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Job Search Tips: What I Should Have Done In The First 30 Days

August 5th, 2008

When I got laid off I thought I’d land pretty quickly.  I was an experienced professional with strong IT, strategy, business and customer relationship skills, and excited about life and business.

I didn’t know that the job search would kick my butt, and my ego would dwindle as the days/weeks went by.

Even though I had not ever been in a job search, I thought I knew what I was doing.  My strategy looked like this:

  1. Get resume ready, and pass it by trusted friends who would be able to critique it.
  2. Post resume on key job boards, including Monster, Careerbuilder and Dice.
  3. Apply to jobs I found online from various sources (job boards, company sites, etc.).
  4. Send resumes to recruiters, who would surely love me, help me, and bend over backwards to put a paycheck back in my hands (couldn’t let the 3.5 kids starve now, could they?).
  5. Ignore the concept of networking, since it would take too much time, and I would have an offer pretty soon.  Um, yeah.  I was that dumb.
  6. Prepare for interviews by reading articles about how to interview.  After all, I was going to have a lot of interviews coming up soon, and I wanted to be as sharp as a whip.
  7. Figure out how to do salary negotiation. This needed to be a step forward, not a step backwards.
  8. Figure out how to accept a job offering, while turning down at least three others.  How could I let the other three down easily?

I was ready to conquer the world.  Or at least get a great job that I’d love, hopefully as much as I loved my last job.  Well, my job search sucked, and I spent wasted 60 hours each week for months – mostly applying to jobs online.  Want to know where that got me?  Further unemployed.

I have some friends who recently got laid off, and thought “what would I suggest to you?  What do you do in the first 30 days in a job search?”  This is such a critical time.  So here’s what I would suggest:

  1. Get your resume ready. Find a way to scape up a few hundred dollars and get a competent, well-respected resume writer to do it for you.  During the resume-writing process you should learn some new phrases to help you in your interviewing, and networking.  If you can’t get the money (I realize there are some who read my blog with tens of thousands of dollars available to them, and others who don’t have one red cent left, and no family or support group), go to a library (or bookstore) and read through resume books.  Or, for $9.95 buy the resume book I recently reviewed by master resume writer Louise Kursmark.  MY RESUME LOOKED GOOD, BUT IT KEPT ME OUT OF JOB INTERVIEWS! I am confident a resume professional would have been able to help me figure that out BEFORE I applied to dozens and dozens and dozens of postings.
  2. Find someone to be accountable to. I learned about the importance of this from a network group I went to, where they emphasized your “coach” is NOT your spouse (who is too close to the emotional situation).  But you need to find someone to be accountable to on a weekly basis.  This person should be strong enough to lay down the smack if you need it (you probably will).  They should not be nut-cases who don’t understand the job search, especially the importance of networking.  If you can afford it, consider one of my career partners who will not only be accountable, but will guide you based on best-practices and CURRENT job search and career management information.
  3. Understand your finances. One of the first things we did, and it was very scary and humbling to do this, was to talk finances with our parents (both sets) and our local church leader.  We got some temporary help, and we were able to really understand our financial status, what we could/should cut, and how long we could go at the rate we were going.  You HAVE TO do this. Is it scary to talk to those who can help you?  Very.  Heck, I got too much schooling, and had great titles, and made good money… talking to someone about supporting MY family was not easy at all.  But it was very helpful, both financially and for my nerves.
  4. Learn about the relationship you have with recruiters. I thought recruiters would be the silver bullet in my job search.  I was WRONG.  They don’t work for me, they work for the hiring company, and get paid if they make a placement.  If they don’t have something that fits me, they MOVE ON fast.  I put too many eggs in that basket without understanding what I was doing.
  5. Understand the value of job boards. Yes, post your resume there, but don’t overdo it, and don’t spend too much time there.  An eye-opener for me was when I learned that about 10ish % of all jobs were placed through job boards (this stat is widely argued), so WHY spend more than 10ish% of my time on job boards???  I was spending 90+% of my time there, neglecting what I should have been doing.  Consider getting job search agents set up, so you don’t even have to go search for the job openings, and doing “competitive intelligence research” to learn what you can about target companies or industry happenings.
  6. Network, in person. You cannot ignore the power of in-person networking, and should not avoid this.  You should get out every day – find networking events to go to, and invite people to breakfast, lunch or “coffee.”  Read Never Eat Alone to understand the power of networking… this was the book that changed my entire attitude, especially when networking with other job seekers.
  7. Network, online.  Of all the tools you can network on online, I’ll suggest getting on LinkedIn first.  Grow your network with people in your space (profession, industry and geography).  Figure out how to network with them (which is too involved for this post).  Then, look for relevant Yahoo or Google Groups to join, again, in your space.
  8. Get prepared for a potentially long search, and a long time without an income. When I lost my job my dad wisely commented “I’ll expect you to be out of work for at least six months.”  I thought NO WAY.  I was too good to be out of work for that long.  Since then I’ve met professionals and executives who have been out of work for up to two years… at least a handful for more than two years.  As you settle in to this phase in your career, you need to adjust your mindset.  Remain optimistic but realistic or else you’ll find yourself with financial and emotional problems that compound the issues.
  9. Kiss your spouse and kids. This is stressful for you, right?  Humiliating?  Scary?  It is equally as stressful for your family.  A few months into our job search someone asked my wife how I was doing.  She said “I don’t know.  We don’t talk much anymore.”  That really hit me hard… I didn’t realize that our communication all-but-stopped.  She was trying to be strong for me, and I was trying to be strong for her, and we just didn’t have much to say during this time.  What a waste of time – take advantage of this time to communicate about important matters.  And realize your kids are going to wonder what the heck is going on, and perhaps have to fend of rumors from neighborhood friends (like “your dad got fired!”).
  10. JibberJobber. If you showed me JibberJobber at the beginning of my job search I would have said phooey!  I wasn’t going to need it for more than a few weeks, right?  WRONG.  The job search went longer than expected.  More importantly, as you use JibberJobber you enter information that will be critical in your next job search… helping you get a jump start on that next transition (not a pleasant thought, but hey, we’re all adults here – it’s time to be serious about your future transitions).  The amount of information to keep track of, and the potential for missing appointments, opportunities and followup, is just too much… you really need to get a real tool to help manage your job search – this is it. If you are serious, consider the optional upgrade.

I’m sure I’m missing stuff, and this is much more “JOB SEARCH” oriented than “CAREER MANAGEMENT” oriented.  What would you add or suggest?

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26 Responses to “Job Search Tips: What I Should Have Done In The First 30 Days”

  1. Thanks for posting the article, was certainly a great read!

  2. Sabrina says:

    Jason – another post that hits the nail on the head. You must have a multi-pronged approach – don’t put all of your efforts into one area. Treat your search like what it is – a full time job! Get serious! No one is going to do the work for you – besides, who knows you and what you can do better than you. You are not alone – talk to people.
    Don’t take it personally when you get a no – as a matter of fact, you want to get to the NO as soon as possible. You can then move on and not waste your time. When you get a no – don’t act like a petulant child and fight it – you leave a very bad impression.
    Smile (a real one!!) – it is amazing how your emotions come through when you talk, make sure what they hear is positive!! Help others so they can help you – the old saying what goes around comes around is true!! The right position will come along – make sure you can see it when it does. The title might not be what you thought – but a rose by any other name stills smells sweet!
    Thanks!!

  3. The only thing I could add here is “talk to people, talk to people, talk to people.”

    Oh, and by “talk”, I really mean Listen.

  4. I always advise active job seekers of two key things:

    1. Network into your next position – “who do you know at ABC company” to get your foot in the door

    AND

    2. Read the JibberJobber blog and use the CRM tool. There is a ton of VALUABLE advice on the blog and the best part is that it’s FREE.

    Thanks for yet another awesome post Jason! I wish my husband had followed your advice when he embarked on his 15 month job search.

  5. Great post Jason. You are spot on. I especially enjoy the personal points (finances, family, etc.) I would have added the emotional impact that you put so eloquently in your blog about depression. Looking for a job is painful, demoralizing, and an utter drudgery. We are all driven to achieve something tangible, and for some reason “landing that great job” doesn’t feel as good as getting a product sold, a happy client, etc.

    The other thing I would add in addition to online networking is starting a blog. Its something to be accountable for in your field (need to post a few times a week), and will keep you sharp in your area of expertise. I am about to do just this … I’ve just taken my time researching it. Just read a good book called “ProBlogger” (based on the popular site) which has great tips and is an invaluable reference.

    I am working with Deb Dib and recommend her highly. She’s done wonders to my resume (online and physical … check out http://www.linkedin.comi/in/mbeckford to see what she did for mine.)

    And yes, networking is key. My challenge is I have to network worldwide (I want to relocate to the SF Bay Area or Asia preferably). You really need to rely on phones as well.

  6. Devin Thorpe says:

    Jason,

    This is your best post ever.

    ddt

  7. One more thing to add … I have just started to read Never Eat Alone and I can tell it will be great. Another pretty good one is The Go-Giver. It is similar to the concept of Generosity brought up in Never Eat Alone. Basically, give more to your network than you get from it. As a job seeker, this is actually quite hard and sometimes impossible. But it changes the way you think and its amazing how creative you can be. For example, an ex-manager who is now with another company pointed me towards an opportunity.

    Because I had just read the book, I started thinking “what could i help her with?” I decided I could give her a recommendation on LinkedIn (she was one of my better managers). She was thrilled. Another friend who is in China made some networking suggestions. He is a recruiter placing lawyers in Beijing, and again, as I thought about how I could help him, I remember a lawyer I met last year who is based in DC but is Chinese and knows all about working with the Chinese governement. He is in Beijing all the time. So I connected the two and my friend in China sent me even more networking contacts. Both people were surprised and grateful. Plus it felt really good too!

  8. Jason Alba says:

    @Randy – glad you liked it.

    @Sabrina – great additional thoughts (I should mention, Sabrina works at Netshare, a network for executives)

    @Robert – I thought networking was all about talking? Oh, yeah, the listening part… important ;)

    @Heather – you are too kind… now, if all Volt recruiters would recommend JibberJobber :)

    @Mark – great points, thanks for adding them here. You bring a very interesting perspective, with your experience at the executive level with a ton of international experience. And, I love Deb Dib – she’s a rockstar.

    @Devin – Ever? Really? I thought I had some others that were better… oh well… I guess there’s always room for improvement.

  9. Teena Rose says:

    Note the correct LinkedIn address for Mark’s new resume developed by Deb Dib: http://www.linkedin.com/in/mbeckford.

  10. Jason,

    This is a great blog–I plan to link it on my blog. My husband’s job was being offshored about a year ago in manufacturing. He had had a great 20 year manufacturing career and when we realized what was happening, it was like someone punched us in the stomach–we never in our wildest dreams imagined it could happen to this company. We fortunately were able to get him another position through a networking contact and had to move to another state. It was a long and scary 9 month period, though.

    I believe what happened to us made me so passionate and gave me a real-life experience about the necessity of career MANAGEMENT–you have to constantly take care of your network (as William Arruda has said, “Ask not what your network can do for you, but what you can do for them”–great way to live your life, too), keep a journal of your achievements (Challenge, Action and Results), build your online identity through various platforms since most people will Google your name before an interview, etc. The day we learned he was going to lose his job, I sent his resume’ to a professional resume’ writer (and I am one!) for an OBJECTIVELY written resume’–it was worth every dime we paid.

    Thanks again for such a great post and for the name of the book (I plan to buy it to read)–there are many people I plan to forward this blog/e-mail.

    Take care!

  11. Paloma says:

    I would add that once you realize this situation will not be rectified overnight, plan for some sort of income source while you are in this first 30 days of planning (i.e. Freelance writing, technical writing, teaching a college level or online course – perhaps even a leisure learning course on a favorite hobby- something part time that brings income, self-respect, networking opportunities, and gives you a reason ro get out of bed and out into the world. It is important to stay viable and connected. I would also add on the financial side to see if you could negotiate your payment plans – especially high ticket ones such as house and car. This will help on the income side and while you are at it try bartering/negotiating for anything/everything you need. You would be surprised how many people will be willing to discount due to your current situation. They realize they are but a mere step away from your problem – or they know a friend/family member going through this – or they want your business and trust you will be a loyal customer once you are back on your feet. In fact I rarely pay full pop for anything.

  12. Paloma says:

    If anyone wants some help brainstorming possible income options for their set of skills, you may contact me. If there is also a need for negotiating/barter ‘how-tos’, you may contact me for that as well.

  13. Deb Dib says:

    Hey Jason, another wisdom-filled, real-world, straight-talkin’ post that needs to be read by anyone and everyone working today, because we all get fired at one time or another. And getting fired can even be keeping a job, but being pushed/moved internally into a new role we don’t want/like. Anyone reading this post who has a blog should blog about it so it gets distributed as far and wide as possible. The media needs to pick it up too.

    BTW, one of your commenters, Mark Beckford is the rockstar, not me (but thanks for the compliment!)! Through our coaching he’s embraced the concepts of social networking, personal branding, and service to others with an enthusiasm and speed I’ve rarely seen. I have a lot of GREAT clients, and I’m proud of every one of them, but Mark has something really special – a driving hunger to know more, be more, give more, and make a BIG contribution to a company, but also to the world. Any company would be lucky to have him. And I feel very lucky to be working with him!

  14. Deb Dib says:

    PS, is this the beginning of a new Jason Alba book? “I’ve lost my job, now what???” If it isn’t it should be!

  15. Lauren says:

    It really is a great post. I think the best idea for finding a job, or at least leads for one, is going drinking every now and then. Drinking at bars that have happy hour….in the financial district…lol. It works. Nevertheless, and joking aside, at the end of the day it really is a numbers game.

  16. Peter M says:

    When it comes to a resume I think in terms of plurals. Set a a template with a summary of qualifications if you are going that route and you can plug in what you need. Make sure the is geared towards that job.
    If you are looking for phrases I would try ONET http://online.onetcenter.org/, it will spell out what jobs consists of what they involve, and key phrases. It is multiple tools and easier to look at then explain.
    For Job search and Job search info I believe Job-hunt.org is one of the best if not the best career portal site it covers just about everything including company listings by state, networking groups, hidden markets. It is an incredibly useful tool as is JJ, but different.
    Depending on the area of the country use the local business journals. If you were in MA I would recommend the BBJ Boston Business Journal and the Mass Hi Tech journal online. It is a good way to see where the markets are heading and there is news about new ventures, company moves and each issue has a best of business in some area.
    It’s been said but network,network,network
    Find a good careeronestop in your area http://www.careeronestop.org/ if you haven’t been given a outsourcing package. The One stops can be helpful and give you an are to work on your job search.
    Take advantage of some of of the free classes. Also find out about unemployment and other benefits you may be entitled too. If you need some help or counseling get it (although some programs have been back). Try to make the best safety net you can and put this information in place for the future
    All Hi Tech is not alike see what the demand is for your skill sets and if you need to acquire new skills this might be a good time to do it. Keep track of the numbers http://www.quintcareers.com/career_blog/
    or through the bureau of labor statistics and think if relocation may be a possibility ( This takes of lot of thought weighing the plus and minuses)
    Before the first 30 days if available see if your employer will help some severance which might include severance, salary and benefits if you had time in or if they might help with classes.
    As for resumes there are excellent sources around. I know for technical and life science resume Jean Cummings is very good her website is http://www.aresumefortoday.com/.
    That is the high end I’ve also used an off the shelf product called Winway Resume using a few tricks it can do a lot and has a quick learning curve http://www.winway.com/main3/?.
    Get as many letters of recommendation, skills, awards, acheivements and start a career portfolio.
    It can get involve but is a great sales tool about you.

    Lastly set up a routine, get up in the morning and go to work. the work is getting a job and it can be tougher than any other job you’ve had

  17. Peter M says:

    Sorry I for the redundancy or repeats of the original

  18. Paloma says:

    My last post was made from Blackberry and the mobile edition didn’t take my return address for those who might want to discuss my comments further. I have recently moved and am getting back on track with the dell XPS I usually run on.

    As usual, Jason hit’s the nail on the head each blog post with concepts and ideas that are timely for all. I am using the “first thirty day” list in other ways as well. Would also like to add that I am thankful for the candor that people feel free to use in their need and desire to help themselves and others.

    Paloma

  19. [...] so your search doesn’t suck as bad as mine did.  You can read my 10 job search ideas in Job Search Tips: What I Should Have Done In The First 30 Days.  Lest you think it sounds like all the other advice, at least read the first part to see my [...]

  20. Before one does a resume – I recommend FIRST for someone to decide what they want to do. Losing a job can be an opportunity for someone to embrace something new – something that truly will excite and give them passion. Until you have a job goal – not just a goal to find a job / any job (which is what I have been hearing every day from folks) – your job search will most likely not be successful. Even if you find a job – you may not be happy in it!

    Instead (and this may seem paradoxical), take time to explore to be sure what you really want to do – and assess your experience and ACHIEVEMENTS to see where you WANT and CAN do to move towards what you want to do.

    I know the economy now is bad – and it sometimes seems hopeless (especially when we read the news). Realize, these are statistics – you are not a statistic. Once you set yourself up for a long search – you might as well target what you want to do – not what you “have” to do.

    I put my story up as an example. I have a degree from MIT and was a successful engineer for 20 years. I chose to take a buyout from a company (I did not have to take it) and change careers. I earn more now as a resume writer than as a chemical engineer (top earning or near top earning career in the country for many years per statistics). I also am 10x happier and have a much, much better life!

    Determine WHAT you want to do – then take the steps above as recommended by Jason. However, the first step is to take a deep breath, stop panicking and take the layoff as an opportunity to follow your dreams.

  21. [...] Job Search Tips: What I Should Have Done In The First 30 Days [...]

  22. [...] Jason Alba who wrote the books, "I’m on LinkedIn..Now What?" and "I’m on Facebook..Now What?" shared some insightful information on his blog last week about what you should do in the first 30 days of a job search.  He tells it from a personal level of experience and as always, delivers a great blog post.  You can read it at JibberJobber [...]

  23. [...] all the wrong things in my job search.  One of my favorite posts, because I like the advice, is my What I should have done in the first 30 days post ( I share with you what my strategy/tactics were, and what they should have [...]

  24. [...] all the wrong things in my job search.  One of my favorite posts, because I like the advice, is my What I should have done in the first 30 days post ( I share with you what my strategy/tactics were, and what they should have been). Today [...]

  25. [...] can read more about what I did, and what I think you should do in the first 30 days of a job search, here. Share and [...]

  26. [...] love this post I did back in August of 2008: Job Search Tips: What I Should Have Done In The First 30 Days.  Here it [...]

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