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Navigating the Mistletoe of Job Search

As co-coordinator with my colleague, Miriam Salpeter, I am pleased to participate in our third round of posts from our community of expert career advisors and resume writing professionals called the Career Collective.

This month’s articles address the topic of Job Search Strategy During the Holidays.

Please follow our hashtag, #careercollective, on Twitter.

Having personally experienced the setback of divorce about 8 years ago on the threshold of the holidays, I empathize with job seekers undergoing the radical change of job loss, job transition and career makeover.

The bottom line, I think the holidays  are ‘not’ the magical time during which careers are fixed, made or broken, However, the holidays also are not the time to feel paralyzed in your search. A healthy blend of job search and rejuvenation are in order!

Earlier this week I featured a technology leader and client of mine, Altan Khendup, in a blog post explaining his job search strategies and the phenomenal results he has achieved.

As this post on ramping up one’s job search efforts during the holidays emerged, I sought out Altan’s tips. As well, I’ve blended in my own opinions on how job seekers may approach the ‘search’ during this particular season drenched in mistle toe, calls to ‘give, love, share’ and dripping in niceties and demands that, if not managed well, will sap our time and energy.

I’ll blend Altan’s and my ideas and comments hereto.

1. How should job seekers use their resume during the holiday season?

Altan suggests:

Do the ‘typical thing’ with your resume: prepare it for presentation, ensuring it’s up-to-date and incorporating any ideas that have been happening throughout the year.

I agree!

Now’s the perfect time to review and revamp your resume, if need be. Even if it’s just been a couple of months or more since you last adjusted your career story, you want to take a fresh look at your message to ensure it’s on-point with your target goal.

As well, if you have held consulting roles, part-time or short-term positions, volunteered, engaged in continuing education or training, or involved yourself in any meaningful endeavor that will support your value proposition, you want to evaluate how this information fits into your resume story, then effectively knit it in.

2. Is the holiday season a good time to distribute your resume and job search / network? Do you think it is, perhaps even better than other time-frames throughout the year?

Altan encourages:

The holiday season is the best time to distribute your resume but not in the typical sense. It is a charitable time and most people really are looking for ways to give back to people that they know and to help them along.

He recommends bearing in mind that the resume is not the first thing to push; instead, focus on strong follow-up post-networking.

Most people will respond positively to a well targeted and prepared networking effort during the holiday season. It is through these connections that resumes should be ready to be shot out at a moment’s notice.

Plant your career search seeds during the holidays in prep for the beginning of 2010 when hiring starts up again in a more formal manner.”

I agree!

Use the holidays to set aside typical job-search methods and simply have conversations around your situation with people who care about your well-being. When a connection is made, and the timing is right, have that resume ready to whip out.

As well, he makes a good point about hiring starting up more formally again in 2010. Though I agree with numerous reports of hiring happening ‘right now’ (and am personally witnessing those hiring events with my clients), I also realize that that activity speaks to  a portion of the business population.

In other parts of business, you have decision makers, recruiters and HR leaders slowing the processes of hiring just a bit in prep for a hit-the-ground running 2010.. Either way, conversations around these impending hiring decisions are happening NOW. Having meaningful, current career positioning documents at-the-ready is critical to job-search preparedness.

3. What are the obstacles in job searching this time of year? How do you overcome them? (i.e., action steps to take; attitudes to adjust/reframe; etc.). What obstacles can you actually convert to opportunities? How?

Altan says:

The biggest obstacles are vacations. Many prospective employers are now taking their vacation times and spending them family and friends. As a result it is important to make the most of every opportunity one can during holiday parties and other occasions where networking can work really well.

Avoid sending anything in email prior to vacations, or if you must, make sure to follow up immediately after. People’s emails will be piling up while away, and once they return to normal work pressures, the urge to move ‘less urgent’ items into the electronic trash bin is high.

Look at each job search action as making the best impression during the holidays, leveraging the good will of others into follow up actions, and working out follow-up action items that can be acted upon post-holidays.

I concur!

The temptation to be so immersed in one’s job search goals and forget that others may possess less of a sense of urgency about your job-search needs is sometimes difficult to resist. However, being aware of your audience’s situation will help you manage your own activities and expectations. With that said, it’s okay (and good!) to maintain a thread of communication with potential employers, recruiters, etc., while adjusting the methods (i.e., phone vs. email or positive-impression, relationship-enhancing emails with short-order follow-up, and so forth).

4. What are the advantages to job searching during the holidays? How do you leverage those advantages? (i.e., planning and preparation plus action steps to take)

Altan says:

What I have found is that many organizations are attempting to use their budgets before year end which pushes them into trying to get last-minute hires before the start of the year. Additionally, the year end also happens to be a great time for companies to look at projects, assess them and make plans for the future.

This is an excellent time to network, engage and establish your value to these future plans. By being properly engaged many people will be looking to recruit you or work you into their plans as soon as possible. Everything has to be ready so make sure that you have the plan and actions ready: engage the network, assess opportunities, present your value, propose your follow-ups, and follow through.

5. Have you in fact found this to be a ‘slow season’ for job search? If not, what has been your take on the activity of this season?

Altan says:

Actually not at all. In the past few weeks I have had quite a flurry of interest from people trying to hire me for a variety of positions. Most are trying to get things in place so that they can execute on them for the following year. Most that I have talked to want to get a head start in the new year so they want to make sure they start the process as soon as possible with some even looking at hires before the holiday season, if possible.

I’ve seen the same with several clients!

Lots of activity, continuing conversations, requests for resumes persist as the year concludes. Engage, engage, engage. Job-search communication should maintain a steady pace as you maintain and cultivate relationships that may convert to tangible career opportunities, if not before year-end, as the new year builds speed.

6. How do you personally plan to pursue your job search through the next several holiday-weeks?

Altan says:

I have already started by responding to inquiries, planning which networking events to go do, getting small gifts for everyone (this helps and is appropriate during the holiday season), having my resume in place, and making sure that I follow up with everyone before the holidays fully kick in. Now is the time to really have great networking opportunities, with many of the folks that I have spoken to looking to grow in 2010.

Good points!

It takes a good deal of organization to do so, but augmenting your networking attendance with thoughtfully selected gifts for people who have added value to your career and life is nice. People appreciate being appreciated … and they remember those who appreciate them!

@MartinBuckland, Elite Resumes, Season’s Greetings and your Job Search”

@GayleHoward, The Executive Brand, “It’s Christmas: And a ho-ho-ho-hum?”

@KCCareerCoach, Career Chaos, “The Gift Every Laid Off Job Seeker Needs”

@resumeservice, Resume Writing Blog,Holiday Resume Sparkle: Outshine the New Year Job-Search Mob

@heathermundell, life@work, “Have a Holly Jolly Job Search”

@sweetcareers,Sweet Careers, “Holiday Job Search Tips for College Students 2009″

@careersherpa, Hannah Morgan: Career Sherpa, “Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa Cheers”

@careerealism, CAREEREALISM.com, “Holiday Tip for Job Seekers: 4 Ways to Impress Others with Your Professionalism”

@heatherhuhman, HeatherHuhman.com, “4 Tips for Making the Most of Holiday Job Hunting”

@LaurieBerenson, Sterling Career Concepts, Three Resolutions to Take It Up a Notch”

@KatCareerGal, Quintessential Resumes and Cover Letters Tips Blog, “Avoiding the Holiday Blues in Your Job Search”

@WorkWithIllness, WorkingWithillness.com, Avoid this Minefield: Drive Your Bus!”

@DawnBugni, The Write Solution “Could that sound really be opportunity? During the Holidays?”

@andyinnaples, “Shift Your Focus to the Highest Impact Job Search Activities During the Holidays to Leverage Your Time”

@erinkennedycprw, Professional Resume Services, How to keep up the Job Hunt during the Holidays”

@keppie_careers, Keppie Careers, “Four tips for effective networking follow-up for the holidays and the rest of the year”

@GLHoffman, What Would Dad Say, “Merry Christmas! Can I Buy You Coffee to Talk About Me?”

@BarbaraSafani, Career Solvers, “Holiday Networking Can Facilitate New Year Opportunities”

@expatcoachmegan, Career By Choice Blog, “Expat Networking: Holidays Are a Great Time to Nurture and Grow Your Network”

@chandlee, The Emerging Professional Blog, “Footprints & Associations: Job Search Tips for the Holidays”

@JobHuntOrg, Job-Hunt.org, “(Holiday) Party Your Way to a New Job”

Does your job currency stand out like a shiny coin?

According to Altan Khendup, senior technology leader, strategist and advocate in Silicon Valley, California, when people think you’re interesting, they start listening; they become engaged, and then you can inject your pitch and your value.

I’ve had the pleasure of keeping in touch with this forward-thinking technology leader (oh, and by the way, a client of mine!) for the past nine months. An active Tweeter, blogger and LinkedIn contributor, Altan is a remarkable example of proactive career management!

His steady stream of high-level career conversations, interviews and job offers have mounted as he charts his course for the next career destination—on a given day, he receives up to 12 opportunities. Among his interview opportunities, Altan has collaborated with key technology innovators as well as large, Fortune 100 companies.

His luxury of cherry picking from opportunity inquires from a plethora of executive recruiters, HR professionals and direct company principals may seem a bit unexpected during this tough economy. In one recent instance, a company even offered Altan the opportunity to create his own job description.

Fundamental to Altan’s recent career search advancements are the following:

1. Articulating (with my help) his ‘complete story’– finely focused and value-driven resume, cover letter and power statements that are consistent with what Altan wants to be.

2. Creating a digital footprint, including blog, LinkedIn profile and Twitter account, among other social media venues.

3. Actively engaging on Twitter: Tweeting meaningful, value-driven contributions, which resulted in a major technology innovator inviting him to discuss a job opportunity after they followed his tweets about some of the technology they were interested in.

4. Selectively targeting / attending various meet-ups and unconferences and actively engaging in social networking discussions.

5. Spending the appropriate level of time and attention on company research before engaging in written and spoken conversations.

In your career,”you will eventually hit choppy waters, and you must prepare for it,” says Altan.

Hope for the best and prepare for the worst; anticipate it’s (lay off) going to happen and take steps to manage the change. These are career survival movements you must take, not just to succeed, but to thrive in this economic downturn … or virtually any economic climate.

“If you’re not prepared with excellent job currency (resume, power statements, blog, LinkedIn profile, etc.), how do you expect to compete with 10 million others?” asserts Altan.

For Altan, who seeks higher level positions, the principals reviewing his resume are accustomed to advanced-level resumes and will have doubts about his qualifications if his career positioning documents fall short.

“Having job currency that is valuable is key. Even with initial introductions, a resume is the common job currency that is requested, and you must make it look like an investment.

Continues Altan, “If you invest $2,000 and it helps you land a $150,000 job, then it’s done its work. I’m not saying your resume will physically go to meetings for you and introduce you, or will do your social networking. It’s a tool (like a power saw that cuts wood) – $50 saw vs. $500 saw – sooner or later you’ll have to look at that tool and say, ‘Is it worth buying the right one – or any one?”

“All of these are tools, part of the process, part of the journey.”

Don’t Be a “People Person” In Your Job Search

People Person picI understand the impulse to flesh out one’s career value with sweeping generalities:

  • I’m a people person (or, I’m really good with people; or, I like people).
  • I’m very strategic.
  • I’m attentive to detail.
  • I’m very organized.
  • I’m results oriented.
  • I’m innovative.
  • I think outside the box.
  • I’m a change leader.
  • I’m a team leader.
  • I bring people together.

I discourage this approach in favor of a more specific, focused method.

To engage in a job-search-related conversation with such bland language is counterproductive and akin to omitting the baking powder from a chocolate cake. The conversation falls flat. That glazed-eyes look you evoke in your listener (e.g., hiring manager, recruiter, HR manager, networking contact, etc.) results.

What listeners desire is a vivid word picture that you paint using bold color strokes that evoke emotion and crystallize your value to them.

If you’re speaking with a hiring manager, and he’s looking for a sales manager who can take their down-trodden, global sales team from lagging sales to double-digit growth, then you’d best BE that person. Your words must serve as both frame and photo; you quickly frame the situation and then create a bold, focused snapshot that crops out unnecessary details, a word snapshot that illustrates you’ve been there, done that!

By snapping word pictures ahead of interviews (i.e., creating a targeted, crisp resume story and interview prep material), you’re equipped with a word story collection that you can tap for interviews.

Initially, you may be sifting and sorting through an amassment of 5, 10, 15 or even 25+ years of career snapshots. Many of these snapshots are only relevant to you, and not the listener, as they lack vivid focus, have too much background noise, or simply, aren’t relevant to the targeted listener who can impact hiring you or recommending you. Pack those irrelevant pictures away and maintain the relevant images top of stack.

To recap:

• Don’t be a “people person.”

• Be a problem fixer whose stories resonate with the listener’s needs (points of pain; areas where revenues need boosted, costs need contained, processes need streamlined, etc.).

Show, through striking word snapshots that you have solved problems similar to the problems the company you’re targeting is facing.

Be selective, identify the most relevant, compelling word pictures that illustrate your value to the individual you’re communicating to (versus spilling open a long album of word snapshots that will invoke boredom and frustration).

• Frame your picture (your frame should accentuate and introduce your picture story, not detract from it).

Ensure you’ve used word snapshots that are colorful and sharply focused.

• Be humbly confident in your picture storytelling abilities; this positive energy will flow to the listener.

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