Where the Jobs Are
For today's seekers of career employment, the big question is: Where are the job openings for which organizations are actively seeking appropriate candidates? The answer is that this is an ever-changing state of affairs and the best way to stay completely tuned in and respond decisively and successfully to job leads is a matter of utilizing four key strategies on a consistent and energetic basis.
1. Read the Want Ads very carefully starting six months before your date of expected availability. These generally describe openings for which the need is urgent enough for a company to spend $75-1500 to attract the right person(s). The most comprehensive Help Wanted ads appear in the Sunday edition of most major newspapers. Listings may also be found in business, industry, and professional publications. An ever-increasing number of employment-related sites may be found online. We have links to a number of sites we believe are good resources in Internet Job Search Links. (Be sure to check out E-Recruiting job listings as well as those produced by the Job Service, such as the Missouri Career Center (www.feckc.org) or Kansas Works (www.kansasworks.com) and your Federal, State, and Local governments). You will automatically be competing with all other seekers who are perusing these publicly advertised vacancies. However, these openings are real and immediate and your job is to ensure that your response enables you to rise above the crowd to secure an interview.
2. Employ networking techniques to discover openings and potential openings that you alone, or a small number of competitors, will vie for. Leave no stone left unturned: family, church, current and former teachers, parents and friends of parents, professional acquaintances and membership directories, peers and their networks, etc. Most people are glad to help when they can. There is no harm in asking, only in not asking. Most professionals in your field of interest are willing to spare some time for an informational interview. Even though an actual position is not being discussed, this type of interview may yield valuable advice, insight, and referrals.
3. Plan and execute an aggressive outreach to potential employers to inform them of your capabilities and availability. The primary instrument of this effort is the telephone. Details regarding the Self-Directed Job Search process, tools, and strategies follow.
4. Participate in any and all on-campus recruiting activities, even mock interview opportunities. Do not discount any employer and pursue each and every opportunity with enthusiasm. Stay open and learn all that you can. You have no decision to make until you are extended a formal offer of employment. Only then can you reply with a "yes" or "no". Until that point, you should strive to earn the opportunity to make this decision.
The Self-Directed Job Search
A. MAKE SOME FUNDAMENTAL DECISIONS/TEST REALITY.
* What city or region interests you? Is this feasible?
* What specific job role or roles do you want? Are you qualified?
* Do you have a particular industry upon which you want to focus?
* Are organizational factors such as size, products/services, business volume, ownership, or overall reputation genuinely important to you?
B. GENERATE A HEALTHY TARGET LIST OF POTENTIAL EMPLOYERS.
* Identify and use all resources to develop your list and glean information vital to your outreach effort. (Yellow Pages, Sorkin's Directory, K.C. Business Journal's Top 25 Lists, Chamber of Commerce or Professional Association membership directories, career resources/ company profiles at your local library or college, Standard and Poor's Register, Linkedin, www.indeed.com, www.npconnect.org , United Way , Ingram's Corporate 100 list of fast growing companies, Federal/State/Local government vacancy bulletins.)
* Don't forget that family, friends, and other members of your network are potential sources for identifying employers, as are ideas generated by reading business journals. Note employers who are placing a high volume of Want Ads, even those unrelated to your immediate interests. These are a good barometer of financial health, growth, or general hiring activity.
* Use an electronic or manual system to manage all contacts.
C. DEVELOP A BRIEF & POWERFUL TELEPHONE SCRIPT.
* Introduce yourself by presenting a summary of your most valuable assets. Use language designed to directly impact and interest the hiring authority. Identify your referral source. Ex: "Good morning, Mr./Ms. Employer, my name is __________. Name of Referral Source (including their organization, title and time frame of the referral) suggested that I contact you. I possess a strong mastery of fundamental accounting methods, I'm a proficient user of most common applications software, and I have a history of assuming leadership roles in whatever I do."
* State your mission clearly and concisely. Ex: "I called to make you aware of my interest and availability and to investigate your staffing plans in the ______ time-frame for ______ positions."
D. MAKE THE CONTACT.
* Make a preliminary call to the organization to ask for the name and exact job title of the hiring authority of the department in which you are interested, as well as that of the head of the Human Resources department.
* Practice a pleasant, well-modulated, and professional (yet relaxed) telephone speaking style. Enunciate clearly, as your listener lacks the visual cues available in a face-to-face conversation.
* Ask for the manager with confidence. If you sincerely believe that you are valuable and potentially the best employee the manager has ever had, you have a legitimate right, and perhaps an obligation, to make direct contact.
* Don't forget that this person is paid by the organization to stay busy and productive. Your call, then, is automatically an interruption and you may encounter any of a number of tones and responses. However, a brief, and meaningful presentation will earn even the busiest professional's interest and time. If the timing of the call is genuinely bad, ask for a more convenient time to make contact. Try to be specific so that the next call may be considered an appointment.
* Smile before you dial! Make their day with a blast of good attitude and spirit! Humor, pleasantries, and current events are O.K. if limited and tasteful.
* Have your resume at hand. Also be prepared to describe specific benefits your skills, abilities, attitude, and style will bring to the organization (i.e. reduced training period, immediate productivity, a dependable team player, less need for constant supervision, etc.)
* Prepare a list of insightful questions. Use open-ended questions, not "yes/no" questions to encourage dialogue.
- -When you hire __________, what exactly do you look for?
-How does your department fit into the company as a whole? How is this role evolving?
-How is your company poising itself for success in an increasingly competitive marketplace?
-What is your history with the company?
-What training is available to help ensure the success of new employees?
- -Listen actively, repeat key points, discern needs, and solve them.
E. THE RESPONSE:
1. No openings. This response is understandable. A company or department operating with a job not being done is not uncommon, nor is it a good business practice. Ask how frequently they do have vacancies and hire people for the type of position you seek. If it turns out that no openings are likely in a sensible time frame for you, ask for a referral. As a local industry professional, this person may know another firm that would be enthused by your availability.
2. Openings exist but require experience or require specific skills. Clarify by asking what specific performance criteria are important to success in the job and make your best case for your trainability or the transferability of your existing skills. Ask for a chance based on your potential, positive attitude, and work ethic.
3. Have openings or plan on hiring for vacancies that are both suitable and interesting (SUCCESS!) Be sure to qualify for urgency and genuine need to fill position in a timely manner. Ask - "If you found the right person today, could you and would you extend a formal offer of employment?" If so, offer to hand-deliver your resume and establish an appointment. If preferable to the employer, write a cover letter and fax or mail it and your resume immediately! Be sure to ask when you should follow-up and determine what exact steps comprise the application process.
POINTS TO PONDER:
* You cannot possibly cause yourself any grief by taking the initiative and responsibility of informing employers about yourself, your capabilities, your ambitions, your work ethic, and your commitment to excellence.
* You have nothing to lose (you didn't have the job to begin with), and everything to gain! Every "no" is one step nearer to the "yes" that launches your career!
* If in doubt as to whether you meet the desired qualifications to respond to a Want Ad or other posted vacancy, respond anyway. Most stated qualifications represent a "wish list" of ideal credentials and not hard and fast requirements. Companies hire the best available person whose salary requirements/ expectations fall within an established range.
* The best job search strategy is to select a few specific job types to pursue and plunge into an aggressive campaign. Simultaneously, stay alert and open to other vacancies that you may learn about in the course of your efforts. As you begin to learn more specifics about the chosen job roles, you may find them less attractive or viable. No harm then in switching gears and going after different types of jobs. In fact, you will succeed all that much faster in that you are now an experienced job searcher and have developed network of business contacts.
* You cannot change a hiring freeze or a no vacancy situation. Nor can you nullify a requirement for candidates with more expertise than you. This may happen frequently and should have no impact on your self-esteem or be perceived as a rejection. In general, you can't make appropriate vacancies happen. Although, more than one marginally productive employee has found a more suitable position elsewhere due to the arrival of an "ideal" candidate. The key point of a self-directed search for meaningful employment is that, with a plan and a commitment to your own success, you can locate great career opportunities and win them!