A bunch of my friends and colleagues (And clients, obviously!) are in Operation Job Search and I’ve noticed a bit of a theme emerging as I talk to them about it. I hear a lot of “spinning my wheels” comments or people telling me they “can’t get traction.” Other times, it’s not knowing where to put the effort. Or their brains are like mush and they can’t remember what they sent to whom and when and all that jazz. Hiring season sounds like dread to them.
Enter headaches, malaise and a (rightfully so) bad attitude on stage right. Amirite?
While there are no hard and fast rules on job searching (which is kinda what makes it the most annoying thing on the planet besides those desks made for right handed people and erasable ink), I am here today to share a 3 step plan and organization structure that, when followed, can help you maintain order, sanity and not feel like you’re sending things into the black hole.
First things first, though. While I do believe that every job search will entail you mailing in an application through an impersonal web portal, networking is the key name of the game here. 70-80% of jobs are gotten through a contact or an introduction (or an introduction YOU forge), so that’s where 70-80% of your energy should be for hiring season. Also, this article assumes you know the field and industry you’re applying to, so your job search is targeted. I do not recommend starting your job search when you’re applying to several different roles.
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s dive into the 3 steps to dive into fall hiring season:
- Spend time listing out companies you’d like to work for. I recommend organizing it in Excel once you’ve determined they’re a contender for you to consider working for. You’ll want to get the info in one place such as website, contacts at the company, open positions (if any), next steps and status of your efforts. Really spend a couple of hours creating this master list. How many companies you have will depend on the size and maturity of the industry/field, so there are no hard and fast rules here. And of course you can always add to it! Just get a chunk of companies that you want to keep tabs on and build relationships with. You can use the simple Job Search Grid I’m providing here (and feel free to customize it!). This is Tab 1 of that workbook.
Apply for relevant open positions. I like to batch this, so I’m not one-off applying to things and disrupting my flow with research and networking, but if a job has been posted for awhile (>3 weeks), then definitely prioritize it. The idea here is that as you’re researching companies in step 1, you’re also plopping open positions on tab 2- the job application tab. This is where you can keep track of open applications and your follow up. If you’re testing the efficacy of two different resumes, this is where you note which position got which resume. Make sure you’re updating this by taking closed applications off the list and adding to this list. I’d recommend if you’re in heavy job search mode to go into the tabs 2X per week and do a sweep so it doesn’t get out of hand and too daunting to update.
- Who Do Ya Know? The third tab on the grid is all about networking. You can absolutely add contacts you already have (and you should do this), but for purposes of this 1-2 punch blog post, we’re going to be talking about adding people at the companies you’ve identified in step 1. Check your LinkedIn for first and second degree connections first. Look at your alumni association and relevant industry groups on LinkedIn or Facebook. If it’s a second degree connection, tactfully ask for an introduction from your friend or colleague. Some contacts won’t actually be contacts yet and may entail reaching out cold. Make sure you’re keeping track of these conversations in your organization tool!
- **Note: People ask me if the person has to be in the right dept or in HR. If it’s a cold email, yes, most likely. But if your 2nd degree connection is in IT and you’re in marketing, it’s still worth the convo to see if the company is a fit for your values and talents before pursuing it further. And who knows- if the convo goes well and you build up a rapport, perhaps your new friend will pass your resume along to the right people!
Remember, this approach to hiring season is relationship-heavy. This means it’s about building relationships, meeting people at those companies (through alumni associations, other groups, events they’re speaking at, etc). This is not an approach for someone who wants to blast 100 applications out in one fell swoop. The BENEFIT here, however, is that you are mindfully created the universe of companies you want to bring your talents to and you’re systematically and mindfully creating relationships with them.