This continues the discussion of job hunting best practices as discussed by a cross-functional networking group that met at Colonial JobSeekers, Cary, NC on Monday, October 18, 2010.
Giant Fortune Cookie—Also Known as Thinking Outside The Box, this one got the person hired. A candidate did her homework and found out the hiring manager of the target job in the company she was targeting absolutely loved Chinese food. The candidate had a giant fortune cookie made and sent it to her prospective hiring manager. Rolled up inside the fortune cookie—her résumé! The candidate’s creativity so impressed the hiring manager that she was called in for the interview and got the job. I landed a big job once thinking outside the box as well. Instead of sending out my normally formatted résumés, I rewrote my résumé as a colorful tri-fold brochure on very expensive paper I bought from Paper Direct. The front cover said, “Look no further. The best has just applied!” I was hired for a 2-month contract assignment at AT&T Consumer Sales Division which was extended to more than a year. The hiring manager said he received over 200 résumés for the job on the first day. As soon as he saw my brochure, it went right to the top of the heap and I landed the position. Thinking outside the box will get you noticed, hopefully in a positive way.
Information Interviews—One of the best ways to gather information about your target companies is to ask someone. Information interviews involve talking with people who are currently working in your target field to gain a better understanding of an occupation or industry—and to build a network of contacts in that field. The person who brought up this best practice locates popular coffee shops and lunch destinations proximal to the companies he’s targeting. At break times he visits these shops and strikes up conversations with people working at the company to learn whatever he can about their culture and hiring practices.
Job Fairs—If you’ve never been to a job fair, it is an experience not to be missed. There’s nothing better than meeting recruiters face-to-face. At least twice, I’ve been given 45-minute interviews right on the spot, both at the same job fair. There’s something about adding your appearance and personality to the presentation of your résumé that attracts peoples’ attention. The job fair I attended was in Boston. Senior-level recruiters were present from companies all over New England. The job fair targeted IT staff positions. I achieved IT Director status in a major corporation and hadn’t done any hands-on development work for about 4 years, but I went anyway. I visited the booth from ESPN and started discussing my background. The senior recruiter asked me to step outside with him and told me he had just received requests for three Senior Director or Executive Director positions, but that the positions had not yet been approved. He wanted to get me in his queue so we could be ready to move forward should they get approved. We talked for almost an hour. A month later, I received an email from the recruiter explaining the positions had been cancelled. At the same job fair, a recruiter from a company in New Hampshire said my resume was the senior-most IT résumé he had seen all day. As he looked it over, he mentioned that there was a discussion at his company that they might start recruiting to hire a CIO in the near future. He said the discussions were in the early stages and their was nothing concrete yet. Nevertheless, we spoke for about 45 minutes. The job never materialized. The point to all this is that when you attend a job fair, prepare and dress to be interviewed on the spot.
Keep Skills Current—When you finally land an interview and a recruiter or hiring manager is holding your résumé in his/her hand and asks, “What have you been doing since you lost your last position?” What are you going to say? It’s critical at this juncture that you demonstrate that you’ve been actively keeping your skill set current. For my example, even though I haven’t worked as a hands-on application developer for some time, I am keeping both my development and management skills current. I’ve taught myself how to write applications for the Android operating system, popular in the smartphone and tablet PC world. For the management skills, I have been appointed to leadership positions in volunteer groups and am a member of an executive round-table. What are you doing? How can you show that you’ve been keeping your skills current or learning new skills during your transition period?
Networking & Seminars—Attend as many networking events and seminars as you can. In the Raleigh area, they are all over the place. Are you on LinkedIn? Do you belong to groups specific to your geographic location on LinkedIn? If not, you ought to be. Networking has led me to land public speaking engagements and meet some very interesting people I might not have met elsewhere. Most networking events are free, but there are some that charge a nominal fee. The idea is to introduce yourself at a networking event and then get alone with a person of interest over a cup of coffee later to discuss synergies. It’s kind of like speed dating with the intent of landing a position. If there are no networking events in your area, start one. You might be surprised where it could lead.
Pay It Forward—The concept of paying it forward was popularized in a 2000 movie of the same name starring Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment, Helen Hunt and Jay Mohr. The idea of paying it forward has been documented to exist from as early as 317 BC. In his 1841 essay Compensation, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote: "In the order of nature we cannot render benefits to those from whom we receive them, or only seldom. But the benefit we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent, to somebody." Paying it forward is giving to others. As we get out and network, keep in mind that it’s not all about you. It is all about what we can do to help others. Case in point is something that happened just a few weeks ago in the IT Special Interest Group I lead at Colonial JobSeekers. A women visited us for the first time after being out of work for a number of years to raise her family. Reentering the job market after such a long period of absence is not easy. She formerly worked as a corporate technology trainer and wants to get back into teaching. Later that evening I received an email from another member of the group who said he landed an interview with, of all things, a tech training company. I asked if there were any opportunities for this new person. He forwarded her résumé to the hiring manager he was interviewing with. She landed a contract position teaching SharePoint. When we put the interests of others ahead of our own interests, paying it forward works. You’ll definitely receive dividends.
Well, it looks like I miscalculated how long I would have to write to share all of the best practices we discussed. So it looks like there’s going to have to be at least a Part-3 to this series. We have 11 more best practices to go and I’ll do my best to cover them in one more article.