Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Research: Essential to Job Hunting

The great job hunt continues apace. Thank you for your kind words and advice. I had a phone interview with a local company, but so far it has not gone any further, and no response to my inquiry. I think they have decided to pursue other options, though I have a cross-your-fingers hope that I may be called back, say, if their first choice does not work out?

Anyway. I remembered that once upon a time, my favorite teacher in college recommended a book called "What Color Is Your Parachute?" I, of course, never read it, assuming it was an extremely out of date and irrelevant book. Because, of course, my teacher was older than me (she had children! therefore she was so much older than me! yeah, maybe 15 years, max). Because she was so much older than me, whatever she recommended must have been around when she was a student, so how could it possibly be useful?

I'll be the first to admit I was wrong. Apparently this is one of the best titles for job hunters to read, and has been updated every year (except one) since it was first published thirty years ago or so.

I am reading the 2007 edition, since the 2009 edition is checked out at my library. I am not done with it yet, but I am finding it extremely helpful, and full of statistics that make a lot of sense to the average job hunter.

For example, yes, the internet and its various career-finder websites have revolutionized the way people hunt for jobs. But did you know that an average of only 4 to 10 percent of jobs are found on the internet? And only 7 percent of job hunters find a job by mailing out resumes to employers. Responding to newspaper ads has a fluctuating success rate of 5 to 24 percent, and signing up with employment agencies fluctuates just as much, between 5 and 28 percent success rate.

Depressing, isn't it? I mean, how are we supposed to find a job if these "traditional" methods of job hunting have such low success rates?

This book makes several good points, the most important of which (so far) is job hunters prefer to find a job in the above ways. And it's no wonder we like them - job hunting this way effectively removes us from direct contact with anyone else. They're time-tested ways of reducing the pain of rejection!

But job hunters are not the ones who matter - it's the people doing the hiring that matter. This book makes the point that if I, as a job hunter, don't approach the hiring people in the way they prefer, I'm just wasting time.

So how do hiring people operate? Well, they most often like to promote from within their own company. After that, they prefer referrals from their colleagues, like someone their colleague formerly worked with who is now job hunting. Working with job placement agencies, placing ads, and reading resumes are all waaaaay down at the bottom of the list of ways to get noticed by the hiring manager.

There's some practical advice about using the internet to help your job hunt, and to network with people who can help you get your foot in the door. To that end, I signed up with one of the websites recommended in the book, LinkedIn.

I'm going to equate it to a gi-normous Rolodex, except you can also see all the people who are connected to your friends and family, and potentially tap into them to get your foot in the door.

Another neat feature is that you can input companies you have worked for, and then search the people who also worked for that company. It's kind of fun to look up my college job, and see that the cranky Regional Manager I didn't like at that retail job has moved on to another company. Or to see that the people you did like are more successful now.

I spent some time with LinkedIn this afternoon, and I already have 7 contacts. The good news is that one of them is the person who hired me for my last position. She moved on to bigger and better things a couple years ago, and now that I contacted her again, she is expressing an interest in my skills, and where I want to work.

Overall, not too bad for one afternoon! I had a lot of fun checking my e-mail frequently to see if I had new contacts. If you have a LinkedIn profile, let me know!

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