Despite the proliferation and ubiquity of technology, one of the best benefits to job hunting in today’s economy is networking. Not the social kind mind you, but really getting out to meet and greet people. It’s a great opportunity to engage with individuals you wouldn’t normally encounter in an every-day business-as-usual routine. I’m a very active networker. Almost every Monday you’ll find me at Colonial JobSeekers (CJS) in Cary, NC. An outreach ministry of Colonial Baptist Church, CJS has grown to become one of the largest and most trusted networking groups in the Triangle. If you live outside of North Carolina, the Triangle is the area comprising the cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
One reason CJS is so popular is the diverse activities that take place. Generally, guest speakers are in at least once a month and training classes are offered every week for interviewing skills and LinkedIn. Other special training classes are held regularly as well, such as resume writing or the difference between W2s vs. 1099s, a common topic of interest for anyone considering a contract position. In addition to classes, we regularly segment into Special Interest Groups (SIG). I sit on the groups steering committee and facilitate the IT SIG which runs about 20-30 attendees.
This past Monday we did something different. We held cross-functional discussion groups. Normally SIGs are grouped according to chosen profession. The cross-function groups are distinctive in that attendees are randomly assigned to specified meeting rooms where facilitators await to guide the pre-planned discussion.
Normally, one can expect 200 or more attendees at CJS. For some reason, overall attendance was lower than usual this week which could be a very good sign the economy is improving. If job seekers aren’t showing up, it could mean they’re landing or at least getting interviews.
I volunteered to facilitate in Room 208. I had about 4-5 people show up. This is too small for a cross-functional discussion so I ended up merging my group with two other small groups and co-facilitated with Carol, a Meyers-Briggs facilitator and organizational development expert. In her 45-second elevator speech, she describes herself as a person who teaches adults to play nice with each other. (Don’t we all need that kind of training at times!)
We ended up with a group of about 20. The three-fold topic of the day is to give your 45-second elevator speech, share a blessing that came out of the unemployment situation and discuss best practices of the job hunt. Everyone has an opportunity to share what’s been working for them and what hasn’t been working for them. The discussion turned out to be an extremely fruitful and educational experience for us all. At the end of the day, we walked away with a list of 22 best practices to ponder and embrace as our own if we’re so inclined. Everyone, me included, left that room with new ideas and renewed energy.
The balance of this article and the full content of the next one contain descriptions of the best practices we discussed. You’ll find a lot of articles out there written by recruiters or other experts that highlight best practices from their professional perspective. That is not what this list is. This list is actual best practices being used by job hunters today to land interviews or open new doors of opportunity that might never have been available to them otherwise. The list is practical and sage. So let’s begin with Accountability Groups.
Accountability Groups—One principle taught in many leadership programs is the concept of a personal board of directors. A personal board of directors is a group of not more than 10-12 people who you readily trust. In fact, if you have 5-6 count yourself fortunate indeed. These may include your spouse or significant other, your closest friends and colleagues whose opinions you value. They have your best interest at heart. They watch your back and you watch theirs. One young lady shared that she uses this concept to help her stay on track with her job searching. It’s so easy to get distracted or discouraged these days, especially if you’ve been out of work for a long while. Your accountability group will hold you responsible for the goals you’ve set for yourself and help you remain focused.
Alumni Organizations—How many of your classmates do you stay in touch with? I’ll bet the answer lies somewhere between not many to more than a few. Unless you’re comfortable waiting for your next reunion, if you’re out of work reconnect with your classmates through your Alumni Association. You’ll never know if the nerd you once despised is in a position to introduce you to your next boss or could very well become your next boss.
Automated Job Agents—Virtually every job board has some sort of automated job agent. Instead of logging in and scanning hundreds of job postings each day, let your virtual headhunter do part of the job for you. Automated job agents are relatively easy to setup as long as you understand how to execute computer searches. You establish the search criteria, save it and schedule it to run at specified intervals. The results are sent to you in an email. Automated job agents are very useful if you are considering job markets outside your geographic location.
Bcc—One enterprising gentleman keeps in touch with the large number of recruiters he’s connected with on a weekly basis using his email program’s Bcc feature. Not sure what Bcc means? It means blind carbon copy. In the context of correspondence, blind carbon copy refers to the practice of sending a message to multiple recipients in such a way that it conceals individual email addresses from the complete list of recipients. To see it work, put your own email address in the “To:” field and everyone else in the “Bcc:.” Some email clients don’t display the Bcc field automatically so you may think you don’t have one, but rest assured you do. When you send the email, it will appear as though you sent it to yourself even though everyone in the Bcc received it. Take the time to learn how to use Bccs within your email client.
Employment Security Commission Professionals—In North Carolina, all issues related to employment or unemployment as the case may be, fall under the oversight of the Employment Security Commission or ESC. The goal of every professional working for the ESC is to help the underemployed or unemployed find work. And they have access to resources that the common person cannot get their hands on such as inside information on job postings. One service the ESC can provide is to tell you the name of the hiring manager for almost any job posting within the state. That’s valuable information to have as you plan your follow-ups. Your state may have similar services to North Carolina’s. Take advantage of it if you can. The ESC professionals are here to help you. Schedule a one-on-one appointment with an ESC professional to learn how the agency can help you in your particular circumstance.
Well, that’s it for today. I’ll complete the list of best practices in my next post.