The View From A Career Counselor

A reader writes:

Your reader wrote:

“Playing by the rules, I post and scour Monster and Career Builder to no avail, not even an interview.  When I see a job that particularly fits my skills, I break the 'rules' and contact the employer directly and consistently.”

I feel for the guy, but he should break the rules more often. Having been unemployed myself for months, I understand the frustration.  But having worked in career counseling for a few years, I know how to look for a job.  Most people don’t, and would do better if they did.

Don’t waste too much time with job boards unless you are someone with a very specific technical skill looking for a job that requires that skill.  Do contact employers directly and consistently, and contact them before they have job openings.  The old nostrum that “if a job is posted, it’s been filled” is generally true.

The reality is that 80% of jobs are filled via personal connections and relationships.  It really is like high school; people hire people they know and like.  Think of everyone you know, even your worthless brother in law, as a potential connection to a job, either directly or indirectly.  Your resume should be the last thing an employer sees, because the first thing they should see is you in person.  People should do the following:

1. Figure out what it is you want to do and where you’d like to work.  Do some web research to identify desirable employers.

2. Ask everyone you know if they know anybody at the places you want to work; if not, do some more research on places like their websites and Linked In to identify key hiring managers at those places.  Whether or not they have a job opening is irrelevant.

3. Get on the phone and call them, or send them a personal note or email---don’t ask for a job, but say you are exploring career options and would like to learn about their company and what they do there.  Flatter them by asking for advice---people love to talk about themselves.

4. Cultivate the new relationship, and ask for more referrals.  Eventually one of two things will happen:  you will hit upon someone getting ready to post a job opening that they will consider you for, or one of the people you met with will think of you the next time they have a job opening and call you back.

5. Try freelance consulting---it can lead to new connections and even jobs.  It forces you to “market” and “brand” yourself.