Are you getting lousy job search advice…and listening to it? Why???
Posted by Molly Wendell // in Job SearchNetworking
I was speaking with Nancy the other day. She’s looking for a top Human Resources role. I couldn’t believe what bad advice she got from someone trying to help her in her job search. Pick the top five companies you want to work for (this is not the bad advice part), find out the key executives, and then cold call them to build relationships. WHAT? Are you back in the ‘80s? Since when did cold-calling make a resurgence? Who has the time to dial for dollars? How many people are you really going to reach? Most importantly, who wants to be on the other end of that phone call?
I asked Nancy why she was doing this. In so many words, she said she didn’t know what else to do. Nancy, what was it like for you when you were on the receiving end of calls like this? Did you listen to the person intently with your complete and undivided attention? As you listened so carefully, were you so fascinated by their background that you invited them into your office to spend more time? Did you follow this exchange with an incredibly generous offer letter – because you just couldn’t believe the person you didn’t know you were looking for just interrupted your busy day with a call, you took it, and now your hiring needs are solved?
Or, did you wonder at all if they heard your keyboard tapping incessantly – or was the speaker far enough away – as you did your best to politely hurry off the phone so you could get back to work?
More often than not, it was probably the latter. So what makes you so special that for some crazy reason they’ll take your call, followed by an interview and an offer?
Here’s the thing that really strikes me though. Nancy is Fantastic (with a capital F)! The first time I met her, I thought to myself, this is someone who is incredible at her job. She’s dynamic, engaging, smart, thoughtful and results-oriented. If I were hiring someone to run HR for a large organization, I’d hire her in a heartbeat. After a couple of minutes (maybe even a couple of seconds) with her, I don’t think it would take long for a CEO of a large corporation to figure that out.
But instead of putting herself in those situations – the ones where she could be interacting with the CEO of a large corporation. Instead of making herself visible in all the right circles. Instead of using her natural talents to help her land the next gig, she’s listening to some stupid advice from someone who may be a very nice person, but doesn’t appear to know the first thing about getting a job in today’s economy.
After listening to all of this, I finally asked Nancy, “Are you an in-person person? Because you seem very much like one to me.” She said she was. Case closed. From now on, you are going to take your natural in-person person talent and use it in your job search. No longer will you hide behind the phone or email. You’re not going to land because you called someone at the right time. You’re going to land because someone meets you and likes you and sees what I saw.
Nancy is not the first in-person person I know who has struggled with their job search. And she won’t be the last. The mistake most people make is that they don’t adapt their search to their own personal style. Nancy needs to get out and meet people – because when they meet her, they like her, and will want to hire her (assuming you make a great first – and lasting impression – by not talking about yourself, but instead ask smart questions of others).
Now, this is not an excuse for those of you who say “I’m not good at networking. I’m better hiding behind my computer, and that’s my personal style.” You know what companies need right now? They need people who can communicate effectively. It’s written on virtually every job description you can find. Right there at the bottom – just before “other duties as assigned.” The operative word here is “effectively.” A well-worded email may be clearly written and without typos, but it’s not necessarily effective. It only becomes effective when the person on the receiving end not only reads it, but also interprets everything you say precisely as you meant it. Of course, this assumes the email didn’t get mistakenly filtered out by the latest SPAM detection software.
What companies don’t need are people who sit behind their desk all day, and think that email is now a proxy for real live discussions. But wait, what about a phone call? Isn’t that an interactive conversation? Sure it is (sometimes!), but there’s something about meeting someone face-to-face that really brings home the relationship. Mail-order brides and arranged marriages aside, how many people do you know made the commitment to be in life-long relationships without ever having met in person? How many people do you know hired someone they never met in person? Is it the majority? Is it common? Is that how people are going to hire in today’s economy? No. No. No.
You must know – if you’ve read even a couple of my blogs – that I’m a big believer that you’re never going to find something unless you get out there and network.
If you’re an in-person person, then get out there and be in-person with people. If you’re a behind-the-scenes type person, then you better hope that your previous boss loves you and wants to bring you along to every company s/he goes to. If your boss got laid off like the rest of the division, you’d better start facing reality and get comfortable with the idea that you may need to practice your networking skills – and become that in-person person (at least for a little while) in order to land the right opportunity.