I recently stumbled across a post in one of the LinkedIn forums I frequent where a young lady was asking for help. She said: I have a BS in Accounting and an MBA in Finance, and I’ve applied for over 1,500 jobs and nobody will hire me.
Would you like to know what I told her? Stop applying for jobs. Period.
You might be saying that’s harsh, but it really isn’t. Everyone else is doing the same thing she’s doing (and probably you too if you’re on the market), and very few people are getting their desired results. There were tons of other constructive feedback but I felt none of them really dug into the heart of the matter. In today’s job market you have to be tactical and creative. If you’re not finding ways to stand out from the crowd, you’ll be just another resume.
Mentioning that she has her degrees tells me absolutely nothing about what she has accomplished other than she was determined and smart enough to make it through school. People tend to throw around degrees and acronyms like they really hold a lot of weight in the recruiting world. Newsflash, they really don’t (unless of course you’re a doctor).
You have to be sure to let people know what you’ve done, what your expertise is, what makes you that expert, and how you’ve impacted your previous employers. On paper, anyone can look the part. But if I interview you and I can’t determine what you’ve actually contributed or done for your past employers, I consider it a wasted conversation. I’m not being facetious, I’m coming from the perspective of a Recruiter.
So like I said to the young lady with the dilemma, you have to stop applying for jobs. It fascinates me that people don’t stop to think that there are hundreds of other people just like them applying for the same jobs. What makes you so special? That is the million dollar question and trust me, if you want to stand out, you better be prepared to answer it. In the mean time, there are things you can do to make sure you increase your odds of finding a job or creating an opportunity. It’s not enough to apply, you have to work at finding a job.
Tired of not getting interviews? Well take your skills and strike out as a consultant or start your own business. I wouldn’t try to do something that takes you out of your skill set. Consulting work or starting a business that falls back on your skills is a great way to make some money and position yourself as an expert.
But remember, there are a host of other things that come along with running a business such as invoicing, billing, bookkeeping, marketing, sales, etc. If you are going to be a one woman shop, be prepared to take on the many hats that come along with striking out on your own. Be realistic about whether or not you can handle those things. Otherwise, try marketing yourself as a consultant to recruitment firms who specialize in placing consultants.
Remain true to you. When a recruiter scans your resume or profile and they see you moved out of your skill set, a red flag goes up. You may have had honorable intentions or may be filling the time to bring in a check until that ideal job comes. But remember, you are one of hundreds applying. Your resume has 30 seconds to wow a recruiter. Don’t sabotage your chances.
Now I don’t say this to discourage you. I know in these tough economic times, everyone needs to bring in a paycheck. But be careful about what you choose. You want to stay as organic to your strengths as possible. Unless you are looking to change course completely, try to remain in the industry or at least a similar type of position so it won’t look like you’re just passing the time until you find the right job. It spooks hiring managers to see that you will settle for a check instead of holding out for what you are meant to do.
Boost your networking. Don’t just be connected to people, communicate with them. Get involved in networking activities and make yourself known. Make sure you are building a database of ‘must know‘ people and not just connecting with anyone for the sake of connecting.
If you’re hanging out with customer service reps and you should be hanging around finance professionals, it’s time to make a change. True anyone can be a great networking source, but you have to be laser focused when you’re looking for a job. You have heard me say time and time again to get out and build networks and relationships. You can’t just turn to people when you need work. Cultivate those relationships so that when you are in need, people are more receptive and empathetic to you.
Get out and get known online and offline. Do something to showcase your expertise (podcasts, blogs, guest articles, etc). Recruiters are looking at those things more than you know, especially for certain positions. Social media is very powerful and it levels the brand positioning playing field. Building your professional brand is key. Show them what you’ve got and don’t be shy about it. You want recruiters coming to you, not to chase after jobs and recruiters.
Create a job opportunity. Research companies you want to work with and identify sore points that they are dealing with where you know you could be the solution. Speak to the hiring manager, department manager, etc (not HR) and ask to meet with them to network. During the conversation mention their problem and ask for clarification on what ails them. Then offer some (generic) solutions by giving them the what and the why (but not the how…that’s how you come into play) of what they most likely need.
If they seem interested in hearing more, ask for an interview. Then be prepared to blow them away with your knowledge and record of accomplishment.
I have a feeling many of you are going to job boards and applying for everything you are interested in. I’ll let you in on a recruiter secret that’s probably going to get me kicked out of the inner circle. Those are sometimes ads to pipeline candidates. Some (not all, but some) companies have no intention of filling the jobs, only building a database. So if you choose to apply, find out who you need to get in front of that matters and go through them first to let them know you’re interested. Then apply online per protocol.
You must approach online job ads as if there is a potential that it is solely for pipelining. Make sure you back that application up with some roll up your sleeves, investigative work to connect with the true hiring manager. Express your interest in the position, let them know you’ve applied per protocol and make sure it gets to the right people. You just never know in this day of technology and applicant tracking so it’s up to YOU to do the due diligence if you really want the job.
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