Turbo job search

job_searchAfter nine months of searching, I have some encouraging news in my job search. I don’t want to jinx it by talking about details before the ink is dry, so to speak, but let’s just say that it appears there is light at the end of the unemployment tunnel!

It was a long, hard, emotionally draining search over those months. I thought I was an expert; after all, I’d just spent a few months in early 2008 learning best practices when I was searching for a job that would bring me to Chicago.

And then I was hired for my dream job – where I actually wrote about careers and job searching. I was devastated to lose that job, but I’d figured I had just had a master course in how to look for work. I’d only be out of work for a month or two, tops. Right? Well, not quite.

2009 was an entirely different ballgame. What I can tell other people is this: Your search today must be unlike any other search you’ve ever conducted. You have to be in a lot of places, all at the same time. You can’t just use one or two tools to land a job – you have to use the whole damn toolbox.

You can’t glide through a standard-issue job search. You have to kick it up to TURBO.

Here’s a few ways you can do that – and some things I did that worked for me.

Use every job board you can. There’s a few big names in the field – CareerBuilder, Monster, and Yahoo! HotJobs – but you can’t just use one or two of the big boards alone and expect success. The boards do have a wide range of listings, but even if the job listed is appropriate for you and your skill set, those position can often be inundated with resumes from jobseekers who are clustered on those boards, making it harder to get noticed.

I found SimplyHired and Indeed to be great tools. They’re boards that aggregate job listings not only from those bigger boards, but also thousands of smaller job boards. From a perspective of RESEARCHING what’s out there, it’s a great tool to use.

Check to see if there’s a specific job board for your industry. Idealist.org, for example, is a board that solely features job listings in the non-profit sector. LinkedIn has a job board as part of their site.

I’m not saying one is better than the other. It’s not an either/or thing. You have to open – and monitor – every possible channel that you can.

Connections, connections, connections. You’ve heard it elsewhere, but I’ll say it again – connections are critically important. They can make or break your competitive chances. And let’s be real: we’re not even talking about competing for the job. We’re talking about the cutthroat competition that’s out there for you to even be called in for an interview.

You have to use every connection you can. Go back to your grade school days, look up old teachers, childhood friends, and neighbors. If you’re still at a job and are thinking about a new one, connect with every person you can think of. That might mean going outside of your comfort zone, but if the guy who fills up the vending machines is on LinkedIn, you might actually want to connect with him there. (Who else goes into dozens of other companies every day?)

You have to be creative about who you connect with. You want those connections to be sound ones, and ones that make sense, but you should encourage those connections and relationships. If you’re figuring you can count on your boss and a co-worker or two, you’ll be sorely disappointed if you’re laid off.

Become a LinkedIn rock star. Speaking of connections, I’m amazed at how many people are on LinkedIn – and how many profiles are full of FAIL. linkedin_logo

I can’t tell you how many of my former managers I’ve looked up on LinkedIn. People who are dynamic leaders, who know their stuff, who are engaging managers with a lot of interactions….and then you click on their profile, and they’ve connected with maybe three people. One of those connections is usually their spouse.

I think too many people think LinkedIn is like Facebook. It has some minor shared DNA, but it’s a different animal. It’s a place to get connected, and stay connected, with the people I mentioned above, as well as other people you’ve worked with or collaborated with along the way.

It’s also a place where you can actually tell the story of your career in a very clear and concise way. Too many people just do a resume data dump into their LinkedIn profiles. That’s not really impressive, and it doesn’t really share your story.

Guy Kawasaki, the former Apple guru who launched Alltop, has a great post in his blog from 2007. There’s a great before-and-after explanation of how to make a profile better. You can see it by clicking here.

Or you can check out my LinkedIn profile here.

I know there are other social media platforms where people connect professionally, and it’s a great idea to use them too. But right now, LinkedIn is in many ways the industry standard. If you want to be in the game, it’s a good idea to have a profile – a good profile.

Get people’s attention. We’ve all heard of stories where people did extreme things to land a job – dangling off the side of a building, sending pizzas to HR with resumes attached, putting their name on billboards.

It may seem ridiculous, but quite frankly, you have to find some way to make yourself stick out from a crowd. I’ve talked to several recruiters in my job search, and surprisingly, many of them shared the number of candidates up for the job. (Probably as an apology for not calling back or e-mailing me sooner.) The lowest number was 80; the highest, over 300.

Alison Green wrote a great blog post for U.S. News & World Report that should be required reading for ANYONE who is searching for a job right now. The recession has COMPLETELY changed the game. As Alison says, it used to be that recruiters could pick from a few candidates that were 80% or 90% qualified, and could stretch into the role and learn. Now, most recruiters are seeing several candidates that are 100% ready from the word go.

magnifying-glassSo how do you make yourself stand out? You need a few guidelines. It needs to be legal, for one. (Anything involving you sneaking inside and breaching security will probably land you in trouble.) It shouldn’t be too terribly annoying, or disrupt the flow of business in any way. And it needs to be appropriate for your industry. Beyond that, use your head and be creative. Fortune favors the brave!

My big idea grew very organically out of my frustration that no one seemed to be looking at my resume. I kept mentioning to friends that I wanted someone to take a closer look. And then a lightbulb went off in my head. I went to the dollar store, bought dozens of small magnifying glasses, and whipped up a cover sheet that told the recipient that I understood their company had been inundated with resumes…..but I wanted them to take a closer look.

I glued that magnifying glass onto that cover sheet and sent about 20 or so follow-up letters like this to jobs I applied to. It didn’t land me a new job, but it did elicit a few phone calls and a new connection or two.

It also underscored another important point for me: job seekers really need to do their research and make sure that their correspondence goes to the right people at any given company. “To who it may concern” will land your resume in File 13. Writing the CEO is likely to have the same effect. Be smart and do your research (or ask your contacts).

Try some cold pitching. We’ve all been trained to have a Pavlovian response in our job searches. The company posts the position, and we start to salivate….I mean, submit a resume and cover letter. ice.cubes.cold.bg

But if there’s a company you’d like to work for, it doesn’t hurt to send them a resume and a letter of introduction telling them all about you. It could lead to new connections and, possibly, a new job. You can also pitch an idea for a new product or promotional platform to them, as well.

This summer, one of the TV stations here in Chicago appointed a new general manager. I sent him an e-mail with an idea I’d had for his station for a while – a blog that would offer a new promotional and advertising channel for them, as well as talk about the programs they carry and engage viewers by discussing the history of those shows and the memories that viewers had of them.

(Written by me, of course – a blogger with experience writing for a national audience – and writing about television.) The GM had other things and other priorities to focus on at the moment, but he hasn’t said no, so anything is possible.

As I said earlier, fortune favors the brave. If you see something that the company should be doing and maybe isn’t spending time, financial capital or talent capital on, pitch your idea to them. You may just pitch yourself into a new job.

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