Hitting up your local newspaper classified ads is probably not going to land you the job you want– if any job at all.
(Honestly, the days of newspaper job ads have probably been gone since people were wearing Members Only jackets unironically.)
But as I work with entry-level job seekers, I hear my clients using a strategy that is almost as ineffective: sending out hundreds of blind applications to companies’ hiring portals, hoping to hear back.
And as a caveat, companies do hire from these portals. For some organizations, it might be an internal policy to field every application through this portal to keep things tidy, fair and legal. And you should keep an eye on these portals and apply without making them your sole focus.
If you’ve ever sent out dozens of applications through these portals, you’ve probably had the feeling you were throwing your résumé out into a cold, uncaring universe, hoping for a call back if the stars align. And you may not be far off.
Many of these portals use a keyword scanner to identify relevant skills and experience– or a busy recruiter or HR person reads through them individually. Some studies have shown a recruiter spends just 6 seconds scanning a résumé before moving onto the next.
Sure, you might be the perfect woman for the job but if the keywords didn’t generate interest or the recruiter has a stack of sixty-seven other applications– what then?
You need a new strategy.
When I used to work for a NYC staffing agency, part of my job was to find clients to place our talent with. One of the best methods for finding new clients was to find a need. In other words: who is hiring and what position are they looking to bring on?
In the case of a job seeker, by using alternative strategies to find who is hiring, you’ll stand out and not end up as just another application in a stack. It’s going to take some thinking outside of the box, some rejection and getting out of your comfort zone, but these seven new ways of finding work will have a huge impact on your job search and career.
Try your network
Your network is easily your most powerful and helpful place for finding work because you have a personal relationship and rapport with these people. And when I say network, I mean every co-worker, brunch partner, friend, neighbor, pick-up basketball teammate, yoga buddy and family member you have.
They don’t need to work in marketing or be an engineer or own a business relevant to what you do. They don’t have to be a recruiter or know anyone hiring right now.
But simply making it known that you’re looking for work can open up doors. In fact, it’s a very similar strategy that business networking group, BNI, employs to help its members: it’s not who is in the room, it’s who the people in the room know who may be able to help.
Obviously use your discretion. If you’re in the middle of a discrete job hunt your employer can’t know about, maybe try the circle of people you trust the most with sensitive info.
Drop a text or make a phone call to someone who may not know you’re looking for work. InMail your buddy from that job you had in college who looks like he’s working for an interesting company. Offer to buy your neighbor a coffee and see if any of his buddies he plays cards with know of an opening.
Expand your network
“But I don’t know anyone who can help me,” you might be thinking.
Maybe you just moved to a new area. Maybe you don’t speak the local language. Maybe your friends and family make their living raising goats or are all employed with NASA and their only friends are also slinging goat cheese or shooting stuff into space.
No worries. It’s time to find people who are more in line with the job you have in mind and that means something that will strike fear, anxiety and hate into the heart of every introvert and many others: networking.
Networking is a lot like swimming: you fear it until you do it a few times. I’m on the line between an introvert and extrovert, so don’t think this advice is coming from someone who hops out of bed at 6AM and excitedly makes small talk over muffins.
But networking really is the way to expand your professional network.
There are plenty of options: Chamber of Commerce meetings, Young Professionals mixers, trade and industry-specific meet ups. There are a crazy amount of events happening and I’ve used MeetUp to find them.
It doesn’t even have to be a professional setting. Join a free softball league, go volunteer at a homeless shelter, invite all the neighbors you haven’t spoken to in 7 years over for a bonfire or strike up a conversation at a coffee shop. Bring a buddy along.
Networking when you have something you want can sometimes feel greedy or self-involved, especially when you’re meeting new people specifically to find work for yourself.
It doesn’t have to be that way. One of my favorite things to do in a networking situation is ask the following questions:
• When you come to these types of events, who do you hope to run into or meet?
• Can you tell me more about what you do?
• What’s the best advice you’ve ever received while networking?
Sometimes you might know the perfect person to introduce this person to– or you may just make their day by expressing interest in what they do or know. I’ve begun making an honest effort to provide value to others whenever I can and people seem to appreciate it.
Use your social media
Sure, your social media channels might be full of cat pictures, memes and heated political debate, but there’s still value here and it’s twofold:
You can use social media to alert people you know about your job search and what you’re looking for. You can find people at companies you want to work for and easily reach out to them through messaging. You can create cool content showing your value– and someone might notice. Social media is amazing for communicating thoughts, ideas and breaking down barriers that used to separate the hiring from the hopeful hires. Don’t hesitate to direct message a hiring manager or HR Director; you’ll definitely get ignored, rejected and maybe told to “just apply online like everyone else” a few times, but someone will find your proactive approach interesting.
Alternatively, keep people in your city aware of your availability:
“Anyone CD’s in #Austin looking for a #copywriter? Experience in beauty, auto & tech clients. Check my portfolio here: (Bitly link)”
Maybe less obvious than using social media to communicate is using it to gather data. You can absolutely use social media to find who is hiring and even predict it! That cool startup in town just mentioned on Twitter they’ve secured funding? Guess who WILL be hiring within days or weeks. Many, many times each week I see requests for certain professionals or skill sets on social channels.
Another outside the box idea: search hashtags relevant to your profession. Maybe someone is having trouble with #Excel and you’re a spreadsheet god? Maybe a recruiter just posted an #accountant position you’d be perfect for? Try narrowing it down by location, hashtag and get creative.
Assuming your job search isn’t a total secret, use social media frequently during a job hunt. Don’t become that guy who vents on his Facebook about how frustrated they are about an interview that didn’t pan out, but stay active on industry LinkedIn groups, retweet relevant industry news on Twitter and keep people posted about what you’re looking for.
And keep in mind: new employers CAN see your social media, often even if you’re set to “private”. Post accordingly.
Bonus points if you run an ad on social media advertising your experience or service. Extra bonus points if you use social media to cold email or message someone and ask them to meet and discuss the company or open positions.
Market yourself like a product
Job hunting is no different than selling a product– except that you’re a sentient being doing your own marketing.
So do what the pros do and get into content marketing. If you’re not of a sales or marketing background, one of the biggest names in the content game, Hubspot, explains content marketing this way:
What is content marketing? Content marketing is a strategic marketing and business process focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience, and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
It may not be necessary to create workflows, email campaigns and use software like in a traditional content marketing strategy, but let’s focus on what this is suggesting you do in a job hunting sense:
Create valuable, relevant content (videos, blogs, articles, podcasts, etc.) that speaks to the decision makers of your industry and drive them to offer you an interview and then a position.
So what does this look like?
Recently, I worked with someone who had been out of work but was using some of his free time to create how-to videos on software used in his industry. I encouraged him to share this across all of his social channels; you never know who might love what you’ve written and decide to reach out and form a connection. Again, maybe they’re not a hiring manager– but it’s an additional means of growing your network.
My recommendation is to start a simple WordPress site or a Medium account. Start writing. Use Answer the Public to figure out topics. Ask your partner or friend to proofread. Publish your articles on LinkedIn, WordPress and Medium. Share them over your social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, etc) and forums.
The added benefit? If you’ve been off work for some time, this is a GREAT way to fill that gap on your résumé. Yes, you’ve been unemployed by an employer since February– but you’ve also been creating awesome articles and videos relevant to your career and industry. You have something to show for your time and you shouldn’t hesitate to list this on your résumé as relevant experience.
Align your interests with others
There are incredibly talented, brilliant and caring recruiters and staffing agencies out there. There are staffing agencies and recruiters out there who are exactly the opposite. Again, I’ve worked in staffing so I have a soft spot for these folks– but I’ve also been on the wrong end of recruiters.
Don’t let one bad experience you or your friend’s brother’s neighbor had with a staffing agency or recruiter sour you on the whole idea. Yes, staffing agencies and recruiters will be paid by the employer in the way of a nice bonus. Yes, it’s possible they’ll make a killing off your placement.
But that’s my point.
By working with a few recruiters or staffing agencies, you’re working with people who are going to get paid as soon as they find you work. Your interests are aligned in this specific area. They want to find you work. They’re going to work full-time trying to find you a position. And a good recruiter or agency will recognize that, one day, you may even hire them to find you a good candidate and become a client.
There are hundreds of agencies and recruiters out there, but having worked for a specialized staffing agency that had a rather narrow expertise, I’d recommend working with a recruiter or agency who is industry or job specific. They’ll likely know more about your role and have better clients to introduce you to than someone who staffs everyone from line workers to salespeople to writers.
And if you’re on the fence about recruiters or agencies, it’s fine to politely let them know you’re apprehensive. Good agencies and recruiters will understand and probably have great reviews online and evidence of their success. Use your gut when deciding who to work with and, if possible, use that network to find a recruiter.
Create your own job
Maybe this career change is exactly the push you’ve been waiting for to finally take your prototype product and start shopping around for vendors. Or maybe it’s time to begin working on a consultant or freelance basis.
Whether it’s to keep the bill collectors from calling as a way of generating income while you search or to actually start your own business, during a job transition you may find yourself in the perfect spot to create your own position.
Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. Financial pressure, unknowns and patience may make it a difficult time to transition from job seeker to business owner while out of work– but keep the option open. It’s unlikely you’ll soon have this much free time to learn, grow and build something.
If you’re still in your job with steady income rolling in, it might be the perfect time to start working after hours to prepare for this move. Entrepreneurial guru, Gary Vaynerchuk, is actually quite adamant about only starting a business with either serious savings on hand or a full-time job to help stay afloat.
Stay proactive and ready
The best time to look for work is when you don’t need to.
Even if your company is rock solid and you have job security for the next 10 years (you think!), be active in your career. It’s easy to fall behind trends, dig into a 50 hour work week and collect a paycheck.
Have informational interviews when a company reaches out if you can do so without jeopardizing your job. Know what’s happening with your competitors and peers at other companies. Stay active on social media and be a whatever-your-profession-is that people know about. Go to networking events. Write articles. Take classes.
Keep your résumé updated– always– so you don’t need to think back three years to what the exact figures were on the project you lead that made the company millions and got you a raise.
You may have no intention or plan of leaving your job, but if the last two decades have taught us anything at all it’s that even the most concrete plans and careers can change. You’ll be better off if you’ve been in “career mode” without the pressure of needing a paycheck.
Job hunting is like fishing
Did you ever go fishing when you were a kid? If you were like me, you probably dropped a single soggy worm on too short of a line into a murky pond and didn’t catch anything.
And that’s what people do when they’re looking for work: they rely on one really bad, singular method.
Whether you’re fishing or looking for a new job, you need as many lines and hooks in the water as possible; your friends, recruiters, alumni contacts, traditional job portals, networking meetings, article-writing, social media activity are some of the best tools you have.
You need to use different baits, ask for advice, try crazy ideas and do everything you can to increase the chances that someone– or something, in the case of fish– is going to bite.
I’m confident that these 7 new strategies are going to invigorate your job search.
Photo credit to Matthew Henry.