I was in New York City on a morning in mid-September when planes flew into the two towers of the World Trade Center, into a field in Pennsylvania and into the Pentagon in Washington, DC. I remember leaving our offices in midtown Manhattan and watching the second tower collapse in front of me leaving us stunned at what we had just seen. Suddenly, there was a hole and a view of the sky that I had not seen from that vantage point in many years. In shock, America fell into recession and, soon a war, as it slowly worked to extricate itself for the trauma of what happened.
At the time, I was a recruiter, a headhunter, working with New York area firms to fill technology positions in New York. I called my consultants who were assigned to clients in the buildings. I couldn’t reach them for several days. Both were alive, having been on trips to DC and were out of the office when the planes hit the Towers.
In January of the following year, I got a call from someone named Jerry whom I had known for a long time who was beside himself. He’s a guy who has always been successful in his career, never had to look for a job for very long, but when he called me up, well, I can’t say he was hysterical, but he was certainly frantic. He had been out of work for a while. He had sent out more than 100 resumes and not gotten a nibble yet, not a single interview, and since that was a completely new experience for him, he had no idea what to do.
As I took a deep breath then and thought, “What can I do to help?” At the same time, I thought, “In fact, what can I do to help all the people like Jerry out there?” It was out of those questions that really came the beginning of this program: from the question, what can you do under the most horrible of circumstances to succeed? When there is crisis everywhere and there is nothing going on in employment market? At such a time, I was able to help Jerry land a position by recalibrating his message for employers.
At least 22 million Americans and counting filed for unemployment payments during the last month. There will be more added as time progresses, as stimulus funding fades and the media feeds us terror and Trump criticism in advance of the election in order to generate clicks.
Like the Jerrys and the Geraldine’s of 2001/2002, there will be people terrified, unable to land a new role quickly, watching their savings dwindle, emptying out their retirement savings and not landing a new job any time soon.
What can you do to reduce some of the impact of the voluntary recession/depression (BTW, 15 million people were out of work during the Great Depression, the unemployment rate maxed out at 21.7% and the US population was 122 million, approximately 1/3rd of the current population) and get yourself hired NOW!
The Obvious Choices
Let’s get the obvious ones out of the way/
Statistically, job ads don’t fill many positions and as you look at them from your vantage point, they are easy to apply to no matter what platform you respond to them. The problem is you are like a fish in a pond with thousands of other fish all attempting to jump onto a single hook. There’s a feeding frenzy to even get around the hook and a lot of effort that goes into jumping onto it.
You are prescreened by technology that most of you referred to as “the black hole,” in order to even get to the screener (the corporate or agency recruiter) who may then decide that his/her ATS made a mistake and rejects you. You are also subject to competition from all the other people applying and, depending upon when you apply, the screener may miss your resume. After all, others may respond closer to the time that they are looking at resumes, yours is pushed down, they may never get to yours because of the constant interruptions of the rest of their job (you know, like interviewing people, responding to hiring managers, writing reports, analyzing data, responding to recruiters).
Although I haven’t seen recent statistics, some years ago I saw that job ads filled 6% of all positions. That same statistics said that 22% of jobs were filled by
Some contingency recruiters use job ads to attract candidates. As a result, I tell people that job ads and recruiters fill approximately 30% of all positions (yes, I know the numbers don’t add up. I rounded them up).
Although contingency recruiters will talk with you about exclusivity in their relationship with a client, although they will talk with you about how close they are to their client, the fact is there client is using multiple sources for leads to new hires. Some firms are now putting these recruiters into vendor management relationships were even their referrals are being filtered by a buffer system designed to reduce their contact with the firm. Thus, the traditional advantage of these firms in developing long-term relationships with their hiring managers has started to erode in the past few years as HR organizations create buffers to the contact (there are many reasons for this. I’m not going to go into them in this article) but the fact is that many are being separated from their relationships by systems.
Even so, they are still filling jobs with clients and you should not ignore them. They are a valuable resource for you and for the institution that they serve. Let me repeat that second part of the sentence— “for the institution that they serve.”
Many of you are seduced by the belief that recruiters work for you. They don’t. After all, how much are you paying them?
People work for those who pay them. Yes, they need you and need to keep you on the hook so that they earn the fee. But they will “work for you” as long as they have the opportunity to fill a job with you and with your experience.
I am going to use a few terms some of you will roll your eyes over but, heck, like Nike says, “just do it.”
The Better Choices
In the same survey that pointed to the impact of job ads and recruiters on filling positions, they pointed to networking filling 70% of all positions. Of the 70%, 70% of them (or 49% in total) were filled as a result of introductions to people your network knew who you didn’t.
If you’re like most people your eyes start to roll back into your head at the thought of networking but your thinking of “old school” obnoxious networking, not relationship re- cultivation.
Start with the idea that you have met thousands of people in the course of your life. You’re curious about where they are today and what is happened for them (and to them) since you were last in contact. As I’ve encouraged people to do for many years to reactivate their networks during the month approaching Christmas (or if you’re outside the US were part of the religion or group that celebrates another major holiday), you start with texting and, if your relationship involved email, progressing to email saying something to the effect of, “It feels like 100 years since we were last in contact. I thought I would just send you a quick text (or email) to see how you were and to catch up.”
Sometimes, people don’t remember or don’t respond. Follow-up one time. Do not become “one of those people” the nags. Do not turn into a nuisance. The purpose of catching up is exactly that—catching up. It is not about begging for a new job or an introduction. The purpose of this is to till the soil seek and then plant seeds again. Right now, the terrain is rocky and nothing would grow. But turning the soil and adding fertilizer you can create the conditions where you can get to the point of asking for help.
Remember, they may need your help, too. Give it freely, they know many more people that you don’t know that may be able to help you and vice versa. You can help them. If you only think of yourselves you are acting like one of those recruiters that you have contempt for who are only looking to earn a fee. You are a manipulator, trying to only get something for yourself. Who wants to help someone like that? You haven’t so why would you expect someone to want to help you under those conditions.
One of my favorite stories about networking was one about a man who was overheard by his cleaning person talking to a recruiter about a new job. She asked for a copy of his resume always brushed off several times. After a month, she went to the man’s wife who told him, “Would you give her copy of the resume? She started to bother me about it.”
Little did either of them know that the cleaning person’s husband was the president of a bank and that she cleaned homes in order to maintain her humility in the face of various forms temptation she might experience as the wife of executive.
You need to tell everyone you know that you can use help. If you are part of a church, synagogue mosque or meditation center, if you’re part of an organization that you have been involved with for some time, other congregants and attendees may be able to provide the introduction to someone who can be the catalyst for you getting your next job.
You may feel embarrassment about asking for help but GET OVER IT! You will feel better as the support starts to arrive from people who care about you and are willing to help. After all, which feels worse— asking for help or having no prospects? I think we’ll both agree which one it is.
I have a lot more available at my YouTube channel, JobSearchTV.com. Use different playlists in order to get to the information about networking (or anything else related to job search, hiring more effectively, managing and leading, career development and more.
The fourth thing you need to start paying attention to is
Although you may not think of yourself as though you are a detergent, a paper towel or a phone, there are lessons to learn from the world of branding that can make a difference in your career for the balance of your life.
For example, when you go to the store to buy detergent, I don’t know a single person whoever picks up the package looks down at the ingredients and says to themselves, “Hmm. I think the interrelationship of chemicals in this detergent will clean my wash better than those in this one.”
People make the purchase of the detergent based upon price, whether they have a coupon, what they were told to buy ANYTHING other than the actual ability of that detergent to clean their laundry better than another brand. It is assumed that they all do the same thing well.
In fact, what these firms all do you shortcut rational thinking to make you believe that the only thing you need to think about.
When most people think about branding, they interpret the word is being reputation. What is my reputation? Although branding is much more than that, but stick with that term and ask you this question, “who outside of my organization even knows that I exist?”
If you’re like most people you have a relatively finite universe of people who know about you and what you’ve done, let alone how well you did it. As you become more experienced it is just as important to make sure that you are known in the universe that you operate in and beyond. After all, there are many remarkable talents in the world who no one knows about. They may have the voice of a great singer, the ability to hit a baseball as far as a major-league player, the intelligence to solve a medical mystery . . . But if no one knows about it, they are invisible.
I don’t work for LinkedIn but you have the ability on LinkedIn to make yourself more widely known and you are today. Whether it is participating in groups, writing for the platform, sharing things that you read, listen to or watched that you think are worthwhile or creating your own content, this is a place where hundreds of millions of people around the world come to connect, learn, share and advance in their careers (by the way, I am the 7653rd member of LinkedIn).
Too often, many of you only logon when you’re looking for a job instead of using it as a tool to make sure that people know about you, what you’ve accomplished and what you think. It is a missed opportunity to build your brand/reputation when you ignore LinkedIn when you’re not looking for work.
When I worked in recruiting, I helped to create the myth that the passive job applicant was far superior to the one that was actively looking. The idea behind the myth was that active job hunters were the first chosen to be pushed out the door or let go. How could they be?
The passive job applicant was the one who kept her head down and did their job well. They were the person who would never see your job at as they were too busy doing a great job. It’s easy to find the active person but hard to get the passive one to consider your opportunity.
With LinkedIn, you always have the ability to portray yourself as being a passive candidate looking at opportunities when they make sense for you. After all, the person who gets ahead isn’t always the smartest or work the hardest (although those a great qualities to have). People get ahead by being alert to opportunity; sometimes, those opportunities are internal to the organization. Most of the time, they are external.
Your LinkedIn profile provides you with a de facto way for people to know the basics about you and your experience without you having to do more than just creating it. From there, LinkedIn sells the ability employers, search firms, and contingency recruiters to find you online and reach out to you about opportunities. Yes, it is true, that many of these opportunities will not suit you at all. But you just need one to be a catalyst for your career.
Write a book.
Writing a book offers you the justification to reach out to people you know and don’t know who are experts in what you write about and ask for advice and comments about a chapter, solidifying you as an expert in this area and helps you to develop your brand and network with others.
Become a guest on podcasts
Many shows love to have well-prepared guests who are experts in a particular field. Be clear and certain about your domain knowledge and what you want to talk about it. No one has time to figure out what your topic is. The host has a following of people s/he serves through the show. I know quite a few people who have leveraged interviews into interviews.
Building your brand does involve effort but, for many of you, the small amount of time that you might invest in it now and over the course of your career can pay huge dividends. It may not help you immediately during this crisis but once you land it should be the foundation of everything you do going forward to become known as a professional.
Following this simple playbook will, over the course of time, help you land your next role and have opportunities present themselves to you for many years to come. Being a professional involve sacrifices. After all, to use another example from sports, Olympic athletes have trained the lifetime for the opportunity to compete in the Olympics only to see it postponed for a year and needing to recalibrate for another year. I’m sure they’ll be able to do it because they have the mental strength and desire to do so.
Nothing works every time but following this formula will help you land sooner rather than later. Following this formula will have opportunities present themselves to you for the next decades of your career.
Many years ago, I recommended that someone get on the conference tour as a presenter in order to accelerate his career. Years later, he never had to apply for another job, wrote or co-authored several books in his area of expertise, owns a global business and is a well-regarded expert in his field.
What can you do?
What will you do?
What’s possible now?
Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1700 episodes and “The No BS Coaching Advice Podcast” and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council. “No BS JobSearch Advice Radio” was named a Top 10 podcast for job search. JobSearchTV.com is also a Top 10 YouTube channel for job search.
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