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Non-Crazy Job Hunting in 5 Steps

No matter how much you like your current job, you should always have a Plan B.  And if you're finding that job hunting has suddenly become Plan A, this advice may be even more timely.
What You Think You Should Do:
  1. Find a list of jobs somewhere.
  2. Apply for those jobs.
You can do it this way.  But this method might make you crazy and sad.  By the time a hiring company posts a job to their web site, and especially by the time they post to or, they have committed their hiring process to recruiting professionals who will do agonizingly specific resume screening, word-by-word, on a lot of resumes.  Hundreds or thousands.

For each 50 resumes you send out, you will be lucky to get one non-automated response (drafted and sent by a human), and even more lucky to get an interview.  Chances of getting an actual job this way are microscopic, viewed in terms of submitting a single resume to a single job posting.  Applying by resume is the equivalent of advertising a product by blowing coupons into magazines.  If you want to do this, plan to send out a lot of resumes.

What I Think You Should Do:
  1. Figure out what you want to do.
  2. Find some companies where you want to work
  3. Build some marketing collateral for yourself.
  4. Network by asking people for help reviewing and improving your collateral.
  5. When the time comes, and you meet with one of the people you want to work for, tell them you want to work for them.
This is not some kind of scary visualization technique.  I'm not going to suggest that you start by reading The Secret and then buy some crystals or something.  This is the same advice I give my sister and my friends, and none of us are woo-woo.  No offense, Secret-reading crystal users.

I do indeed recommend a book, but it is Orville Pierson's Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search, along with his companion book, Highly Effective Networking.  I don't get kick-backs for this--this method simply works really well.  This is the method huge corporations use to relocate their executives when they have to get rid of them.  Read the books!

But if you don't have your local library handy, and your credit card is overdrawn, so you can't buy it for your Kindle, here's a sort of précis:

1)  Figure out what you want to do:
This is hard! That's why you want to just go apply for jobs, rather than thinking it through.  Please, please take the time to think this through. You don't have to buy and follow the massive  What Color is Your Parachute.  That book is probably good, but it is scary.

Faster, use the MAPP Assessment, which was suggested to me by my own career coach, Joe Vranich (who has now moved away from career coaching to business relocation coaching, sadly for you, unless you are relocating your business).  Neither Joe nor I get a kickback for this recommendation.  There's a free version of the MAPP, but it's worth it to pay for the cheapest not-free one, to get the interpretation of results.  It's a 90 question multiple-choice test that will help you translate your preferences into actual jobs that exist in the real world.

As part of this definition process, please develop an "elevator pitch" that quickly describes your planned next job.  This is a single sentence that describes what you want to do, and at what company.  It should be something like "I'm looking for a Director-level position in a mid-sized software company, where I would do mostly management, but could still be hands-on."  You want to be able to rattle this off whenever anyone asks.

2)  Find some companies where you want to work: 
This is hard too.  But if you know what you want to do, it's just a matter of research.  Make a list of 40 target companies who offer the job you want to do, and who meet your other criteria:  location, non-bullying policy, benefits, salary, etc.  You can research this online and get help from reference librarians at libraries.  You may rule some out and add some new ones as you go, but make sure you are spreading a wide enough net, and keep the number of potential employers up around 40.

3)  Build some marketing collateral for yourself:
You will feel tempted to hire a professional resume writer, and maybe join a site like "TheLadders," or post a request on "LinkedIn."  Emotionally, this may be the best you can do right now, but none of these are a good idea.

As soon as you can do so, make your contacts with future employers in person, not via written materials.  But you do need those materials.
  • Build a resume.  I can't give you the format.  Some random professional resume writer can't either.  Don't hire them!  Instead, find a person who does the type of job you want to do, get them to give you a soft copy of their resume, save under a new name, like "my resume.docx", and put your information in, replacing theirs.  I got invaluable help on my resume from Drew Jemillo, for example.  Thank you, Drew!
  • Build a LinkedIn Profile.  Take the time to fill it out with all of your accomplishments.  Again, in a pinch, copy your role model, disguising the copy well enough so that you won't look like some kind of weird stalker.
  • Build a one-page handbill.  This is trendy, but good.  It's a thing to use instead of a business card, but which is less imposing than a full resume.  Here is a sample, which to me, errs on the side of too wordy.  But you get the idea.  Print a few of these out, and carry them with you, so you can give them to people.
  • Get business cards made.  You can go to a web site and design these, which is totally fun.  Include your cell phone number, your email address, a link to your blog if you have one, and the address of your linked in profile.  You want to be able to hand these out when you meet people.  Old fashioned but true. Here's a sample.
  • Build a list of accomplishments.  I originally put this first, but I actually built the resume first and then harvested the list from that, because I was anxious to get going on something real.  Do it either way.  The point is that these are the building blocks of all your other collateral.  Make sure that all of your collateral is built out of accomplishments from this list, vetted for maximum power.  This should be a series of statements in the format:  
    <power verb> <immediate object of your power verb> with the result that <eventual measurable result>
    Here' are some examples from a nice blog on this.
4)  Network by asking for people's help with your collateral.

People will always tell you to "network," which is very irritating, because it can cause you to picture yourself pathetically cold-calling some major executive and begging for a job, using the words "desperate, children, retirement, and/or mortgage."
It doesn't need to be like that.

Here are four magical words to use on your friends, and, as your network grows, on their friends:  "I need your help."  Start with your closest friends and the family members who like you, and take them to coffee (or beer, if they're more beer oriented).  Start with your elevator pitch, and then ask them to go over your collateral with you and make suggestions.  If they know people you should talk with further, ask them to introduce you.  People will give great suggestions about things to change about how you market yourself, your dream job, and your list of companies.  And they will generally be glad to help by introducing you.  What goes around, comes around.

Until you meet the person who would logically be your ideal next boss, at each target company, you don't ever need to utter the words "can you hire me?"

After each meeting, send an email thank you or an actual postal letter if it is warranted, and attempt to link the person in on the LinkedIn site.

Oh, and speaking of LinkedIn, if you don't normally introduce yourself to people for the first time using social media, don't start by trying to introduce yourself to contacts at a new company through LinkedIn.  This is not a group to practice on, if you are awkward at all.  If you're great at making friends online, then you'll be fine.  Otherwise, reach out on LinkedIn only to people you actually know.  If you want to meet someone through a person you know on LinkedIn, ask that person in a normal email if they could introduce you.  Leave LinkedIn out of the work flow, except to record people you have actually met.

Orville Pierson's book is mostly about setting targets for yourself, in terms of how many people you talk with, and how many of those are in a position to hire you one day.  So if you're this far along, you should definitely get his book!  One of the keys to non-crazy job hunting is to treat it as a project, and review metrics, instead of lurching from one potential job posting to the next, thinking each one is "The One."

5)  When the time comes, and you meet with one of the people you want to work for, tell them you want to work for them.
Normally, you will have plenty of time to work the kinks out of your networking techniques before you meet with the first person who might eventually be your boss.  Even so, the "interview with a person who could hire you" is different in kind from the previous meetings, which have been focused on getting you to talk with someone who might be a good boss for you.

Orville Pierson's book has great news, which is that on average, you will need to talk to about 25 potential next bosses before you will find the job you have been looking for.  That can take a while, but it's a finite number, and once you have gotten going, it's just a matter of following your script and doing the legwork.  Using this logic, the odds of any given "decision maker" who could hire you offering you a job on the first interview are less than one in 25.  This means that you don't have to put all of your emotions into the discussion.  It's always best to be non-hysterical, to make a good impression.

You can, however, use most of your standard networking technique for this meeting.  Thank the person for taking the time for meeting with you, give your elevator pitch, explain why you think you could contribute a lot to their area of influence at their company, and let them know you're interested in working for them, if they should have the need for someone with your skill set and interests.

All of this should take 1 minute or less.  Please make sure you get THEM to talk more than you do. If they don't need you right now, or if they dislike you (some people will, statistically), then thank them graciously, leave some collateral behind, send a thank-you note, link them in, etc., and move on.  Or call to follow up every few months or so, if you're invited to do so.

But here's the important part.  If they have a need to create a position for you, they will tell you that.  If they say they're going to do that, then make sure to say "I want that job!  What can I do to help convince you?"  This is not the time to be coy.  It is not over-eager to be enthusiastic.  Do not flub on the doorstep of your dream job.  If you see your dream materializing, say so matter-of-factly, and jump onboard.


  1. Updated LinkedIn advice based on excellent feedback from Alice Dames.


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