Who taught you to job hunt?
This is a question that I think few people ask themselves, but it’s important.
A friend of ours reported struggling to find a job, and we asked her process. She was dropping by places where she wanted to apply, in person, during the pandemic, to ask if they had an opening.
I didn’t even have to ask to know that a Baby Boomer suggested this plan. Back in the 1970s, it was a solid strategy that actually got people jobs. (Not the “visit during a pandemic” part, though!)
Having worked in an employment agency and having met dozens of interview candidates at a dozen different companies, I can tell you with some authority that this process does not work if you want an office job.
(It might work if you want to bus tables at a restaurant or do manual labor on a construction site, but I’m not sure. Just guessing).
Your very first rule is not to annoy the front office staff. This must be said because apparently a shocking number of people find it impossible to do.
This is why it’s a good idea to ask yourself, where did you get your ideas on how to conduct a job hunt? Does the person who gave you this advice work in your actual field? (Not “did” as in “many years ago,” but does this person actively work in this field today?)
Have you checked those ideas with anyone else? Do these other people also have successful careers in your field?
Something it took me much too long to discover was that it’s better to ask for advice from people than it is to ask them for job leads. The ratio should be about 10% asking people for their time to help you, to 90% doing your own reading and research.
People ask me to look over their resumes all the time, which I do because I’m super nice that way, and it typically takes me an hour. It’s really important to understand that an hour of a busy person’s time is a big ask. You need to be paying that forward and making absolutely sure you are doing at least 1:1 hours of nice, generous things for other people.
Because that’s what ‘work’ is.
It gets a lot easier when you take on the persona of a finisher, a closer, someone who will absolutely not just bend over backward, but try to put your foot behind your head if that’s what it takes to get something done.
That’s when people start reaching out to *you* with unsolicited offers, rather than you chasing after them.
You can build a reputation like this in the volunteer world.
This is that type of ‘duh’ advice that makes people’s eyes roll back in your head. Yeah, tell me something I don’t know. How will I have time to do that when I’m so busy with this job hunt?
I never understood how true it was until I did it myself.
I’m firmly convinced that all the volunteer leadership I did in Toastmasters is what got me my dream job - well, that and the spec work I did on my tech newsletter.
There are two forces operating here, and I’m firmly convinced that almost zero job applicants put them to use, even as the standard “submit resume to hundreds of companies and wait” method returns so few results.
One is the force of networking, building a solid reputation with perhaps a hundred people who only know two things about you. First, you’re useful to have on projects, and second, you’re interested in a particular kind of job opening.
The other is the sheer mystical power of the portfolio method.
This is how I got my job.
First, I applied for two jobs and did not hear back. No rejection letter, no call, no interview, no nuthin. What I did do, though, was to attend a resume workshop and talk to a consultant. I hadn’t had a regular job in over ten years, and I wanted help figuring out how to explain that. We met, I wrote my resume and had two other business friends give me notes on it, and then I sent it to her and we talked over it again.
The third job I applied for was the job that I got. Same resume, same type of position, with two key differences.
I actually knew the specific person I would be working for, and I had met at least a dozen people, not just in the company, but in the specific division where I wound up working.
Also, I had been doing my spec project for over a year. I had inside information that it was on target. I figured it would eventually get me a job at this company - I gave it four years - and when it actually worked, I was simply surprised that it happened faster than I had thought.
Two things are happening here. One is that I am a known quantity to the people with whom I want to work. The other is that they have an ongoing sample of the quality of my work. By the time they interview me, it’s more or less a formality, because they already know I can do high-quality work on a consistent production schedule.
Twenty years ago, I knew that most jobs and promotional opportunities are never publicly advertised. I also knew that answering ads didn’t work very well. What I did not know was how the heck a person like me with no connections could get ahold of one of those jobs.
Now I do know.
Did it take hours of unpaid work on my part? Yes.
Did it take paying to hire someone to look over my resume? Yes.
Did all of that magically get compensated by my first paycheck at the new, higher-paying job? Yes.
It’s true that the existing system is not designed to be welcoming to outsiders, no matter what field you’re in. It’s also true that it’s still possible to become an insider. With a sincere desire to fill a specific role in a specific field, and consistent effort strategically applied, probably anyone can eventually become one of those insiders.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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