October Program – Tracy Williams wants job seekers to get unstuck

Even if you’re resting comfortably in the perfect job, October’s program was one everyone would be wise to remember. Tracy Laswell Williams presented an outline of helpful advice for today’s job hunters. As president of Career Magic, Williams has coached job seekers in the increasingly tangled world of career development for more than 14 years.

Part pep talk, part hard facts, the presentation was a full explanation of what to expect and what to avoid when job hunting. Williams explained that job boards are not that great, time spent looking for a job is directly proportionate to how much you want to make, and you should skip the TV news.

Get Unstuck: Optimize Your Productivity and Outcomes

You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t sometimes feel stuck.  A job search is definitely challenging. In this workshop, you’ll learn what job searching really entails and ways to cope with the experience. Part I deals with Job Search Concepts and Expectations. Part II is about Creating A Smart Job Search Plan.

Job Search Concepts and Expectations

A. Concepts

Job searching is a voyage into the unknown. A lot hangs in the balance. “When will I get a job? Where will I end up? What will my new co-workers be like? Will I be able to live up to expectations? How much will I earn?” Throughout your job search, you’ll cope better if you to learn how to be comfortable with the unknown.

The job search is a process. The job search is a process of self-discovery and personal growth, a learning process, and most of all, a process of elimination, as explained below:

  • You will have to identify what you want to do (eliminating less attractive job alternatives, aka “limiting” yourself).
  • You will need to sift through companies that don’t need your skill set and companies that don’t meet your values.
  • You will go through interviews that don’t lead to a job.
  • You will reject job offers that won’t work for you.

Pardon the pun, but to be successful in your search, you must flush the idea that this process of elimination is a waste of time. Learn to see all of your job search activities as steps in the right direction. Remember that Thomas Edison conducted more than 10,000 experiments to create the electric light bulb. During this time he spent a lot of money while the scientific community scoffed at him, saying it couldn’t be done. Each time an experiment failed, he realized he was that much closer to success.

Job searching is equivalent to a job in sales. What are you selling? A “timeshare” of your skills and attributes. And how much do you cost per year? How much are you worth, when you include benefits and overhead? A lot, right? That means you are what sales pros call a “big-ticket intangible.” And every salesperson worth his salt knows that a big-ticket intangible is expected to have a long sales cycle that is all about relationship-building. So welcome to your temporary job in the sales and marketing of a big-ticket intangible!

So, Mr. or Ms. Salesperson, are people going to try to avoid your calls, even when they desperately need what you have to offer? You betcha. Diligent, consistent, polite and professional follow-through is critical to the success of your search. Forget etiquette, forget what others “should” do, and forget what they say they will do. Just because you’ve left a message with someone does not mean he owes you a call back. Follow up, follow up, and follow up again. When will you quit following up? Upon receipt of a restraining order. Until then, a polite, professional phone call, note, e-mail or impromptu visit with all of your targets on a weekly basis is what it’s going to take.

B. Expectations

Expect it to take a while. Did you know that on average, the job search project takes about a month of full-time job searching for every $10,000 in salary you hope to earn? And it can be longer in a tough job market, when you’re changing careers, or when you’re making systematic errors in your job search (such as not generating good leads, following up, or properly preparing for interviews). This means that people working for minimum wage can expect to take up to a month to find a job, and individuals making $150,000 per year can expect to spend a year to find a comparable position.

Your job search is a full-time job, so expect to do a lot! In fact, expect to work as hard at a job search as you do in your job. Period. A full-time search, in my opinion, consists of contacting four to eight new companies per day. That’s 20-40 per week! Most people, left to their own devices, will contact a day’s worth of companies in a week’s time, which isn’t enough to get the ball rolling, and leaves too much time for worrying. Also, remember that follow up is key–you should be following up with all of the companies you’ve talked with before every week or two. As the weeks progress, that’s a lot of contacts to make each week, and even if you’re well-organized, you should be quite busy. To really jump-start your job search, I recommend contacting a high number of companies in the early weeks of your search, then following up with them diligently.  If you’re doing it correctly, you should be every bit as busy as an employed person. Limit your search to four or five days per week, and no more than 40 hours!  Reward yourself once you get a job offer in writing; build in a worry-free vacation by taking a week or two off to unwind!

Expect “rejection.” Job searching is one of those activities like sales, or heck, even like dating that is more or less a numbers game. This should be your mantra: I expect “rejection” before I make a connection. The reason I use only use the word “rejection”  in quotations is that nine times out of ten, the “rejection” has nothing to do with you.

Don’t take it personally. To help you handle the inevitable feelings of rejection, here are a few alternate meanings of the word “no” when you’re in job search:

  • “I don’t know enough about you right now to say, ‘Yes, come in for an interview.'”
  • “I don’t know enough about the company’s needs right at the moment. Perhaps you should speak with someone else in the company.”

Realize when you’re being rejected that there is usually a twinge of guilt on the part of the rejecter. Take advantage of this opportunity to ask for feedback, advice, or leads to help you make mid-course adjustments as necessary.

Get in the habit of asking for more information every time you hear the word “no.” Ask confidently and politely, without getting whiny, snotty, pouty, or clingy. Here are a few suggestions:

  • “May I follow up with you in a few weeks to see if the situation has changed?”
  • “Do you have any colleagues in this industry that might be able to use my skills?”
  • “Is there perhaps someone else who has this information?”
  • “If you were looking for this type of job, which resources would you use?”

Expect to challenge your comfort zone.

  • “But I don’t like calling people on the phone!”
  • “It’s so awkward to ask for help.”
  • “But I just wouldn’t feel right walking into an office uninvited!”
  • “I feel like a pest following up every week!”
  • “I am bothering people.”

With regard to leaving your comfort zone, all I can tell you is that you will survive. It will be worth it, and you’ll be even more prepared for your next job search. In my first year of business, I had to do many uncomfortable, strange new things to get money coming in. And look, I’m still alive! And I’m still in business! Not only that, I look back on that year with great satisfaction, because I grew more personally and professionally in that time than I ever would have had I remained in my nice safe corporate gig. And to stay in business, I have to continually challenge my comfort zones, get out of my cozy office, and network with the movers and shakers in town. Now, I really enjoy it.

Creating a Smart Job Search Plan

A. So, what’s the best way to look for a job?
When it comes time to think about a job search plan, my clients usually ask, “Which should I use, the Internet, recruiters, or the help-wanted ads?”

The answer, of course, is that there is no “one right way” to look for a job. There is no drive-through window to find a new job, either. And for you mechanical-engineering types, you can’t insert Tab A into Slot B and arrive at Job Z.  In other words, you must undertake a variety of approaches and keep on trucking over a period of time.

But let’s back up a bit and look at the big picture. Expand your thinking beyond the concept of “job.” Think in terms of work that needs to be done that you would like to do. Think in terms of companies you like (such as well-established companies, exciting startups, or just companies near your home), because they will likely have many different jobs available over time. Think in terms of exciting opportunities. Don’t think of this as searching for the job you have until you retire, because there really isn’t such a thing as job security any more.

This is not to say that job advertisements are not worth pursuing. I am merely inviting you to think beyond the little box that the job represents. That way, when you’re approaching a great company, there’s no need to worry that the job doesn’t exactly fit. The job to be done is really meant to take shape in the interview phase anyway. The employer may not actually care about all of the 72 requirements they listed in the ad. They may just want to scare the weenies away. Besides that, it is highly unlikely that today’s job opportunity is the only one they have or will ever have, so why not use the current job opening as an excuse to start a dialog, assuming you need an excuse?

When pursuing ads, you should never be the one to remove yourself from the running. If you fit 75% or more of the job description and it’s something you want to do, I say “Go for it!” If you get into a great company for an interview, you can consult with the company about their needs. In the process, you can demonstrate terrific talent for a job that fits both their needs and your interests. Even if it doesn’t work for the opportunity at hand, the company may be impressed enough to invite you back for another interview. Trust me, it’s been done many times!

Major Ways of Finding Job Leads. Presented in approximate order of their relative effectiveness

  1. Networking. Enlist the aid of friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers past and present, and even total strangers. It is commonly said that better than 75% of jobs are found through friends, or friends of friends. Therefore, you should spend the vast majority of your job search effort in networking activities. Refer to Chapter 9 of my book if you want more details.
  2. Targeted prospecting. In other words, directly contact  companies in which you are interested, usually by using a business directory of some sort. This is smart because you develop a relationship with a company before they advertise a position, and therefore you don’t have the same level of competition as with an advertised position.
  3. Internal (unadvertised) job postings. You will learn about these through your well-placed friends and family.
  4. Professional organizations. Attend events to network and read the organizations’ publications.
  5. Recruiters / Temporary & Permanent Placement Agencies / College Placement Offices
  6. Job fairs
  7. Newspaper “help wanted” ads
  8. Internet job advertisements / career Web sites

Think creatively! Did you hear about the Denver woman who purchased a billboard ad with her career objective, her photo, and her target salary? With an investment of a few thousand dollars and a few weeks of her time, she landed exactly the six-figure gig she wanted. If your advertising budget isn’t so generous, perhaps you could make a job search bumper sticker or tee-shirt. You never know what might come of it.

Mix it up! You can’t build a house with only a hammer, and you can’t do a job search hammering away with just one approach. Strive to find a balance of activities, and prioritize the activities that involve talking to real, live people. You get extra credit for making up new ways to find job leads!

It’s a numbers game. Be sure you’re doing enough: A full time job search means really working 20-40 new leads per week. You need to initiate and follow-up a significant number of concrete activities.

I realize I’m repeating myself, but this really bears repeating: expect to invest one month of full-time job searching for every $10,000 in annual salary you’re seeking. This means that if you’re seeking a job earning $50,000 per year, you will likely need to identify and contact 500+ companies in the course of your search. That’s a lot of work. That’s why I advocate using the phone–you can place a phone call far quicker than you can create and send a cover letter.

Can’t do a full-time search? Be creative, be diligent, be systematic, and be willing to make a few sacrifices of other activities.  Strive for at least 5 hours per week.

FOLLOW UP EVERYTHING YOU DO. Everything you do in your job search is worth doing once a week until you get a job or a restraining order.

B. Template Job Search Plan

  1. My #1 job objective is:  _________________________________________________________________
  2. My #2 job objective is: _________________________________________________________________
  3. My ideal work location is:________________________________________________________________
  4. My message is FOCUSED. I have effective resumes, business cards, and sound bytes for each of my objectives (Y / N).
  5. I will contact ___ companies each week.
  6. I will find ___ of these companies via networking:
    1. ___ by targeting
    2. ___ through recruiters
    3. ___ via Internet or classified advertising
    4. Hint: concentrate on leads from the first two categories!
  7. I will follow up with all companies I have contacted in my job search once or twice per month.
  8. I will spend ___ hours preparing for each interview. I will have great interviews, and I will follow up on all interviews within ____ hours.
  9. When things don’t go as I hoped they would, I won’t assume I know why. I’ll get the most specific feedback I can!  (Y / N)
  10. I will repeat the above steps for as long as it takes to get a great job!  (Y / N)

C. Discouragement and disgruntlement are luxury items.
Believe it or not, I’ve known people who had the nerve to get bummed after one week of job searching. And there are always the folks who have contacted a mere handful of potential employers in a month’s time and then had the unmitigated gall to be dismayed at the lack of interviews. Believe you me, you have NOT tried everything, and even if you have, you haven’t tried it twice.

TO REVIEW: Before you permit yourself to feel discouraged, make sure you can answer, “Yes, indeed.” to all of the following questions:

  • Are my expectations on straight? Am I prepared for a DILIGENT job search that takes several months?
  • Am I doing enough? Remember, to some extent it’s a numbers game. The numbers decrease with high-quality leads and a more thorough approach to job seeking (which takes more time), and increase in the case of flying blindly through the want ads.
  • Am I getting feedback to find out if I need to make some mid-course corrections?
  • Am I getting out and getting emotional support so that I don’t give off negative (desperate, disgruntled, dejected, demanding) vibes? (I urge you to get out of the house as much as possible during your job search, even if only to take a brisk walk around the block between phone calls. The sunshine and fresh air will help your outlook. Find a LIVE job search support group if possible, attend job fairs and seminars, go to lunch with one of your more upbeat buddies, and get a pep talk).
  • Am I uncomfortable with ambiguity? To make the most of this period of uncertainty, keep focusing on what you really want from a job. Write about it, speak it aloud, and visualize it. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”  Since what we think about is generally what happens, think long and hard about the best possible outcome to your job search, rather than the worst.

If you still have nagging fears, write them out. Decide what the worst possible outcome would be, and determine whether or not you could live with that outcome. If the answer is no, you’ll definitely want to get some professional psychological support now. If the answer is yes, you’ll have effectively freed yourself of having to worry about that fear any longer.

Things to remember during the search:

  • Focus on what you can give–not just what you want to receive.
  • Realize that anything worth having takes effort.
  • Never let them see you fret. Fake it ’till you make it.
  • Pay it forward.
  • Remember that job searching is a major project requiring efficiency. Be organized and systematic.
  • Expect “rejection” before you make a connection.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
  • Be curious. Be enthusiastic. Talk to others. Ask questions.
  • Your skills, attributes, education, and experiences will soon be put to use in a rewarding job that you enjoy doing.

D. 24 things to do / not do each day in your job search

  1. Get organized. Create a structure for your job search.
  2. Exercise daily. Do whatever is most pleasing to you–walk, run, swim, bike, dance, play sports or do yoga. Anything that involves movement is good, and if it involves fresh air, sunshine, and nature, so much the better.
  3. Eat healthfully. Reduce or eliminate junk food, sugar, caffeine, drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.
  4. Avoid watching television. Take in small doses only, and try to stick to inspiring or humorous programs. NEWS is the worst.
  5. Stay positive. Use positive self-talk and affirmations. List your strengths. Be with supportive people.
  6. Get the right amount of sleep. Keep your sleeping schedule as consistent as possible, similar to what it was when you were working. Underrested people are more irrational and negative. Conversely, don’t “escape” into longer periods than you truly need.
  7. Write in a journal or diary. Write about your thoughts and feelings, what you learn, and your progress.
  8. Take a warm bath. It calms you and gives you time alone.
  9. Attend job support groups or clubs. Share ideas and tips. Accept all ideas from others with gratitude. Receive and give kudos.
  10. Be flexible. Stay open to new ideas. Think creatively. Take risks.
  11. Take on one thing at a time. Plan and prioritize. Measure all progress, even small progress.
  12. Make one small change at a time. Too many changes / too big of a change creates stress.
  13. Relax daily. Take time to immerse yourself in something you enjoy.
  14. Reward yourself. Acknowledge when you accomplish certain job search activities and goals.
  15. Learn something new. Try to learn something new every day.
  16. Accept what you cannot change. Change what you can. Forgive self and others.
  17. Be thankful. Find things to be thankful for. Make a list twice a day.
  18. Say NO. When you need to take care of yourself, set limits with friends and family.
  19. Express feelings. Laugh or cry. Admit your true feelings to yourself and someone you trust.
  20. Volunteer. Doing things for others increases your self-esteem, your network, and your skills.
  21. Find humor. Watch comedies and comedians, children at play, and find time for play.
  22. Manage time. Keep schedules, set goals and time tables, and use a calendar.
  23. Tune in. Meditate. Do yoga. Contemplate. Pray. Keep a focus on spiritual truths and peaceful thoughts.
  24. Visualize. Really feel what it would be like to achieve your goals

About the Presenter
Tracy Laswell Valdez is a recruiter, certified job and career-transition coach, and an accredited, award-winning, nationally published resume writer. She founded her company CAREER-Magic.com in 1994, and  has served thousands of individual job seekers. She also serves corporate clients in recruiting, staff marketing, and outplacement efforts.

Sought out by career journalists around the nation, she has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal and The Denver Post, among others.

Ms. Laswell Valdez is a frequent speaker at job fairs and professional networking events.  She is the creator and facilitator of one of Denver’s most popular and longest-running job search clubs, The Caffeinated Careers Club.

For more information on Ms. Laswell Valdez, call (303) 424-1700, visit www.CAREER-Magic.com or write tracy@CAREER-Magic.com.

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