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Conduct a Gumshoe Investigation Before Taking Just “Any” Job

By Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

How can you tell if your next great job opportunity really is worth your time? What resources can you tap to uncover clues as to whether the company you may partner with for the coming months and/or years has a good reputation with its employees and with its customers? What sleuthing can you do to vet out the company’s culture, the physical environment and the overall ‘attitude’ that the organization exudes?

For answers to these, and other questions, you may want to visit my latest Glassdoor post here: “How To Investigate ‘The Right Job’ Vs. ‘Any Job.'”

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”

Create Curb Appeal to Attract Interviews

curb appealNever so much did the term, “Resume Real Estate” resonate until I was tasked to sell my home.

“I want to sell my home ‘as-is,’” I firmly asserted to my real estate agent.  It’s a beautiful home in a great neighborhood and is an ideal opportunity for the right buyer. Standing head and shoulders among its peer group, I felt, this home offered a unique opportunity that would be obvious to the right buyer, and they would know to make an offer – and quickly!

Not only was the home of high quality, positioned in an established neighborhood with a track record of success (e.g., the neighborhood quiet, the homeowners’ association upkeep consistent, the reputation for the city’s upscale attitude broad-ranging, the schools high-caliber – the list goes on), but it also was uniquely located off of a key corridor in the community – easy to get everywhere else from here. Its value speaks for itself!

So … why the continual stream of visitors but no offers?

Hooking the Buyer With First Impressions

Over the next several weeks and months I gained clarity — through a series of buyer feedback messages and conversations with my professional real estate agent, here’s what I discovered: Other homeowners were going an extra few miles to market themselves and “hook” the buyer, and it was making a big difference! Further, the extra miles they pursued were based directly on the target market’s needs. Moreover, the marketing strategies included appealing to buyers’ emotions – a key component to their ultimate decision to buy.

These competitors were not discounting the value of creating a “wow” first impression, beyond the inherent value that the visitors were able to seek out after initially being hooked in.

These competitors of mine were investing in their marketing – from buying new carpet to painting the entire interior to installing new appliances and more. And first impressions were counting! The seller wasn’t expecting the buyer to “envision” or “imagine” the potential of the home – they were underscoring the home’s magnificence by placing an up-front investment with the confidence and hope that the investment would pay off – that an ROI was in store. When that would happen was not known or even guaranteed to happen. These home sellers were taking a calculated risk.

Targeting Buyers’ Real Needs

Further, the competing home sellers’ marketing approach was based on the target buyers’ real (rather than perceived) needs. I discovered I hadn’t been honing in on my target market’s real needs. One of my mantras regarding the value of my home was: “I just invested in a new air conditioning and heating system, so of course the buyer will immediately and intellectually interpret the value of these items just as much as if I had painted the walls or added carpet.” However, my target market (single individual/couple/parent and child) seemed to be more transient in nature, and fulfilling long-term needs such as the need for a reliable, long lasting AC/heating system was lower priority.

In short, if the buyers’ areas of pain include a need to buy a freshly carpeted/painted home so that they may immediately settle into a comfortable routine (without the burden of installing carpet and painting walls) then that is what I must address. Without this focus, I was being weeded out of the buyers’ processes before I had a chance to really engage them beyond first impressions with the subtle qualities and nuances of my special home.

Parallels Between Home Sellers and Job Searchers

This experience struck a cord with me in how my attitude has paralleled that of some my (less-informed) resume prospects! They are ready for a job search, and they want to initiate it NOW – “as-is” with little preparation or respect for the processes or preparation for creating their “curb appeal,” as it were in order to really wow “their” buyers – the employers.

Those job seekers who haven’t been educated about the importance of communicating value drivers and focus just want a “simple” resume that outlines, without any flash or exaggeration “who I am and what I do / have achieved.” No pomp and circumstance and no real up-front investment of time or money should be necessary – “the employer will be able to read between the lines the value I offer them if I simply outline where I worked, my titles and a bulleted listing of responsibilities and accomplishments. They should be ‘hooked into’ me, though my presentation is plain vanilla and uninspiring.”

Their resume marketing, therefore, lacks emotional appeal – how will they, as the employee, influence the employer that they are immediately qualified to solve specific PAIN? To do this, they must identify a target market and then go out on a limb, market to a specific audience and address particular needs (not just overpower the employer with ideas of what is assumed they most wish to hear).

For example, a sales professional may wish to transition their focus to opportunities that are more product development focused than sales focused. However, they may miss the boat by quickly writing a resume that speaks heavily to sales goals, sales teams, territory growth and more because that seems to be the easiest and most natural way to outline their reverse chronological history of experience.

As a result, the experiences listing may deemphasize product development/launch or present it in a low-level way, burying the candidates’ value to the target company, and making it too much work for the hiring authority to understand that indeed, the candidate is a perfect match. The hiring authority, therefore, will most likely move on to a candidate that showcases the product development information in a “wow first impression” way, attending to the company’s specific needs.

In summary, the components of marketing oneself to sell special value in a job search and marketing one’s home to sell in the real estate market are strikingly similar. Although negotiating the final sale/job is about much more than initial curb appeal and marketing enticement, without that initial hook and “wow first impression” to entice the buyer, home sellers and job seekers most likely will stall the attainment of their ultimate goal.

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