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Debra Feldman

Kick Off Your 2010 Job Search Campaign

January is the perfect time to plan and implement a strategic job search to generate new opportunities targeted to your new 2010 career goals. How to get started this week before the Super Bowl contestants are decided.

January 21, 2010
by Debra Feldman

A new job is not going to find you. Now more than ever, if you are in a hurry to change your situation, it is going to take some logical planning and precise execution to produce new opportunities where you want them and with those you think can further your career. Getting started is by far the most difficult part of any job search. The good news is that you have a once a year golden opportunity to accelerate your job search progress by leveraging your recent networking experiences (virtual contacts as well as live connections) that you had as well as opportunities that you may have wished for but didn’t get around to last year.

Getting Started

The first step is to define the goals for your search campaign — where you want to live and work, what kinds of assignments you prefer, what you’d like to learn, what your next job after this one might be and what you need to learn or achieve in your career to make this possible, your bottom line on key variables like salary, benefits, hours, travel, etc. Then draw up a very specific list naming people whom you recently interacted with and those you would like to contact, and start making appointments, telephone calls and scheduling other opportunities to deepen or establish your relationship with these connections.

To market yourself, make your talents known to more potential employers by first connecting with individuals who can appreciate your value and recognize that you are the one who can meet their challenges and find solutions for them. You need to prepare a succinct, persuasive message that unquestionably shows that you have the right stuff. How? By providing enough detail to demonstrate that you are savvy. Make it clear from the outset that they have to get into serious discussions with you, not just pick your brain. Then you have the chance to learn more about potential employers, while they are simultaneously checking you out.

Focus

Don’t confuse a potential employer by covering the gamut of issues that may interest them. Rather choose one or two topics in which you can demonstrate your solid expertise to get them intrigued and then expand on them only after you have established a good rapport. It is easier for people to be impressed if you just focus on something dear to their hearts than if you bring up too many subjects. You want to leave them with the impression that you could be their go-to person for something special. In general, specialists get more respect than generalists and command a higher salary as well. If you try to be everything to everyone, you may end up being nothing to anyone. Focus is one of the key ingredients for success in today’s job market.

Begin by assembling the names and contact information of those that might be good networking connections and then religiously follow up on your holiday meeting or e-mail exchange. If you didn’t get to see or speak to someone you had hoped to run into on the holiday circuit or if there are others that you missed sending a note to, use this occasion to get in touch now.

Network Purposefully

Network Purposefully™ with specifically targeted individuals who have good connections and who are most likely to be able to accelerate your career to the next level.

Who should you contact in the next few weeks? Answer this by describing your focus. Review new and renewed contacts made in the past couple of months and identify individuals whom you admire, who are affiliated with companies you’d like to work for, or list people who know others that you would like to speak with about opportunities. Prioritize this list so that you can focus your efforts where they are most likely to produce the best results. Rank names by how likely they are both accessible and helpful, as well as how well connected they are to those who need to know you. Make a commitment to yourself to contact a minimum of two to four individuals everyday and to stay with this until you have enlarged your network and feel confident that you will be apprised of leads early, before a job is officially announced so that you gain the competitive advantage afforded to those with inside connections. Follow the same steps to reconnect with individuals who you missed during the holidays who are solid prospective networking connections to new opportunities.

What should you say when you call or leave a message? One of the easiest and simplest icebreakers is to open with a comment about what everyone was doing over the holidays, where they took the family, how they celebrated New Year’s and what’s in store for the coming 12 months. By all means DO NOT say that you are calling about an open position or looking for work. You are networking to share information and ideas, to help each other. You are not the one looking for assistance, but want to offer advice and resources. Networking is a two-way street. You should always be on the giving end if you want to grow your connections and be someone that others seek out. By positioning yourself as a generous networker, you get to learn of opportunities that are likely to become new career opportunities without having to actually ask about openings and avoiding the unpleasantness of feeling like a beggar.

How frequently should you try to connect with your targeted contacts? You should call several times at different points in the day to maximize making contact since people have hectic schedules and are usually difficult to reach. Only leave a message once every five days or so and be sure to leave your contact information even if you are sure they have it already. This calling pattern demonstrates that you want to speak to them seriously, are persistent and are respecting their choice to initiate a call to you at their convenience.

When should you call? If you don’t want to go through someone’s administrative assistant or would prefer to catch them live instead of leaving a voice mail, you have a few options available. You can try calling early before the general business day gets started or try reaching them late into the evening when they may not be in a meeting or traveling. If you can obtain their direct-dial number, this is preferable to going through the switchboard. You may have to initially make a call just to get the extension from a directory or operator and then keep trying to get through or leave a message. Yes, it is a drag, but you will be successful using this technique if you follow up and are patient.

How can you bypass a pesky gatekeeper or avoid being trapped by a complex voicemail system? There isn’t any one surefire way, but varying your practice among a few of these may work: ingratiate the gatekeeper as a support for your diligent efforts; ask them to pass an e-mail along that you sent to the assistant’s inbox; make small talk with the assistant so that they develop a sense of relationship and care about helping you reach your goal. Enlist the assistant’s help in arranging a telephone appointment time or suggesting when you might catch your contact on their cell phone or at their desk between meetings or ask them if they would get feedback about your inquiry for you so you don’t have to bother their boss. For automated systems, you can use the company phone directory or call a departmental number that will ring to a live person and ask them to help you reach your contact. You might try getting through via customer service or another manned department. If all else fails, call a client or associate of your contact at another company and ask them for the direct-dial information or e-mail address you need.

What is the purpose of your call? That’s sometimes a little tricky. Focus on meeting the contact’s needs and gain their appreciation before bringing up anything about obtaining a targeted introduction or tips about future openings. Before making that initial phone call to a contact, do some Web searching to identify challenges in their organization in which you have expertise. Set up a news alert to keep you automatically updated with developments. Offer to share your knowledge, which provides a chance to demonstrate to hiring managers clearly what you offer as a prospective member of their team. Is this a bold strategy? Yes. Is it effective? Yes. Does it require more than passing a resume along or applying online or waiting for a recruiter to snare the big one for you? Yes, but it also is very successful technique for grabbing the attention of decision makers at organizations that interest you instead of waiting for the stars to fall into alignment someday bringing you together. If it doesn’t work out, you may have gained more credibility and a first call back position for the next opening.

If you haven’t had luck making contact with someone in the past, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they would reject you now. One thing is guaranteed and that is change: change in circumstances, change in attitude and change in needs!

Conclusion

Quality interacting and not the quantity of exchanges generates a recommendation. You want people to like you as a person, trust you, want to help further your career and feel comfortable referring you to their contacts. It may take several calls or meetings until the other person fully appreciates your value and offers a suggestion that can help you network. You want others to sense that you are genuine and that they aren’t being used.

Share your list of individuals you want to know with your contacts and ask if they know anyone you have targeted and if they are willing to help you connect with them. By designing your networking strategy correctly and planning how to use your contacts, you join the ranks of purposeful networkers. Each interaction creates more personalized connections that ultimately produce job leads accelerating your job search in the direction you want it to go at a steady pace.

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© Debra Feldman, 2010

Debra Feldman, JobWhiz, is an executive talent agent who accesses opportunities in the hidden job market by personally developing inside connections for her clients. Forbes labeled her Matchmaker: Part sleuth, Part networker. Contact her for details on how to accelerate your career.