My friend, resume writer Robert Dagnall, has posted this a couple of times recently on Facebook:
The first time I saw it I didn’t think anything of it. But then, Friday morning it popped up again and I guess I was feeling a little philosophical.
What if, in a job search, you are chasing two different rabbits? Well, maybe that’s a bad example. In a job search you are likely working on multiple job opportunities at the same time, and you should be. You can’t go after one for months, and ignore everything else that comes up.
But maybe the job opening isn’t the rabbit… maybe the rabbit is not focusing enough. “What are you looking for?” “Oh, I don’t know, anything really. I can do anything.”
Sounds kind of dumb, doesn’t it? I hear that all too often. I’m not exaggerating.
But what if it’s true?
It usually is true.
That is either a symptom of (a) not understanding the importance of focusing, and worrying about missing out on something we haven’t considered. That is a real fear (Fear Of Missing Out, or FOMO). Or, it’s a symptom of (b) not understanding the incredible (and seemingly unintuitive) power of focusing on a niche.
I was at a business seminar with small business growth coach Mark LeBlanc. I don’t remember his exact words but he said something that was profound. Something like “pick the line of revenue that it most important (or biggest, or whatever), and FOCUS on that one. Pretty much ignore the others (as far as marketing goes). The growth you’ll see from your first revenue priority will increase the other revenue lines.”
As a business owner I thought: that is scary. That seems negligent. Irresponsible.
But, as I thought about it, I realized that not putting enough marketing focus in one area really amounted to spreading yourself too thin in all areas. Giving a half-or-less effort on anything resulted in half-or-less results. But 100% focus on the right thing helped the right thing grow, and that growth resulted in growth in other areas.
It’s an interesting concept. It’s scary to think that you will focus on one and pretty much ignore others. The concept, though, is really encapsulated in the Confucius quote above… which rabbit do you chase? Which rabbit do you focus on?
When I was in my job search I remember “preparing” for an interview like this: Go to google, type in “how to prepare for a job search interview,” and then reading a dozen articles that pretty much said the same thing. I would try to learn a little something from each one, and then hurry off to my interview.
Let me save you time, money, and help you not lose the interview (which could easily cost you thousands, or tens of thousands): BUY THIS BOOK.
Thea talks about everything you need to know to prepare for your interviews. The best time to read this book is right now… even if you don’t have an interview scheduled.
Because the best interviewee will have prepared. And Thea walks you through the steps to prepare. Instead of researching online and finding bits and pieces, and spending too much time looking for the right, or even good, advice, just buy this book and go through each page with a highlighter. Have a notepad, or your computer, ready, so you can go through the exercises she presents.
I’ve interviewed enough people to know that there is a huge difference between an interviewee (or what recruiters call, a candidate) who has prepared and one who hasn’t. The difference is almost tangible.
As I was reading the book, of course I thought “this will help anyone who is getting ready for an interview,” but I had another thought: This book provides hope, and gives a vision, to someone who is in a job search. If you aren’t getting interviews you are hopeless (I know this from personal experience). This book helps you now that when it happens, you’ll be ready!
SWOT Analysis: This is another thing to google, if you are not familiar with it. It’s a common model used in business school… you basically do a study on Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. You can do this on a company, or an industry, but in this case, you would do it on yourself. What are your strengths? Are you playing to them? Do they present you with any opportunities? What are your weaknesses? Do you need to work on them, or should you work on your strengths instead? What threats do you have (in your career) because of your weaknesses? This is a great way to get an objective view on how you match up against others who have your same job title.
Weekly Monitoring & Reflection: This might be the hardest thing in this whole strategy, simply because you would do it week after week, year after year. And you have to be, as Jim Collins would say, brutally honest. How are things going? How is the job going? How are your revenue streams? What if you lost your job today… are you ready? What can you do this week to prepare for a job transition? Are you happy? Are you satisfied? What should you do to have the lifestyle you want, or think you deserve? These are the types of questions you could ask yourself each week. Be honest in your response. My suggestion is that you answer them in a journal, so it’s not just a mental exercise of talking to yourself, but you have a record of your ups and downs and growth over the years.
The result of this step is, really, career management. You are gaining more control over your career. When a change happens in your job, you are okay, because you have been doing things for your career management…. branding, networking, etc. This should bring you peace of mind, and the feeling of control is a lot better than the feeling of despair.
The fifth step of Hannah Morgan’s six step job search strategy is interview strategies. Interviewing is the concept that brings excitement and fear to every job seeker. This is not something that every job seeker gets to do, and sometimes, by the time they get to do it, they are so tired and worn down that they are desperate for any offer. The money has dried up and they go in just ready to say yes. Or, to beg and plead. In this step we are going to be more prepared, and not be so desperate. That’s not to say that we aren’t going to be ready to take a temporary job (or “step job”) to make ends meet, while we continue to find the next step in our career, but we’ll be ready and professional.
Specific STAR Development: This is similar to what we did in the first Step (Assessment), but now we are hyper-focused on creating these STAR statements (or, as I call them, mini-stories) specifically for This Job + This Company. These are short, but very powerful, and should become central during your interviews.
Company and Interviewer Research: This is, again, very focused, and you do it before the specific interview. When you get an interview scheduled, you go as deep as you can. This means online research (fairly easy) and more informational interviews/meetings (not as easy but more fun, and more valuable long-term as you make new connections and nurture relationships). Go into the interview ready to ask really smart questions (multiple Insider Information interviews I’ve done talk about the questions an interviewee asks).
Prepare for Sticky Wicket Questions: Some interviewers, in my experience, are not very prepared. Some are really prepared. The interview process can be kind of boring, if you are interviewing a lot of people. How will you answer an illegal question? How will you answer a stupid question? How will you answer a question you don’t know the answer to? These are great questions to think through, and prepare for, before you get into the interview.
Negotiations: Ugh… salary negotiations. If there’s a part of this whole process filled with drama and mind games, it’s probably this. There are books to read, tactics to study… but it just know that this is tricky. There isn’t one solid answer because we are dealing with humans… and humans are unpredictable and fickle. One person might have a rule of “never talking about it until they bring it up,” others say present a range, but others say a range really means the lowest value. Talk to someone who specializes in salary negotiation, and study up so you have some good responses when it comes up.
The result of this step is that we go into an interview with confidence, we perform well, we follow-up as a professional and not a needy, desperate leech. You might get one chance to win the interview… the last thing you want is to lose multiple interviews.
The fourth step of Hannah Morgan’s six step job search strategy is Project Management. This is what most people skip to, without building the foundation that you have built since you’ve gone through the first three steps. When you think of a job search, this is typically what you think of. This is what a job search “looks like.” Knowing what you know now (from the first three steps) can you see why jumping straight here is a mistake? In this step there are two parts:
Weekly Goals: At one job club I went to they asked for metrics, like number of people talked to each day, number of interviews, etc. State unemployment insurance typically pays based on whether or not you are doing things that are measurable, each week. Some of those metrics are lame, some of them are too soft. You know how much time you can spend on your job search… what metrics make the most sense for you? My metrics would be heavy on the number of informational interviews, and very light on the number postings I apply to. Very light.
Strategic Job Search Methods: These are the tactics… this is going to job clubs and network meetings. This is calling people on the phone and having conversations or leaving voicemail messages. This is spending time on LinkedIn to find and communicate with the right contacts, but then getting out and not letting LinkedIn be a time sink. These methods are focused and purposeful, with the end result of getting closer and closer to a job. That means having the right contacts with the right people, while conveying the right brand. This doesn’t NOT mean busy work, or just going through the motions.
The result of this step is action and metrics. You will do things, talk to people, make phone calls, follow-up, have meetings and interviews… you’ll feel busy, you’ll feel exhausted, and many times you’ll feel out of your comfort zone. But at the end of the day you’ll know you put in a good, honest effort, doing the right things, and making progress. Get a job today? Perhaps not, but you did expand your network with the right people, and you have nurtured (read: progressed) professional relationships. Do this stuff right and you’ll probably start having a lot of fun!
The third step of Hannah Morgan’s six step job search strategy is Presenting Yourself. This is the last of the “sharpen your saw” steps, and is critical as you prepare to get in front of people. This is where you take what we’ve done in the first two steps and you create some very specific, very targeted, very aligned marketing material… your personal marketing material. Listen, I have been to job clubs for over ten years… I’ve met with hundreds… thousands of job seekers. I’ve done tons of LinkedIn Profile critiques and have heard more 30 second pitches than you could imagine. Rarely do I hear or see personal marketing material that is pretty good. Please spend time on this step so you are not as cliche and poorly presented as most job seekers.
Verbal Pitch: When you first meet someone, what do you say? How do you present yourself? I’ve heard plenty of “pitches” and many… most… need help. They are too cute, but have no message. They are clever, but too jargony. They are without meat, and have no “what’s next.” In this step you should work on a 30 second elevator pitch that is flexible depending on the audience, a response to “tell me about yourself” in a networking group or an interview, and then what comes after that, in case someone says “Oh? Tell me more…” What are you going to say when you call someone on the phone, and they answer? Or, if you get to their voicemail? You can script and practice these, which isn’t to say that you are supposed to talk about a robot or not be able to think on your toes.
Marketing Plan: Classes are dedicated at universities on marketing plans, and usually have the 4 P’s (Price, Promotion, Place, Product). That might be a good start for you, but study “marketing plans” to see what else you should define in your plan. I suggest you don’t spend too much time here… I like planning and stuff, but you could really spend weeks and weeks understanding marketing plans and them applying what you learn to your own plan. Your marketing plan might be as simple as “Do these things daily, do those things weekly, spend an hour on follow-up each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,” etc. Schedule things out, and then honor the schedule.
Informational Meetings: These have traditionally been called Informational Interviews… and are one of the most powerful proactive job search tactics that you could ever do. If I had start my job search today, after learning about job search stuff for the last eleven years, I would spend 90% of my time working on informational interviews. That is, finding people, having the meetings, asking for introductions, having more meetings, etc. There is definitely an art to these… it’s not a chew the fat meeting. They are very, very purposeful. There’s a course in the JibberJobber Video Library on Informational Interviews, and the topic comes up in most of the insider interviews I’ve done. What I really want you to take away is this: 90% of my time!
LinkedIn Profile, Resume, and Cover Letter: Isn’t it amazing that if you are doing each of these things sequentially we don’t get to the resume or LinkedIn Profile until the 12th step? Seriously… not jumping into the resume or Profile means that by the time we get there, we have a very good idea of why and how we’ll use them, with who, and what the messaging should be.
The result of this step is that we have real marketing material to share. We are ready when we meet someone at a networking event… we know what message we should share, and the words to use. We have confidence that the written marketing material we have prepared, from our business card to our email signature to the resume to our LinkedIn Profile, are on-brand and communicating the right messages. They aren’t going to distract from the real message, our brand, or decrease our chances of getting closer to having the right conversation with the right people. How are you feeling by this point? You feel focused, empowered, and READY!
The second step of Hannah Morgan’s six step job search strategy is Research. Check the image below for reference. We’ve gone through the Assessment stage, and we have a better grasp on who we are and what would be ideal for us. We’ve spent some introspective time and we’ve been real honest with ourselves. Now it’s time to take that information and figure out what opportunities align with what we just came up with.
Research Industries and Trends: What’s going on in the world? What industries are changing (automotive –> electric cars; energy –> sustainable; technology –> cloud solutions; commerce –> online, healthcare –> ???, etc.) and what opportunities can we identify? This would be a perfect time to do a SWOT Analysis and/or a Porter’s Five Forces Analysis (google those, I learned about them in my MBA classes).
Research Alternative Job Titles: Before my job search I had been a General Manager, but my environment changed drastically and I started looking for jobs as a Business Analyst or a Project Manager. That is what I knew. As I found those jobs on job boards, I learned about a role I hadn’t heard of before, but it was a perfect fit for me: Product Manager. This is a time to expand your vision a little and be open to other titles that you would enjoy, or excel at, or be able to grow into.
Research Target Company (Identification): Now that we’ve narrowed down the industries and positions, let’s find some companies that match those. Who is hiring, growing, who has a need, who has a great culture and can provide the lifestyle and projects and opportunities? Talk to people at those companies and get an idea of what it was like there. Think: Information Interviews. Remember, a job search is not a one-sided affair, where the company has all the power. You decide if you want to spend most of your waking hours at this company… keep your eyes wide open as you do company research.
Research Key People to Know: Now we have the companies picked out… how are you going to “network in?” This concept implies who have a target inside… we’ll usually start with a department or a title. Using LinkedIn and what we learn from our informational interviews, we should easily be able to identify key people, learn about them, and even get introductions to them. Doesn’t this feel like a focused, targeted job search, instead of the “spray and pray” method that just leads to frustration and depression?
This (and the previous) step remind me of the legend about the lumber jack (or Abe Lincoln, depending on where you got your story) being asked about cutting down trees. Something along the lines of “If I had seven hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax.” In Steven Covey’s 7 Habits book, he saved the “sharpen your saw” for Habit #7… but notice in practice, we’re putting it up front.
The result of this step is that we will have a focused list of companies and contacts that we’ll work on approaching, networking with, etc. When another industry or company (or person) comes along, we can quickly determine if they should be on our list and proceed appropriately, instead of being distracted by every thing that comes our way and feeling like we need to give equal attention to everything. This focus helps us know where to spend our time and effort, the conversations we should have and pursue, and and really know that we are moving in the right direction (even when we are unsure of ourselves).
Let’s dig into the first step of Hannah Morgan’s six step job search strategy: Assessment. In the image below you can see that this step has various components… remember, you should not skip this step. I skipped it in my job search, and in it’s place I put wrong assumptions. This is a great time… it’s the right time, to pause and really think through this “who are you, what do you want to be when you grow up” phase. DON’T SKIP THIS SEEMINGLY SIMPLE STEP.
Skills, Knowledge, Passions: Or, whatever acronym you want (in the federal government, this might be KSAs (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities)). You might have done an assessment five months ago, or five years ago, but now things are different. You now have a great opportunity to assess your SKPs without any presumption of a job you are in, or a career path that you were on. It’s a blank slate, and it’s time to be honest about what you are really good at and what you really want to do.
STAR Development: This stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result, and is similar to PAR, CAR, OAR, etc. What you come up with is what I call a “mini story” and can be used in interviews, on your LinkedIn Profile, etc. Creating these is a super… SUPER personal branding exercise.
Job, Occupation, Industry: What kind job do you want to work in, doing what, and in what industry? Are you suited or trained for that, or do you need training?
Company Culture, Management Style: What kind of culture do you want to work in? What kind of boss(es) (and team) do you want to have? What would really delight you?
You might look at all of those and think “I already know this… let’s get my resume ready!” But this is the Ready and Aim part of ready-aim-fire! Write this down, sleep on it, revisit it the next day. Be honest with yourself, and make sure that you are pointing in the right direction before you start working hard on your job search.
The result of this step is having a better grasp on who you are, what you want to offer, what would make you happier and put in you in a more successful environment.
When I’m on the road (and in my JibberJobber Video Library) I talk about lot about purposeful and strategic. For example, “make sure your personal branding is purposeful,” and “to have a strategic job search…”
Recently Hannah Morgan, aka the Career Sherpa, included me in her “how to use the best job sites” post (again). Thank you, Hannah, for including JibberJobber! When I heard about this, I went to the page listing the best job sites and checked to see where JibberJobber was, and what the other websites were (I like to see what kind of company I keep in these lists :p). I made a big mistake by skimming through the page and looking for JibberJobber…. I totally missed a terrific, important part of her post, right at the top.
Below is the image I glanced over. I saw it as just one more infographic that had too much information… but I was mistaken. Yesterday I spent time going through it and realized… THIS IS A STRATEGIC JOB SEARCH! Now, when people ask “what does a job search strategy look like?” I can point them to this image. It is brilliant. You might think it’s simple, or common sense / obvious, but I think it’s brilliant.
The reason it’s in her post is because it should frame, or put into context, all of the tools. Instead of just another list of a whole bunch of job sites, that seem to be duplicates of one another, Hannah put sites in here that fill a purpose… each site should address at least one box or section in this strategy:
I want to break down each of these, but for now let’s talk about her six steps.
Assessment: who are you? What do you have to offer? What should your brand messaging be? Preliminary thinking on companies and industries… this stage is fundamental (I skipped over it in my job search, which might be a big reason why I failed to find a job).
Research: The last stage was an exercise in introspection and honesty, this stage is will take you through Google, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and more. Here we are looking for evidence, reported facts, etc.
Presenting Yourself: By this stage, you have thought about you, and what good matches would be… now it’s time to figure out how to position yourself. Up to this point, we have done things that most job seekers do mentally (and erroneously) in about three minutes.
Project Management: It’s go-time. This is what most people think a job search looks like.
Interview Strategies: This whole step will help you own the interview. That doesn’t mean you take it over. You’ll win some and lose some, and you’ll figure out that you don’t want to work at some companies, or for some people (because of the work you did in the first two steps).
Project Update: I don’t know what Hannah has in mind here, but this could apply to an active job search as well after you land… a weekly check-up to proactively manage your career (which will help you be prepared for your next job search).
I love these six steps. You might have some tweaking to do for yourself, but at least you have a great template to work from.
Like I said, I skipped most of the foundational steps and went straight to job search action. Don’t make that same mistake.
I have seen many people land their jobs and ignore the check-ins after… don’t make that mistake!
I have finally recorded all of the LinkedIn for Job Seekers videos. It was sad to compare this edition to last time, when I had training on certain features that are no longer in LinkedIn (but provided tremendous value).
In this new series you’ll learn about optimizing the LinkedIn Profile, even with all of the weird… er, interesting… changes… such as only showing the first 2 lines of your summary, and not showing any info about previous jobs (only one current job). I also talk about Groups, communications, messaging, recommendations (how to effectively ask for them, what to do when you get them, and how to give them in a way to help your networking and branding), and more.
I’ve done this four times before this edition… my goal is to help you get value out of LinkedIn. I know you are busy, and I doubt you want to become a LinkedIn expert… so we focus on what to do (tactics) to get value.
This is included in the JibberJobber Video Library, and includes access to all of the other courses and insider information interviews… for the low price of $9.95 a month (cancel anytime) or $60 for a year of access.
Ready to take your career, job search, networking, or small business to the next level? Invest $60 for a year of access… it will be well-worth it! You can see the video library here.