It’s summer in Upstate NY. Forget the old joke about nine months of winter and three months of bad sledding! The weather is beautiful. And grilling season is here. I am a Weber grill guy. Mind you, not a good grill cook. I just have owned one for almost three decades. Recently, a good friend showed me that I have been grilling incorrectly for thirty years. I had my grill grates installed flat side down. I never read the assembly manual. He showed me the benefit and the beauty of grates flat side up. The food I was grilling not only tasted better. It looked better.
How could I have been so wrong for so long? Two basic reasons. First, I didn’t know any better. And second, and more importantly, I had always done it that way. As I stood over my properly constructed grill this past July 4th weekend, I started thinking about job seekers who have been out of the job search process for ten years, even twenty or thirty years. The game has changed since they last looked for a new position. A winning job search, today, now requires a lot more than just a resume and a cover letter. It’s time for a change. Flip those grill grates flat side up and learn a new approach to finding your next job. Change can be good, and here are three ways you can upgrade your job search for today’s market.
#1: First Start with a Job Search Plan
A journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step. I know. I know. Like you have never heard that quote before! How about every successful job search first starts with the development of a comprehensive job search plan? I speak weekly with individuals who have lost their job of 10-20 years. Their first instinct is to go out and update or develop their resume. But how can you build that advertisement of you if you don’t first understand your value proposition and the customers you are targeting. Take a breath and first develop a plan. The first phase of your job search plan should begin with preparation and research. Listed below are the fundamental elements that you should incorporate into the plan.
Determine how many hours per week you will dedicate to your job search and select the days per week and time(s) you will work on your job search.
Establish a dedicated space in your home, apartment, or another area where you can focus and work on your job search.
Identify the position title(s) for the job you are seeking to secure.
Identify the specific industry(s) in which you would like to work.
Determine what size organization you want to target for your next job (Small, Medium, or Large Enterprise) and if you prefer a specific geographic region or city where you want to work (Metro or Rural, Urban or Suburban).
Develop an initial list of up to 50 target companies and organizations where you want to search for a position.
Research each of the target organizations on your list and the job descriptions for the position title(s) you are targeting in your job search. Develop a list of the most relevant keywords and skills from these job descriptions.
With this preparation and research in place, you can then move on to the Personal Branding, Personal Networking, and Personal Selling phases of your job search plan. You may want to then check out an article I wrote earlier this year about how to allocate your time in this job search plan over the first few months of your job search.
#2: You Need an Elevator Pitch to Sell You
I am a registered service provider on LinkedIn ProFinder. I receive 10-15 requests per day for Resume Development and Career Coaching services. But not a single request for Elevator Pitch development. In fairness, that is not a category on ProFinder. However, none of the requests mention the need for an elevator pitch. And that’s a problem. The elevator pitch is not just for sales reps. Your elevator pitch is the foundational first step in your job search. That pitch then becomes the headline and professional summary on your resume and your LinkedIn profile. It’s the middle paragraph on your baseline cover letter. It’s the introduction to any networking meeting. And of course, it’s the answer to the standard “tell me about yourself” question in every interview.
#3: There is a Difference Between Your Current Network and a Job Search Network
We are all influenced by our past experiences. Most of my career experience was in sales, so I tend to view the job search through the lens of a sales cycle. That means to win the job search, you need to build a funnel and a pipeline of network contacts. I recommend that you identify between 300-450 potential contacts for your network funnel. It is at this point in the conversation that most job seekers say “Great. I already have 900 network connections on LinkedIn. I am all set on that step.” Then I step in to burst the bubble.
There is a significant difference between your current network and a job search network. First, you need to apply the filters of target industries, target companies, and positions like the one you are targeting in your search. Do that filtering exercises and the funnel will quickly shrink. Now dig in and research to identify the contacts that pass your filters and build the funnel back up to that 450-person level. With the right size pipeline and funnel in place, you can then begin your network outreach and development. And if the thought of networking makes you break out in a cold sweat, check out an article I authored this past January on resources to kick off your networking process.
In a future article, I will share some additional job search upgrade tips. But time is of the essence. I have chicken on the grill. The grates are flat side up, and for once, I might pull off a miracle and cook something edible for a change. Stay positive, stay focused, and stick to the process. You can win this job search.
If you like getting your job search advice served up with an authentic voice, a dose of humility, and some popular culture, please subscribe to my AdvantEdge blog.
Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.