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In a job search it feel like “It’s a blizzard! There’s nothing I can do.”

The most important step in winning is to show up.

If you are looking for a job, it always seems there is a blizzard going on.  You are stuck at home and nothing is happening because of the snow and cold. You send out a hundred resumes and get no calls back.  Recruiters won’t help you.  No one is advertising jobs with your skills.  There’s nothing you can do.  You feel cold, helpless, and can’t see any hope of success because of the blowing snow.

No matter where you live, the blizzard is over.  Spring is here.  The job market is hot.

How many US metropolitan areas were importing workers in September of 2006?  At a 4.5% real unemployment rate, metro areas start importing workers.  Take a guess, how many were below that?

195. Yes, 195 places in the US were importing workers.  And the situation has gotten even better in the last 2 months.  In the DC area the unemployment rate in some counties is well under 1%. As a matter of fact, the national unemployment rate is below 4.5%. There is a real scarcity of workers.  That means there is opportunity.

Does that mean you have to move?  No!  That means you have to continue to job hunt.  If you keep trying intelligently, you’ll get a better job.  Workers are getting imported from  low paying areas into higher paying cities all over the US.  They’re leaving jobs behind that have to be filled.

Having trouble getting a job?  Here are some areas to re-evaluate:

  1. My job skills.  Can I make them more attractive? Can I get certified?
  2. That pesky resume.  Its job is to get you an interview.  Is it working?
  3. Am I showing up?  Are you contacting people about jobs?  Sending resumes?
  4. Are you relying on the right sources of job leads?

Now may be the time to refresh your approach.  Take a look at where your industry is going.  Sharpen your job tools.  Then keep applying.  The blizzard and cold is ending soon.  Jobs are opening up all over, like daffodils in the spring.

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Something To Do Today

Use the 4 questions above to re-evaluate your job search.  I’ll go through them this week

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How to be memorable in a job interview beauty contest

I can only remember one Miss America winner.  She had a bold nose, played a lap harp like a rock instrument, and her family spent 3 years in South America as missionaries.  That was Charlene Wells.

Charlene was different, really different in a few big ways.  She won without getting a nose job.  It was the first time she had entered a beauty contest.  She wanted to win, but didn’t obsess about it.

Charlene was practically odd in those things.

Job interviews are often beauty contests.  If there are more than 3 people being interviewed, 2 could do the job.  If there are 10 people being interviewed, there will be at least 5 who could fill the position.

So how do you get picked?  You have to be memorable in a lot of good ways.

What is different about you and your background? School grades, hobbies, the network in your basement and that you wore a nice suit may make you stand out.  That you sold out the High School Yearbook ads in one month by yourself or you lived in a cave in college will be even more memorable.

Make sure your interviewer observes how you are different.  Don’t rub their face in it, but be different.  Give them a couple of personal tidbits to remember you by. Distinguish yourself from the herd. It could be that you have 5 brothers, raise rabbits, or love dogs. Yes, it may even be that you are incredibly qualified.  Something about you must be memorable or you will be an also ran.

Want to really stand out?  Send two thank you notes to everyone you interviewed with.  Send one email as soon as you get home.  Send another thank you on paper.

Being grateful for an interview will set you apart.  Two days later when they get the paper thank you, it reminds them who you are. 

So you have a lot of competition?  Chances are slim?  Grab the opportunity by the throat and be memorable in a nice way.

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Something To Do Today

Make a list of things that are noticeably different about you in a good way.  Be sure personal notes of interest are on the list.  Get some help from your friends and family.

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Giving 30 seconds away can get you a job

Giving away 30 seconds to get a job may seem like a no-brainer.  The trouble is that few people do it.  You have to think about it.  Here is how it works.

 One college fundraising drive was also an experiment.  The fundraisers went into the dormitory common area where there were students.  Half the time they just asked for donations.  The other times they came and handed out soft drinks as they asked for donations.  The trips with the soft drinks raised several times more money.  The secret is giving something away before you ask for help.

Give 30 seconds away.

Your time and attention are your most valuable possessions.

The greatest secret of top salesmen is: establish a relationship before you sell yourself.  Break your target person out of their rut before you sell yourself. Start by spending 30 seconds talking about them.  Few people can resist trying to help someone who has given them 30 seconds of rapt attention.

Ask a question and then listen.   “How is your day going so far?  How many of these interviews do you do in a day?  You must be worn out by now, how do you keep a fresh attitude?  Is that a picture of your dog?  My kids were crazy this morning, do you think it was just the weather?  How did you learn to do this job?”

It takes practice.  Get the book, How To Win Friends And Influence People, by Dale Carnegie.  Read and apply one chapter a day. It will make people smile when you enter the room.  You’ll be memorable.  You will also enjoy meeting other people more than you ever have before.

Want a job?  You have to stand out from the crowd.  Give your most important possession away.  Give 30 seconds of your time and attention.  You will be fondly remembered by everyone you meet.  They will also really want to help you because you are a nice person.

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Something To Do Today

Practice giving away 30 seconds with everyone you meet.

Later:  Beauty contest job openings and being memorable

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The healthiest way to look at jobs unfilled

Needlessly unfilled jobs get me mad.  They keep you out of a job.  They lower profits at the companies that desperately need the right person.

This article calls the over qualification of a job opening “zombie thinking”.   I like the solution Lou gives to solving the problem.  Unfortunately it has to be solved by the employer, not the job seeker.

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Giving your way into a job.

Do you know how hard it is to get an administrative job with a symphony orchestra?

A symphony administrator told me how to do it.  A woman called him and asked for a job.  He said, “I can’t hire you, there is no budget.”

That’s not the end of the story.  She said, “I’ll work for you for free.”  It was a wage he could afford.  She did a great job for 3 months and went back to school.  What do you think will happen when she applies for her next job and has experience and great references? 

You can’t afford to work for free.  Not forever, anyway.  Can you do it for a few hours or days?  Over the weekend?  Helping people out of a bind is a great way to network your way into a job.  They will feel compelled to let others know how much you helped them.  In the programming and computer networking field it is a very common way to work yourself into a company.

I can point to specific examples where this worked for accountants, secretaries, company presidents, salespeople, office managers and more.  These were jobs worth anywhere from $6/hour to $250,000/year. These people all helped someone who mentioned they were snowed under with work.  After a few hours they offered to come in the next day.  After 2 days they said they’d help out the next weekend.  The boss, owner or chairman of the board heard about it and hired the person.

If you are unemployed, what’s the damage?  If you have a job, why not spend some of your evening and weekend time helping out with something you don’t normally do?  I know people who got promoted because they came in a few extra hours to their regular job to help their boss out on the boss’s project.

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Something To Do Today

Do you know someone who needs help?  Seize the opportunity.  Go on in and see if you can help.

Tomorrow:     Giving 30 seconds away can get you a job too

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Two ways to Robo-Network (no need to talk to people)

Do you want to be known as the person who can solve any problem?

Then go to where people with problems are: online.  I assume you are an expert at your profession.  Go online and find an online forum where you can contribute.  You can ask your co-workers and teachers what online forums they suggest.  I just did a Google search on “Sarbanes Oxley audit forums” and got a very specialized list of forums.  Spend a few hours getting to know your forum and its tone, then hop right in and offer some help. 

Did you know there are recruiters and researchers that specialize in finding smart people in online forums?  They do it for accountants, programmers, truckers, pilots and a lot more occupations.  More important, the people who rely on the forum often let others know where jobs are.  Generally they take the conversation offline, where others are not involved.  That’s why you don’t see it. 

So let’s say you let slip that you are from Harrisburg, PA.  Someone else says they are from York, PA.  You send an email outside the system to that person and place each other in your network.

Want to extend this?  Add people who give you their business card at a class.  For all the people you have in your network, keep two email address lists.  One for the occasional, “How are you doing,” contact.  Send an email every few months with a little personal update.  Have another email list for the folks you want in your close network.  Find a reason to email them more often.  It could be with a note about something you saw in an online forum you want to make sure they noticed.  Make sure both lists know when you are looking for a job.

Two ways to Robo-network:  Contribute to online forums and make email lists to keep people in your network.   

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Something To Do Today

Find an online forum about your expertise.  Help someone there with an answer they need.

Tomorrow:     Giving your way into a job

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Forget lunch. Other ways to network

I know you will not invite to lunch most of the people you see every day. I know that.  So now, how do you network with them?

At the office lunchroom, at church, at association meetings, before and after business meetings, at classes, waiting for the bus, at technology events, business fairs and anywhere else people are doing what you are doing, network.  Talk to teachers especially.  They have contacts with people in every business and class they teach.  Search out salespeople.  They spend their whole day getting to know decision makers.  Give a salesperson a lead and they will do their best to help you with your needs.   

Everyone you meet knows someone else.  Get in the habit of talking to people.  It is always a little frightening.  One of the most outgoing people I know told me, “People say they wish they could be like me and just say hello to strangers.  What they don’t realize is that it is also hard for me to do it.  I just force myself to say hello and a conversation usually follows.”

Back to the old formula, talk with a person about their successes, then ask them for advice.  The absolute greatest book ever written on the subject of engaging people in conversation is How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  It is written in small segments so you can read and apply one lesson a day.  I have re-read the book several times. 

If you are going to be meeting with people you may never see again, bring business cards.  You can make them on your computer and there are a lot of places on the internet that will make them inexpensively.  Don’t forget your email address as well as phone numbers.

Why business cards? If you are networking with people who have no way to contact you later, you haven’t built much of a network.  Understand that most of your cards will be thrown away within a week, but some will be kept.  My best success has been with magnetic business cards, but they are expensive. 

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Something To Do Today

Get a copy of How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  Libraries and bookstores all have copies.  Start reading one chapter a day and applying it.

If you don’t have business cards, get them or make them.

Tomorrow:     Even more ways to network.

Later:              Other things to say to draw them in.

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Ask the CEO to lunch? Easy for you to say!

Is this what networking feels like to you?

Okay girl, you see that guy over there?  Go introduce yourself and ask him to marry you.  Okay? 

That is NOT networking.

Let’s talk about networking, not speed dating.  Don’t ask anyone to be your mentor before you have met.  Don’t ask for a job.  Don’t offer to wash their car.  Just ask them to lunch to discuss some things you think they can help you with.

How can you get a leader of industry to have lunch with you? Ask for their help. Leaders are usually compulsive helpers, organizers and/or control freaks.  When you first call them up have a list of at least 5 things you can ask them or talk to them about.  Have it beforehand because they may start talking to you on the phone or invite you right to their office. 

First, what not to ask:                                 

  • Please be my mentor.  That’s like asking to be married.  A real mentor has to feel comfortable with you.  They’ll take over the role as you go to them for advice.
  • Make me a vice president, please.  This is networking, not a final job interview. 
  • I will do anything to be your personal assistant.  This question isn’t networking.  It is only appropriate if you are willing to make a 100% commitment, push and push for a yes, and are willing to work for free.  It is not a way to start a network.  You will probably be turned down even after pushing hard for 20 minutes, but it may be worth a try.  Be willing to accept a total win or becoming a leper.

Good questions to ask:

  • I want to earn a job like yours, what did you do to break out from my level?
  • You’ve seen a hundred guys like me, what do they really do to stand out and succeed?
  • You have a panoramic perspective compared to me, what would you focus on in your career if you were me?
  • You’ve seen people get education and succeed and others get education and fail.  What kind of education will best serve me?
  • You are the best technician I’ve heard of, what can I do differently from the average guy to get the reputation you have?
  • I don’t want to manage, I just want to have my work respected like yours.  How did you break out from the pack and what can I do out of the ordinary to start moving to your level?
  • You know this business.  I want to succeed at it, but I sometimes worry that I’m attacking it wrong.  What would you do if you were me?

Do you get the idea?  Compliment them by telling them what they have done better than you, then, ask them to tell you how to do the same starting at your level.

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Something To Do Today

Call 3 people you want to network with and say, “I’d like to take you to lunch.  Are you free one day next week?”  If they ask, “Why?” then tell them, “I need some advice from someone I respect.”  And be prepared to go talk with them immediately.

Tomorrow:  Forget lunch. Other ways to network.

Later:          Other things to say to draw them in.

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The easiest way to network with bigshots

So why did I talk about lunch and leadership previously?  Because they are closely related.

I was talking with a sales candidate.  He said, “I’ve had lunch with every important banking executive in Manhattan.  Not the presidents, but the guys who can get me in to see the president, CIO, CFO, Chairman or whoever I need to see.  They all remember me and will help me.”  That is the ultimate example of power networking.

Why lunch?  At the upper levels it is not a time to eat, it is a time to meet people.  Many big law firms and accounting companies all but require senior partners to have power lunches.  Stop having networking lunches and you will stop progressing in their world.

Here’s what you do.  Starting small or big doesn’t matter.  Invite someone to lunch.  You pay.  Take them someplace you can afford.  Tell them where you are going, don’t ask them.  Taco Bell will do. 

What if they say, “No?”  They probably will.  But they will see that you want to get to know them.  Ask 3 people and one will say yes.  The other two will make vague promises about lunching together some other time.  All 3 will notice you and mark you as a person they need to get to know.

Beware! One or two may invite you to come and meet with them in their office for a few minutes.  This is their way of telling you, “Let’s network, I don’t have time for a full lunch right now.”  That’s good.  Just remember what to talk about and what to avoid.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you what to do and not do at a lunch or one of these office meetings.

90% of opportunity is seized, and 10% is granted, but I could get fired!!!  And a meteorite could hit you and kill you too.  Carpe diem!

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Something To Do Today

Make a list of 10 people you should network with.  Tomorrow you’ll invite 3 to lunch.

For a few days:      

How to network at the top.

Creating networks

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The first step towards networking – leadership

Networking?  It is leadership.  Some of the best connected network creators I know have never been managers, but they all have been leaders. Here is how I learned the most critical lesson in leadership.

I was 19 years old and clueless.  I was sitting in a chair and told my roommate, “We’ve got to get going.” 

He just sat in his chair and looked at me.

“Come on, get up.  We’ve got to get that done now,” I said from my chair.

He stared at me a little more wide eyed and offended.

“Look.  You have to get up.  We agreed I’d lead this project.”

“Bryan,” he finally said, “there is no way I am getting up out of my seat before you do.  If you are going to be the leader, you’ve got to get up first and start acting like you really mean what you say.”

That was one of the best lessons in leadership I ever had.

Leaders show by what they do that they mean what they say.  They invest themselves in a decision before they expect others to follow. 

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Something To Do Today

Take the lead or watch a leader take charge of a group.

Starting tomorrow I will be giving at least one suggestion each day for networking.

For a few days:         How to network at the top.

Creating networks

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