How to find a job

“Nobody is indispensable” is what my mom has always said when the economy has started to look bleak, encouraging me to work harder and diversify my skills.

The downturn affected me (and also sac-eats, as he is married to me, and my layoff also greatly affected him) in early October as I was laid off.  I had the feeling that it was coming — namely, I had been involved in closed-door meetings in the previous two cycles of layoffs, yet I was not included in these meetings this time around — so I had at least mentally prepared myself a bit.

Here is how I got into an even better position in five weeks flat:

First Steps:
– Recognize that this is not personal.  This has nothing to do with you as a person or your skills (unless you’re told otherwise)
– Truly view this as an opportunity.  Even if you loved your job (as I did with mine), you know that there are things that could have been improved.  There ARE companies and organizations in growth mode, so here’s your shot to escape from a position that will likely continue to be uncomfortable until things turn around.

OK, now these:

Let everyone know that you’re looking for work, everyone. As noted in last week’s article by Claudia Buck, develop your 15 second elevator speech.  When people ask how you’re doing, and by “people” I mean anyone who asks you the general “how are you doing?” question, tell them your story.  Here was mine, “I just got laid off and am looking for new opportunities. I have nearly 15 years of communications and public affairs experience, both in the public and private sectors.  I’ve worked in regional planning, utilities, and construction, but I am flexible with what I’ll do next.  I also have seven solid years of non-profit governance and leadership experience.”

With any job, it’s all about who you know, and you never know who’s related to whom when you’re out talking to people in the community.

Check out the indeed site. This is a central repository of almost every job that’s posted online.  You should check this no less than once per day, and use a variety of key words.  Be sure to keep clicking through all of the pages, even if it seems like there’s nothing in the search results that interest you, as I found many gems buried in pages 7-9.

Get connected online. Do you have an up-to-date profile on LinkedIn?  If not, develop your network.  Don’t be shy about asking for introductions. If you’re comfortable in your job, this is also a good thing to develop, because you never know.  If you know my real name, please add me as one of your contacts.

Clean up your online persona. Review your Facebook or MySpace profiles to ensure there’s nothing on there that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see.  They do check these things, you know.

Get up, cleaned up, dressed, and out the door each day. Do not let grass grow under your feet.  Millions of people are in the same situation you are.  Don’t let one of them beat you to your ideal job. Get in touch with old business contacts and ask to have lunch or coffee with them.  The odds are strong that they’ll even buy you your lunch or coffee because you’re the unemployed person (but don’t expect this — offer to pay for theirs when the bill comes, of course, because you invited them, remember?)

Believe it or not, now is not the time to skimp completely on haircuts or other grooming. Sure, you might be able to switch to a slightly less pricey brand, or you can try a slightly less posh salon, but do not space out your haircuts more or try to get by with one more wear before sending stuff to the cleaners — it will show (or smell), and you won’t feel as confident. Even Clark Howard says this, and that guy is cheap. Here are some previous suggestions on places to go for economical upkeep.

Are you involved in anything outside of work? If so, do you take a leadership role in those activities?  If so, why not?  Anyone can be a dues-paying member. Be specific about what your involvement is.  Anyone can write platitudes in cover letters or resumes, but specifics stand out. For example, “As the vice president of fundraising of XXX organization, I was responsible for recruiting XX volunteers for XX events, resulting in $XX,XXX raised to support programs XX and XX.”

Have you completed any leadership training or continuing education since college? Be sure to note these on your resume. If you haven’t done anything like this, please do so.  It will demonstrate your eagerness to learn new things, will increase your skills and marketability, and you will make valuable contacts outside of your regular circle.

Speaking of resumes, have an expert look at yours.  Key components should include a brief description of you at the top — it will be similar to your elevator speech but less conversational in tone. Just under there, have a bullet point list of your major skills and experience, then list your specific previous positions with a few more details about each job.  This helps you avoid an overly text heavy resume if your previous jobs had similar responsibilities. Again, be specific.

Are you on PAR? Get ready for the behavioral questions in interviews.  Develop no fewer that 20 PAR statements, meaning PROBLEM, ACTION, RESULT. This is how you answer the inevitable questions like, “Tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult person.” Here is a list of potential questions. The job interview itself should never be the first time you’re thinking about how you would answer these questions.

Take advantage of outplacement services, if this is something that your previous employer is providing for you.  These experts will help you refine your resume, give you a host of tools to get you started, and they’ll provide the ongoing professional support and morale boost that you need.

Realize that this is a numbers game. I applied for no fewer than 35 positions (keep track of your progress on a spreadsheet — positions applied for, date applied, and any follow-up information), and I heard back from a total of four, all of which resulted in interviews, and one of which led to my fabulous new position.

And, of course, be yourself. Like dating, you want to put your best foot forward, but now is not the time to embellish who you are or what you’ve done, but you don’t want to downplay your accomplishments either.  Stay true to your values, and don’t sell yourself short.

In conclusion, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Many churches offer free meals, no questions asked.  Most of the clients at the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services are working people with homes.  Here is how to find specific help. Everyone knows that times are tough, and we’re all in this together.

9 thoughts on “How to find a job”

  1. I’d also recommend using employment agencies (perhaps you meant that by outplacement agencies, I dunno…)
    I’m a recruiter and have relationships with a ton of hiring managers…they’ll never post an ad for a job or hire on their own, but will exclusively use agencies (the one good thing about California’s restrictive labor laws!). If you’re not at least speaking with a Staffing Manager or Recruiter, you’re missing a TON of opportunities.
    I’d recommend doing all the stuff Becky said, AND using an emp firm/temp agency for the double whammy.
    Good stuff!

    And hey, I was in your office last week!

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  2. YOU’RE the Eric who was there! A ha! That’s not my full-time paying gig; it’s the non-profit I’m heading up this year.

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  3. Hey RG:

    This is not just advise for those looking for work right? Everyone should have resume polished, elevator speech, ask for cards, not defame themselves on Facebook? As probably the best networker I know, at least based on Linkedin connections alone, I would love some additional networking tips as well… oh, and how to use these connections?

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  4. How to use LinkedIn:

    – Create a profile that tells not only your experience and education, but also offers some specifics about you as an individual by taking the time to write a thought-out bio (however short or long you want it to be)

    – Start making your connections with the people you know (you’re already this far, CSISac — in fact, you were actually my first contact on LinkedIn. The only other regular of The SacRag I have in my network is The Game Guy)

    – Be specific with what you want to get out of networking — Are you looking for a new job, and if so, is it in a new industry? Are you looking to expand your business, and if so, which markets (geographically or product/service)?

    – This is when you start looking at the connections of your contacts. Who in their networks might be someone who can give you information or point you in the right direction? There is the option to ask for introductions, and it’s a very not-in-your-face at all deal. It’s all through e-mail.

    – Once you’ve gone through round 1 of that exercise, think about people whose names you’ve heard out and about that you think might be of help (someone you’ve read about in the Business Journal, for instance), and search for his or her name in LinkedIn. If they’re registered too, it will tell you how you’re connected to that person, so that’s when you start doing the introduction thing again. You can do the same thing with a company or organization name search, and you’ll see if anyone familiar pops up (or someone who knows one of your connections.)

    – On your LinkedIn home page, it will tell you who in your network has made recent updates. When you click on your list of connections, there’s a special icon that shows people with new connections.

    So, there’s a start!

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  5. LinkedIn is only useful to do background research on a contact or perhaps stumble onto a connection you didn’t know about. I don’t think it’s a great move to actually contact people through it, rather than the usual channels.

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  6. Some friends of mine have been successful with making connections through introductions, but it all depends on your personal comfort level and approach. There is no one way fits all solution to networking or job searching.

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