As 2009 draws to a close, most job seekers can only say, “Good riddance.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job search as of November 2009 took 28.5 weeks — more than 7 months. That’s the longest since record keeping began in 1948.
But there is good news: People are still finding jobs, often faster than average. How are they doing it?
From what I can see, talking to and counseling hundreds of people in 2009, successful job seekers do three things that can get you hired faster in 2010…
1. Start with clarity
Here’s the best predictor of job-search duration: To the extent that you can clearly describe your target job title and a shortlist of 10-20 ideal employers, you will find work fast. To the extent that you can’t, you won’t.
Think of it like this. If you walked into a bank and asked for a loan, they’d ask you a series of questions: How much do you need? What is it for? How will you pay it back? If you can’t clearly tell the bank what you want, they can’t help you.
And if you can’t clearly tell networking contacts and potential employers what you want, they can’t help you, either.
2. Stop “networking” and start being helpful
Hands up — who loves networking? I thought so. Like eating your broccoli, most people see networking as a necessary evil. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
You can make better connections that lead to better job leads — and have a good time doing it — by helping other people.
Fred Stuck, from northern New Jersey, was hired last month for an IT position after networking effectively. Did he “work the room” at networking events or spring a “30-second elevator pitch” on friends and family? No. He simply tried to be helpful.
“When a recruiter contacted me, I would say, ‘Send me the full job description,’ even if I wasn’t really interested in the job,” says Stuck. He then offered to help the recruiter find candidates by forwarding the job description to friends and colleagues who looked like a good fit. Stuck did more.
After being contacted by a recruiter, he asked to connect with them on LinkedIn, where many recruiters update their status with jobs they’re trying to fill. “I saw one update that said, ‘I’m looking for a Linux Systems Administrator.’ I knew someone and asked if they were in the job market. They said, ‘Yes,’ so I forwarded their LinkedIn profile to the recruiter. That person didn’t get the job, but they did get an interview.”
Meanwhile, Stuck was hired from a networking contact he made at a prior employer, in a job search that took only about half as long as the national average. He got what he wanted while helping others get what they wanted.
3. Go beyond email
Finally, let’s look at how most job seekers communicate with employers and networking contacts. It’s probably how you communicate, too. It’s email.
And I submit that email is the root of most employment struggles. Yes, email it convenient. But is it effective?
Put another way, if you had to get a message to someone across town by 5:00 tonight or face certain death, would you email it and then update your Facebook profile until dinner? No. You might email that message, yes, but here’s what else you would do, in this order:
- Pick up the phone, call, and ask if they got it
- Fax the message, call, and ask if they got it
- Get in your car and hand-deliver the message yourself
So. If you wouldn’t trust your life to email, why trust your career…which provides the money you need to live your life? If you make one resolution in 2010 make it this: Stop relying on email and online applications to find a job, and start doing whatever it takes to make personal contact at companies you want to work for.
To prove this non-email approach works, here are three mini-case studies from the Guerrilla Job Search files…
1) Jeff Donaldson, former Chrysler program manager, hired in November 2009. He got his winning job lead from a letter he mailed to networking contacts. Time to hire: 45 days.
2) Gail Neal, sales rep, hired in November 2009, after mailing her resume and cover letter in a thank-you note to an employer she learned of by meeting a LinkedIn contact offline. Time to hire: 52 days.
3) Mary Berman, marketing executive assistant, also hired in November 2009, after mailing her resume and cover letter in a box, with a coffee cup, asking to meet the employer for coffee. Time to hire: 53 days.
Now. What do the three success traits in this article — clear goals, helping others, going beyond email — have in common? They are uncommon.
If you adopt them, you will not be common, or average. And, with the average job search taking 7 months, who wants that?