Career Advice Tuesday – The Job Search

September 14, 2010

Dear Lee & Mike,

About 5 months ago, I became the victim of a bad economy and had a “career incident”.

Since then, I’ve applied to a huge number of jobs, but never heard back from any of them.

Do you have any advice on making my job search more successful?


Disgruntled And Tired


If there’s one word that fits the most successful job seekers in troubled times, it’s “tenacity”.   I hate to say it, but that’s a quality that sounds (from your email) like it could be dialed up a little bit.

I (Mike) remember the dot-com boom in the Bay Area in the late 90s and early 2000s.  In those times (and even some of the good times afterward), getting a job (not necessarily a good one, but a job) was relatively easy – go online (Craigslist, Monster, Dice, etc.), and spam your resume out to 15-20 jobs per week.  Because there were so many people hiring and so few people, you were pretty much guaranteed an interview.  And, if you could prove even a modicum of capability, you were likely to get hired for something.

As you’ve noticed, times have changed.

These days, companies who post jobs online are generally the exception, not the rule.  Because there are so many extremely qualified candidates out there, hiring managers often have a handful of quality, good candidates in mind before the job even comes available.  There are significantly more good people than there are good jobs, so the jobs don’t ever have to be posted to the “mass hiring” locations.  Sure, some HR departments and body-shop type recruiters still use the online mechanisms (especially for entry-level or low-paying jobs), but the market for experienced and high-level jobs rarely sees itself open to the job boards that allow you to (as you say) “apply”.

The key in this economy is simple: a large majority of the “good” jobs are being hired through people directly.  Whether that means knowing a lot of hiring manager type people, having relationships with good recruiters (like Lee or our friend Jeff Combs) or just through knowing a lot of smart and interesting people who hear about things, you need to get out there and in contact with the people who are influencing.

Here’s the rub: this is going to be a lot of hard work.  You’re going to need to send out emails to everyone you can think of.  Contact everyone on your LinkedIn list directly.  Phone everyone you can think of.  Pick up the phone and reach out to recruiters and the heads of your local professional networks (e.g. OWASP, ISSA).  You’re going to need to work the phone and email like a pro for hours and hours per day.

And, with a lot of work and a lot of calls, you’ll find what you’re looking for.  Eventually.  People will respond.

A story of a friend of mine should illustrate how this works: she lost her job two weeks ago when her company decided to axe her entire department on a Friday afternoon.  She took the weekend and ranted and raved and was angry and hurt and upset.  And then, on Monday morning, she threw herself into a job search with ferocity.  She called all of her former managers, mentors and executives that she had ever worked for to reconnect, mention that she was looking, and see what they had heard about.  She called every reputable recruiter in her industry and shared her story and her qualifications.  She sent emails to reconnect with old colleagues.  She started setting up lunch meetings with people she knows to be influencers in her local area.

She started two Mondays ago.  As of today, she’s had 3 first interviews and is on her third interview with one of the companies that she found.

If she had just been “applying to jobs” online, she’d likely be sitting at home with no results.

Follow her lead.  Get out there.  And if you have questions on how to do it, ask us.

Hoping for some tenacity,

Mike & Lee

Posted by mmurray | Filed Under Career Advice Tuesday 


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