Recently I was doing some coaching with a client, and we were trying to figure out why her job search has stalled. She had been getting lots of phone interviews, several first face interviews, but few if any second interviews – and of course, zero offers. The more we chatted the more it became apparent that her job search process was typical of the ones I have seen in the past few years. Meaning, she has not been differentiating herself from the crowd enough to get to the offer stage.
See if this sounds familiar. A typical week for my client was to spend 3-4 hours per day on the job boards and in filling out online applications, and then another 1-2 hours a day on LinkedIn trying to find contacts and hiring managers for the positions for which she’d applied. Then, maybe once or twice per week, she’d go to a networking or job training meeting, and if she was bored she’d go to her favorite charity and volunteer for a few hours. If there was a job fair in the area, she’d spend a couple of hours researching the companies that we going to be at the event. Then maybe another 30-45 minutes tweaking her resume to fit the companies or industries that she planned to target at the job fair. She’d practice her 30 and 60 second elevator pitches a few times and then wait for the day of the event to arrive. She also was listed with several job search agencies and would check in with each of them on Monday to see if they’d found her anything yet.
On the surface, it appears that my client is very active, engaged and in control of her job search process, right? Unfortunately, she is doing what millions of other applicants are doing and her skills and abilities are not standing out from the rest. I shared with her some statistics and a story to help her get a grasp of the changes that she needs to make in her job search plan.
First, I told her that 85-90% of the jobs that are filled are in the “unpublished” job market. By now, we have all heard of this subterranean employment community where miracles happen, but I wanted her to fully understand how this hidden job emporium works and how she could take advantage of it! She was spending roughly 4 days per week on the job boards looking at 10-15% of the jobs – this math does not work! She was investing 80% of her work time into 15% (max!) of job possibilities – we agreed that she needed to flip this script immediately! Going forward she would spend 1-1 1/2 days per week on the job boards and the rest would be in what I call “professional stalking”! We’ll get to that process in just a minute.
Next, I related a story to her about a friend of mine and his wife at dinner. This is a true story that happened just before Christmas. The couple was out at a local restaurant, one of those “cozy” places where the tables are very close together. During their meal, my friend’s wife overheard the table behind her talking about a new mortgage company that had just opened and how the owner (the man who was speaking) was struggling to find experienced mortgage lending folks to fill the positions he had. The wife has over 10 years of mortgage and lending experience and was looking to go back to work after staying home for a couple of years to help raise a new grandchild. She told my friend what she had overheard at the table next to her.
He took the opportunity to get up, walk over the gentleman who was speaking, introduce himself and apologize for interrupting their meal. Then he told them he couldn’t help but overhear their conversation and that he knew someone they should interview for their mortgage company. When the man asked who it was, my friend said “turn around, she’s sitting right behind you!” They all laughed – but the man DID invite her to interview later that week for a position. My friend’s wife went on the interview and was offered a job on the spot!
Did she pour over hours online looking at job descriptions? Did she fill out online applications that were never replied to? Did she wait for weeks to get a call back from a job search agency? Obviously not. She used the “hidden job market” to it’s fullest advantage and she is the perfect example of being a professional stalker!
When I told the story to my client, her mouth dropped wide open. She said – “how do I do that?” Then I shared with her a plan to improve her professional stalking techniques.
1- Spend 1 to 1 1/2 days of time per week on the job boards max; this tells her what companies are active and may give her some leads;
2- Spend the rest of the week in face to face encounters that include: networking meetings, job seeker meet ups and training sessions, volunteer opportunities, informational interviews to “learn more about” a targeted company, civic organizations, and more;
3- Create a targeted list of companies that she wants to join, based on their mission/vision, values, and the strength of her desire to work there;
4- Use LinkedIn, Google, Bing, and other resources to find deeper information about the companies on her list and activities that the companies have in the community;
5- Attend at least one social or community event each week sponsored by or run by one of her targeted companies; during the event her job is to have conversations with as many of the company employees at the event as possible – I encouraged her that “if they have a company nametag on, you should speak to them!”
6- Ask folks she connects with how they prefer to be contacted – email, phone, text, LinkedIn, etc;
7- She will now follow up with the contact within 24 hours using the form of communication they suggested; then – here’s the hard part! – she must WAIT 48 hours before following up again! Use the first communication method again or choose a different one. Then wait another 24 hours and either use another different contact method or go back to the first one. Use the 24 – then 48 plan for up to a week – then STOP!
7- The difference between annoying stalkers and professional stalkers is the gap of time between messages and the tone that your messages take – make sure you are non-threatening, not desparate sounding, and are always upbeat. What I want her to accomplish is to get a few minutes to “pick their brain” or “learn a little more” about their company. She should NOT ask for an interveiw, rather ask for advice and guidance!
Becoming a skilled professional stalker is the difference in your job search taking a few weeks or it dragging on for months and months. If I can help you gain these skills, don’t hesitate to ask – I’m here to help!