The other day two different friends asked about tips in their quest for new employment. I have done more than my fair share of job hunting, so they figured I would have a trick or two up my sleeve. I do, and I thought I’d share it here with you as well.
Caveate: Some of these suggestions are very specific to my region (especially the Chagrin Valley Job Seeker’s group). So your mileage may vary.

Philosophy
“The third guy has your job.” Not your friend, and a friend of your friend, but the guy that your friend-of-a-friend knows – he’s the one who has your job. Your challenge is to get introduced to THAT guy. You do that by “networking”. Telling as many people about your search as you can, while doing it in a way that is positive, upbeat, energized and puts you in a positive light.

Be ready for the “why are you leaving your old job” question. Unless your company has publicly announced it tanking (cough!NationalCity!cough!), you will always need to address their fear that, like your current gig, you are going to bail on them too. The correct answer is almost always “career growth opportunities”. You simply couldn’t move into the area/level of leadership or technology that this new company is offering. But this job is your dream job, and you can already see how there will always be new exciting and rewarding challenges here. Practice saying something like that in the mirror if you have to, but get it down.

Sincerety is the key. Once you can fake that, you are in the clear. </sarcasm>

Finally, at the end of the interview, look the person in the eye and TELL them you want this job (assuming you do). In the vast majority of my interviews (given or received), almost nobody does that. They think being macho and coy is going to win them the job. Sorry to burst the tough-guy bubble, but I want someone who is interested, committed, excited. Tell me you are.

What I usually say is:

“I just want to take a minute and state clearly that not only do I believe I can do this job, I want to do this job – for you, with this team, at this company. This is something I would truly like to be part of. I didn’t want to leave this room without making sure you didn’t have any doubts about whether I wanted “in”. I do. I hope we’ll have a chance to work together.”

Head in the Game
What do you REALLY want to do in I.T? What kind of company do you want to work at? I know it sounds like a stupid question – I mean if a company has a job I apply for it, and if they don’t then who cares, right?

Nope.

A lot of jobs are unposted. Or they are dreams in the head of a manager who has an open headcount but doesn’t want to go through the hassle (read “paperwork”) of posting a job description, interviewing candidates, etc.

So the trick (and it requires time, patience and work) is to figure out which manager has that super-secret headcount, and get a chance to talk with him to convince him he should “spend” it on you – that you have skills he could really really use. Once he has that, everything becomes easier FOR HIM – he writes the job req to match what he already knows you can do; he interviews other people, but only to satisfy HR;  and he gets it all done in 1 or 2 days, so that he can justify hiring YOU.

But that kind of work takes a lot of your time and effort. You can’t do it for every job in the city. Which is why you have to go back to “what do you want to do/ where do you want to do it?”.

Given the skills you have right now (people won’t hire you for stuff you wish you could do), what are the things you enjoy most? Because that’s the job you’ll want to hang on to, even when you have a butthead boss or there are salary cuts.

Do you prefer to work in legal, healthcare, manufacturing, food, etc? Narrow it down. Again, given the amount of detective work you’ll have to do, you need to limit your search to just one area. If that one comes up dry, you can move to the next section.

  • Make a list of companies that are in that sector. (there are plenty of guides online of companies and what area of industry they are in)
  • Then start to dig through your network (CVJS and LinkedIn) to find people you know (or that third guy) at those companies
  • Then get introduced
  • Then start the detective work

It will take time. It will also be worth it.

CVJS
First and foremost, join the Chagrin Valley Job Seeker’s group (http://www.chagrinvalleyjobseekers.org/). To join, you have to attend one live meeting. After that you will be able to get onto the online listserve (it runs off Yahoo Groups). The group is about 5,000 people strong – former job seekers (ie: people who got a job) and current seekers. The group has a wealth of information to download – “how to negotiate your salary” guides written by HR people based on their experience negotiating from the other side of the desk. “How to write a resume”, “how to perform a job search”, etc.

Meanwhile, the online discussion includes people posting new jobs at their company (already a benefit since you email the employee, who puts your resume on the hiring manager’s desk instead of you just going into the old HR hopper); or people who interviewed at a company and heard about other openings; or people who work at companies that you can approach to say “what should I know before my interview”.

LinkedIn
Beef up your network NOW. You really have no idea who is going to know the guy who knows the guy who knows the guy who has your job. It could be a High School acquaintance, or someone who worked at your first job, or something like that.

Don’t get hung up on the whole “I barely know them” thing.

They aren’t friends. They are colleagues. You don’t need to hug them, you don’t need to invite them out for coffee or beer. Facebook is for friends, and if you ask me, people who have a facebook friend list with 100’s of people is just stupid. A LinkedIn list of 100’s of colleagues makes sense, though.

Here’s the real payoff for working through LinkedIn: when you apply to a job on that system, the job posted sees not just your stuff, but everything that LinkedIn can tell them. Along with your response to a job posting, they see all the people you know that they know; they see all the recommendations you have gotten from people they know; they get a list of people you have worked with who are (or were) at their company. In short, it’s potentially a better “why you want me to work for you” speech than you could have given in person.

Start Talking

Look, I know that blogs are passe. I know they’re totally 2000’s. Everyone tweets now.

Except you are reading this. And you may also read something on webdesign.adatosystems.com. Or monitoring.adatosystems.com. Or maybe you caught a guest post of mine somewhere else.

The upshot is, you are here, down near the bottom of the article, still reading.

Blogs establish credibility. They are also living proof that you care enough about your work to share it with others. Not a good writer? Work on it. No really. Unless you like being a PC monkey mechanic or a programmer peon, and want to stay one for the rest of your career, the “C” word (communicating) is something you are going to need to learn how to do. And a blog is a great, low impact, non-judgemental space for you to practice that skill. And in the meanwhile, you have a place to talk about whatever strikes your fancy.

Including this time when two friends asked for ideas on their job hunt…

Everything Else

Yep, there’s monster, dice, and all the other 3 bajillion job seeking sites. Go work them. Set up job search notifiers. Check the newspaper. Leave no stone un-turned. For a long time, I never got a job through networking. All my jobs came through traditional channels. But then some did. And the jobs I got from doing it the new way were better, more satisfying, and more like “me” than the other ones.

Something worth considering.