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Job Hunt: What can I do different?

By Subraya Mallya on 23 April 2009 | Topics - Career

My recent meetings with friends/ex-colleagues who are impacted by the downturn and hearing the challenges prompted this post on how people can help themselves in these tough times.  In the post I will share experiences I have had and hopefully some of it would be useful to the readers.

We are in a really tough job market. No two ways about it. Employers have a larger pool of people to choose from. The interviews and the hiring process is taking longer than it normally does prior to this downturn, much to the chagrin of the job seeker.

In all my interactions with my acquaintances that approached me for help on getting jobs, I noticed some patterns. Based on them I identified some simple things they could do to help themselves.

I hear that they are seeing newer formats of recruiting including Open House, 9 rounds of interview etc. The entire process taking anywhere from 45 days to 90 days from the time you are made known that you are in the running for the job post you responded to. If you are in the middle management then this must be your experience too. The pressure building around finding something and not having any income coming in, lack of health care coverage etc., can be really tough. So what can one do to help speed up the process and increase the chances of being the one to land the job. Here are some tips that I would like to pass on.

  1. Networking: The first and foremost thing that should be done is vigorous networking. Network like your life depended on it. I know most people don’t distinguish between job and life, but when it comes to networking I suggest you do. While networking make sure that you are going in to help others. The amazing thing about the networking is even though you are looking to benefit put the benefit of the other ahead of yours. This has an amazing effect on the network you are trying to establish. It always turns around and pays you rich dividend. Also take time and interest in what else is going on in this world and not narrow it just the job you are looking. This will open doors in areas you had not imagined. Also remember 60-70% of the jobs are never advertised but shared through networks and word of mouth. So more you network more you will know. Do not hesitate to go out of your comfort zone.
  2. Resume: Have a well structured resume. With well structured I mean focused. One of the biggest mistakes most people do with resume is – they make it a laundry list of all the things they have done in their career. While it is something you can sit on a Saturday afternoon and feel proud of, this is not going to help you get the job. The hiring manager has specific needs and she gets hundreds of resumes like yours. So by sending a resume with a dump of all your so called “achievements” you are increasing your chances of being one of the resumes going straight to the trash can. If you want your resume to be the one considered then you will have to take time to highlight your true value proposition and not chronological listing of what you have done. If you have a resume full of  “I was responsible for ….” or “Responsible for design, development, testing..” then join the crowd. 100s of other do to. Pick 3-4 key themes/skills that you are all about and highlight how you have managed to leverage those to help the company in achieving their objectives. The idea here is instead of making the hiring manager look through the haystack of all your doings listed in the resume and finding the key skills he might be able to leverage, you should put in the effort to understand the real need and then position(not make up things) the resume in a way it matches the needs. If you say – how can I know what they want, I did not work for that company or I don’t see it in the job posting – this is where the networking helps. Most people make the mistake find the first person who is linked to the hiring manager and ask the resume to be forwarded. Instead get that person who can link you to the hiring manager to find more information about the job. The more you know about the job the better you can position and better your chances to get the job. If you need more help in this area – send me a note. I will be more than happy to help. Check the follow-up article on Dos and Don’ts in a resume I wrote.
  3. Cover Letter:This is the most underrated aspect of a job application. Most people give an introduction about themselves in the cover letter – saying “My name is …. I have 100yrs of experience doing this.. and that … and some more of that”. In my opinion, this does not add anything more to the resume. Remember cover letter is not the summary of your resume. Cover letter is like giving out evaluation version of yourself. Again do the research about the company, the technology they use, their recent press releases, their 10K/10Q statements if you understand them, any large initiatives they are driving and how you think the trends in the industry sets them up with undue advantage etc. Again, in the interest of not dragging this post too long, I will keep it to this. Should you need more details feel free to contact me for samples.
  4. Get out of the Comfort zone: It is human nature to stay in the area of one’s expertise and try to secure a job. But that is the exact reason most people run into problems during bad times like this. You have to constantly keep challenging yourself to do expand your capabilities. In these times, don’t limit yourself to the jobs that you are comfortable with. With proper research and understanding of a particular job you will find out that you might have other skills that you have so far been neglecting while being immersed in what you are good at. I know this is easier said that done, but think of it this way. Under normal circumstances, there are very few weirdos (besides me) who would quit their well settled job and try other things. Now that you are in a jam, what possibly can you loose. Try and do mock interviews with yourself or friends for a job that is outside your comfort zone and see how you stack. If you feel you are comfortable with how you did in the mock interview go for it.
  5. Confidence: Many of you are probably in this situation for the first time. There is so much at stake, the house, the mortgage, health care for kids (to quote the filthy rich NBA/NFL players – “you need to put food on the table”) etc. But the way you deal with this stress and challenges is a big part of your success in this market. If you are desperate, you body language will reflect that and also it will be apparent to the hiring manager. So relax, it is not the end of the world. Things will get better. Have confidence in your abilities and act it. If you display confidence it might convince the hiring manager to overlook any skill-gap or experience-gap that you might have.

Hope these tips are useful. I will keep this a working post and keep updating with more things as I think about or based on the feedback. So keep your feedback coming.

About the Author Subraya is a dad, handyman, sports fan and in his part time works on geeky technology stuff. You can check out some of the stuff he is interested on PrudentCloud