Q: I have been an unsuccessful job hunter. I have emailed hundreds of resumes to hundreds of advertised positions. I spend hours doing this every day and have received little response. It has been six months. Sometimes I receive no response and sometimes an auto response that says "We have received your resume and will contact you if we are interested." I am tired of hearing that the economy is improving. My economy is not improving. Give me five things I can do to land a job in today's economy. Help (please).
A: First, stop what you are doing. It is not working. Let's talk about what you can do that might bring you more success. I will even give you more than five ways to improve your success rate!
1. Be careful of your outlook. What do I mean? Employers don't want to hire angry, tired and frustrated job seekers. And most of us certainly don't want to work with angry, tired and frustrated co-workers. Be careful of your tone, demeanor and other negative signals that you are potentially sending to prospective employers. You sound frustrated. Be careful. This could hinder your ability to land a job.
2. Rarely does firing off resumes to 101 posted job openings work. Instead, think about your professional contacts. Former colleagues, co-workers, even friends and neighbors. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Connect with them on Facebook. Connect with them in person. Networking works. I often draw a parallel between networking and a pinball game. Why? You connect with Dan and it leads to a referral to Dan's former colleague, Haley. Then out of the blue, Bob contacts you because he just had coffee with Haley and he has an engineering role that might be appropriate for your skill set. Seriously, it works.
3. Scour job boards but don't solely rely on advertisements and job boards for job leads. First, not all jobs are posted. Second, once a job is posted, the competition heats up. Limit your time on job boards. It is easy to say "I spent 5 hours job hunting today." But if 5 hours of your time was surfing job boards, this probably isn't the best use of your time.
4. Use online tools to help you network. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook have all landed candidates jobs. Online tools are very helpful but are not a replacement for in-person networking. You will still need to network in person and via telephone. Think about setting yourself a networking goal. Three in-person meetings per week? Five in-person meetings per week?
5. There are many professional associations and groups that offer networking opportunities. Schools and alumni associations, Meetup groups and even some of the sub groups on LinkedIn are worth exploring.
6. Take a look at the resources available on boston.com. There are articles and columns about resume writing, job hunting strategies, networking groups. Learn more about the job hunting process.
7. Make looking for a job your full-time job. Job hunters can easily become distracted with "to do" lists. Don't use valuable time during the day to to laundry, clean your gutters or mow your lawn. This time should be used for networking.
8. Be a good networker. Be prepared with business cards and copies of your resume. Don't take up more than 30-45 minutes of a colleague's time, especially if they are "on the clock." Have a strong elevator speech prepared. What is that? A two-minute overview of your background, skill set and what you are looking for in your next role. Be open to their feedback and referrals. Never say no to an introduction or a referral.
9. Your resume. Sometimes, but not always, if a candidate is not having success landing interviews, I like to review their resume. Sometimes their resume is not the best presentation of their skills and abilities. It is sometimes difficult to read. There are typos. It is cluttered. The resume should be a summary of your skills and experience in an easy-to-read and crisp format. Keywords are often important.
10. Be gracious. Anyone who takes the time to meet with you or make a referral on your behalf, deserves a thank you email or card. If a former colleague or classmate takes the time to refer you to their HR department, thank him or her.
Lastly, when you land a job (and you will!), remember to take the time to continue building your network. It is easier to build a strong professional network when you are actively employed. And don't forget to say, "Yes, I would be happy to have coffee with you" to those frustrated job seekers who might need your expertise, your contacts and your reassurance in the future. What goes around comes around. Good luck!
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.