Sunday, June 6, 2010

Networking Isn't Painful. If You Do It Right.

Simple truth: networking is the most effective way to land a job. In fact, sixty percent of jobs are found through networking

Sadly, most people would rather blindly send their resume to a complete stranger than introduce themselves to someone who may be the key to landing their next job.

The killer is, networking isn't that hard. All it takes is a slight attitude change and a few easy steps.

First for the attitude change: Don't think of it as "networking" (whatever the hell that really means). You're meeting new people. Making friends. It's that simple.

The best way to do that? Go to industry events.

The easiest people to approach are the ones in charge of putting on the event. For instance, you can easily pick out board members at AAF or AIGA or IABC events by their name tags (they usually have plastic badges, while everyone else has paper tags). Start with them. Part of their job is to talk to new people and to introduce people to each other. Take advantage of that. If one of them doesn't do that for you, move on to another. Really want their attention? Ask about membership. That always kicks them into gear.

Next, look for people who, like you, appear to be there by themselves. They'll be happy to have someone come talk to them. Then work together and approach other individuals or small groups. After awhile, you'll have your own group going. Be welcoming to anyone who approaches or is near you. After awhile, break off from that group and start over. Later in the event go back around and re-engage with the people you met earlier.

Also, this may sound obvious, but talk to the person standing next to you. In line. At the bar. In the middle of the room. (But not in the bathroom. That's just creepy.)

Okay, that's great. But what do I talk to them about?


Ask if they are are involved in the organization; how they got involved; where they work;
did they enjoy the speaker/event/food; did they see the game last night; how long have they lived in the city; what made them move here; whatever. Just get a conversation going. The more you try it, the better you'll get at it.

Okay, now I've introduced myself to people. How do I get them to remember me?

Clearly introduce yourself at the beginning AND the end of your conversation. Hand them a business card (make your own). It will ensure they know your name and can remember it later. Also, ask for their card. If they don't have one, jot down their name on a piece of paper you have stashed in your pocket (along with a pen). You can always look them up later on LinkedIn or Facebook for contact information. AND make a point of bumping it to them again later at the event. No need for a long conversation. Just a "Hi, nice to see you again." This will again help them remember you later.

Then follow up. Send an e-mail the next day telling them it was nice meeting them (it takes several contacts for people to remember you). Make sure to reference part of your conversation with them to jog their memory.

A few days after that, follow up on LinkedIn or Facebook letting them know you would like to connect with them. This will be your fourth interaction. There's a good chance they will now remember you the next time you meet.

Continue going to events. Reconnect with the people you met before. After a while, they will "know" you and introduce you to other people.

I've tried all that, but I'm not having success. Now what?

Stick to it. Networking is about regular contact -- over the long term. To be effective, you have to keep at it. I can't tell you how many people I've met at one or two events and then never seen again. I can't tell you because I've forgotten them. They didn't stick at it long enough to develop a relationship or make a lasting impression. That takes time. And persistence.

But what about asking about job openings? You've said nothing about that.

There's a reason for that. If you ask about a job upfront, then you are not developing a relationship. A relationship has to be equal give and take. You are trying to start the relationship by taking. That never works. And the person will quickly duck out of the conversation.

It's okay to let them know you are job hunting, but don't ask them for something. It's all about timing. It's like meeting someone you are attracted to and asking him/her if they are looking to get married. How fast do you think that person will run away?

You can ask about job openings after you've connected again. People are much more likely to be receptive and helpful if they feel they know you.

After all, friends are all about helping friends.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why Aren't Employers Calling Me?

Last week I posted a question to job seekers: "What is the most frustrating part of the job search?"

A common response: "Waiting to hear from potential employers."

The harsh truth: You're not going to hear from most of them. And you just have to expect that.

I applied for a job that was posted on a job board // You have almost zero chance of hearing from them unless they want to interview you. As I mentioned in last week's post, we had almost 200 people apply for one job (many of them were unqualified "carpet bombers" who apply for everything because "you never know"). This is not an uncommon number for a job board posting. The only people who heard from us were those we interviewed. We don't have the people to respond to 200 applicants (remember, we're looking to add someone, so we're already short-handed). That's how it is everywhere.

I sent in a blind resume // See above.

I applied to a job posting on their website // You might hear from them. But most likely it will be a generic "We received your application" auto response.

I sent in a resume because I heard they had an opening // Again, you might hear from them.

No point in being frustrated. You can't change the fact you aren't hearing back from them when they aren't interested. But here's my question to you: why aren't they interested?
  • Did you apply for something you were highly (not just slightly) qualified for?
  • Did you tailor your resume to the job description?
  • Did you write a resume that makes you stand out?
  • Did you list only relevant experience? (We're looking for quality, not quantity.)
  • Did you make sure there were no mistakes in your cover letter and resume?
  • Did you follow all their instructions for submitting an application?
  • Did you send it in on time?
  • Did you sound professional?

Lastly, if you are only applying for jobs that have been posted, that's a big part of the problem. Most jobs are found through networking. We'll talk about that more next time.

The reality is you'll seldom hear back from places you've applied. Just expect that. Let's face it: you only want to hear back from them if they are interested in you anyway.

So make sure they will be interested.

Next time: How to network.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How to Stand Out Among Hundreds of Resumes

(Sorry I've been away so long. Work, ya know. I figured with all the upcoming graduations, now was the time to jump back into regular posting.)

Almost 200 resumes. That's how many resumes we received for a recent job posting.

Among that many resumes, imagine how easy it is to get lost in the pile. Of those 200 resumes, only half made it to my desk. I then eliminated 75% of them after only about 20-30 seconds with each.

That took us down to 25. Which we quickly whittled to 12. That means we eliminated 95% of the resumes without too much trouble (even though it took several hours to get through all of them).

How did those 12 people continue to make the cut and get the all-important phone interview? Simple. They followed these guidelines:
  • Qualified // I know this sounds obvious, but the first 50% were eliminated because they weren't even close to qualified. They were carpet-bombers. They sent out their resume to anything out there. They wasted their time – and ours. Which also means they didn't spend enough time focusing on jobs they were qualified for – and may have missed out on landing.
  • Relevant information // All the information on the resume was relevant to the job we were looking to fill. They left out their coffee shop job, their sorority "responsibilities" and the bullshit info that career services always tells you to put on your resume.
  • Concise, yet specific // Made it easy for the reviewers to find the most important information on their resume. If reviewers have to wade through a bunch of crap to get to what they want, they are likely to bail out of the resume. Remove all extraneous information. Think and rethink every word on your resume.
  • Followed directions // Simple, right? You'd be amazed at how many people didn't follow even the simplest directions. We asked each candidate to answer a few quick questions. There were a few very qualified people who failed to do what we asked. They were eliminated from consideration. It told us they didn't pay attention – which meant they weren't right for the job. Stupid way to miss out on a job.
  • Made us believe // Lastly, they made us believe they were specifically interested in the job we were looking to fill – not just any old job. Their resume was geared towards the job. Their cover letter was specific and not just a template. And they followed all the above steps.
Amazingly, standing out among 200 resumes is easier than you think. You just have to do a few simple things.

Good luck in your search.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Surviving a Long Job Search

Michael Wells, my former intern, started his first job in December after an 18-month search. Here's his take on what kept him going during his long search. (I'll return soon with a new batch of posts. Send your questions my way.)

So, you just graduated, or perhaps graduated a while ago, and you're looking for the first company that will take a chance on you. The bills are piling up. The six-month grace period on your loans is coming – or gone. You're looking for a spark of life on the internet – anything that will give you direction or hope.

I spent a year and a half looking for my first job. And the most important thing I learned? Perseverance. The ability to keep moving forward, in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement.

These are the things that kept me moving forward and may help you:
  1. Find an unpaid internship. The experience is worth more than money.
  2. Set up informational interviews. (Don't roll your eyes.) It's a great way to build your network.
  3. Know the top ten places you want to work. And know them inside and out.
  4. Network, network, network. When you think you've networked enough, network some more.
  5. Keep in touch with your contacts.
  6. Find things that draw you closer to what you ultimately want to do. Subscribe to Ad Age, Communications Arts, etc.; join the local American Advertising Federation chapter or other local industry associations; get involved in charity work; take more classes; read industry books.)
  7. Form a virtual agency. I did. Gather together people in the same boat as you and find a pro bono client to create work for.
  8. Start freelancing.
  9. Work social media. You'll be amazed at the number of positions posted through LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook that you won't see anywhere else.

In the end, you've got to love this business. And be willing to work through all the crap that is between you and your first job. Remember, at any moment, your first job is right around the corner. Keep moving forward and you'll find it.

Happy hunting!
Michael Wells