There’s a three-step strategy very powerful in landing that next job.
- First, make a short list of target jobs.
- Then, find someone doing that job right now!
- Third, talk to him/her.
- Okay; there’s a fourth step. Repeat until hired!
Target select “make-sense” jobs
List three to eight (no more than ten) job targets that strike your fancy. Start with obvious jobs, like what you do now, or have done recently in the past. Those jobs you do or did make sense; you know the lingo and the “vibes” of things.
Look at opportunities with your current or most recent employer. Is there an affiliate, a sister office where you could be happy? Nothing is ever exactly the same. The small branch office versus the headquarters setting. A whole new dynamic after an acquisition, reorganization and top-leadership cleanup. Is there a role within the familiar that would reinvigorate you? Tap into your expertise and reward you in return with valued respect and accountability?
It makes sense to look for next landings with your employer’s competitors, customers, suppliers, or vendors. You know things about their world that outsiders wouldn’t know. So, if you’re in big-box-retail, you go to other big-box retailers and their cohorts. What about venture partners or consultants to your former employer? Perhaps you have expertise that would help you get a foot in their door.
Add some “dream jobs” to the list
You can go in a completely new direction, for whatever reason. Your industry or role is on the decline. You don’t like it. You’ve always wanted to try blank. You want something that aligns with your career charisma. If you’ve always wanted to be a rock star, massage therapist or food-truck owner, put it on your list. Remember to give careful thought as to the reality of it. Will you be able to pay the rent? Support yourself or your family? If not, perhaps it would make a better hobby or sideline than job?
Your targets should be fully-fleshed-out ideas. “Something in finance” is not a career target. “Internal community bank auditor” is. People are not typically excited about helping someone who is vague, because it’s hard and uncomfortable. What if you were looking for directions and stopped to ask that kind-hearted stranger. “I’m looking for a place, but I don’t where it is.” “What place?” asks the kind stranger. You retort, “I don’t know, but it’s on this map, I’m sure.” “Ummm,” thinks the stranger. The more specific you are, the more people can tell you how to move to or reach your goal.
“I’m looking for something in the green or environmental niche.”
“I’m looking for a position in Minneapolis providing funding or lending assistance to city businesses practicing energy-efficient upgrades to their buildings, including lighting, retrofits and high-efficiency HVAC systems. I’m also interested in uptown green-roof-building initiatives.”
“I’m interested in working as a software developer.”
“I’d love to dive into learning more about senior business analyst roles with companies using medical or healthcare-related 3D printing software that creates physical objects directly from digital data. I don’t care where the business is located, as long as it’s a global market.”
Pick things that sustain your interest. If you know and love your work, you’ll give it your all. You’ll get noticed. You’ll be able to enlist those folks who sense your passion and will not surprisingly catch your enthusiasm.
So, write down these three to eight or so targets. Write as much as you can think of regarding the function, industry, title, compensation, type of organization, geographic location, hierarchy or authority, travel requirements, customers, competitors, work situations (flex, remote, etc.). Be very specific, because that will jumpstart you into action.
Now, pick three or even fewer to focus on. Looking for more than three at the same time is not effective. You can add one new idea every time you run an existing target down and dead-end it.
Reach out to company contacts
I suggest approaching always with integrity, directness and respect. But you’re going to leap here. Pick up the phone and call businesses. Email is an option, but it’s not as effective; it’s too easy to ignore an email.
So preferably call the businesses. Email if you have to. Simply ask them if they’re considering hiring someone like you. One caveat is that this technique does not work well with large companies, because there are so many layers between the front lines and the hiring decision-maker. But it can be fabulous with smaller companies! If you want to work at a small legal mediation firm, or company that provides educational support services, or downtown locally-owned bakery, build a list of these businesses and start calling.
“I wonder if you’re thinking about hiring a ____. Who would I talk to about that?”
Then, follow instructions of the person who answers the phone. Now, depending on the scenario, you might mention a mutual acquaintance or other lead; you might provide a bit more information about how you got the organization or person’s name. But the basic technique remains the same.
There’s an old adage, “Seek and ye shall find.” Seek for what you want, where it is. Talk to people. And stick to the important recipe ingredient; repeat until hired.