the long road

Sam Javanrouh via Compfight

Someone reached out to me on LinkedIn, asking for my advice about his six-month long job search. He wondered why it was taking so long now, while in the past he’d gotten offers almost immediately.  He wondered if it had to do with being let go from his last job.

Here’s my response:

I’m sorry to hear you’ve been having such a challenging job search. It is very common these days, because employers are choosier and more demanding than ever. So the old ways of finding a job don’t work anymore. By “old ways” I mean pre-2008 job search methods and materials. During the Great Recession, employers learned that they could take their time to find exactly the right person – and they continue to behave that way even as the economy has somewhat improved.

One thing that happened after the financial meltdown is employers had to lay people off in droves, and it wasn’t fun for anyone. Many became more cautious about adding on new hires unless they were absolutely sure they needed them and could retain them over time – both financially and culturally.

Pre-2008, employers were more willing to hire someone with the skills and put up with what to them seemed like a “bad attitude” or “wrong values.  Today, I see more and more employers say they are looking for “culture fit” on top of skills and expertise. This means a job seeker needs to present him or herself in a way that demonstrates values, behavior, and personality, as well as results, impact and accomplishments.

That’s what I specialize in helping clients do and you can do it for yourself:

  • Present as rounded a picture of yourself as possible.
  • Emphasize your results in your resume.
  • Personalize your cover letters.
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm for the job in question and the company itself.
  • Make the case in your cover letter that your skills and experience are exactly the right ones for the position.
  • Assume your LinkedIn profile is your on-line resume so make it a marketing piece for yourself.
  • Help yourself be found on search engines (in LinkedIn, on google+, even Facebook).

When I look at your LinkedIn profile, I saw the bare minimum. I would recommend immediately putting bulleted accomplishments under each of your jobs. I also would use key words in your summary by listing your core skills and abilities. LinkedIn is keyword-driven, so help yourself be found by recruiters by using common keywords for your field.

You also can do as I did in my headline – list your expertise and skills there.  Personally, I would not put as my headling “seeking employment.” It implies a lack of confidence, perhaps even desperation – both are off-putting to employers. Your headline needs to focus on your skills and value-add.

I don’t think your being let go from a job has a lot to do with the responses you’re getting – or not getting.

What probably is coming up for employers is a question about whether you are up-to-date in your skills.

So get active in some way:

  • Keep up with your field and post related articles and updates on your LinkedIn profile.
  • Is there an organization you can volunteer your HR services to? Or a friend at a start-up? You can list those as experience, instead of saying you’re looking for work.
  • Join a LinkedIn group and start a discussion.
  • Go to industry events and post about them.
  • Take a course or two related to your field; there are excellent choices now with MOOCs (massive open online courses) at places like Coursera, Udemy, Udacity and more. Once you’ve completed the 6-12 week course, you can list it on LinkedIn under “Courses.”

It really works! I have a client who was out of work for almost a year and by taking my advice, impressed a company enough to hire him.

I hope my words to this job seeker resonate with some of you.  Long job searches are awful – I once spent 2 years looking and completely understand the frustration.  It was by doing the things I suggest here, plus working with a coach to identify my Core Value Proposition, that enabled me to land my dream job as Executive Director of a non-profit.

Good luck to you all!