Building Your Target List

To determine how to get to the next step in your career, you need an idea of where you are going.  I often advise job seekers to build and prioritize a target list of companies where you want to work.  This should in no way be limited to companies that you know personally or those you drive by each day.  Where do you turn to help build your target list?

Linked In – Review your connections on Linked In to see where people you admire and respect are working.  Look in your Linked In groups as well to see where fellow alumni or previous co-workers are now working.  Make note of the companies that interest you.  A first step in your research will be talking to your connections about their experiences at those companies.

Lists –Fortune and other magazines prepare multiple lists of the course of the year on leading companies by revenue, number of employees, work-life balance, etc.  These may trigger your thinking but unless you are prepared to relocate other parts of the country or the world, these lists may be more frustration than assistance.  Consider more local lists.  Boston Business Journal includes lists in each weekly edition with an annual Book of Lists.  Find the local lists for the area where you hope to work.  You can look by industry, by size, etc. to identify companies of interest to you.  Look online as well.  Databases such as Hoovers allow to search with a radius of major cities by industry, size, etc.  Keep an open mind.  Many of the fastest growing companies are small to mid-sized firms that you may not be aware of today.

Competitors – As you start identifying companies of interest, do a little research and consider their competitors.  They are in the same industry and may be a good fit for you as well.

Professional Associations – If you are clearly focused on a particular industry or business function, identify relevant professional associations.  Attend meetings and see where other members work.  Listen to how they talk about their work and the companies they work for to see if there is something of interest to you.

Social Networking – Do not overlook families and friends.  They may work at interesting companies or may know people at companies in which you have interest.  At social events, ask about what someone does for work and for what company.  You can always set up a networking meeting later, but start to build a web of connections.

As you start building you list, review it on a regular basis to keep it fresh.  You will learn more about companies as you network and some companies will move on or off your list.  You then want to prioritize your list to help focus your networking.  Consider companies that interest and excite you the most.  Do you have contacts at those companies or someone who can introduce you to contacts at those companies?  Has the company posted positions in your area of interest in the last few months?  When you use this prioritized list to guide your networking, you are building valuable insider connections in the companies where you hope to work.

Advertisements

Are You Stuck in a Job Search Rut?

You have decided it is time to look for another job.  You may be unhappy or frustrated in your current situation or maybe you need a challenge and an opportunity to learn and grow.  Many would think that making the decision is the hard part but I see many people decide they need to change jobs and then they get stuck and make no progress.  Why does this happen?  What can they do about it?

Attitude – If you consider the process of looking for a job, yet another chore to add to your to do, it will be.  When perceived as one more thing to do, it is easy to procrastinate.  Instead, see this as an opportunity to invest in your future.  Take the time to research industries, companies and roles that may be a fit for you.  Do informational interviews with alumni and other contacts.  Use all this input to clarify your targets and build a list.  When you approach the task with an attitude of investing in yourself, each step of the journey feels like progress towards your goal.  Don’t just complain about your current situation or your inability to find a new job quickly.  Do something about it.  Set targets and hold yourself accountable.

Perfectionism –   Yes, you certainly want your resume and Linked In profile to have no errors but if you are waiting for it to be perfect you will never get your search started.  Each position may require edits to your resume to best tailor it to that specific role.  Don’t immobilize your search by waiting for your materials to be perfect.  Get feedback and a careful review and then get moving.  You can always tweak it as you go along based on the feedback you receive.  Don’t derail your search by waiting for perfection.

No Heavy Lifting – You want a new job but you don’t want to invest the time in research and networking.  What you get out of the search will be a direct correlation to what you put in.  Sitting behind the computer screen and submitting online applications will not a road to success.  Research shows that more than 75% of all jobs are filled through networking.  Get off the couch and start networking.  Build a target list to focus your networking efforts.  Know where you want to go and do something every week to move you closer to your goal.

Too Stressed – I often hear job seekers explain that they are too stressed in their current job to invest time and energy in a search.  Doing the same thing over and over is not going to change the result.  You will continue to be stressed if you stay in that job.  Set realistic goals and do something every week to move your search forward – build a target list, research top companies identify alums in your top companies, schedule a networking meeting each week.  Small steps on a consistent basis will move you forward and will change the situation you are in.  Once you feel you are doing something to begin the process of change, you feel more control which often helps reduce your stress even before you achieve your goal of a new job.

Get out of your rut and begin the journey to the next step in your career.

Fight Your Fears This Fall

For some job seekers, networking can be a very scary prospect.  The thought of speaking to strangers to learn about their companies and their careers can cause some to grow faint.  Networking is so critical to job search and career success that it is important to face those fears.

Start with the Low Hanging Fruit.  Reaching out to a stranger can be very intimidating.  Review your target list companies and identify friends, family members, neighbors, and former colleagues who work there.  Start your networking with people you know and build your confidence with the process.  As you gain confidence with the process, it becomes easier to reach out beyond your comfort zone.  Most job seekers are surprised how many contacts they can identify to provide a safe starting point.

Leverage Your Alumni Network.  Before reaching out randomly to a variety of ghosts and goblins, review your alumni network for contacts in your target companies.  Most alumni are willing to share a few minutes with a fellow alum.  Most alumni networks are a challenge to maintain so look for alumni on LinkedIn.  Use your shared connection to your alma mater to establish a connection.  When you start with something in common, it is easier to have a conversation.

More Listening Than Talking.  Be well prepared with thoughtful, insightful questions to keep your contact talking so you can spend most of the meeting listening and taking notes.  Being well prepared based on your research, makes the meeting much easier and demonstrates your interest.

Reframe Your Thinking.  This is not “trick or treat” networking where you knock on a random door to see what surprise you receive.  Do not think of networking as asking for a job or selling yourself – it is not.  Focus on gathering information about industries, companies and roles that interest you.

Be Prepared to Share Information About Yourself.    Anticipate that you will be asked a bit about yourself and be prepared.  Decide in advance what you are comfortable sharing.  Practice your value proposition.

Take Deep Breaths.  Don’t hyperventilate but do take a few deep breaths will help you relax.  It is ok to breathe as you prepare to ask the next question.  A few deep breaths will help you relax and focus on the conversation.

Be Yourself.  Forget the masks and costumes.  You do not have to pretend to be extroverted in your networking meetings to succeed.  Be yourself but strive to be a well-prepared self.  Preparation helps to increase your confidence.

Celebrate Your Success.  After your meeting, review your notes and consider what you have learned.  Congratulate yourself on the information you gathered and the connection you established. Approach your networking one meeting at a time.  Don’t paralyze yourself with a long list of contacts.  Plan one meeting a time to keep the process manageable and to build your confidence.

Always Say Thank You.  Remember to follow up with a handwritten thank you note to your contact to show your appreciate for their time and their insights.  Make it easy for them to remember you but providing timely and professional feedback.

Leave the Haunting to Halloween Night.  Put your fears aside and enjoy your fall networking.  It will enhance your success.  Don’t be surprised if you come to enjoy the process.  It can be so interesting to learn about industries, companies and roles that you start to worry less about the process.  You may find yourself energized by the interesting people you meet.

Focus Your Job Search This Fall

As life settles into the fall routine, this is the time to get serious about ramping up your job search if you hope to be in a new job in 2017. Don’t waste time focusing on what you should have done over the summer, give your search a fresh start with renewed focus and energy.  Finding a job takes some time, effort, and focus so it’s critical to define a plan and get started sooner rather than later. Here are some suggestions for “falling” into some good job search habits this season:

  • Create a plan – Define specific goals and an actionable plan of how you will go about achieving them.  It’s the old, “You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going.” First, start by assessing your skills, strengths and interests.  Then, think about the type of work you enjoyed in current and prior roles, as well as internships, part-time jobs or even on-campus work or volunteering.  Next, think honestly about your core competencies and in what industries and roles those skills will bring value. Document your plan and measure your progress against it. Set weekly goals and hold yourself accountable – and reward yourself by doing something you enjoy once you’ve accomplished your goals for the week.

 

  • Prepare your tools – If you are planning a trip, you pack your bags, right? Well, as you embark on your job search journey you also need to make sure you have the appropriate tools. Do you have your resume up to date and ready to go? Have someone else proof it for you, just to be sure there are no typos or errors. Practice writing customized cover letters and ask for feedback. Consider developing a networking profile to share during networking meetings. Think about whom you could use for references and collect their current contact information. Of course, remember to ask their permission to use them as references, and tell them you will notify them when you share their information with a hiring manager so you can brief them on the job. Having the right tools won’t get you a job, but it can get your foot in the door so you have the opportunity to sell yourself for the job.

 

  • Develop a target list –What companies and industries are of greatest interest to you? Start your wish list with current preferences, then so some research to identify other companies or industries that are similar and require your same skill sets. Consider company size, location, corporate culture, etc. while building your list of approximately 40 – 50 companies. Prioritize them by first ranking on a scale of 1 – 5, based on your interest. Next, check job boards to see if those companies have posted positions in your field within the last six months, and rank accordingly. Finally, search your alumni database and LinkedIn to identify where you have possible connections, and do another round of ranking based on connections. Start your research with the companies ranked the highest across all categories, and work your way down the list. This will not only help guide your job search efforts, but as you learn more about these companies, you can continue to refine your list.

 

  • Network, network, networkThis is the single most important thing you can do to be successful in your job search.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly 80 percent of all jobs are filled through networking. Online postings often receive hundreds of resumes in response, so to stand out and be noticed, you need an internal contact to pass your resume to the hiring manager. Networking helps you build and identify those internal contacts. Networking is NOT asking for a job, however; it is meeting someone at the company to learn about the company, the industry, the types of roles they offer, the skills they value, etc. This involves a significant amount of listening. Wondering how to begin? Start with friends and family and explore who they know at target companies.  Do your neighbors or your friends’ parents have any connections to those companies? What about former co-workers or classmates? Sign up for the alumni network at your school, and leverage the alumni database to identify contacts. Most people will give fellow alums a few minutes, if asked. Sign up for LinkedIn, and identify contacts there, as well.  Consider preparing a networking profile to help contacts see what you have to offer and the companies that interest you. Ask each networking contact for at least three other contacts. Always thank the contact and keep track so you can follow up when you see an opportunity at that company. Challenge yourself to make at least five networking connections each week. It does make a difference: It is the single most important thing you can do to find your next opportunity. I tell students they should spend 10 times more time networking than they spend reviewing online job boards.

 

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare – When you are invited in for an interview, be sure you thoroughly prepare. Practice, and ask for feedback. Use your career services office at your alma mater or rely on trusted friends and colleagues. Think about how you would respond to frequently asked questions. Research the company thoroughly, and prepare questions in advance to ask your interviewers. Demonstrate your interest and passion for the job by coming in well-prepared.

 

  • Always say ‘thank you’ – Interviewers remember which candidates sent a hand-written thank you note, so stand out from the crowd. If the timeframe is quick, send an email thank you, but follow it up with a hand-written note. I‘ve seen a handwritten thank you note break the tie between two finalists.

 

  • Protect your social media presence – Some potential employers will check applicants out online before making an offer. Use good judgment on questionable photos or descriptions of activities you might not want an employer to know about. Put your best foot forward on all fronts to maximize your chances of success.

 Your job search is a journey, and with a little advance planning, you can make it a smoother, more successful ride. Get out from behind the computer, and start networking your way to a more effective job search. Being competitive in this job market is NOT about how many online applications you can submit; it’s about building relationships in your target companies so you have advocates there when the right job opens up. Use this fall season to invest in your future career success.

 

Recipe for a Successful Job Search

1 Resume with no errors

1 Customized cover letter for each position

1 Target List of at least top 20 companies

1 LinkedIn profile

3 cups of networking

2 cups of informational interviews

1 cup research

1 tbsp each of patience and persistence

Dash of confidence – do not over season

Dash of humility

 

Prepare resume, target list and LinkedIn profile first and review carefully.

Conduct research, networking and informational interviews to support your target list.

When you identify an appropriate opportunity prepare a customized cover letter.

Leverage networking connections with each application.

Be patient and persistent with the process.

Be confident but not cocky.

A dash of humility goes a long way.  Be someone they want to work with.

Incorporate all ingredients and follow your defined plan to ensure success.

 

Bake – 3 – 6 months checking frequently

 

Resume

  • Ensure that your resume has no typos or grammatical errors.
  • Focus on key accomplishments and quantify accomplishments where possible.
  • Feature key competencies
  • Start with a strong summary not an objective
  • Use critical key words relevant for the position you seek

Cover Letter

  • Must be customized for each position
  • Focus on transferrable skills
  • Detail how you meet their specific requirements for the job
  • No typos or grammatical errors, it also serves as an example of your business writing

Target List

  • Create a plan to guide your efforts
  • Create and prioritize a list of the companies you where you are most interested in working
  • Identify the types of opportunities you are seeking in those companies

LinkedIn Profile

  • Update your profile to accurately reflect your experience and skills
  • Use key words to help employers find you for appropriate positions

Networking

  • Identify contacts at your target companies
  • Leverage alumni groups, former employee groups, affinity groups

Informational Interviews

  • Conduct informational interviews with contacts at your target companies
  • Learn about company culture, hiring process, key competencies for the roles you aspire to
  • Build a network of supporters within your target organizations

Research

  • Go beyond the job posting boards
  • Watch postings at your target companies
  • Review the company websites
  • Prepare questions to ask your interviewers

Patience and Persistence

  • It takes time for you to find the best opportunity for you
  • Companies are on their own schedules not years
  • It will likely take longer than you think
  • Keep up your energy and maintain your focus

Confidence

  • You are selling yourself so demonstrate confidence
  • Be careful not to cross the line to cocky

Humility

  • Be honest about what you can and can’t do
  • Show your interests and passions
  • Be someone they will want on their team

Throughout the process continue to update your list based on what you are learning from your informational interviews.  Be patient and focused and you will be successful.

Job Search Advice for New Graduates

Congratulations you’ve graduated but now what are you going to do?  The clock is ticking on your students loans and mom and dad keep asking you about your job prospects.  What is a new graduate to do?  Finding a full-time job needs to be your primary focus and priority.  Resist the urge to perfect your tan or spend the summer travelling.  Finding a job can be a full-time job in itself so you need to get focused and get started.  Here are some suggestions:

Create a plan – You need to define your goals and a specific plan of how you plan to achieve them.  You can’t get there if you don’t know where you are going.  Assess your skills, strengths and interests.  Think about the type of work you enjoyed on internships, part-time jobs or even on campus.  Document your plan and measure your progress against it.  Set weekly goals and hold yourself accountable.  Reward yourself by doing something you enjoy once you’ve accomplished your goals for the week.

Prepare your tools – If you are planning a trip, you pack your bags.  As you embark on your job search journey you also need to make sure you have the appropriate tools.  Do you have your resume up to date and ready to go?  Have someone else proof it for you just to be sure there are no typos or errors.  Practice writing customized cover letters and ask for feedback.  Consider developing a networking profile to share during networking meetings.

Think about who you could use for references and collect their current contact information.  Ask their permission to use them as references and tell them you will notify them when you share their information with a hiring manager so you can brief them on the job.  Having the right tools won’t get you a job but it can get your foot in the door so you have the opportunity to sell yourself for the job.

Develop a Target list – What companies are you most interested in working for?  What industries are of greatest interest to you?  Start your list with your current preferences and then begin your research to identify other companies or industries that are similar and need your skill sets.  With a variety of online tools you can do significant research into these companies to prepare you for networking meetings and interviews.    Your target list will help guide your job search efforts.  Do your research on which companies have opportunities in your field and who has been hiring.

Network, network, network – This is the single most important thing you can do to be successful in your job search.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly 80% of all jobs are filled through networking.  Online postings often receive hundreds of resumes in response to a single posting.  To stand out and be noticed you need an internal contact to pass your resume to the hiring manager.  Networking helps you build and identify those internal contacts.

Networking is NOT asking for a job.  It is meeting someone at the company to learn about the company, the industry, the types of roles they offer, the skills they value  etc.  Networking involves a significant amount of listening.  Start with friends and family and explore who they know at target companies.  Do your neighbors or your friends’ parents have any connections to those companies?  What about former co-workers or classmates?  Sign up for the alumni network at your school and leverage the alumni database to identify contacts.  Most people will give a fellow alum a few minutes if asked.  Sign up for Linked In and identify contacts there as well.

Ask each networking contact for at least three other contacts.  Always thank the contact and keep track so you can follow up when you see an opportunity at that company.  Challenge yourself to make at least five networking connections each week.  It does make a difference.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare – When you are invited in for an interview be sure you thoroughly prepare.  Utilize your career services office to help you prepare for interviews.  Ask for a mock interview with feedback.  Research the company thoroughly.  Prepare questions in advance to ask your interviewers.  Demonstrate your interest and passion for the job by coming well prepared.

Always say thank you – Interviewers remember which candidates sent a hand-written thank you note.  Stand out from the crowd.  If the timeframe is quick, send an email thank you but still send a handwritten note.  It can break the tie between two finalists.

If you need to work part-time- Maybe you don’t have the luxury of dedicating yourself full time to your job search.  If you need to work part-time or on a temporary basis, be extremely selective.  Think about skills that you need to develop and focus on a job that helps you develop or refine those skills.  Look for ways to gain exposure to an industry or company of interest by taking a temporary or part-time position to gain experience and visibility.  The enhanced skills and experience will help you further your job search instead of only putting money in your pocket.  If your goal is to work in an office, try to find office experience rather than becoming a store cashier or a waiter.  Focus on transferable skills.

Add value to your resume, volunteer – Can you volunteer a few hours a week to add value to your resume?  A non-profit may be happy to help you gain some much needed experience while they gain coverage for summer vacations etc.  Find an organization you care about and explore opportunities to help.  You can gain office, finance, marketing, sales, communications, technology or other experience while helping them address a critical need in their organizations.  Not only does this add value to your resume, it also shows the employer that you care about giving back and that you showed initiative and creativity in gaining some experience.

Protect Your Social Media Presence – Some potential employers will check out applicants online before making an offer.  Be careful of photos or descriptions of activities you might not want an employer to know about.  Put your best foot forward on all fronts to maximize your chances of success.  Be careful with your security settings.

So, plan your journey.  Get out from behind the computer and start networking your way to a successful job search.  Enjoy the interesting people you meet along the way and all you will learn about different companies, functions and roles.

 

 

2016 Networking Tips #4

You’ve read that networking is critical to your career and job search success and that information interviews are a valuable way to build your network.  So take a deep breath and commit to starting the process.  It is not as scary as you may think.

  1. Identify and prioritize companies on your target list.  Be sure to identify companies of different sizes in your target industries.
  2. Identify contacts in each of those companies using LinkedIn, your alumni networks, etc.
  3. Reach out to introduce yourself either by phone or email. If you are an alum of the same school mention that.  If you share a common friend or connection, refer to that.  If you are a student, let them know.  Express your strong interest in learning about their career and their current role with the company.  Ask for 20 – 30 minutes for an informational interview.
  4. Wait three days, if there is no response, reach out again. If still no response, give it one more try a week later.  If you reach out three times with no response, stop pursuing this contact and more to another.
  5. Agree on a date, time and location for your meeting or telephone call.
  6. Do you research in advance so you have background on the company and the individual. Prepare questions in advance.
  7. During the meeting take notes. It demonstrates interest and provides valuable reference material for your search.
  8. Be sure ask the contact who else they think you should talk to in order to learn more about your areas of interest in the company.
  9. Always say thank you at the end of the meeting and send a handwritten thank you note within 24 hours.
  10. Keep the person updated on your progress. If you have a successful meeting with someone the recommended, say thank you again.

You will learn a great deal about your target companies, how they hire, what competencies they value and what work is like in the functional area of interest to you.  Later when  you see a position posted at one of the target companies, ask your contact to forward your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager.  While this does not replace the need to apply online, it greatly increases the likelihood that someone will look at your resume.  Informational interviews are a great investment in your career so get started today.