I started my post-college career search like the rest of my generation. The bottom rung of the dung-heap. Looking back, I’m pretty sure running a raffle for free window siding was the worst job I had.
Also, the raffle was likely a pyramid scheme. I don’t know if desperate is the right word, but what else do you call driving over an hour to set up a booth at a county fair so you can hassle people for mailing addresses?
I would say my latest actual search began last November. I had been “looking” (browsing the web with the key word “writing”) off and on throughout the year after my workday was over. What I learned was that looking for a new job depressed me. The requirements for experience, the distance between myself and where the new job was, and a bevy of other excuses kept me from even thinking of applying.
Apply yourself not an application.
There is nothing more demoralizing than applying for a job. The irony is, it’s built that way. Who wants to hire someone who can’t follow instructions correctly on a job application? The query letter must have the right key words, the resume must have perfect mechanics, and you must not sound like a serial killer when taking the personality test.
The application process has its uses, but the thing I’m learning is that it’s better to be asked to apply by someone interested in you than to do so blindly. In fact, if I really want the job, it’s the last thing I do. The truth is, if the job is already online, you’re too late. Thousands have seen that ad and are now applying just like I would.
Why don’t they ever call?
You won’t get called. I never received a single phone call, unless you count the times I was asked if I wanted to become an independent sales insurance agent for a company. Which I don’t count since I would be working for myself. Lesson to the novice, if you’re being offered something involving a W9 tax form then you’re not being offered a job. You’re being offered a business opportunity. (Not saying that it would be a bad opportunity, but let’s just use the correct words so we don’t mislead anyone.)
Call them. No really, CALL THEM
I guess I have an advantage, having taken freelance writing classes. Cold calling is a learned skill. It requires patience, asking open-ended questions and the ability to go through hoops. (In case you’re wondering: “Are you hiring?” is not a good question.)
One method I used involved seeing who was making business decisions locally. Is a company moving into a new office? Is there a new acquisition? Usually, when a company moves in any direction, jobs change hands.
Company websites and Linkedin are great resources at this point. I usually have a list of three people in linkedin associated with a company (if it’s not small) in mind. You want to make an information-gathering request. I would ask, “Who wrote the copy for this brochure on ____?” Odds are, the first person you talk to has no idea who did that job. They probably know the person(s), but not every company has someone who just writes “copy.” Sometimes that’s rolled into a multi-faceted position. Then you ask for someone on your list, “Well, would ____ have an idea of who wrote it? Is she/he available?”
When I talk to that person on my list, they already know three things: I want to learn more about their company, I know of their products, and I’m not checking up on my application process.
The Word Is frankness
I think being frank with people is often misjudged as being annoying or too forward. It just means to be open and sincere. “My abilities can be of value to your company,” is a forward statement. It is a lot better statement than, “You need me,” or “Please hire me. For the children!”
That phone conversation will have a moment where you can be frank. Take advantage of it! Tell them who you are and what your abilities are. You’re not going to always have everything they’re looking for, but you can work around it by selling yourself.
A friend of mine is what the government would categorize as that statistic of people who have “stopped looking.” Sure, he’s “looking” online, but he’s not at job fairs or trying to get on a first-name basis with a decision maker anywhere.
Many unemployed people make the mistake of fearing failure and rejection more than their current circumstances. There were times I felt that way. Then something happened. A guy at a job fair came up to me. He was in HR for a company. He said, “Come over here; nobody is talking to us.”
So I did. I didn’t have what he was looking for, but he was on the board of a non-profit that was looking for someone like me. In fact, tomorrow is the day I hear whether I’m on board with a new initiative.
The more I followed up with this guy, the more I spoke with him, I realized my problem. I was relying on a job application system that was meant to keep me from speaking with the people I wanted to get in front of and impress. So, from now on, I go in person, I pound pavement, I look up their website, find the decision makers on linkedin, and I call looking for them.
Waiting for someone else to initiate, regarding a job, is a waste of time. Go. Do. Conquer. HR is described as a gatekeeper for a reason. You don’t want to go through that gate. You want to send a grappling hook over the wall, climb over, distract the guard dogs with a steak, climb through the window, open the safe, take microfilm of the secret documents, and then escape only to walk through the gate the next morning with the upper hand.