A successful job search process is a combination of research, marketing, and conversation.

RESEARCH: Research yourself and research the employers for which you want to work.

1. Get to know yourself

  • What are your strengths and capabilities, the things you really like to do and have fun doing?
  • What you want to do again? Sometimes we’re good at doing things but never want to do them again. What do you never want to do again?
  • Look back at your accomplishments. What are you proud of doing? How did you do those things? What kind of skills did they require?
  • What do you do for fun? Do you have hobbies? What activities cause you to smile for no reason? When does time fly for you?
  • In what environments do you thrive? What culture is best for you?
  • What motivates you? For who or what are you willing to work hard? What have you committed to for a long period of time because it’s important to you?

Use this information to develop a Must Have List (see my posts on creating your Must Have List).

2. Get to know the employers in your chosen industry and occupation.

  • Which employers are engaged in the kind of work you are interested in doing?
  • What companies are growing? This means they will be hiring now or in the near future.
  • Which organizations have the kind of culture you would thrive in?

How do you find this information? Read industry publications in print and on-line. Do searches on the key terms used in the occupation and industry (e.g. Marketing Director, Telecommunications).

Much information is available through people who work in the industry, through company websites, and by doing a search on various companies via Google. You can find people who know people in the company through LinkedIn and Plaxo, on Twitter and possibly on Facebook. Informational interviews are generally easy for people to agree to; it’s a great way to learn about general industry and/or occupational trends. You’ll also learn about the culture of the organization by talking in-depth to someone who works at that company.

MARKETING: Look for your “right fit” jobs

1. Build a resume to market your core value proposition to prospective employers. Your resume needs to highlight your potential value to an employer, demonstrating your abilities through your accomplishments and impact on your past employers. Only include those accomplishments and responsibilities that you want to repeat. We all have parts of our jobs we don’t love; it comes with the territory. However, we don’t have to ask to do them by listing them in our resume. And you do get what you ask for, in my experience.

2. Match yourself to the most appropriate job opportunities. Find jobs that match your Must Have List.

  • Take a job description and highlight all the things you like/love in one color, all the things you are OK with in a second color, all the things you don’t like in another, and all the things you need to learn in a fourth color. If most of the job description is in the first color, it’s potentially a job for you. If not, keep looking, or be aware when you apply that you may not get an interview.
  • Search on job boards to see what’s out there, which of your target companies are hiring and might have other jobs coming up. Identify the key words that are common in jobs to which you are drawn. Use those key words in your resume.
  • Go to the websites of your target companies.

3. Create a really powerful intention statement. This will say very specifically what job you want, what skills you want to use, what impact you want to have, in what industry and what kind of company.

This is your “pitch” or “elevator speech.” It’s what you say to people when they ask “and what kind of job are you looking for.” It’s what you write in an e-mail asking someone for their advice and guidance in your job search process.

Don’t worry about being too specific or narrow. Worry about being too broad. Broad intentions don’t allow people to help you. Specificity helps you get the exact contacts and opportunities you want, and then to land the job in which you will thrive. We find the right size clothes when we accept our body for what it is. Similarly, we find the “right fit” work when we accept ourselves for who we are.

4. Write “marketing” cover letters. These match your abilities and skills to the specific responsibilities and qualifications cited in the job posting. This is your chance to show how your past makes you highly capable of helping the company meet its goals. They have their own “What’s In It For Me” interest. Your job is to tell them what you will deliver and do for them when you are hired. So read about the company’s mission statement, its press clips, its services, its most recent developments. Use language similar to that in the job posting and on the company’s website; it shows you “speak their language.”

More important than meeting basic qualifications is whether you are a cultural fit for a company. Recommendations from current employees count for a lot in any search process, because company leaders realize that an employee will tend to recommend people who are a good cultural fit already. Your job is to show in the cover letter that you understand the organization’s culture as well as the specific job requirements. Tell them why you think it would be an honor to work for them. Use flattery, and show enthusiasm for the company. Companies want someone who wants to work for THEM, not someone who just wants a job.

CONVERSATION: Look for “conversational chemistry”

When a company posts a job, it is beginning a conversation with prospective employees. Your cover letter and resume are your response, essentially you picking up the conversation. You are saying “I’m interested in a conversation with you about this.” If the company or recruiter sees something they like in your materials and/or if they receive recommendations for you from people they respect, they’ll contact you to continue the conversation through an interview. This takes the conversation from “small talk” to a deeper level.

I find that people feel more comfortable about an interview if they think about it as a conversation. In this conversation, the employer wants to know if you are the “right fit” and so they ask lots of questions to ascertain that. You get to ask your own questions. You can relax a little bit because you are trying to find out whether this is in fact the “right fit” for you.

If the conversation goes well, you’ll probably go to the next stage. It’s not guaranteed, however, because the employer is talking to several other people at the same time. You may not be the best fit. If that’s the case, be happy because you probably wouldn’t have been happy at that employer. Remember, they already know you meet the basic qualifications. Now they are looking mainly for a culture fit. If they don’t believe there is a culture fit, they are right. And if you don’t have some skill or ability they decide is very important, you would have begun the job at a deficit – not a recipe for success.

Getting another interview is a chance to have a more in-depth conversation. If it is the “right fit” job, then you and the employer will want to formally agree to continue your conversation and engagement with each other through a job offer and acceptance. Here’s hoping for that kind of conversational chemistry!