Sunday, September 27, 2009

Don't let the official stats totally bum you out

There are always more jobs available than those that are officially posted. Really.

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?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Advice on Finding a Job in These Tough Times

Hi Everyone! Great news! My new book is only a week away from the bookstores! (well maybe 10 days, maybe sooner!)

It's called Unlock The Hidden Job Market, which I wrote with Duncan Mathison, who is an expert in helping people find work in really sucky economies.

Working on the book is why I kinda let this blog lie fallow for a while.

In the meantime, the official book's website is up and live! Lots of free content there.

I hope you enjoy it and will tell your friends about it too!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Discouraged? Here's How to Re-Energize Your Job Search

Did you happen to see yesterday’s NY Times article about how the nation is flooded with millions of would-be job seekers who have just plain given up? No? Well. Don’t bother. It’s a bummer. (But I linked this article to the online page anyway, just in case you’re like me and you just have to take a look.)

Probably someone somewhere said something along the lines of “Fate favors those who don’t give up.” That only seems to make sense when you’re flying high and everything seems to be clicking in your direction. But when you’re in stagger, stagger, crawl mode, you’re thinking something else. Probably something that includes words that my mommy taught me to never say.

While I can’t change your life for you, maybe I can help you restore your faith in fate and your own future. The name of the game here is to re-energize yourself and your search. Put faith back in the saddle (hey, I live in New Mexico, what do you want?). Since I’ve been dedicating myself to the issue of finding work in rock-hard terrible times, I thought I’d share these tips with you:

1. Adjust your expectations.
Ugh. Not helpful, is that? Okay. So let’s look at this just a little more closely: Depending on how old you are, your internal clock that tells you that you should have some hot prospects by now may have been set during recent boom times when all you needed as a pulse and preferably no prison record. One reason why you might be feeling the gut-punch of discouragement at this particular time could be that your clock is out of synch with the mud-slow slog of today’s job market. Know that it will take significantly longer this time to find that great job that really is out there waiting for you, and you’ll be able to handle that one-day-at-a-time approach a little more easily. Every “no” that comes your way takes you one “no” closer to that ultimate “yes.” Salespeople will tell you that.
2. Keep your funnel full. Salespeople will also tell you about how important it is to have a full and busy calendar of appointments with prospects, networking partners, information sources, etc. Knowing that you always have new opportunities coming up will keep you relatively relaxed as you deal with the one currently on your agenda. A dud meeting won’t feel so apocalyptic when you have more appointments to look forward to. Don’t let an empty calendar catch you flat-footed and discouraged. It’s awfully hard to get that funnel flowing again when it’s gone bone-dry.
3. Lay off the sugar, fat, and booze (I don’t have to mention the other stuff, right?). Comfort eating will suck the life and spirit right out of you. You’ve seen people eat crawfish in Louisiana right? It’s like that when you eat for coping. Buh-leeve me, I know. Plus, glazed-over eyes and gaposis don’t count as business casual.
4. Expand your networking. My coauthor, Duncan Mathison, for our new book, Unlock the Hidden Job Market, says that the first wall of discouragement that job seekers hit is when they’ve handed their resume out to all their friends and business contacts with the request that they pass it along to their contacts. And then they wait for a job interview to come back like a bottle in the tide. As Dr. Phil says, “How’s that working for you?” Bust out of your immediate clusters of social and work contacts and reach out to people you might not have thought of yet. Professors. Reporters. Your employed counterparts in other companies. The membership director of your professional association. Even Mom’s church friends. In our book, Duncan tells the story of one guy who got his new great job because a church friend of his mother’s had a daughter who…. You just never know.
5. Seek out networking relationships with people who truly have something to offer. Now is not the time to be codependent. You don’t to be a heartless user either, of course. (But you wouldn’t do that anyway, right?) Just like the tip from #3, keep your networking diet filled with healthy, positive people who are functioning in society. You might feel like you’re being compassionate and understanding listening to someone’s problems for the umpteenth time. You’re not. You’re being enabling. And look where it’s getting you.
6. Expand your ideas of what a great career and/or industry might be out there. The steam might have run out on your current professional train. Don’t rage against the wind that no one wants what you do anymore. What good will that do you? Think about all the different ways you can put what you do into good use. Perhaps another industry? Another customer base? Another part of the corporate organization? Maybe the government? Strip away all the external contexts that surround your skills, look at what you offer in terms of the value you bring to a potential employer. And speak to that. Who you can be, not who you once were.
7. Always be ready to talk to strangers. If you follow this blog, you know the story about how I met a guy on a plane from Albuquerque to Dallas, found out that his wife was threatening divorce if he didn’t find a job in Albuquerque. When I reached my hotel room in Connecticut that night, I sent off an email to an HR person at a big manufacturer in Albuquerque. Long story short, he got the job. And it wasn’t ever advertised. You just never know who knows whom. By the way: The missus still divorced him. Can’t win ‘em all.
8. Remember that any conversation can turn into a job lead. I once met someone in the ladies room on the 32nd floor of a mid-town NY skyscraper. Why I was in my underwear at the time is beside the point. But I was. She was the office manager of The Cousteau Society. The position of membership correspondent had just opened up. One thing led to another, and soon I was drinking Perrier and eating brie next to The Captain himself. You just never know.
9. Stop relying on the system. Online job boards are good but they should only take up a fraction of your job search time. Maybe a few years ago, they spat out job leads like tennis balls out of those scary machines. But not anymore. You’ve got to be proactive in your job search. You say you are being proactive? Good. Now. Be more proactive.
10. Be grateful that you’re unemployed. Pretty sick, huh? The thing of it is: In this terrible market, you have to use all your time to search for that next great job. This isn’t a spectator sport anymore. You’ve got to be out there swinging. It’s said that 70% of all job opportunities are never published, so plumbing the hidden job market is the way to find that great job that’s out there waiting for you. If you were holding down a job (probably one that you wouldn’t like but would be too afraid to quit), you wouldn’t have the time to meet the people who will ultimately introduce you to the people who will have the job you would really be happy with.
11. Redesign your goals. The job will come. But it probably won’t happen today. But you can still be successful today. How many phone calls can you make today? Can you set three up more appointments? Can you research 10 new businesses or industries that might be a good fit for your skills and values. Of course you can. Every day you’ve got a job. And this is a job you can do. And once you realize how much control you really do have, you’ll start to feel re-energized.

Note from Martha: These principles were borrowed from my new book, Unlock The Hidden Job Market: 6 Steps to a Successful Job Search When Times Are Tough, which I co-wrote with Duncan Mathison, who has had almost 20 years' experience at the outplacement firm Drake Beam Morin helping executives find their next great jobs. Please pass this on to everyone you know who is out there hammering away at the job market!