If you have a resume posted, you will inevitably receive a lot of e-mail regarding jobs for which you have absolutely no interest. For most people this is very frustrating. You can’t help wondering why someone would send you information on jobs that are so different from the kinds of things you are pursuing. Why is this happening?
Like other markets, the job market has supply and demand dynamics that govern it. Employers compete to attract talented individuals and individuals compete for the better employment opportunities. The better an opportunity is, the more demand there is for it. As for the less desirable jobs, some employers have trouble getting any takers.
Consider the following:
- When a position is highly desirable, chances are, as word-of-mouth gets out that they are looking for someone, they will have talented people, very interested, jockeying for position to get the attention of the right people. The employer won’t have to go very far to find someone they like for the opportunity. As a result that job may never be published. Or, it may be published, but they already know who they want.
- In many, if not most cases, the natural reaction of a decision-maker who becomes aware they are going to need someone in a particular position is this, “Who do I know that would be good in this position?” or “Who do I trust and respect that might know someone that would be good in this position?” Most decision-makers are going to exhaust these possibilities before they think in terms of collecting resumes of applicants that they know nothing about. As such, simply applying for published jobs, or hoping someone sees your posted resume or LinkedIn profile, will likely leave you out of contention for most of the better opportunities.
- By contrast there are a lot of high turnover, less desirable jobs that some companies can’t keep filled. If you post a resume, you will doubtless receive inquiries from companies who would very much like to interview you about their less desirable “opportunity.” They know they are going to have to go through a lot of people to get someone to take the job, and hire a lot of people to get some that stick.
So, what can you do? Improving your resume may help a little when it comes to being considered for better jobs, but that won’t likely cut down on the garbage in your inbox. As long as your resume is posted, you will be solicited for less desirable jobs.
The reality is that competing for the best opportunities will come through developing a more targeted contact development process geared toward getting conversations with decision-makers and influencers. That will put you on the radar for the more desirable opportunities. It will be more work, but it will be worth it.
Being marketable has to do with things like education, certifications, experience and most importantly what you have accomplished in your career. It also includes things like a nice clean employment history, that shows progression and advancement and increased responsibility. It also helps if you have worked for some recognized companies. The problem is your real talent and ability may be obscured by things like gaps in employment, a short time with a past employer, or being pigeonholed in a field or industry.
Marketing yourself is a different thing altogether. Marketing yourself has to do with things like developing a strong personal brand, communicating an effective value proposition to a specific organization, and in many cases translating skills.
For what kind of situations are you known as “the go-to person”? This is your personal brand. If you have a strong personal brand, opportunities will come to you.
The application of your personal brand to the specific needs of an organization is your value proposition. As such, your personal brand is relatively static, whereas your value proposition is dynamic, per the situation.
When you find yourself in a job search, it is easy to get lulled into thinking organizations are looking for educated and certified people with a clean employment history. But it’s important to understand this: organizations have objectives they are trying to achieve and problems they need to solve. People get hired to help organizations achieve their objectives and solve their problems. Put it this way. If you are a decision-maker, do you want to hire someone who has a certain certification, or do you want to hire the person that you believe can solve your problem?
You can tweak your resume ad nauseam, only to be analyzed by keywords or screened by someone who in most cases has no real grid to evaluate your talent. Or, you can identify the organizations and decision-makers for whom you have a value proposition and strategize how best to create dialogue with them.
By all means, work on your marketability. Get the certification or degree and take on the challenging project. All of that can be an asset when you get to the actual marketing.
We have all heard the phrase,” hope is not a strategy.” Certainly when it comes to a job search, career advancement, or finding more meaningful work, hope alone will not get you there. We have also heard that, ”insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Simply hoping things will turn out differently is inadequate.
However, when people are hopeless, discouraged, downcast, their nonverbal communication (body language, tone and energy in their voice) changes. As such, maintaining hope has a value all its own.
It is also true that good strategy gives hope. When I talk with people about better ways to execute an effective strategy to find the right opportunity, hope increases.
Fortunately we don’t have to choose between hope and strategy. Hope, combined with more effective strategies, turns out to be a great combination.
Sometime since 2003 (LinkedIn launched in May of 2003) you received that first invitation to connect on LinkedIn. Or maybe someone asked you the cryptic question, “Are you on LinkedIn?” Since then, if you’re like most people, you have been adding the occasional connection but all the while feeling that there was much more potential to LinkedIn than you were leveraging.
Then something happens and you find yourself in a job search. And there you are with paltry few connections and an unimpressive profile. Now what?
While some people have largely avoided social media, for most of us, it has touched many aspects of our lives from connecting with old friends, keeping up with children or grandchildren, and managing our careers. In the world of career management in particular, LinkedIn has become a force. But while most people may have a LinkedIn profile, it remains largely underutilized and misunderstood.
The following are typical of what I hear from people trying to utilize LinkedIn:
“I don’t know how to use LinkedIn effectively.”
“LinkedIn has too many options. I don’t know which ones are important.”
“I don’t have enough contacts.”
“My contacts are all in an industry in which I no longer wish to work.”
“My contacts are all where I used to live, not where I live now.”
Here, I’m going to touch on some important initial fundamentals of perspective on the utilization of LinkedIn. For an in-depth, detailed treatment I highly recommend Jason Alba’s book, I’m On LinkedIn Now What?
Four fundamental uses of LinkedIn:
A place to be found. Most people hope that by having a LinkedIn profile someone will find them online and offer them a job. This however is unlikely, and probably the least significant use of LinkedIn.
While recruiters are increasingly using LinkedIn to find candidates, you are much more likely to find your new job informally. Recruiters looking at your LinkedIn profile will be looking largely for the same kinds of things they look for on your resume–a pedigree for the job they are recruiting for. So, if you have an impeccable job history for the kind of opportunity you are pursuing and all the right keywords and certifications, it is possible someone will see your profile and contact you about a job. But, just like the old resume game, if your job history is less than ideal or you’re trying to change industries, this will be very unlikely. The truth is most people don’t have the career pedigree, no matter how talented they may be, to hope that passively being found on LinkedIn will be an effective strategy.
Building a network. Assuming you have started by connecting with the people you know, the next step is to find out who they are connected to that might be helpful to you. These would be your second level connections. If you look up a particular company on LinkedIn and you find there are second-level connections there, this becomes a great starting place for seeking a conversation since you have a mutual acquaintance. Or, maybe your second level contact works in an industry in which you are interested. Again, because you have a mutual acquaintance a conversation with this individual to uncover industry knowledge can be very beneficial. As you can see, I’m talking about leveraging LinkedIn to get conversations with people rather than simply adding sterile Internet “contacts” that are meaningless.
Research. By following a company on LinkedIn, you will not only gain insight into what is going on with the organization, you can also see who is coming and going in that organization (this will be especially true in larger companies). For example, if there is a new director in a specific department there may well be changes coming. It may be a great time to approach someone in that department especially if you feel you have a strong value proposition relevant to departmental needs. Don’t wait for a job to be published, be proactive and approach it less formally.
Personal branding. This is one of the most powerful uses of LinkedIn. Let’s start with three key opportunities in your LinkedIn profile. First, take advantage of the profile headline. This should be more than your current job title and company you work for (that information will be in your job history anyway). If your title and company are impressive, it is fine to include it; however there is an opportunity here to make a bigger statement about your professional brand.
Which makes a stronger statement?
Online Marketing Officer. Expert in SEO, Social Media, Email Marketing, PPC, and Mobile Advertising
Vice President of Internet Marketing, XYZ, Inc.
The first speaks more to the difference you can make and therefore comes across stronger.
Second, there is the Background Summary. This provides a huge opportunity to send a clear and strong professional branding message. This should include the kind of results you’re able to get as well as the kind of things you are excited about. Creating a great background summary is an art and you may want to get some help. If you’re overly braggadocios it looks like you’re trying too hard. The biggest challenge for most job seekers is that they lack the objectivity to see they are coming across too eager or too needy and this diminishes the perception of their value.
The third opportunity is in the Skills and Expertise section. Here, you want to enter your Motivated Skills (the things you do best and enjoy most). Resist the temptation to make this a catchall; listing everything you have ever done even the things you don’t particularly enjoy–it comes across too desperate.
There is so much that can be done with LinkedIn that it can seem overwhelming. But if you start with the idea that LinkedIn is a strong branding tool and a means to work toward actually having conversations and meetings with people in the companies and industries in which you are interested, you’ll be far better off than if you are simply adding sterile “contacts”.
Be intentional not reactive. Most people’s careers are not well planned and executed. For the majority, their career is the sum of their reactions to the things that have happened to them. An exceptional career requires constantly thinking about the direction and quality of the work you’re doing. Take some time to reflect on the delta between where you are and where you would like to be with your career. Then begin to map out the steps that would get you there. Then, don’t lose sight of your goals. Too often goals or dreams are written down and tucked away and then forgotten about.
Have a clear branding message. For what kinds of things are you the “go to” person? People get hired to help organizations achieve objectives and solve problems. Be prepared to talk about the kind of objectives you help organizations achieve and the kind of problems you help organizations solve, and thereby the kind of difference you make. Create a verbal portfolio of accomplishment with stories that can reinforce your message.
Are you concerned about long-term unemployment? Research indicates that if you have been unemployed six months or longer you’re at a severe disadvantage in your job search. While applying online and sending out resumes is largely ineffective for most job-seekers, it is especially unproductive for the long-term unemployed. In his article, The Terrifying Reality of Long-Term Unemployment, Matthew O’Brien cites the work of Dickens and Ghayad which demonstrates that employers discriminate against long-term unemployment more than they do against age, lack of experience, or lack of education. Especially when unemployment reaches the six-month mark.
When faced with the challenge of long-term unemployment most people will continue to tweak their resume ad nauseam, but this fails to address the issue. What is necessary is to get face-to-face with someone who can see you as a real person; a real, talented, person that has something to offer their organization.
When Carol decided it was time to go back to work after taking 14 years to raise her family, she knew the giant gap was going to be an issue. Who is going to take seriously a resume with a 14 year blank spot? To Carol’s credit, she never complained about the challenge. Instead she was purposeful and strategic. We worked with Carol on a targeted contact development strategy that got her talking with people who could see her as a motivated, talented, person. The result was her landing a job with the fastest-growing healthcare company.
The best way to tackle the challenge of long-term unemployment, as with most job-search issues, is going to be found in conversations rather than applications.
Dorie Clark has written a fabulous article on the importance of creating a compelling narrative that connects your past with your future.
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