What is the key to a successful job search? It is the three As.
In prior blog posts I spoke about using a brag book, the need to stay in front of your network, the importance of networking, how to stand out and how to use a bio, but the focus here is more broad. These prior blog posts provide specific, tangible tools to help you manage your career but what are the overarching strategies that are the key to a successful job search in this current economic climate? It is what I refer to in my career management methodology as the three A’s: Attitude, Activity and Assertiveness. You can have the most amazing credentials in the world and the most polished resume but if your Three A’s are not in perfect order, your job search will likely falter, or at a minimum, will not allow you to land the job you deserve in the shortest time possible.
Let’s look at each of these key dimensions.
A positive, energetic, hopeful attitude while in job search mode is such an important element in this process. Hiring managers and recruiters can sniff a desperate, negative and lackluster approach from miles away. This approach won’t help at all in the current economy. Let’s look at how a healthy attitude plays out with a standard interview question. Let’s assume I was laid off due to an elimination of a layer of management.
Interviewer: “Matt, why are you no longer working at XYZ Company?”
Me: “Well, I have to tell you, my boss and I never really got along that well. My clients loved me but I never really hit it off with her. She seemed to play favorites and I never felt like I had a fair shake. It’s all for the best anyway because I don’t think I was a good fit for XYZ.”
Me: “Frankly, I never thought that high-performing employees would get hung up in a layoff; however, business decisions had to be made. My entire layer of management was eliminated. I know it wasn’t personal. While I can’t say I agree with it, I can respect a company that makes difficult decisions. Rather than focus on what was out of my control, I decided right away to leave on a high note by finishing strong on my assignments and transitioning my work in a timely manner. Now, I am being very selective in what role I accept next because I want to make sure to land in a spot where my talents can best be utilized and where I can make an impact to the company.”
So, as you can see, by fostering positive attitude, you can leave a positive impression during an interview. This attitude will serve you well in other aspects of your job search, too. A great example is during the heavy networking phase of your search. It is important to remain upbeat with your networking partners. If you are executing your search properly, you should be going after the influential players and power connectors (the most well-networked people) in your industry and region. These folks are extremely busy and surely will not take a networking call or meeting with a downtrodden jobseeker. Not a chance.
You can have the best attitude in the world, but if you are not talking to these power connectors, not attending events, meetings and conferences, and if you are not applying to jobs regularly, then you are going to have a tough time accelerating the job search process. Activity yields results. It always does. Ask any sales professional. They all use statistics that tell them how many leads they need to call on, how many need to be converted to a face-to-face sales pitch, and how many of these will yield a sale.
Job search is the same way, except you are the product and salesperson wrapped in one. Here’s a list of some important activities that you should be participating in every day, week and month. This goes for whether you are out of work and those who are gainfully employed:
- Face-to-face networking meetings with power connectors
- LinkedIn invitations
- Networking events
- Professional organization meetings
- Speaking with recruiters
- Applying for jobs
This type of activity is crucial. By getting out there and meeting people, even the same people repeatedly (the average networking partner forgets about you in about seven days), you start to become ingrained in your connections’ minds as the person to remember for job leads and other important referrals.
Please don’t lose sight of the need to apply to open positions, too! It is very easy to get swept up in the networking process. So much so that you forget to apply to open jobs. You need to set aside time to do both. When the process comes together, you will see an open job and then tap your robust network to find someone with influence to pluck your resume out of the “black hole” and right onto the hiring manager’s desk.
Searching for your next position also takes the right degree of assertiveness. Assertiveness comes into play in several areas. First, when you are trying to get networking appointments with power connectors, you may have to follow up on two or three different occasions. Why? Not because networking partners don’t care about you or don’t want to be bothered, but because they are extremely busy and just have trouble keeping up with all that they have on their plate.
Let’s look at an example. People have called me a power connector in the Philadelphia area, particularly in Human Resources and in the pharmaceutical industry. I’m not sure of this but let’s go with it. I have a full time job, a side business and a volunteer position. This creates many emails, phone calls and meetings. If you send me an email, it could likely get buried under other pressing issues. Does this mean I don’t want to connect with you? No, not at all, so I suggest you send another follow up. Build rapport, show credibility, and show me that you believe in mutually beneficial networking.
The same concept applies to a call or email to a recruiter that has an opening that fits your background. Polite, courteous and timely follow-up shows interest, passion and persistence. These are traits that any employer would likely covet. Of course, there is always a limit. Too much of a good thing is always problematic.
Many jobseekers are timid and don’t follow up enough. If that’s you then remember a good amount of follow-up is appreciated and can really make a difference.
Conducting a cutting-edge job search requires many tactical elements such as a resume, cover letter, bio, target list of companies and brag book; however, if you also remain focused and practice the Three A’s of Attitude, Activity and Assertiveness, you will likely land your next position sooner and with less stress!
Author: Matthew Levy is a well-rounded HR professional and Career Coach with fifteen years of broad experience in both specialist (e.g., recruiting) and generalist (e.g., HR business partner) roles at blue-chip companies, including Merck, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson. In addition to his full time work, Matt founded a career coaching practice, Corner Office Career Coaching. Follow Matt on Twitter.