Anyone who has been job searching using traditional methods – applying online, submitting resumes, responding to advertisements, etc. – knows you rarely even get an acknowledgment. There’s a reason people joke about a resume black hole. Employers are seeking something that simply doesn’t exist: “perfect” candidates, ideally someone with direct experience in the role they’re being hired for, preferably at a competitor. Unfortunately, that means many talented candidates get overlooked. If you’re seeking to make a career change, switch roles, transfer among industries, or re-enter the workforce, you’re likely to be eliminated early on by automated resume screening systems. That’s a problem for job seekers, but it’s also an issue for corporations, which are missing out on top talent. So how can an aspirant break through the clutter and get noticed, especially if he or she comes from a nontraditional career background? The answer is strategic networking. Your goal should be to network your way into the hidden or unadvertised job market by connecting one-on-one with hiring managers at the company you’re trying to break into. What if you don’t know them? Search LinkedIn to find mutual contacts and “warm leads” who might introduce you. Failing that, you can try cold calling them with an attractive hook – in 30 seconds or less, let them know what’s distinctive about you and what you can offer. For instance, you can mention how your background enables you to get the job done (e.g., you already know many of their customers; you have implemented and have years of experience using the same ERP system they rely on; you were the point person who coordinated with their main IT vendor, etc.) The idea is to show them you’re up to speed on a capability that is critical to their business success or already have established relationships with individuals on whom they depend on for their success.
Now, make the ask: would they be interested in chatting further? It can’t hurt to try, because you’re not going to succeed by going the traditional route. You need to find a way to personally discuss challenges, explore opportunities, and recommend solutions, so you can show them you’ll get the job done and aren’t a risky hire. Make sure to anticipate objections they might have (“You’ve never worked in this field before! You’ve been out of the workforce for five years!”) and have good answers ready, providing a “trade-off” – in other words, the skills you do have that compensate for what you lack. (“I haven’t worked in this field before, but it’s an advantage that I can bring a breadth of expertise and best practices from another industry that shares some of the same operational/sales/technical challenges as you do.”) It’s up to you to eliminate the elephant in the room by demonstrating your talent, trustworthiness, and cultural fit. One senior sales executive Debra worked with spent months fruitlessly job hunting. His industry was shrinking and headhunters said they wouldn’t propose him for a job in a different industry; he was either overqualified or under-experienced. Instead, he revised his market positioning, reframed his value proposition and targeted a different group of employers, which shared similar customers to his former employer. He expanded beyond first degree connections, asking his contacts for referrals. He tapped into consultants, attorneys, accountants, vendors and supplier contacts for introductions within their networks. He rewrote his credentials to distinguish himself from those with deeper industry experience, branded himself as a turnaround specialist – and landed a desirable new job. Why aren’t more people strategically networking their way into the hidden jobs that are out there? In many cases, the reluctant networker is often a victim of their past success. This may be the first time during their careers that they’ve been involuntarily in transition; they ascended through promotions or were recruited. As a result, they have inadequate job searching skills and haven’t put much effort into creating and maintaining a professional network beyond those they had to interact with on a regular basis. Responding to advertised openings or uploading your resume to databases may fill your time, but it won’t get you a job. Generally, these are ineffective and passive approaches – just like hoping and wishing that recruiters will magically find a position for you. You may be doing lots of online job hunting activities and making inquiries about openings, but if you’re not developing meaningful, genuine, memorable relationships that will put you on the radar of hiring managers or “recommenders,” you’re probably wasting your time. You can establish these relationships through things like an introduction by a mutual contact, an in-person conversation at a conference, or reaching out by phone or email. Keep in mind that it’s best to transform a virtual relationship into a live connection, which is more likely to be lasting. Networking purposefully will improve immediate job search results while simultaneously creating the lifetime benefits of “career insurance,” topics that Dorie writes about in her book, Reinventing You (and which features an interview with Debra). This relationship building is a more labor-intensive process than just clicking to submit your resume – but when done right, it will help ensure that you have timely access to the kind of desirable, insider-only job opportunities that others can only dream of. Post is co-authored by Debra Feldman and Dorie Clark
Go to www.TADPGS.com, click on the “Looking for People” tab, then view “Veterans Solutions” to see more for information on our Veterans Solutions for Employers. Please join our LinkedIn group, Veterans Hiring Solutions for Veterans and Companies at http://linkd.in/Sg346w. If you have specific questions about hiring veterans or the incentives for doing so, contact me at [email protected].