It is hard to believe how much job searching has changed in the last 20 years. A good education alone does not guarantee you a job anymore. In the mid 90’s, for example, most people got their jobs the traditional way: in-person networking, on-campus interviews and responding to job ads. Today, you have many online tools at your disposal adding several layers of complexity to your job searching strategy. It is still true that many people get their jobs through personal contacts ; “a friend of a friend” in most cases.
However, online job searching tools have become an essential part of generating job leads, reaching out to recruiters and making professional contacts. In fact, online tools are also important for people who already have jobs. In contrast to our parents’ generation, you cannot count on staying at one job for your entire career. Many people switch jobs every 3-5 years, either out of necessity or to advance their careers. Since the job market is so dynamic, building your professional “brand” is becoming a necessity for every professional.
What is a professional brand? Your professional brand is the area that you are an expert in, the niche that you are known for in your professional circles. Building your profile in LinkedIn is one of the first steps to developing a professional brand. In addition to completing your profile (education, awards and job experience), be sure to widen your professional network by joining groups in your field and participating in discussion boards. If you are just about to graduate or out of school recently, add alumni from your department to your network. After you add someone to your network, you will see their contacts as well. When you apply for a job, you can check if there is anyone in your network or your contacts’ networks at the company. If so, ask to be introduced. Don’t be shy, because people are almost always glad to help. Be sure to return the favor in the future by offering to help if they look for a job and giving recommendations and endorsements to people who have earned it.
Since people change jobs so frequently, there is a saying that there are two types of job seekers: active and passive. Active job seekers are looking for jobs, either because they are unemployed or dissatisfied with their jobs. Passive job seekers are usually happily (or mostly happily) employed, but they are always keeping an eye out for better job opportunities. Most employed people today are passive job seekers. While they might be satisfied with their employment, they recognize the importance of continuously building their professional network of contacts and polishing their online presence. Given the frequent (and sometimes unexpected) layoffs and company restructuring, most people are constantly marketing themselves in person and online. Sounds tiring? It can be, especially if you are shy or already too busy with your current workload to have lunch with important contacts or to build your online profile.
Your Job Searching Strategy
People who are successful at branding themselves have built marketing into their professional routines. The best strategy to build your professional network is to attend monthly or at least quarterly networking events where you can catch up with old contacts (find out where they are currently employed), make new contacts and then getting into the habit of following up with them over email promptly after the event. One of the reasons that your online presence is important is that the contacts that you make in person at networking events will probably look at your LinkedIn profile before they follow up with you. Thus, in today’s digital age, a professional online presence is necessary but usually not sufficient to get you a new job. If you are active job seeker, then daily persistence will be the key to a successful job searching strategy. Part of your routine will be to monitor online job listings, but a bigger and even more important part will be to follow up with key contacts. What does it mean to follow up?
The most important thing to keep in mind about networking is that it is a two-way street. While you are still young, networking can help you to find mentors who can guide you in your career choices and maybe even recommend valuable contacts for your job. Therefore, the best way to follow up with contacts is to request some of their time (perhaps over lunch or coffee) to give you advice. Never ask whether they have a job for you – even if they do, they will probably not bring you in for an interview until they get to know you better. Most mentors will not have a job for you, but they can recommend professional organizations, job boards and other contacts that can help you advance your career. If you find a good mentor, be sure to follow up with them from time to time. Job opportunities frequently open up unexpectedly and employers are most likely to bring is someone whom they know and trust. Many job seekers find that one of the most important aspects of job searching is to develop an efficient strategy. Depending on how soon you need a new job, job searching can turn into a part-time or full-time job in itself.
One of the advantages of the digital age is that there are many online tools to help you keep track of new job openings and professional contacts. At the end of the blog I listed some services to help you track new job openings. I highly recommend a system to help you keep track of your job searching activities. In many cases a simple Excel spreadsheet will be sufficient which lists the dates you applied to each job and professional contacts you have made. This will help you determine when to follow up with leads or contacts. There are professional job search management tools out there as well. One of them is Jibberjabber.com, which has the option of a free account. As you get older and more experienced, be sure to give back to the professional community and mentor younger students. In addition to the rewarding experience of helping a younger person, you will also continue to build your own professional network, especially when you get in the position of hiring young talent into your organization.
Online job searching resources: (be sure to sign up for job alerts/rss feeds)
Most professional organizations have job boards, including automatic job alerts
Online job searching management tool: http://www.jibberjobber.com/