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The one-week job search

You want a new job, so you call a few friends and answer an ad or two each week until, months later, you finally land a job. It's probably not a great job, but at that point you'd take anything.

That's the typical job seeker. There's a better way to land a job: I call it the One-Week Job Search.

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You'll be in for a tough week (four weeks if you're currently working full-time), but it will be worth it:
  • You'll have completed most of a job search's yucky tasks in just a week.
  • Unlike when doing a job search in drips and drabs, you'll build momentum, finding yourself getting on a roll.
  • Most important, having made all your contacts in just a week, you've maximized your chances of getting more than one job offer at around the same time. Having that choice of job offers allows you to pick the one with the best combination of good boss, good work, good learning opportunities and reasonable compensation. Because of that, most of my clients find that the one-week job search is more likely to lead to career contentment than even pursuing a so-called cool career.

My colleague, Libby Pannwitt, adds this thought: "Before beginning, you must shut off all internal voices inclined to say, 'I can't do that,' 'It's scary,' 'Eek,' 'Yes, but,' 'I've tried this before,' etc."

MONDAY: Write your resume. Use Microsoft Word's resume templates or Resume Maker software to create or revise your resume. The current version of Resume Maker is 11.0. You can get 10.0 at resumemaker.com for $7.99. Incorporate into your resume two or three brief "P-A-R" stories: a Problem you faced, the intelligent way you Approached it and its positive Resolution. Also see if you can incorporate praise quotes from bosses, peers, supervisees or customers.

Get feedback on a draft, ideally from people you know in your target field.

Craft a 10-second, 30-second and 60-second pitch. Each pitch must explain why you're looking for a job, what you're looking for and proof you're good. For example, a 10-second pitch might be: "The company downsized, so I'm looking for another CPA position. I never thought I'd be looking for a job. I have always gotten great evaluations, but that's the way it goes." The 30- and 60-second pitch adds information about the kind of job you're looking for or provides credible evidence that you bring a lot to the table. You may want to modify your pitch so it impresses the particular person you're talking to.

Have a ready answer for the questions you're most afraid you'll be asked. For example, "Why such a long gap in your employment history?"

TUESDAY: Identify 25 employers you'd like to work for, without regard to whether they're currently advertising any openings. Most job seekers should focus on small, growing companies and government agencies in their target industry within reasonable commuting distance. How to find them? One approach is to look for want ads with multiple job openings at a company you've never heard of. Those are usually small companies in growth mode -- the ones most likely to be hiring for a wide range of positions. Find those ads by entering your locale on major employment Web sites. Government jobs are rarely advertised except on their own Web sites. To find federal agencies with openings, go to www.usajobs.opm.gov. The site lists over half of the available federal openings. Most of the remaining ones are on individual federal agency Web sites. For a link to those, go to: www.federaljobs.net. For links to state, county and local government Web sites nationwide, go to http://statelocalgov.net.

Research the 25 employers. Take no more than 15 minutes on each. The time to put in more time per company is when you have an interview scheduled. For now, do your research simply by looking at the employer's Web site and by Googling the employer's name. Have a file in which you store notes about each employer.

Note: In some fields, much hiring is done by agencies. For example, in accounting, the Robert Half Agency. If so, add those agencies to your list of potential employers.

If you are looking for a job for which you are unusually well qualified, also add headhunters to your list of contacts. Find the right ones by calling a human resources department of a large company and ask which headhunter they use to fill the sort of position you're seeking.

Contact the 25 people in your network most likely to help you get a job, especially a job at one of your 25 target employers. Use e-mail or phone, whichever you're more comfortable with. Give your 10- or 30-second pitch and then ask, "Might you know someone at any of these 25 employers, or elsewhere for that matter, who you think I should talk with?" If appropriate, also ask if your contact would review your resume and cover letter or do a mock interview with you.

WEDNESDAY: E-mail or phone any leads given to you by your network that are not among the 25 employers you've targeted.

Try to contact the person who would be your boss, but an HR person is OK too. Pleasant persistence can help you get through.

Start with your 30-second pitch, enthusiastically delivered. (Smile when talking on the phone.) After that, listen more than talk. Ask questions about the employer's needs so you can better understand how you might be helpful. If you have an idea, propose it, but tactfully. For example, "In listening to you, it would seem I could help you by doing X. What do you think?" If you think it would impress that particular employer, tell one or two of your "P-A-R" stories.

Visit each of the 25 employers' Web sites and apply for any on-target jobs. Start your cover letter by mentioning your referrer, if any. Then explain, point-by-point, how you meet the requirements stated in the ad. Include a sentence or two that capitalizes on the knowledge you obtained yesterday about that employer.

Your goal is to, by the end of the week, have applied for 10 openly advertised on-target jobs. You probably won't find 10 on those 25 employers' sites. Find the rest on employment Web sites. For links to dozens of the best general and specialty sites, go to www.rileyguide.com/jobs.html.

THURSDAY AND FRIDAY (and Saturday, if needed): On those 25 employers' Web sites, if there is no listed job to apply for, write a brief e-mail to the CEO or other senior employee. Example: "I'm a good operations manager who's just been part of a downsizing at the BigWhup Widget Corp. I'm attracted to your company because I have experience in your industry, liked what I saw on your Web site (insert a specific) and, I must admit, because I live just 10 minutes away. I'm attaching my resume. I'd welcome the opportunity to speak with you or a designee to see if and how I might be of help to you.

Sincerely,
Joe Jobseeker

Also, finish and send those 10 job applications you identified on Wednesday.

If, within a week, you haven't heard from people you've contacted, call to follow up. Don't hesitate to leave voice mail. If, for example, you had cold-contacted an employer, say something like, "I'm (insert your name), the operations manager at the BigWhup Widget Company who was just part of a downsizing and phoned you. I'm assuming that not having heard from you, you're too busy to respond. I can understand, but I know that sometimes things can fall between the cracks, so I'm taking the liberty of calling to follow up. If you or one of your people is interested in talking with me or have any advice as to where I should turn, I'd appreciate a call. My phone number is (repeat the number twice.) And my name, again, is (insert name.) Thank you."

Of course, you won't hear back from most of the people you contact, even from the employers whose ads you're responding to, but you'll likely get at least one bite. Often it's from an employer who has been thinking about hiring but hasn't gotten to the laborious process yet. Sometimes, an employer finds it easier to just vet you and be done with it.

If the above method doesn't bear fruit, repeat the process with a different job or industry target and/or seek assistance from a private career counselor or government-sponsored One-Stop. (To find your local One-Stop, go to www.servicelocator.org.)

Mark, who had been a dot.com project manager, wanted another job like that. He came to me having tried for two years with no success. I said, "The world is telling you it has changed or that the world doesn't want you in that job. Let's change focus." He started looking for a job as a manager in the field of corporate security and, in a month, landed a job.

 
-- Posted: Feb. 7, 2005
     

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