Monday, October 5, 2009

Overview of the job search process

(This is a conversation for the Austin Job Seeker's Network LinkedIn group.  I just had more to say than would fit in one of the LinkedIn comment fields.)

Greetings all,

I was laid off just over two weeks ago.  I'm just finishing up dealing with the mechanics of getting laid off and transitioning my family and life into this new phase.  And I am just barely getting started with the preparations of the job search.

I think that many of the people who follow behind us on this path would greatly benefit from an outline and practical advice for dealing with the first two weeks, specifically, and then with an overview of the rest of the process.  I've written out my notes below.  Would you spend a minute to add your suggestions in the comments?

Hopefully you and I will be working full time soon, and so someone who follows behind us will take this to the next stage and clean it up, etc.

If you have suggestions then please reference the step #.  Like, "In step 6 I would suggest that you add _______."  Or, "I think that step 17 needs to come much earlier, like maybe before step 6."


Overview of the job search process

I'm sorry for you that you are having to go through this.  There are lots of good people who have gone through it before you and left behind some good resources.  You will get through this.  Please take the time to help others while you are here.  Share your experiences and ideas with those who are travelling here at the same time as you.  And consider spending a little time improving these resources for the people who come behind you.

What to do your first two weeks
This is just an outline at this point.  Talk to people and get involved in the Job Seekers Network to learn more about each topic.

1. Start making contact / renewing contacts with your friends and former co-workers.  LinkedIn is the best place to start, but make personal contact with anyone who isn't there.  Keep it natural and honest.  "How are you?  How is your family?  I just lost my job.  That stinks.  But now I have more time to catch up with the people who matter to me, which is good."  Spend time on this every day, adding new contacts.
Join the Austin Job Seeker's Network group. And come to the Monday morning meetings at Hill Country Bible Church.

2. Start thinking about what you want to do.  You will come back to this.  But start thinking about it now.

3. Allow yourself some time to grieve.  The emotions you are feeling now are very similar to being rejected by a teenage sweetheart or losing a loved one.  Don't pretend it doesn't hurt.  Everyone knows it hurts.  Give yourself some time and space to feel your feelings and think this through.  If you feel like you are overwhelmed, talk to someone and get some help.  Many many people care for you, even while you are unemployed.  That's what friends are for.

4. File for unemployment.  If you have kids then apply for CHIP (children's health insurance) or do the COBRA paperwork (if you qualify) and perhaps the LoneStar card (grocery assistance.)  If you received a severance then you won't be eligible until the severance period is over.

5. Take a hard look at your budget.  Reduce spending wherever you can.  Figure out how long you have before you must have income again.  Everything else you plan must take this into consideration.  If you are going to lose your house next month then you have to be much more aggressive finding work than if you can last two years.  The longer you can last the better your odds of finding work that you truly enjoy and get well compensated for...  Don't waste time now blaming yourself for things you would have done differently if you had known this was coming.

6. Find an accountability partner.  The Austin Job Seeker's Network Monday morning meetings is a great place to start.

7. Look over the steps below and put some target dates on a calendar.  Block out some hours to work on each task.

8. Consider starting your own consulting firm.  This will add some time to your project as you get some small artwork together, maybe build a webpage for it, etc.  But it might suit your tempermant better when making your calls, later.  And it makes your resume look nicer because you can show that you are currently employed.

Start the job hunting process
This is the long-ish version of the process.  If you have to get a job in two weeks then you will need to breeze through this process and get to step 23 in two days.  If you have a few months then two weeks is a good target for getting to step 19.

This is a full time job.  You will have to be the CEO of your job search.  And the Marketing Director.  And the VP of Sales.  Etc.

Much of this comes from Ken Kuznia's seminars.  If you want to get moving quickly then consider taking one of his seminars.

9. Reach out to your contacts and ask them for help making a list of your "accomplishments".  Ask them to give you numbers and percentages wherever possible.  Take whatever your contacts contribute and add your own list.  This list of accomplishments will be used in your elevator pitch, stories, resume, and behavioral interview question responses.  And it can be very encouraging to have your former co-workers tell you about these good things you accomplished.

10. Work on your LinkedIn profile.  Get it 100% complete.  You will need to recommend some people and get some people to recommend you.  And get a good photo uploaded.

11. Google 'behavior interview questions'.  Make a list of the top ten or so that apply to your type of work.  Write out your answers and start practicing them.

12. Prepare your education and work history in traditional resume format.

13. Print out and look over your education and work history, your accomplishments, your answers to the ten behavioral questions, and your notes about what type of job you would like next.  Think of this as a story.  "I was there.  I did that.  I did it that way.  I want to go here and do this."  Work through this simple narrative story until it makes sense to you.  You might find that the jump from your history to your dream job is just too large of a leap to be believable.  If that is the case then think about expanding the narrative to include an additional step or two that gets you to the dream job.  For instance, if your last experience was a marketing internship and your dream job is a VP of sales, then you should look for a marketing mirector or entry level sales position--you have to bridge the gap if it is too large.  Tell the story to a few friends and get their feedback.

14. Figure out what your brand is.  Pick one to three interesting words to describe you.  Don't just think about what you do.  Think about how you do it.  What makes you unique from every other potential employee out there?  Contact a few friends and ask them how they would describe you.  Narrow it down to one to three key descriptive words that apply well to your target job.

15. Update your resume.  Push your work history and education down the page.  Put your key branding words and top three to five relevant accomplishments on the top 1/3 of the page.  Now pretend that you are a hiring manager (director, VP, CEO, or whomever would normally hire for your target job).  Look at that top 1/3.  If you were the hiring manager would you read that and say, "I have to talk to this person!"?  If not then clean it up until you reach that point.  There are lots of people who will help you with your resume.

16. Write a short (30-second) and long (2-minute) elevator pitch.

17. If you haven't already, order some business cards to hand out.  You might put a version of your elevator pitch on the back.

18. Research companies and find a few that you would like to work for.  Don't look to see if they have an opening right now, that doesn't matter.  Just make sure that they do actually have your target position.  Start with at least three, but five might be better.  You will continue doing this type of research up until you get hired.  But don't do step 15 until you have researched and picked out three to five.

19. Alert your entire network that you have decided what type of job you want.  Give them your elevator pitch, including your target companies.

Keep hunting
This is the ongoing work.  These steps will actually overlap quite a bit.  You might spend three weeks looking at one company before you find a lead in, and you might research and contact the hiring manager of four other companies during that time.

20. Check your network for leads in to any of your target companies.  The closer these people are to the hiring manager you need to meet, the better.  But do not contact the hiring manager directly at first.  This is what LinkedIn is all about.  But don't forget to talk to your friends and neighbors who are not on LinkedIn.

21. Ask your friend for an introduction to the person who works at your target company.  Make contact and get to know that person.  Consider taking them to lunch, maybe with your mutual friend.  Let them know you are interested in coming to work for their copmany.  Ask them about the company.  Ask them about the hiring manager.  If it is a big company then you might have to get this person to put you in contact with a friend of theirs in another department.  Your goal is to find and make friends with someone who is close to the hiring manager--a peer or direct subordinate is perfect.  Now ask this person for an introduction to the hiring manager.

22. Refine your elevator pitch and resume to suit this particular person at this particular company.  Craft a cover letter that notes the referral that you received.

23. Contact the hiring manager.  The amount of time you get will depend greatly based upon the introduction you got.  Get a face-to-face meeting if possible.  You need to communicate this message, "I'm the person you need in that position.  Please keep me in mind when something happens to create an opening there or you decide to make a change."  If there are no openings now then ask if you could contact them back in the future, and ask when they think they might have an opening.  Leave the resume and cover letter with them, if they will let you.

24. Put that follow-up contact on your calendar and do not fail to contact them when you said you would.

25. Find and research another company you are interested in.  Then repeat steps 20 through 25.

Freshen and refine your process
As you are searching there are a few things that you can work on to break up the process of the hunt.  The longer that the hunt continues, the more you should examine whether or not your elevator pitch, resume, or perhaps target job are right for you.

26. Study LinkedIn and learn to maximize your use of it.

27. Practice and hone your elevator pitch.

28. Sharpen your job skills--take a class, read a book, join a discussion group, get a certification, etc.

29. Study interviewing.  Read a few books on it.  Take a class.  Get a friend to help you practice interviewing.

30. Participate in discussions and processes with the Job Seekers Network.  Help others in their job hunt.

31. Find somewhere to volunteer some time.  As much as possible, find a volunteer position that uses your skills.  But more importantly, just find time to do something for other people.

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