The Job Hunter’s First Job: Create a Clear Vision & Strategy for Your Hunt

The Job Hunter’s First Job: Create a Clear Vision & Strategy for Your Hunt
My purpose in creating three years ago was to level the playing field of the hiring process by providing job hunters with the insights and skills needed to create effective search strategies. This began as an outgrowth of more than a decade of recruiting and outsourced HR staffing work at my own company. It quickly became my overriding passion. That is why I’m really excited to be CAREEREALISM’s newest Approved Career Expert! I look forward to sharing much of my experience and knowledge about job hunting and the hiring process through columns on this site, and intend to tell stories from my own practice that can be helpful to this audience. Like other coaches and writers, I have my own lists of "Do’s and Don’ts." A few simple examples gleaned from experiences of real people:
  • Do get rid of your non-professional e-mail address like and replace it with something like:
  • Do dress appropriately for an interview.
  • Don’t pick your nose. (Yes, I was appalled to get feedback that one of my recruiting candidates actually picked his nose in the middle of his second in-person interview. The interview ended VERY shortly thereafter.)
  • Don’t do a phone interview on your cell phone in the midst of a crowded Starbucks.
My experience, however, suggests while such lists can provide helpful practical advice, they fail to address a larger problem that besets many job seekers: the lack of clearly defined target other than “a job,” and the failure at the onset to establish a strategy for conducting the hunt. True story: Not long ago I received an e-mail asking for help. The writer attached four different resumes, each directed to a very different type of job. All the resumes listed the same series of positions he had held. Sometimes he listed his overall responsibilities, but more often he just listed the position itself. He indicated to me because he was concerned about age discrimination, he included some dates, and not others. About the only real difference among the resumes was the one or two line “objective” statement he offered at the top. This is the sign of desperation…of spinning wheels rather than projecting a clear message. He had been sending these resumes out to scores of jobs over a period of months, and not surprisingly to me, he didn’t receive a single nibble. It would be easy to go off on a tear about the form and content of the resumes – and maybe I will in a different article. None of the resumes were effective because they failed to provide a narrative that demonstrated how the job for which he was applying made any sense as a “next step” from where he had been. There was no strategic thinking behind the communication. That, in and of itself, is enough to set of red flags and alarm bells in the head of the reader who is charged to sort through hundreds of resumes to weed out the serious candidates from the pack. Moreover, as I looked at the packet of all the resumes, I saw reflected a larger incoherence which permeates his job hunt. Because this job seeker didn’t have a clear vision of how to make the next logical step in his career, he wasn’t able to articulate why he has what it takes to succeed in any of the jobs to which he had applied. People often troll job boards and say, “I could do that job,” (maybe true, maybe not), or “I’d love to change paths and do this instead of what I have been doing.” They will stay up late at night, clicking “send” to dozens of jobs. And they think they are using modern technology to do an effective job search. To me, that is not a job hunt! It is a waste of time that distracts from the real work of creating an effective jobhunter strategy. What to do? How to fix it? If you are a job hunter, you already have a job. That job is to learn how to present yourself as a person who can add value to your next employer. It is your job to convey that message without making your resume reader or interview ponder for even a second, “He says XXX. I wonder if that means he has done YYY?” It is your job to convey not just your skill set, job title(s), or responsibilities, but more: your successes and accomplishments in a factual manner. It is your job is to never allow yourself to be perceived as a needy or desperate person whose objective it is to just get a job – any job, so long as it has a paycheck attached to it. I coach my clients to think of job hunting as headhunting in reverse. Recruiters and HR staffing professionals carefully define the nature of a job and develop an image of what a “good fit” candidate looks like. In the same way, the jobhunter should look inward and carefully consider what job will make a “best fit” (rather than a “can do” or “want to do”) match with your prior achievements, experiences, skills, and education. First: Begin by inverting your thinking and ask yourself: “For what job would the hiring manager look at me and exclaim: Perfect fit! I want to talk to this person?" When you have an answer to this question you have begun to define your target. With this in mind, you can begin to craft a compelling message. Second: Build a list of similar companies/organizations in your area that have such roles, and do research to find out who the leaders are in the relevant areas of the company. There are lots of resources at your local library, online, and even through your LinkedIn network to help you come up with your own “business intelligence.” Third: Begin to figure out where your target hiring managers hang out. What professional meetings are they likely to attend? What Linkedin groups are they likely to have joined? Go to those places with regularity, both in the real and virtual worlds so that they bump into you not as a job seeker, but as a peer in a common field. Make yourself findable. Networking like this accounted for approximately 80% of the hires in 2010. Be purposeful as you network. Build out your current base of contacts into a larger group of people who know you and are motivated to aid you in your job hunt. Don’t ever forget the successful networker always lives by the motto, “Give to get!” Don’t let yourself be seen only as a “taker.” Of course, you will need to develop the all-important resume. But do it such that the resume, bullet by bullet demonstrates your accomplishments that align with the needs of your target audience. Your resume is your marketing literature. It is not your autobiography, nor is it the eulogy you hope someone will deliver about you many years from now. It is a tactical messaging piece that should be a part of a larger strategic plan- nothing more or less! LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter – all have their important roles in today’s job hunt. But they should be seen for what they are: tools to use to implement the larger strategy of getting in front of the people in your field who need to know and value you for the professional you are. Yes, you can still scan the job boards for appropriate jobs that fit into your “bull’s eye.” Yes, people do get jobs by responding to ads. If these boards weren’t valuable to employers and recruiters – who pay to keep them profitable – they wouldn’t exist for long. But the odds are always stacked in favor of the employer because they provide the employer not only with your resume, but likely hundreds of other resumes of your competitors. The tools of a job hunt – resume, networking, social networking, job boards each are like an arrow in the archer’s quiver. You, the hunter, need lots of arrows. But you need to use each of them as part of a larger strategy for hitting your target. Happy hunting! Photo credit: Shutterstock
Man on laptop enjoys summer while working full time

There you are: sitting on the beach, covered in sunscreen, reading your favorite book, drinking your favorite drink under the cool shade of an umbrella. Life doesn't get any better than this. Suddenly, a door slams, a phone rings, a printer turns on. You jolt back into consciousness. You're at work, sitting in your cubicle, without even a hint of sunshine streaming in from outside.

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