I have always said that there is a huge difference between a bad process and a bad job market. If a job seeker isn't using his or her time effectively and concentrating on methods that actually work, then it doesn't matter how many jobs are out there. He or she won't get a second look. My columns have focused on the tools that job seekers can use to improve their process in what has up to now been a very robust job market.
The world has changed - and so much of it overnight. One day my client list was a group of companies with open positions and interviews being conducted at all levels; a few weeks later, the same companies put those positions on hold, or had moved into layoffs. The speed and intensity of this economic meltdown hit us all completely by surprise. It's so bad right now that it's the first time this normally positive thinker agrees with the naysayers . . . times are tough!
Still, there are jobs out there - jobs that someone is going to land. This month's column focuses on how to ensure that you are one of those who completes his or her mission in 2009.
The Year of the Perfect Plan
Let's face it - the job market is totally unforgiving right now. You can't flounder, because a bad process in a bad job market is, well, a bad combination. More than anything, this is the year of the perfect plan.
While the elements of a perfect job-hunting plan will differ based on the needs of the individual and targeted job type, there are some common elements. Here are a few items that should be considered as you sit down to plan out your 2009 search or analyze your progress to date:
- The perfect plan includes a truly significant effort. The average time invested in a job search is 20 to 30 minutes a day after work. In 2009, all that will get you is a few "thank you" responses from human Resources . If you aren't spending two hours a day on your search, good luck getting any kind of traction at all.
- Each sector of the job market needs to have its own plan, whether it is responding to journal ads, headhunters, or online job postings, attending job fairs, or networking and informational interviewing. Gone are the days of simply using one channel and succeeding. You can't count on a hundred Internet job applications or on networking alone. You've got to have all the bases covered.
- I always mention the importance of a Plan B. In this job market, you not only need B, but you need a C and D as well! Applying for a manager job in the pharmaceutical industry? Fine. But make sure you have a side project going at the same time, applying to positions in the consulting industry. And perhaps one targeting project management jobs in biotech employers as well - all with different versions of a well-written resume or CV.
Huge Loads of Perseverance
Let's say you've got a great plan, and you are attacking each and every sector for jobs. This is where it may get discouraging, because what you're going to be getting back from that huge outlay of time and effort may not look like it was worth the investment. This is where the second key element of a 2009 job search comes into play: perseverance.
You'll put out three times the effort this year compared to last year in order to generate the same number of leads. And when they show up at your door, you not only have to recognize them, but you must have the ability to recover when they don't pan out. I can't tell you how to "bounce back" - you'll need to experience it yourself. But be assured that rejection will make you a better job seeker, as long as you take a lesson from every bump along the way.
Perhaps you've just experienced an embarrassing networking contact, or you've had your third interview go by without so much as a follow-up call from the employer. Your natural instinct is to pull back - to start looking at lateral moves, or to limit yourself to online job applications. Don't allow those instincts to rule! Each negative experience holds a lesson. How could you have made that phone contact go smoother? What can you learn about yourself from the interviews that haven't resulted in offers?
I've always considered perseverance to be one of my strongest attributes, but 2009 is really testing me. In fact, I've had to result to extraordinary measures in order to advance my cause, to the point where I risk being considered a pest by others along the way. Here are some of my recommendations about how hard to push, and when to call it quits:
- While networking, don't stop when one or two calls are not returned. Continue calling without leaving voicemail messages until you reach that person at their desk. If messages must be left (or if you are using E-mail), remember that three attempts should be your limit. Anyone who has had three messages from you and hasn't replied is not going to be a willing resource.
- Push past online job applications when company HR departments don't respond. Turn up every contact you can possibly make at the company in order to identify the hiring manager, and state your case directly to that person.
- You can't rely on memory alone for your follow-up calls. Your salvation will be the habit of consistently entering all follow-up timelines into a calendar program, whether it resides on your PC or on the net (Google Desktop, Me.com). I use Apple's iCal program, which communicates through Me.com with my iPhone for reminders, no matter where I am.
- The extent of contacts you'll need to make in 2009 means that you'll want to develop a contact database as well, whether it be a simple Excel spreadsheet or something akin to a relational database. Software programs like ACT! (PC) or Daylite (Mac) combine the calendar program suggested above with a great way to manage your relationships and networking contacts. This kind of assistance is highly recommended in a year where you may have much more data to manage than ever before.
A Positive Attitude Does Matter
Your mental outlook - the last, and often most critical, element in the 2009 job search - either keeps you open for new opportunities or closes your mind and seals your fate. It's really easy this year to be negative about things. (In fact, some experts believe that the economic downturn would be much less severe if there wasn't such a negative view promulgated by the media). I believe that one's attitude does affect the world around them. At least that's the case for the job seeker.
So, knowing it's a lousy job market out there, what facts can you keep in mind that can help you have a positive expectation for your job search? First of all, remember that all recessions have a beginning, a middle, and an end. And so do job searches. There are very few people who engage in a job search of the type described in this column who do not achieve their goal, or some alternate version of that goal.
Your new job is out there, even in 2009. Grumble about the economy all you want, but when it comes to the job search, dig in and don't let go until you've got what you were looking for!