If you have been interviewed for even a few jobs, you have realized that the process is biased against you in many ways. Everything is designed to make the process easier and more successful for your future employer rather than for you. Despite your needs as an employee, the process is designed to grind through the list of candidates and spit out a, hopefully, qualified employee. If you want to survive this process and find the job, and the career, you deserve, you need to move beyond the traditional strategies of cover letter and resume. You need to find ways to circumvent the process and develop an advantage over the other candidates.
Let me be clear, though. When I talk about circumventing the process I am not talking about having your resume delivered via FedEx, or worse still, in a pizza box. It isn’t about sending email to every person at the company. Not only will these tactics not work, they are likely to prevent you from ever getting a job at that particular company and perhaps others.
Instead of simply submitting your resume into the great maw that is most HR departments, you need to start, today, building an on-going job search that doesn’t depend on want ads and resumes. You need to start making connections and relationships that allow you to walk into the company of your choice with a head start.
The Perfect Situation
Your first step to a better job is to get a referral to a particular company or for a particular position. As any good salesman knows, cold calls are the least effective method of selling. Any introduction, even the most tenuous can give you a large “step up” in the process. Since getting a job is one of the most important sales you will ever make, it only makes sense to apply some of the same rules.
How do you gain these referrals? First, you have to do great work, regardless of your current environment, co-workers or management. Even in the worst jobs, you can still shine and people around you, both management and peers will recognize that. In today’s highly charged job market, workers move around much more frequently. You never know where your co-workers might be 1, 2, 3 years in the future. Doing your best work means that someone might just come looking for you when they need a new employee or co-worker. Even if they are never in the position to hire you, they might be able to refer you to someone who can, something they are more likely to do if they had a good work experience with you, even in a bad work environment.
Next, expose yourself to as many people as possible. Too often, we cloister ourselves within our family, close friends and co-workers to such an extent that we never have the opportunity to build more extensive relationships. Join a user group, a professional society, Toastmasters, whatever organization strikes your interest. If you don’t know which one to join, try out several. Visit a meeting and see if you enjoy the environment.
Whatever the organization you choose, the next step is to get involved. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Take on a small task to start and do it well. Now you have increased those that know your work, and its quality — and you are having fun, too. Talk with your fellow members. Find out what is happening in their companies. Do they have any job openings where you meet the requirements? You need not be mercenary, constantly looking for openings, but you should be aware of your newly discovered possibilities.
Of course, you can’t do this overnight, nor should you try. Just like preparing for your retirement from the minute you start your career, you should always be preparing for new jobs, new careers and new possibilities. The sooner you begin, the more success you will have, but even seasoned workers, like myself, can benefit, as we re-dedicate ourselves to exploring new opportunities, new groups and new friends. For my part, I have become quite involved in two user groups and make a point to attend meetings, dinners and simply get involved.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for a referral if someone can help. A good referral reflects well on you and even more on the person who referred you. No one wants to refer a bad candidate for a job, but if you have done your work well, they will not hesitate to pass along your name.
In today’s job market, it is those who move beyond the resume that will benefit most. Don’t let your next job search be a string of unproductive cold calls. Seek out the referrals that can bring your resume to the top of stack.