In last week’s column I risked the wrath of frustrated job seekers by stating that 12 weeks is enough time to find a job. Since a primary culprit in many extended searches is an overreliance on Internet postings, much time can be saved by eliminating these busy but unproductive processes.
I promised to present steps for a 12-week search, but first you need to check these five preparation steps to be sure you’re ready to go.
1. Identify your 12-week job search cycle, culminating in an employ-by date. Now, segment your timeline into three one-month sections. The first two months are for your Plan A search; the last month is for Plan B.
Which introduces an “aha” for this process: You may not achieve your ideal job in 12 weeks, although you have a good chance if you are a reasonable match. But you can still meet your deadline if you switch to a lesser position late in the search.
2. Now identify your Plan A job target, including a job title or area. Be more specific than “something using my communication skills.” We’ll use corporate trainer for this example.
If you’re stuck on this step, meet with a career counselor to break the logjam. Otherwise, take courage from the next “aha” in this process: You don’t have time to overthink this. Gather your wits, do some research, then choose something.
3. Create a resume describing your relevant strengths and experience. Build it by front-loading information that answers the core question: What would a manager hiring a corporate trainer need to know about me?
The next “aha”? Your resume’s target audience is the average manager in this field, not the specific manager of a particular company. So identify the strengths and experiences that would interest most such managers, and position them near the top of the page in a way that’s eye-catching and easy to read. Eliminating the painstaking customization demanded by online processes will save buckets of time. Don’t let the resume development take more than a week.
4. Identify 50 organizations that might use someone in your role. Our corporate trainer might choose consulting groups or larger corporations and nonprofits. If he or she has subject expertise, such as safety or information technology, that could influence the list.
Don’t worry whether your targeted companies are currently advertising. Understanding that every job opening is unadvertised for some portion of its life cycle, and many are never posted, you can see that the lack of a posting is irrelevant. It shouldn’t take more than a day to build this list, since you’re simply identifying the existence of organizations and their proximity. For help, visit a reference librarian.
5. Now populate your list with the names of department managers. There’s no shortcut to doing this. Search the Internet, LinkedIn, professional associations and your own contacts to find the name. The managers aren’t hiding, so you’ll find them if you try. You don’t need all 50 names at once; 10 or 15 will do, as long as you keep backfilling the list. If you push hard, you can get this first set of names within a few days.
You’ve undoubtedly conducted some of these preparation steps already, so you may need only a few days to tie up the loose ends. Once they’re finished you can start the job search clock for your 12-week countdown.
The steps of the search itself are deceptively simple: Get your resume and an introductory letter into the hands of 10 to 15 managers per week, then ask for meetings to discuss their current or future needs for your skills.
Will everyone meet with you? No — but at least one out of 10 will. Will every meeting result in an offer? No, but about one out of 10 will. That’s why you need to connect with at least 10 a week. By the end of the fourth week you will have contacted 40 or more managers and almost certainly set a few meetings. If not, this is your checkpoint to correct course: Do you need to target a different group? Phrase things differently? Solve the problem and forge ahead with renewed momentum for Weeks Four through Eight. Then, if you’re still not making headway, shift your focus to Plan B for the final four weeks of the search.
Don’t worry: I won’t leave you to sink or swim. Next week I’ll wrap up our series with a look at your letter and follow-up phone call, as well as some strategies for Plan B. Then we’ll do a check-in at Weeks Four, Eight and 12 to follow up at those critical stages.
By the way — did you notice? There’s no online search in this process. Freedom!
Amy Lindgren owns Prototype Career Service, a career consulting firm in St. Paul, Minn. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 626 Armstrong Ave., St. Paul, MN 55102.