Saturday, September 26, 2009

How to Give Good Luck a Leg Up

If you’ve been between jobs for, like, an hour, you already know that wishing will get you only so far. In fact, you might have been wishing that you weren’t on the list of people to get laid off. So you know better than just about anyone that wishing has its limitations.

Now. Luck. That could be another matter altogether. While you can’t control everything in life, you can certainly help good luck along by the actions you take and the way you take care of yourself while you’re looking for your next job. No I’m not being superstitious. Just practical. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this from the flip side. How much luck to you think would come your way if you stayed at home, refusing to answer the phone or checking your email? See? You can control the way luck behaves in your life – at least to some extent.

Now that you’re looking for your next, great job, you need all the advantages working for you. And that includes luck. So let’s see how we can give it a nudge in your direction, shall we?

Expect that the right job really is out there waiting for you to find it. Yes, even in these days when it appears that “no one is hiring,” people are getting new jobs. You’ve got to hold onto the belief that you will too. If you don’t, you’re going to be sending out those freak-out vibes that will tell potential employers that you’re about to self-combust right then and there. And who wants to hire that? Keep that grounded core of calm, solidified by the belief that, yes, you’re on your way to your new job.

Release your attachment to the so-called system. Amazingly, 70% of all jobs never get published or advertised in any way. That’s why we call it the hidden job market. But even though those jobs are hidden, you can still find them. But that means you have to release your grip on the expectation that “the system” will deliver up a selection of jobs for you to choose from every morning. It might have before (like in 2005) but it won’t anymore. The hidden job market is where you’ll find the great jobs. But you have to go looking for them.

Take that as good news. Sure you have to be more proactive than you were a few years ago. But the hidden job market puts you in the drivers seat. You have the power to go out and find the great jobs and companies that meet your criteria. That’s so much better than just sitting back and waiting for a diminishing stream of the wrong jobs trickle by you.

Keep your funnel full and your calendar crammed. Successful salespeople will tell you to never run out of appointments and possibilities. Some of those appointments will be job interviews. Great. But as you’re working the hidden job market, most of them will be networking meetings. Which is actually even better. You’re not under pressure to get the job. You’re meeting peers and colleagues and exploring ideas and new introductions. Sure, if you’re like a lot of people, you may not necessarily enjoy meeting new people week in and week out. But you’re in sales now. So it’s time to take a page from those guys. And get out there, ready to fill your days with great conversations that will help you understand where the really great opportunities can be found.

Keep your mind open. In our book, Unlock the Hidden Job Market, Duncan Mathison and I tell the story of one of his clients who found a job through a friend of his mother’s. The daughter of a friend of his mother’s, no less. But it took this guy four weeks to pick up the phone and make the call that would ultimately land him the job. Whether it was generic sexism or mom-snobbery that was holding his client back from making the call that could change his life, who knows? Either way, it’s a good story to keep in mind when you’re inclined to say “nope” to hope.

Be prepared to meet your opportunity when you least expect it. I don’t mean you have to be dressed in go-to-meetin’ clothes, with your resume at the ready all the time. In our book, we also tell a great story about another client who meets his next opportunity while standing on the beach in San Diego, dripping wet, battered and bruised after a raucus competitive ocean swim. He was CFO caliber, and the guy he met was a CEO looking for a CFO. Suffice it to say, not exactly your dress for success moment. (Personally, I’m imagining an ill-advised Speedo and a decidedly snotty nose. If this guy can land a job with that as a first impression, just think what luck you’ll have just being dressed!)

Look at what you have to offer from the point of view of your potential employer. The line, “look, I really need this job,” is compelling only in the movies. In real life, it’s darn pitiful. And will net you sympathy, not a job offer. Don’t lead with your need. Present yourself in terms of what you have to offer. So look at your pile of gifts, skills and experiences from the standpoint of how they will solve a company’s problem or meet a need. That’s a conversation that will inspire the right person to say, “How soon can you start?”

Tell your career story in a positive way. When you launch into the response to, “So, tell me about yourself,” stay away from “…and then I got laid off.” Emphasize the results you achieved, talk about the people who noticed your performance and chose to promote you to the next level, tell about the teams you worked in or led. As you near the sad-sack conclusion that takes you to how you’re out of work now, don’t gloss over it. But quickly turn the tables and ask your interviewer a question about the company, his or her own experience in some similar project or team, his or her opinion about the current state of your profession.

Finally, keep your standards high. Luck won’t find you if you’re targeting job opportunities that are clearly beneath your abilities. When you keep your standards high, you will be at the right place at the right time. On purpose. And by design.
So much better than just crossing your fingers, wouldn’t you say?

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