I can categorically say that the slackening of momentum is one of the greatest job-hunt saboteurs we see in The Five O’Clock Club. When people fail to have lots of things in the works, they concentrate on the one great job that they really want — and they’re devastated when they come in second or the company puts a freeze on hiring. Then, it takes them two or three weeks to dig out of the depression… and who knows how many great opportunities have slipped by in the meantime?
What you can do to improve your job search:
At The Five O’Clock Club we say that there are three stages to a job search: 1) being in touch with six to ten people in your target market on an ongoing basis, 2) getting those people to actively express interest in having someone like you on board, and 3) inspiring them to discuss real jobs with you. The following strategies will help you get to Stage Two (which means you’re approaching the right people and positioning yourself correctly)—and once you’re there, Five O’Clockers promise, Stage Three will take care of itself.
Reconnect with the year’s contacts.
You’ve sent out cards and good wishes to friends and family… so why not extend that tradition to all of the job-search contacts you’ve made throughout the year? Send a card or email thanking each person for his or her help, wishing them a Happy New Year and include an update on your situation. You never know when the right memory might be sparked!
Reconnecting with the year’s contacts in a friendly, well-wishing way will remind them of who you are, what you do, and what you’re trying to accomplish. One of your main goals should be to stay on the radar of as many people in your network as possible. It takes hard work and discipline, yes, but as was the case recently for one Five O’Clock Club member, a friendly email can prompt a contact to forward your résumé to someone else, which might lead to an interview… and a job.
Expand, define, and redefine your targets.
You may have a short — or long — list of companies on which you’re focusing, but that list isn’t definitive by a long shot. The last thing you want is a skimpy or sloppy group of targets that lacks breadth and depth. Plus, you never know when you might discover a new company you never knew about that’s an ideal fit.
You can expand your list of targets by revisiting what your skills and strengths are (maybe there’s something you’ve overlooked!), brainstorming with friends, and doing more internet research. Many people are amazed to discover, after months of job hunting, an organization that isn’t rich or famous but is nevertheless a great place to work.
Focus on avenues you’ve neglected.
Everyone has a preferred method of getting meetings, whether it’s through ads, search firms, networking, or direct contacts. During the next few weeks, focus on the avenues you normally skimp on. You’ll probably identify new hiring trends, new contacts, and new positions. And (as we’ve established) now’s the ideal time to get your name out there.
Many people neglect networking and direct contacts, because they’re the most labor-intensive. If you fall into that category, challenge yourself to launch a targeted mail campaign this holiday season. Imagine what the impact might be if you send out ten intelligent cover letters per week, and then make follow-up phone calls a few days later. At the very least, you’ll be a familiar name to a bevy of hiring managers.
Don’t withdraw from your support network.
Five O’Clock Club members attend a weekly meeting in order to receive support, advice, and help in their job searches. If you belong to such a group, don’t use the holidays as an excuse to skip meetings. One of your primary goals should always be to make sure your search is moving forward.
Accountability and outside input are crucial in helping you stay on track, and they also ensure that your job search doesn’t lose originality and momentum. If you don’t have a support network and are worried that you’ll slack off despite your best intentions, ask a friend or family member to serve as a sounding board and check in on your progress.
Accept those party invitations!
You might be tempted to become a hermit because you don’t want to field questions about “what you’re doing right now” or “how your job search is going”. To some extent, that’s understandable, especially if your situation hasn’t changed in a long time — but avoidance is the wrong attitude to have. This is a party time of year, so get out there and network! Tell people you’re looking for your next situation, and be sure to tell them the kind of job you’re looking for.
Take advantage of as many opportunities to meet new people as possible, and be ready to share your 30-second pitch on what you’re looking for. And if it’s appropriate, ask for a more formal meeting at a new contact’s office in the near future. Also, remember that those who are in a direct position to hire aren’t your only allies. If you favorably impress a project manager, for example, she might mention you to her boss…and bingo—you’ve got an interview.
Remember, keep adding to your job-search to-do list… and check it twice. There’s absolutely no reason why you can’t start out the New Year with one resolution already crossed off your list — a job you’re excited to accept.
Kate Wendleton is president of The Five O’Clock Club and is an authority on job searching and career development. She has appeared on the Today show, CNN, CNBC, Larry King Live, National Public Radio, and CBS, as well as in the Economist, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, Fortune magazine, BusinessWeek, and other national media. The Five O’Clock Club is a national outplacement and career coaching organization with certified career coaches across the United States. It is the only organization that uses a proven methodology—based on 25 years of research—to help members develop their careers or find new employment that’s right for them.