Interviewing for information is an excellent way to narrow down the type of job you are seeking; it also expands your existing network.

Your first step is to compose a list of organizations for whom you would like to work. Next, research the names, titles, and phone numbers of the persons whose jobs appeal to you. Call each and request fifteen minutes of his or her time. When asked if you are looking for work, focus the conversation on securing information. Say something like, "I will be looking for a job a little later, but for now I want to learn everything I can about the industry, the position, and your company." You'll be pleasantly surprised at how willing most people are to take a few minutes out of their busy day to help you.

Remember that your primary objective when you are interviewing for information is to learn. As such, your first duty is to listen. Ask these questions:

  1. How did you get started in the field?
  2. What attributes, skills, and education do you think one must possess to be successful in your field?
  3. What advice can you give me about my job search?
  4. Would you keep an eye out for me for any appropriate openings?
  5. Who else would you recommend that I talk to?

During the course of the interview, you'll want to share your unique selling proposition and no more than three criteria from your ideal work environment list. Your ideal work environment is that environment that encourages you to be your best. You may need to adjust your unique selling proposition depending on the person's responses.

Send a thank-you note to each person; in that note reinforce your unique selling proposition and provide a few details about the position you are seeking; also ask for his or her help in identifying suitable openings and referring you to other people with whom to talk.

Follow up with referrals right away—within twenty-four hours, if possible. Stay in touch with your expanded network throughout your job search. A phone call, e-mail, or handwritten note every six to eight weeks should be sufficient. When you do land a job, send a thank-you note to all those who helped you. In it, express your desire to return the favor.

Tip of the Week

Jerome Kagan, professor emeritus of psychology at Harvard, says that since the beginning of time we have sought ultra-confident leaders. “The public is uncertain,” he notes, “and they look to their leaders for certainty, for confidence. De Gaulle, Churchill, Roosevelt: In times of crisis, you want a person who appears to you to know exactly what he is doing. That’s not recent or American. That’s human.”