“Parachute” Job Hunting Tips

Tip #1 from Richard Nelson Bolles world famous job hunting book – “What Color is Your Parachute?”

[And my irritating comments follow.]

“No-one owes you a job (so don’t sit around waiting for one to come to you, work hard to get it)”

Job hunting is unpleasant. That’s a fact.

But consider this: the business world is more dynamic and more entrepreneurial than ever before. That means lots of change, lots of opportunity, and lots of competition.

And that’s not bad news. But it does mean that we’ve got to be smart about the way we market our skills. We can’t continue to use 70’s or 80’s methods here, almost in 2010.

Here are the watchwords:

Proactive – take initiative

Innovative – find new ways, be creative

Bold – dont’ be shy to ask for what you want

Sell – know what problem you can solve, what solution you provide

Tell – be able to say and write your sales message clearly and concisely

Now this may take a bit of work and prep. Brainstorming. Don’t think you can’t – because you don’t know how. Bull. Ask questions. Speak to people (friends, family, neighbours, colleagues) – ask for opinions, “what would you do in my position?”, think – sometimes the answers are simpler than we think, ridiculously simple, so simple we don’t believe they’re the real answers. So we don’t act. But as a famous quote goes:

Taking action on a poor plan today is better than waiting to come up with the perfect plan tomorrow.

There’s no – repeat, NO – magic genie working for us. To miraculously produce opportunities. It’s up to us, me, you to make it happen. There’s no magic formula – well actually there is, but often we don’t want to hear it because it takes us out of our comfort zone – sitting at home is easier. The magic formula requires we be “proactive”, “innovative”, “bold” and that we “sell” and “tell”.

It’s a harsh fact. But it’s an attitude of mind that’s worth more, much more, than any degree or any work experience.

How to Influence an Employer #1

There are a lot of things that cause an employer to say – “you got the job”.

Some are obvious. Some are not.

Here’s one:

Employers will be influenced by who you’ve worked for.

It’s a matter of trust. If your previous employer has a high profile, or a record of professionalism and high achievement then one tends to ‘ride’ on the back of their reputation/brand. An employer may reason, “If they trusted this person, then this person must be good.”

How to apply this point in your job hunt:

If you’ve worked at a prominent company or an industry leader, or any company known for its quality, professionalism, etc – then say so! In your covering letter – something like “my experience includes 3 years at Nike as Financial Accountant”.

Most people, however, don’t work for high profile companies! So you have to educate. In your CV – write a quick 2 line profile of the company – what it does, what it’s achieved, who its clients are (they may be Nike!). Or in your covering letter write, “my experience includes 3 years at ACME Industries – a key Nike supplier – as Financial Accountant”

As you can see in the above eg. it doesn’t end with your employer – but extends to clients and suppliers too. Who your clients were, what accounts you worked, who you dealt with (titles), who you did presentations to, etc – it all counts. It all can play a part in influencing the employer – engendering a feel of trust.

Final point: If they trust you, you stand a greater chance of getting hired. You’ll trust a Sony hi-fi before you’ll trust a Sankoshinishi hi-fi, right?? Same applies to your job hunt.

Milk it!

The Job Hunting Blues

So over the weekend I watched the movie: The Pursuit of Happyness – the one with Will Smith and his kid.

And was I depressed! Man, it brought back bad memories. It had a happy ending, but getting there was murder.

Here’s why:

Will Smith (in his character) is a naturally intelligent guy. But he’s down on his luck. He’s got a business selling bone density machines (door to door / doctor to doctor) that are overrated and over-priced. It’s painful to watch him out there facing rejection after rejection. Debt is mounting. His wife is working 2 shifts. He’s doubting himself. And so is she. It’s one obstacle after another – as one is hurdled, another one appears.

So here’s why it was so painful. There was a time in my life when I felt the same. Yeah, the movie was too close to home. There was a time when I was so desperately unhappy in my job, my performance was suffering, my boss was causing me stress (despite me being the top performer for the year), and I was breaking out in all sorts of stress related conditions. So much so that to get out I took what turned out to be a bad decision.

I quit and took a job selling insurance. Seriously. During a month’s initial training (without pay) I came top of the class of around 15 people. But after around 9 months of paying my boss to work there I was almost out of savings. Now that’s a period I don’t want to repeat in a hurry. It was a long time ago but that movie brought it all back.

But it’s good too. Now I know what it feels like to be unemployed, rejected. The world feels like it’s closing in. Everyone else seems so successful – so happy – but nothing’s going right with you. And it seems it never will.

And here’s a shocking admission: I now understand why some people just decide that life isn’t worth living. And they end it all. I never got to that point – but I got an insight that made me realise how some people may easily fall off the edge under these circumstances.

Will Smith’s character in the true story obviously wins in the end. As in the movie however, in real life most often there is no miracle. Miracles do happen, but it’s not a great strategy to rely on them.

What happened with me was that one day I phoned my old boss and asked for my job back. Which I got at a much better salary that before. It wasn’t easy, in fact within a year I was ready to quit again. But I stuck it out and this time I made a planned exit and started my own business (that’s another story).

So what advice if you’re feeling desperate right now?

Things will work out. No-one knows how. But they will. Don’t make any hasty decisions (but if you do … throw all your energy into making it work). Try to keep a part of you unconsumed by the feelings of sometimes terror, nausea, fear, self doubt, and hopelessness – by staying fit, by going for walks, being productive on the home front, looking at flowers, playing with your kids, etc.

Things will work out. Work hard to make them work out. Be smart. Try new things. Try doing old things in new ways. But in the end you have to trust that they will.

A Bit About Branding

You’ve heard this before – as a job hunter and employee you are a ‘product’. You are your own business. An employer is your customer. It’s business. And part of the marketing of the product called ‘you’, is branding.

What’s that? Branding? Yeah, think Tiger Woods. Think Michael Schumacher. Think Oprah Winfrey.

These are names that represent something specific. They are more than just names of persons. Their name is a BRAND. It represents excellence in sport/golf/motor-racing/television. But don’t be fooled into thinking because of all the fame, money and glory that branding, having your own personal brand, lives only in that world.

It lives everywhere. YOU have a brand. You are a brand. Whoever you are. You may be conscious of it or not. But the big thing is … you can enhance and build that brand – making you more marketable – able to get better jobs quicker.

Your brand is about 2 questions:

What value do I represent to an employer/in the marketplace? In other words – how do I make a difference, how do I make things better for my employer? What problems do I solve? What challenges to I help them overcome? If business is all about making money and providing value to shareholders – what’s my role in getting that done?

And …

How can I communicate this message to an employer? In other words – how do I market myself? How do I get known for what I do? And then importantly, is the message I’m sending clear – is it worded correctly, do I have a crystal clear idea of what I do? Is the message selling me? Does it carry a sense of believability/credibility?

It’ll be a worthwhile couple of hours to spend some time reviewing those questions and coming up with answers.

Most people, in their CV at least, NEVER actually say what their value is. They seldom say what they stand for – what standard of work, what values, what level of excellence they aim for or aspire to. They provide lots of details about their previous duties but seldom a hint of whether they were any good at them. It’s like they’re trying as best they can to make themselves look average – “no name brand”. Certainly they never come out and actually say, “Hey, Mr Employer, here’s what I can do for you.”

It’s the streetwise job hunter who understands his own personal brand – he’s built a reputation for doing something really well, and he’s confident in that ability, he has examples of his work, he’s an expert problem solver in that field. And he’s not scared to tell people about it.

Think about it. Brainstorm how you can apply this info. It could make all the difference (ie. better, quicker job hunting results.) People with strong personal brands seldom have to go looking for jobs. Jobs come to them.

A Changed World

What do you think of this? I get it quite a bit. And it makes me feel lousy.

A letter that says something like:

“Hi, I’m looking for a job in a large stable company offering opportunities to learn and for advancement. I’m a quick learner and am open to taking courses or being trained to fill a position.”

There was a time when that would have been a good opening “Objective” in a CV or covering letter.

But the world has changed. We all want that safe, warm feeling – y’know, the large stable company, job-for-life situation. But we have to face the fact that it just doesn’t exist anymore. And we have to stop chasing it.

We have to learn how to cope with change. With a more dynamic, entrepreneurial world. One which rewards a bolder, more adventurous, more courageous, ‘guerrilla’ style approach. We have to learn to live with risk. Getting comfortable, stopping learning are out.

Bit scary, huh? Sure.

But when we consider this: the fundamental mistake in that “objective” mentioned earlier was …???… whad’you think it is?

The writer focuses entirely on HIS OWN wants and needs.

And here’s the point: that’s not what business is made of. As a job hunter you are a product, a service. And to stand the chance of being bought (landing a job! for money!) you have to focus on …

Giving the buyer what they want, need, or desire.

Now that’s business – not rocket science either you’ll have noticed. If you can just figure out what they need – then you can fashion yourself into a solution, an answer to a prayer, a problem solver – you can make them an offer they can’t refuse.

So it makes me feel lousy when people make such basic mistakes in their job hunt. They’ll land the odd job here and there and they may do ok – but how they could have boosted their job options, salary level, and the speed of the process if they’d been smarter about it.

What is a Guerrilla Job Hunter?

So Joe’s looking for a new job.He does all the usual stuff – y’know – buying the ‘paper on a Monday, pouring over it for hours. Hoping he’s going to see “the ad” – the one that looks, ”perfect” for him … he’ll send his cv … and the recruiter will call him back immediately … he’ll go for the interview … it’ll go great … they’ll love him … make him a great offer … and “!!!” he’ll be smiling

Yeah, right. Like it’s going to happen that way.

It could. But most often it doesn’t. Fact.

Is “Joe”, in fact, YOU?? Are you facing the same sort of job hunting challenges?

It can be a bit depressing. But is it the end? No. It’s just the beginning.

The beginning of finding more inventive … bolder … smarter … more streetwise … more confident ways of finding and selling your skills/expertise/knowledge to a potential ‘buyer’ (employer).

Joe (or you) will now become a … “guerrilla job hunter!” And he’ll get quicker, better more rewarding results for his efforts. As will you.

And that’s what the ”Guerrilla Job Hunting SA” blog is all about.

Daily ideas, strategies, and tips for “Guerrilla” Job Hunters.

Some of the ideas are original – extracted from my experience as a professional CV/Resume writer and Job Hunting Coach and as recruiter for top SA corporations. Ideas also come from career experts, business ‘gurus’, and sales and copy writing experts (hey, it’s all about SALES believe me – but don’t be scared by that, it’s a really cool skill to develop).

The term “Guerrilla” isn’t original – although I started using the term “Guerrilla Job Hunting” back in 2001. Jay Conrad Levinson authored books on marketing with the Guerrilla theme and then collaborated with David E Perry on the book “Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters” (2005). It’s one of the sources of ’streetwise’ wisdom I use, adding my own take and South African context for the strategies discussed.