1ST STEPS IN THE HUNT
- An online column for the online candidate
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Email Lists (From the Vault)
January 21, 2000
Conducted politely, email discussion lists are excellent places to gather job leads or tell the world that you are available for work. Done with arrogance, you may earn the lasting enmity of people that should have become your colleagues rather than your enemies.
Always read any FAQ's (Frequently Asked Questions) that are at the discussion list site. This will give you a feel for what actions are allowed, even encouraged, by members. It will also give you a chance to find out what kinds of postings are inappropriate. Spend a little time "lurking" on the site, watching the discussions to better understand the unwritten code of behavior that guides members' actions. You will be asking these people to help you, so begin your interaction with some humility.
No one wants to help a jerk, unless they absolutely have to. Your messages will be ignored, deleted, or flamed. Conversely, most people are happy to help someone who asks politely, and at least appears to be in sincere need of assistance. Offer something in return for help, even if it's only a "thank you". A little appreciation goes a long way.
Be brief. Introduce yourself, spell out specifically what kind of skills you have and what type of Jobs you are looking for. Insert a link to a site (e.g. your web page) where any interested Recruiter, Employer, or Guardian Angel can find out all the details about why you are perfect for the Job you want. Make sure there is a way for someone to contact you, whether it is email, phone, fax, mail address. Jobhunters forget who their audience is sometimes - these lists are often skimmed by Hiring Managers, so watch what you say and how you say it. These records are generally accessible for a very long time.
The archives from the email list may show how previous Jobhunters have approached this site. Which methods drew scorn and which were tolerated and received help? Theoretically the discussion area will relate to a field of real interest for you. Participate in the discussions, even if you are a novice. If you are not well versed in the field, don't act like you know everything - show your eagerness to learn from more experienced voices.
Interviewing By Parachute (From the Vault)
January 20, 2000
The standard bearer for Jobhunters over the past thirty years has been Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute? Revised and updated annually, it is the best selling Jobhunting book in the world, with over six million copies in print. I have used it extensively for years, and often determine the value of other Jobhunting advice by seeing how it stacks up to the advice in Parachute.
Bolles summarizes Interviewing strategies into three chronological stages: before the Interview, during the Interview, and after the Interview.
Before the Interview you should make a list of your skills, accumulated knowledge, and personality traits. Analyze what makes you different from other Job candidates, and imagine ways that you might stand out as head and shoulders above your competition for the next Job you're Interviewing. Research your target companies thoroughly so you can intelligently discuss the day to day work issues the Manager faces. Use a variety of Jobhunting methods (personal contacts from friends and family, the Yellow Pages, resumes, asking Employers for a Job even though they aren't advertising for help now) to find the person who has the power to hire you, and make yourself known to them.
During the Interview you need to keep in mind that you represent a solution to the Hiring Manager's problems. Don't think of yourself as someone begging for a Job, but as a missing cog in the company wheel. Avoid making negative comments about the last place(s) you worked; no one likes a whiner. Keep your answers relatively short, and try to deduce what fears lie behind the questions the Interviewer is asking. Produce evidence of past accomplishments, and remember that the goal in the first Interview is to simply survive the winnowing process and make it to the callback Interview.
Bolles believes that Job Interviews can be summed up by the following five Questions:
"Why are you here? What is it about this place that attracted you?
What can you do for us? What do you have to contribute to what we do?
What distinguishes you from 19 other people who can do the same Job?
Will you fit in? Will you get along with, or irritate, all my other Employees?
Can I afford you? Never do salary negotiation until the Employer says 'I want you'"
After the Interview, Always write a thank you note. Estimates are that over ninety percent of Jobhunters don't send thank you notes after their Interviews. Hiring Managers are the very class of people that you want to think highly of you - whether or not this particular one saw fit to hire you for this particular Job. Leave a favorable impression on this one, and they might be a source for your next Interview. Add your Interviewers to your Network. Remember to send thank you notes to anyone who helped get you in to see the Hiring Manager. Show some initiative by sending Job related information that they discussed with you and they seemed interested in. Everyone loves to feel that others are paying attention to what they've said.
Bolles has been training Jobhunters for three decades, and believes that the person who is trained in Jobhunting is more likely to get the Job than someone trained only in the skills that the Job requires. Contrast this with tomorrow's Jobhunting guru, a headhunter who thinks that Career Counselors in general are far too enamored of formulaic Jobhunting approaches and standardized pat answers.
Gen X (From the Vault)
January 19, 2000
You may not care how other people classify you and your colleagues, but the classifiers do care about you (or more exactly, what motivates you). Primarily, marketing managers want to know what will motivate you to buy their company's product, rather than someone else's wares.
This is why there is so much hype surrounding Gen X and its younger sister, Gen Y (alternatively referred to as Generation Next). Marketing decisions are made based on guesses as to what choices large aggregate groups will make. Typically these groups are bunched together by factors, interests, or values (e.g. ethnicity, income, age). Gen X'ers are now in their buying prime, the youngest just graduating from college and the oldest hitting their mid-thirties.
Unfortunately, they are only about half the size (40 million) of either the Baby Boom generation or Generation Next. This is certainly not their fault, but they may suffer from a lack of attention because of it. Policies (economic, social, and political) will tend to ignore their concerns while focusing on those of the age groups that immediately precede or follow them.
If you're a Gen X'er, prepare for the cold hard fact that you're about to be written off by counselors, money managers, economists, and the whole marketing world. As a relatively underrepresented slice of the US demographic pie, Gen X is about to be crushed by the newest wave of US consuming power, Generation Next. Generation Next was not raised with Gen X's fears about Job Security, a bankrupt Social Security System, Stock Market crashes, or not being able to end up better off than their parents were financially.
The good news?
Because of its relatively small size, Gen X is causing labor shortages throughout the Job Market. This is making it easier for Gen X'ers and late baby boomers to shift from one career to another, or negotiate from strength for better pay. As long as the US Economy roller coasters along without hitting 'the big dip', Employment opportunities will be there for industrious go-getters that upgrade both their Job and Jobhunting skills.
Ask Not, Get Not (From the Vault)
January 18, 2000
Much of life is really this simple: If you don't ask for it, you probably won't get it. (Though asking for stuff generally gets you the same result!) Typically pay raises work this way. Employers tend to be the last ones to notice your hard work and reward it with pay increases without your helpful hints.
Last week several readers wrote to say they were uncomfortable asking to talk to Employees who are currently performing their 'dream Job'. These are the very people you really need to talk to face to face. Known as Informational Interviews, this method can be a very useful tool for Jobhunters, on several different levels.
Informational Interviews let you know right off the top if the type of Job you are considering might be a poor choice for you. Someone on the inside performing the work on a day in day out basis is the best source you're going to get to find out what the Job will really be like. And talking to several people performing the work at different companies will help ensure that you get a full range of perspectives on what the Job entails.
Most people are flattered when someone else appreciates them and their work, and are willing to talk about what they do at their Job. Whether you call to ask someone to talk in their office, or take them out to lunch, remember that they are busy and respect their time concerns. Fifteen to thirty should be your maximum time limit, and don't extend you stay unless they make the offer first. You are gathering information, not asking for a Job at their company. The workplace is full of desperate Jobhunters who tried to trick their way into getting a Job by using Informational Interviews as a ploy just to access the Hiring Manager or Boss. This tactic really burns these people, so don't do it.
Informational Interviews are best used as a means to build your network. After you have asked your contact questions about what the work is like, career advancement possibilities, pay & benefits, remember to ask for another contact name in the Industry you have targeted. People in the Industry you are interested in Always know other key contacts, and your goal is to be engaging, polite, and someone that anybody would be glad to offer a helping hand to.
As with Job Interviews, send a thank you note afterwards for their time and keep them posted on your Jobhunt progress. A short email note is sufficient, and follow up on any leads they give you. Don't be afraid to ask Industry people to help you. They may be unknown strangers now, but you have common interests with them and some will be willing to help you.
The key to remember is this: They won't help you if you don't ask them.
Carpe Diem (From the Vault)
January 17, 2000
After weeks (or months!) of frustrating Jobhunting, I'm sure you're in no mood for glib responses to The Fundamental Question: How Do I Get A Job?
The answer is easy, though executing the strategy isn't. It takes courage, determination, and the ability to really push yourself and your agenda. When someone tells you, "No, I don't have anything available at my firm." you shouldn't accept 'No' as an answer. Fine, they don't have any openings for you. Do they know of someone who does, or might be a good contact for you anyway?
Employers (read Hiring Managers) within an industry are birds of a feather - they will have their own networks of professional contacts. Every time you talk to, meet with, and Interview a Hiring Manager you should have a secondary goal other than landing this particular Job. That goal is accessing at least one person in the Hiring Manager's Network. And you accomplish this by asking them, directly.
Most Employees get their Jobs through Networking consistently, effectively, and over a substantial period of time. They built their work relationships to the level that they weren't afraid to call upon these acquaintances when they needed them to find a new Job, and use them as references to access Hiring Managers at their target companies.
Even more importantly, successful Jobhunters Ask For The Job They Want. Friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and Employers can't read your mind - you have to tell them what you want. I've talked to hundreds of Jobhunters that got depressed after getting a handful of rejection letters, which is a natural reaction. It is even more difficult to call Hiring Managers directly to ask for an Interview - the rejection is immediate and more personal. However, the direct approach by phone is also more likely to succeed - the Hiring Manager is hard pressed to turn down someone's live, eager request for an Interview (and the Job!).
Resumes are easy to ignore - their feelings don't get hurt. If you have referenced your way in to a conversation with the Hiring Manager, then you'll have a decent chance to sell them on your abilities and suitability for the Job. If you have simply accessed the Hiring Manager by hook or by crook, you'll probably only have a minute or two to make your case - all you're trying to achieve with this method is to earn an Interview.
The bottom line? It's your life, and if you want this to be your Job, you've got to seize it.
Last Week On 1st Steps
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Last Week On 1st Steps
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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.