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Debra Feldman
Debra Feldman
Job Hunting During Recessions

Six keys unlock the door to success.

February 5, 2009
by Debra Feldman

Without a doubt networking is indispensable for positive campaign results. Time and again industry research confirms that the vast majority of new financial and accounting hires result from personal connections is highest among executives. More than 70 percent report that they sourced their new position through a personal recommendation or referral.

Face it. We can’t resist the temptation of a big pay off. So when it comes to our livelihood — financial security and future careers — networking purposefully to find a new challenge is the favored method, even if it takes more personal effort than clicks (online jobsites) and licks (direct mail). 

Although submitting resumes online, notifying recruiters via fax, resume blasts and direct mail, including broadcast e-mails, can generate employer interest, it is personal networking that produces the most viable job leads and the lifelong relationships that make investing the time to nurture the right connections pay off. To play the odds in the job hunter’s favor means emphasizing networking activities over even easiest job-search methods.

Direct Mail Cons

Despite the volume being far greater through blasts and mailings and online clicks, what generate real offers are personal connections.  Reports show direct-mail campaigns distributing your marketing documents produce about a one-percent return, at best. Calculate the cost of paper, stamps and labor involved and it gets pricey. You also have to factor in all the envelopes and postage lost on returns and the uncertainty of not knowing whether anyone actually evaluated your materials, provided it was received by the correct individual. Finally, there is no guarantee of making a direct, personal connection with the recipient.

Networking Pros

Contrast this to establishing a warm personal relationship with someone you target as a good-networking resource. The likelihood of getting additional referrals and/or an immediate job lead argues dramatically in favor of purposeful networking as the job search method of choice, especially for senior-level professionals. Using effective networking, it is possible to achieve over 100 percent responses from each networking encounter – that’s more than one referral for each and every contact you establish. Very quickly, your network builds exponentially, vastly increasing the number of people aware of your qualifications and connected by one or more degrees of separation. At the executive level, employers are much more comfortable hiring a friend of a friend than selecting their next leader from a bunch of résumés representing unknown prospects.

Starting a Networking-Driven Job Search

So how do you take that first step? To begin with, identify with whom to connect (target employers) and then define how best to command attention and the desirable response (invitation to meet in person.)  Despite the substantially greater efforts involved, networking, especially targeted networking focusing on a few highly selected contacts, provides a greater probability for uncovering new career opportunities. If this is the method used continuously to expand one’s business network, when it comes time to seek a new opportunity, many appropriate and valuable connections will already have been established paving a successful path filled with insider tips, leads and information.

Keys to Success

Adopt these strategies for you to put the Sine Qua Non of job search success, networking, to the test.

  1. Establish a specific reason or focus for each networking interaction. Know what this contact can do to further the campaign progress and politely ask for help. Sure doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs and barbers might all know someone, but the membership chair of the local chamber of commerce knows even more people who might be helpful.
  2. Strategically focus networking activity to concentrate on individuals positioned to bring more connections. Reach out to someone who works at your target employer or is the roommate of someone who is employed there, this is one good way to get inside an organization.
  3. Reach individuals who are well connected. Certain people have a knack for attracting others and have a robust network in place. There are also individuals who are key contacts to engage because their status makes them extremely well connected and able to open doors for you.
  4. Be persistent. If you believe a contact is beneficial and are having difficulty reaching them, don’t give up easily. Keep trying to get their attention. Identify someone who might be able to arrange an introduction rather than cold calling. Keep a journal and periodically attempt to make contact. Do something outrageous, but professional, to capture their attention and start a dialog. A compliment is always a good way to break the ice and start a friendly exchange.
  5. List everyone you have ever known that you admire and respect. Seek them out and let them know what your current career objectives are. If they ever liked you, chances are they will be happy to help, offer advice and provide support.
  6. Do something that provides the opportunity for you to promote yourself. For example, publish an article that you can circulate. This will keep you in front of others without having to send a message saying that you are job hunting and need their help. Make them aware that you are open to new opportunities, when they call to congratulate you.

Today, more than ever, it is important to get to work and expand your network. The harder you work those contacts, the better the odds that they’ll produce a new opportunity faster than using any other approach.

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© 2009 Debra Feldman

Debra Feldman is the JobWhiz™, a nationally-recognized expert who designs and personally implements swift, strategic, and customized senior level executive job search campaigns, banishing barriers that prevent immediate success. Her gift for cold calling, executed with high energy and savvy panache, connects candidates directly to decision makers, not HR. Network Purposefully™ with the JobWhiz, and compress your job search into mere weeks, using groundbreaking techniques profiled in Forbes magazine.  In addition to her private practice, writing featured columns and conducting exclusive workshops, Debra is a recommended resource to alumni of top-tier business schools. Contact Debra at www.JobWhiz.com  to expedite your executive ascent.