Jobseekers! Seek smoke! Not fire!

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always received,” said some wise person.
This is certainly true when it comes to job-hunting, especially during a “sucky” economy. How many times have you applied to a job on Monster.com? Now ask yourself, “How many other people have applied for the same position?” The numbers are discouraging I assure you.

Should this keep you from applying to jobs online? By no means!
Job boards are a necessary part of the process. However, if you limit your job search to seeking only those jobs that you are qualified for then you are making a mistake. Am I suggesting that you do a “shotgun” effect with your resume and apply to as many jobs as you can hoping that by some miraculous twist of fate you catch a recruiter’s eye?

No… and yes, in a way…

Let’s put on our imagination cap for a minute and think of a horrific fire in a subdivision at the peak of rush-hour traffic. What is your immediate focus? The fire blazing bright? Sure… Are you concerned for the people in the subdivision? I hope so…

“Now breathe deeply and concentrate,” I say in my Yoda voice. “See more, you will, young Jedi.”

Could it be that you see smoke? Could it be that you hear a fire engine? Then, perhaps a helicopter with a reporter giving the TV viewers a scoop on what is happening? Perhaps there is another chopper for radio listeners? Perhaps in the distance are people who don’t know about the fire yet and are honking their horns and cursing the 5 o’clock commute? Perhaps all of this and more? Now, why are they all there? Well, duh… they are all there because of a fire.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “What does all that have to do with my getting a job?”

“Everything,” I say smugly.

Let’s say that you are looking for a job as a network engineer.
So what do you do? You look for Network Engineer jobs, which is a good start but not the finish. Consider the events and surroundings concerning your job and imagine what surrounds that job. Let’s see… to network computers, there must be a group of unconnected computers somewhere. For a group of unconnected computers to be sitting somewhere, that would mean that some salesperson had to sell them to somebody else.

So, who sells the computers that I am qualified to connect? Why “Computer Company A” sells the kind of computers I am qualified to connect. Why don’t I call Computer Company A and ask for a friendly sales person? Perhaps with my powers of persuasion (and a little bribery of lunch), I can get him to tell me who his best customers are. I bet his best customers could use a network engineer to hook up all the machines they just bought!

You like that? Let’s go deeper…

New computers being connected suggest new office space.
If I was going to buy new office space, who would I go to?

  • Maybe I can call the leasing office of some business complexes and ask who handles their leasing.
  • Maybe they can refer me to someone?
  • Maybe they lease their own space and will give me a tip on companies looking to move into their space, a possibility…
  • Better yet, I could pick up a copy of “The Atlanta Business Chronicle” (assuming you are in Atlanta) and review their real estate announcements to see who bought what.

Whoever is buying lots of office space is someone I would want to talk to.

Do I have your wheels rotating yet?

The trick is not to look only for the fire (in this case, a network engineering job), but the smoke. (those people who operate on the periphery of that job).

Let me go a step even further. What happens after a fire has been put out?
There is water damage, smoke damage, and medical issues on occasion and so on. There has to be someone or some group of some ones to clean up the mess left behind. All that to say, as soon as one person gets hired somewhere, there is a possibility of an opening behind them. So, when you read in the paper about Company X has just signed on a new CIO formerly of Company Z, my advice is to call Company Z for a job.

This is an especially good technique if you are an Executive, because many senior management types foster a “cult following” and bring other execs with them. (Happens all the time…)

Does this go for executives only? No, this would be a good heads up for techies and marketing types as well.

Why?

New leadership means new processes and new processes often demand people to adapt or stand aside for new personnel who can.

“Now let’s go deeper into the force,” I say in a bad Darth Vader accent.
And imagine that you cannot imagine other positions that are connected to the job you are qualified for. Imagine that you are just clueless on how to think along these lines. (Anybody can draw a blank…)

For these folks I say, look for the recruiter jobs. If you see a company looking to hire Recruiters, Staffing Consultants, Internet Researchers (people who support recruiters by finding resumes online) or Online Sourcers (same thing as Internet Researcher), then that should sound like a cowbell at dinner time.

If you are thinking to yourself, “Why should I care about HR jobs? That’s not my background.”
I suggest that you slap yourself.

Why would a company hire recruiters?
They hire recruiters because they are about to load up on new employees! What kind of employees? Well, look at the kind of recruiter they want! Are they hiring Technical Recruiters? Sales Recruiters? Executive Recruiters? Ahh… I see the light bulb has just flashed over your head, you’re with me now. (Glad to meet you-wink).

There is an old joke by a comedian named Robin Harris that says,

“If you cannot get to the man, get next to the man that is next to the man, and if you can’t get him, Get next to the man that is next to the man that is next to the man and so on…”

If you are feeling frustrated in your job-search, look beyond finding jobs that fit you, but rather seek out people connected to what you do. If you cannot connect with them, then connect with the person next to them and so on and so on and so on…

The Linked In Manifesto

Unless you are new to the internet – or are a novice to its mysteries,
you are no doubt familiar with social networks. For the uninitiated, social networks are online communities where people meet and exchange business information with one another. In the most perfect of scenarios, someone you meet in a social network will connect you to one of their trusted contacts and business will be consummated. There are several such networks in operation (among them Twitter, Facebook and MySpace), but the most popular is Linked In of which I am an avid subscriber. To be fair, I have met quite a few people with Linked In and can sing some of its praises.

However, there is a downside to using social networks of any kind.
I suspect that it is this singular reason why many forsake social networks and dismiss them as a fad of the age. What is the leading detriment of social networks? Ironically, the issue is that many people do not know how to network offline and those habits are simply transferred to the online arenas of social networks.

As a member of Linked In, my profile is open for public review.

As I have been fortunate enough to work with certain companies,
I am often approached for leads into organizations I have been affiliated with. This results in a near avalanche of emails of which I offer no complaint. As I use Linked In as a recruiting vehicle (in addition to expanding my network), it is simply par for the course.

My concern is the tone of the inquiries
of which I will paraphrase, “Gimme, gimme, gimme and give it to me now.”

Initially, I thought such encounters would prove only a minor annoyance. Unfortunately, I find myself battling a growing disdain for those who do not grasp the concept of quid pro quo nor, the fleeting art of courtship. If you are a fairly connected person with a “golden rolodex” of leads, why should I expect you to introduce your more coveted contacts to me upon request? Furthermore, how much assistance should I expect you to give a perfect stranger that you have only met virtually? Would it be illogical to assume that you are not so willing to risk your reputation with a trusted ally, by recommending an introduction to someone you barely know? I would not think it illogical, but such seems to be the faith of several who have reached out via social networks. The end result? Hundreds (or is it thousands?) of requests go unanswered or flatly refused, leaving the disillusioned to claim the ineffectiveness of social networks. This also has a rebounding effect on those proficient in networking who wonder how much longer they will continue to suffer countless requests made by virtual hands outstretched for whatever they can glean from their solicitations.

“The most annoying requests are those made by people who have not read my profile,
but want to connect only for the sake of making a connection to their list, or selling a product,” said Steve Eisenberg, an E-Business professional and a faithful user of Linked In.

It is my good fortune however, to report that there is a solution that benefits all concerned.
I have crafted a guideline of conduct for social networks and would share it with you now, dear reader. I call it “The Linked In Manifesto” after my favorite social networking service. (Despite the actions of some, Linked In still remains on my short list of necessary web sites.) Please consider the following suggestions mandatory when you next decide to engage someone via a social network.

1. When approaching someone for the first time, do not ask for anything!
Instead, offer a gift to encourage them to correspond with you. I would suggest that your offering be presented in one of three ways.

OFFER AN IDEA: Consider the profile of the person you want to connect to and imagine a way to make their business life easier; then share it with them. For example, “I notice from your profile that you are a veterinarian with a focus on Cats. I checked and the domains CatDoctor.com and PurrfectPractitioner.com are not taken. Just a thought, but maybe you should consider snapping these up. If you would like to discuss Veterinarian Science or Cats in general, drop me an email.”

OFFER INFORMATION: Perhaps you could visit an online news source, browse stories and share insight into an event that would prove of interest to your intended connection. For example, “I read in the paper that Company X is moving into VOIP and opening a center in Tacoma. Isn’t that in your backyard? As a Telecom professional, I hear about such things all the time and have no problem sharing the more interesting gossip. If interested, drop me an email.”

OFFER INTRODUCTIONS: Exclusivity is always an attention grabber. For example, “I noticed from your profile that you own a firm that designs video games. My son works for Atari and when he is not developing games, he and his co-workers barricade my basement and play games until the beer runs out. My son is happily employed, but I can not speak for his pals. If you like, I could introduce you to them. Just let me know…”

2. Do not attempt to connect with someone unless you plan on getting to know them.
In other words, maintain honorable intentions by inviting them to call you or meet with you for coffee at Starbucks. All too often, social networkers seek out what they can achieve at the moment and this is counter-intuitive to the nature of networking. Try as you might to put a face with the name, learn their hobbies and future endeavors and give them a chance to learn you and find commonality. If at all possible, ferret out a non-business activity that you can bond over (Sports, TV Shows, Et Cetera.) Successful, long-term business comes from trust and trust takes time to develop, yet it is always worth it.

3. Stay in touch with online contacts and advise them of your preferences
should other social networkers approach them about contacting you. (For example, “my department is not hiring. However, if you come across someone out of Company X, I will gladly chat with them.”) In the virtual world, it is easy to lose tracks of those you were once so close to. Set a day on your calendar to speak to or visit with, those connected to you and reacquaint yourself with them. Find new reasons to stay in touch and seek out ways that you can help enrich their lives professionally and socially. (It goes without saying that you should take note of your contacts preferences as well.)

4. Jealously guard your connected list by being very selective of the invitations you accept.
After all, we are all measured by the company we keep and our associations testify of our character more loudly than our denials.

When refusing a connection however, attempt to offer help in some way.
For example, “Thank you for requesting a connection to me on Linked In. May I ask why you chose to connect with me? In the event that I am unable to assist you, I am more than happy to refer you to another or offer any advice I can muster. Please advise…”

In conclusion, the best advice I can give has already been given.
In the book “The Heart Of Networking” by Ricky Steele, the consummate networker Ricky Steele said that “Networking is a thinking person’s game.” Strategy plays a huge part in networking offline and the rules apply online as well. A social network is not a machine where you insert a quarter and instant business rolls out like a gumball. Rather, it is an opportunity, a chance to present yourself to those you may one day recruit. It is also a chance to be ignored. Social networks work well for those who know how to come bearing gifts, pursue long term relationships and value the contacts they already developed. If you have considered joining a social network but do not have the time to cultivate the encounters that come from it, save your time, talent and energy. Social networks don’t work.

Gameshow Prospecting

Now this idea has the scent of genius on it.

I wish I could take total credit on making this one up, but the honor goes to Peggy Duncan. Once a year, Peggy sponsors “The Messiest Office Contest” and has been doing it for the past 5 years. How does it work? People send in pictures of their messy office and the winner receives six hours of Peggy Duncan’s time, two of her books and a host of products related to her business. Do you want to know who the BIG winner is? Why, its Peggy Duncan!

While there can be only 1 winner, everybody who joins in on this contest obviously needs the help of a Professional Organizer and Peggy happens to be an excellent choice! Do you see the beauty in this? She starts a contest and business comes looking for her.

Check her out! http://tinyurl.com/489xy

Now consider your expertise!
What kind of contest can you pitch to potential employers that will have them knocking on your door to give you their business?

Drawing a blank? Not a problem, you can go about this from another angle.
How about a free training session? I received in my email the other day a sales letter announcing a free seminar on Supply-Logistics. I immediately hit “delete” because I had no interest in that. However, if this person sent news of their seminar to UPS, Airborne or Federal Express then curiosity may bring them out to the meeting. Now, arranging a free seminar could be expensive. I mean renting out a meeting hall and supplying snacks could eat at your pocketbook. Of course, there is always a cheaper alternative! (Smile)

Why not approach a restaurant and convince them to give you some space for free.
After all, you are bringing potential repeat customers into their establishment. If you don’t like the idea of a restaurant; how about the local library? A lot of people do not realize how useful a library can be. The larger libraries have meeting rooms for free and all you have to do is book them in time. This is something to think about, yes?

Here is another idea!
Go to FreeConferenceCall.com and sign up for a free phone number. FreeConferenceCall.com empowers you to hold a conference call with up to 300 people at a time. Why not create a presentation that you can give over the phone, send emails to 300 companies and invite them to dial-in and listen to you? Of course, ask them to RSVP so you know who is going to show up. During the call, dazzle them with your expertise and then afterwards follow-up with each one. Ask them if they enjoyed the presentation or had any questions; this is where you begin to network for opportunities.

Get it? Got it? Good.