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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Finding Your Next Job

MORE magazine weighed in this month on the use of web technology in finding your next job. Their thesis was that the game has changed; nice resumes on Crane stationary with good cover letters have been replaced with social media, a personal web page about your professional abilities, and a web marketing strategy. In the last year I've probably gotten an equal number of unsolicited resumes and unsolicited social media contacts (from Facebook friend requests to LinkIn invitations).

With a tough job market its an easy sell to say to a job seeker that they aren't getting results because they aren't using the right technology. Unfortunately that's not totally true. Technology is a work tool, much like in an earlier tech era your tools might have included a lathe or a hammer. Updating to more modern tools (let's just say a power lathe and a pneumatic hammer) may increase the speed of a process, but it doesn't change the basic process.

You build a house from the foundation to the frame to the roof, plumbing and wiring, exterior walls, and then interior work. That hasn't changed even though power tools have sped the process. You still have to do the job right; the roof can't leak, the wiring must work, and all the walls have to be square (unless you're Beazer and then all bets are off...but I digress).

Like home building, the basics of job search haven't changed although the tools have improved. You still find a job through networking and reputation. The use of social media and email can speed the communications process in helping you find open positions and getting the word out that you're looking for work. You still have to interview well and close the deal (land the job) and that involves preparation and research like it always has.

In the last 15 months 177 people have left our company. We pledged, as an HR department, to help anyone who'd let us and to keep following up with people until they found work. We checked in this past week and about 65% have found a job. Some have landed elsewhere in better positions for more money; others have found "a" job from a lateral move to a survival job. A handful (maybe 10%) are going back to school, staying home with children, etc...

In talking with some of these good people it becomes obvious that in spite of all the new technology people still get their next job, first and foremost, through networking. I met a representative from one Nashville non-profit at a convention in Atlanta. He told me he was looking to hire a particular position. I gave him a recommendation and he smiled, telling me that someone else at Thomas Nelson had already sent that person's resume to him. The lady had an interview the next Monday and is currently a candidate.

Now don't miss what happened in this example. The former employee had such a good reputation that, without her doing anything, a co-worker and an exec at her former employer put her name out by word-of-mouth.

I have also fielded a considerable number of reference calls on our former employees. Similarly, when I've recommended someone I've often gotten the, "I'll call around and check them out" response from the prospective employer. This aspect of job hunting hasn't changed since the advent of non-farm jobs. I have not, to date, heard of anyone getting hired from a LinkIn recommendation. Reference checking is still done over the phone, person to person.

The secret to finding your next job is 90% your reputation for doing great work and your personal brand for being a person of integrity at your current job.

Social Media can help, but only so much. MORE magazine is right when it says social media invitations have replaced resumes; I throw unsolicited social media invitations in my Outlook trash with the same speed that I throw unsolicited paper resumes in the waste basket under my desk.

So how do you find your next job, and what is the role of the new technology in doing so? Its a two-fold mixture of old and new tech.
  1. You need a good resume. That "content" is just like book content and can be delivered on paper, via email, or through social media.
  2. You need a professional email address from which to send resumes. One friend of mine at a religious non-profit showed me a very nice looking resume received from "hotgirl69@..." and needless to say it went in the trash.
  3. You need to tell everyone who has a favorable opinion of you that you're looking for a job. Networking through people who would give you positive word-of-mouth puts positive buzz into the marketplace.
  4. Follow that up by sending them a copy of your resume so that they can forward or hand it to someone they know.
  5. Google yourself and make sure that any information out there is positive. You probably can't do anything about it if its not, but you need to be able to respond to a question about it if asked during an interview.
  6. You need a web presence, open to public view, such as a LinkIn page or personal home page. That will put positive information, that you planted, out for a web searcher to find.
  7. Get samples of your work together. Contact former colleagues to retrieve non-proprietary samples of things your done on the job. You should keep samples of work you do anyway. Showing an interviewer a physical example of something you've done is much more powerful than just saying you've done it. In HR we get lied to a lot during interviews.

Most importantly, if you still have a job (and remember, most people still do) now is the time to build your brand and reputation. If you're a kiss-up, kick-down politician who walks over people in the workplace, social media won't help you. The kind of conversations that happen when people check your references are what we in the HR world refer to as karma.

If you're known for quality work, integrity, professionalism, and for being the kind of person people want to work with then you'll sell yourself. Social media well-implemented will then help you do that faster.

1 comment:

davidpleach said...

Great stuff, Jim, as usual. You still have one of the most helpful, well-written blogs on the net.

Oh, and I LOVE the Beazer dig. :-)