Archive for August, 2011

Proactive Job Hunting on Steroids

August 19, 2011

As a follow-up to last month’s blog post, I want to further delineate between reactive and proactive job hunting.  I’m amazed by the number of actively searching candidates who are under the belief they are taking the bull by the horns and proactively working on finding their next career move.

Just this morning, I was on the phone with an intelligent and talented individual who has been job hunting for 18 months.  He lamented how he’s been searching for relevant job postings and has applied to no fewer than 75 positions, resulting in only 2 callbacks.  “What else are you doing?” I asked.  Pregnant pause.  You know the rest of the story because there is no rest of the story.

Applying to umpteen job postings does not constitute proactive job hunting, nor does it establish momentum.  Each submission of your resume equates to buying a lottery ticket:  If you don’t play, then you can’t win.  But the chances of winning are absurdly low.  This is reactive job hunting.

I’m not saying to give up on reactive job hunting entirely.  Rather, it’s vitally important to complement it with other tactics that enable you to assert yourself, gain momentum and better control your destiny.  Here are some suggestions I’ve been giving candidates to help bolster their chances of making headway in their search.

First, research companies, not for their job postings, but for identifying organizations that intrigue you and are relevant to your background.  Read their press releases and news stories.  Then, make a list of these target companies.  At the same time, identify all the people that make up your network and assess the heath and well-being of those connections.  Who belongs in your network?  Just about anyone you’ve crossed paths with who can potentially help you.  This could include former co-workers, bosses, industry-specific contacts, customers, vendors, business consultants, recruiters, friends, and family.

Now that you have your target company list and network base established, it’s time to go to work.

1.  See if anyone in your network works at any of the companies on your target company list and contact them.

2.  See if anyone in your network has a connection to someone who works at any of the companies on your target company list and see if they can make an introduction.

3.  Contact the C- or VP-level execs at your target companies directly via phone (likely a voice mail) and email (go online to figure out the company’s email naming convention), expressing interest in their company and notable news (e.g., press releases, articles, white papers) with the goal to gain an informational meeting, lunch, or call.

It might go something like this:  “I’ve been reading with great interest about XYZ Corp., in particular the news of your latest funding event, but also about the press release from last month on…  Given my background and expertise in…, I’m quite interested in discussing potential new applications of your innovative solution.  I’d like to learn more about your go-to-market strategy and product roadmap as I have some ideas I’d like to share.  Can we set up a brief introductory meeting or call?   Please get back to me with your availability.”  Obviously, use your own words.  Also, if the press release or article you’re referencing includes a quote from the CEO or other executive on company initiatives, priorities, or challenges, you can piggyback that in your message as well.

4.  When the companies in your target list hold regular events, such as webinars, podcasts, exhibits at trade shows, product demos, etc., attend them if you can.  Afterwards, contact those involved to compliment them and perhaps ask a follow-up question or two.  See if you can engage with them.

5.  Research and identify customers or vendors of the companies on your target list that happen to be prior customers or vendors of yours.  For those in common, with which you’ve had a good relationship, contact them and see if they’d be willing to make an introduction to their primary contact within the company, vouching for your credibility and expertise while making it clear that a meeting with you would be a good use of their time.

6.  Contact recruiters that play in your space and see if they can get you in the door at any of the companies on your target list, even if there’s no current opening that’s appropriate for you.  Often times, growing companies will create a position opportunistically for an individual they deem valuable to their organization and integral to its key initiatives.

These proactive measures represent just a handful of suggestions.  I’m sure that if you sought out career mentoring from trusted resources, you’d come across other formidable ideas as well.  And naturally, they won’t always pan out.  But don’t let that discourage you.  By employing these tactics, you’re increasing the odds of getting a foot in the door.  Of course, you need to have the other components to job hunting ready to go.  In particular, an industrial strength, professionally written resume along with compelling interviewing chops are must-haves.  Put on your sales & marketing hat and make something happen!


Action items:

1.  Know the difference between reactive and proactive job hunting, making sure not to fool yourself into thinking that you’re doing all you can.

2.  Remain positive and don’t lose hope.  And whatever you do, don’t subscribe to a victim mentality (i.e., tough job market and nobody’s calling me back).

3.  You’ve always heard about the power of networking.  Now here’s your chance to make the most of it.

4.  Seek objective advice and mentoring during your career search.  After all, you’re right in the thick of it, so you stand to benefit from others’ perspectives.