Experts have long urged job seekers to practice active listening. It’s a critical habit to develop because it helps you understand, interpret and respond effectively to the questions posed in an interview. However, since most pre-interview communications now occur in writing and those interactions are the key to getting an interview, it’s now also important to learn the technique of “active reading.”
Why did the new CEO of Yahoo! shock the business world by bringing the company’s workers back to their physical offices during the workday? And, why is Google designing a new office complex in which no employee will be more than a two and a half minute walk from any other employee? These are two of the world’s leading Internet companies, yet they are riveted on casual, real world interactions. What does that mean for today’s Web-centric job seekers?
Time is the greatest enemy in a job search. The longer the hunt for a new job takes, the greater the frustration, futility and the possibility of making a mistake. So, the best way to conduct a job search is to use every minute of every day wisely.
More often than not, the first impression you make with a recruiter is in writing. So, if you want to stand out like a dream candidate, write like one. Many job seekers invest considerable time and more than a little money in developing a well written resume. While such a document can establish your qualifications for an opening, however, it almost never differentiates you from the competition. Why? Because every other qualified applicant has also submitted a resume that is articulate and grammatically correct. You’re just one of the herd.
Binging is a hot topic these days. Our waistlines are expanding, our consciousness is shrinking and our eyes are glazing over as more and more of us eat, drink and watch TV series in excess. Now, we’re also binging on job search.
We humans are increasingly unable to remember the past. For job seekers, that means we must be as proactive about staying remembered as we are about being memorable. We must hold onto employers’ and recruiters’ memories as well as stand out in their minds.
It's commonplace these days to say that everything you need to succeed in human affairs you learned in kindergarten. If you follow that advice in your job search, however, you’re likely to be disappointed in the results. One of the first lessons you're taught in school is to follow the rules when playing a game. The rules ensure that there is a well defined pathway to victory and that everyone knows what it is. They establish certainty and fairness.
Employers address you that way on their corporate sites. Recruiters use the very same term to describe applicants for their openings. But, you should never ever accept the label. Don't let anyone categorize you as a "job seeker." Compel them to see you as a "person of talent" instead.
Job seeking is all about putting yourself out there where employers and recruiters can spot you. It requires that you reach out and connect with strangers, both online and off. Finding a new job is fundamentally a social experience, so if you're an introvert, how can you succeed? According to a source cited in Wikipedia, "introversion is manifested in more reserved, quiet, shy behavior." It also notes, however, that according to Myers Briggs and other experts in human psychology, introversion and extroversion are not mutually exclusive states. In other words, we all have both dimensions in our personality, but one is typically dominant over the other.
It's hard enough to land a good job in today's sputtering economy, but now it's going to get even harder. More and more people who already have a job have started to enter the job market. They're amping up the competition and creating a new challenge for those who are out of work: how do you compete with employed job seekers? Employed job seekers often have an unfair edge in the job market. The fact that they currently have a job gives them a "credibility premium" with employers. Consciously or not, many organizations assume that anyone good enough to be on another employer's payroll is probably good enough to be on theirs. It's a significant advantage and one you simply cannot match if you're in transition.
The only way to conclude a successful job search is to apply for the right opportunities. You only have so many hours in the day so you must only compete for positions where you have a legitimate chance of being selected. How do you make sure you're being realistic? With a two-step self assessment.
Picture the scene: you're cruising through your favorite job boards on the Internet and come across a great job for which you are perfectly qualified. So, what do you do? You whip out your trusty resume and apply for that gem, right? Wrong. The key to landing a new or better job in today's economy is to campaign for it.
You can now find hundreds of discussion groups on the Web that are specifically targeted to job seekers. They attract large numbers of people, but unfortunately, don't do most of them much good. Sure, it may help to commiserate with others in transition, but if your goal is to find a new job, there are better places to network.
Recent research from the National Employment Law Project contained a sobering finding. A majority of the jobs lost in the last recession were in the middle range of wages, while most of the new jobs added in the recovery have been in the lower range. This situation seems unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. It is your new normal, which means you have to ask yourself, "which range do you want to call home?."
President John F. Kennedy once said that "all of us should have an equal opportunity to develop our talents." While he was speaking of his civil rights initiative, his words are also applicable to the challenge of finding a job in today's economy. All of us should have a chance to express and experience our talent at work, but many, maybe even most of us don't. Why? Because we've been taught that we don't have talent and, therefore, don't know what our talent is.
Finding a new or better job is fifty percent perspiration and fifty percent imagination. It takes hard work and a hard look at yourself. Success depends on both the effort you put in and what's inside your head and heart. Most of the people who find themselves in transition these days accept a descriptive label only an employer could love. They allow themselves to be called a "job seeker." Indeed, many actually think of themselves that way. They are a supplicant for work.
The old axiom remains as true today as it was years ago. People join companies, but they leave supervisors. In other words, no matter how attractive a new job or employer might be, if you and your new boss are incompatible, you're unlikely to be successful … or last very long on-the-job. We tend to focus our attention on recruiters and employers when looking for a job, and that makes a lot of sense. Recruiters, after all, are the gatekeepers. They determine whether or not we even get in the door to have an interview. And, employers, of course, deserve a lot of scrutiny as it's their culture and leadership which determine an organization's prospects for success (and our future employment).
These days, job seekers face not one but two equally difficult challenges. Not only do they have to find a decent job, but they have to find a decent employer, as well. A decent job may remove them from the ranks of the unemployed, but only a decent employer can ensure they stay there. For the first time in modern American history, those in transition now have to worry about serial unemployment. They must endure a grueling and often lengthy job search, and then they have to deal with the ever present possibility that they may lose their job 6, 12 or 18 months down the road. No sooner are they employed, it seems, than they face the prospect of becoming unemployed all over again.
In today's inhospitable job market, nothing could be more frustrating and demeaning than ageism and sexism. Finding work is hard enough, but trying to do so in the face of prejudice is the modern day definition of Dante's ninth circle. No one should have to endure it, and yet many of us do. Incidents of bias against people over the age of fifty and woman are clearly on the rise. These situations are typically viewed as a defect in an organization's hiring process. The assumption seems to be that the recruiter or the hiring manager who does the interviewing is prejudiced, but the employer is held blameless – consciously or unconsciously –by most people in transition.
Americans are a "can do" people. We pride ourselves on getting the job done. It's a trait that's stood us in good stead for centuries. We've relied on it to create the nation in the Revolutionary War and to save it in World War II, to build the world's most modern economy and to put the first human on the moon. If we depend on it to find a job, however, we'll likely see our hopes dashed and our dreams cancelled.
Many of you in transition have had the same confounding experience. You apply for an opening where you're a perfect match with its stated requirements and then hear absolutely nothing back. Ironically, many of you who hold a job are also having the same experience. Your work meets every requirement stated in your employer's position description, yet you still get only mediocre performance appraisals. What's going on?
A recent study by Bellevue University found that sixty percent of Americans "have given some thought or a lot of thought to going back to school." With all due respect, what are they waiting for? Whether they're looking for a new job or trying to improve their performance in the job they already have, the pathway to success is education. So, the time for starting is now, and once begun, there is no time for stopping.
Job boards have been around for almost twenty years now, so most of us think we know how to use them effectively. Unfortunately, that's often not the case. There are now over 150,000 job boards on the Web, so you have to pick the ones that will serve you best. I recommend a technique that I call NASCAR since a job search is essentially a race to re-employment.
The Web is crowded with articles extolling the best practices for finding a new or better job. I've contributed a few of those missives myself. Recently, however, I heard a fellow describe best practices as "stuff that used to work." In other words, by the time something has become a best practice, it's likely also to have become obsolete. What's the alternative? Next Practices.