This post is sponsored by Wells Fargo.
Looking for a job is the most important job you’ll ever have.
It also can be the most frustrating, thankless, and disheartening experience as well.
As I wrote in 101 Secrets For Your Twenties, looking for a job “pays nothing. It’s discouraging. And no one will care if you don’t show up for work.”
When you join the many, the humbled, the unemployed, it can be hard to find your motivation and find your way out.
But you also could be currently employed and feeling just as stuck. The writing on the wall is smacking you in the face that it’s time for a change; yet finding a new job feels overwhelming.
So whether you’re currently “in-between opportunities” or ready for a change, how do you find a job that’s a great fit within a top company? How do you plant yourself in a career field that you can really grow in?
1. Connect with people currently working there
The most effective strategy to finding a job, and figuring out if people enjoy working there, is to actually talk to the people who do.
Sounds great, Paul. But how the heck do I talk to people who work at the company I’m interested in?
Here are a few ideas:
- Make LinkedIn Your Best Friend
Once your profile is up and humming along, do a search in LinkedIn for the company you want to work for. LinkedIn will pull from your connections (and your connections’ connections) all the people who work at that company. Who knows, your roommate from sophomore year might be a hiring manager, ready to squeak open a few doors for you.
- Research your college career office and alumni database
If you’re a college student or graduate, access your school’s alumni directory through the alumni or career planning office. Not sure where to find any of this, ask your school. This is a great resource to find people who work in specific career fields, with the added connection of being fellow alumni.
- Ask Friends
Put out a brief message on Facebook asking friends if they know anyone who works at that company. If you’re currently employed and trying not to be fired during your job search, this might not be the best idea. But, if you’re unemployed, this could be a simple way to see who knows someone who knows someone.
When my wife was going through a career change, wanting to make the transition from college admissions recruiter to financial advisor, on paper it didn’t look like she had a chance.
She started reaching out and meeting with old friends and work acquaintances. Lo and behold, an old acquaintance she met during a brief college internship (completely unrelated to finance), happened to be friends with a former VP at a financial institution. Her old boss introduced her to the former VP. They spoke briefly. Then voila, he recommended her to a hiring manager with his stamp of approval. She worked in the financial field for the next seven years.
You never know who knows whom.
2. Make informational interviews your #1 goal
Once you have a list of people you want to contact, now it’s time to reach out. Most likely you’re doing this through email or a social media messenger, so make your message short and sweet.
Make it a short, creative, three-point email. Literally do a 1. 2. 3. People read lists, not life-stories.
Here’s how to structure it:
1). Your name, degree (with a quick inside joke or comment about your alma mater or mutual friend or whatever it is that connects you both).
2). Compliment them on something.
Before you reach out, find their Twitter profile, website, company, cute picture of their dog, anything, and compliment them on it. Not cheesy, gushy, or fake. Just one line of praise that’s specific. It shows you’ve done your homework and instantly draws them into liking you.
3). Ask for 15 minutes
Ask for 15 minutes on the phone to talk about the field they work in and how they became successful.
Key points here. I think at first you should try for a phone call, not a lunch. There is a war for people’s time these days. Don’t ask for dinner and a movie and scare them away. Then you want to make it crystal clear that you’re not asking for a job, you want to hear their story of success, which leads me into my third strategy:
3. Make informational interviews about them, not about you
Don’t go into an informational interview looking for a job; go looking for a meaningful connection.
When doing an informational interview, make sure the conversation is mainly about hearing their story of success, not yours. People love talking about themselves and how they ascended from “coffee-fetcher” to the “successfully-fine-self” they are today. Ask them questions about their pathway to success.
This informational interview is a way to make a real connection, while also learning more about the company itself–what type of people they’re looking to hire and if you can see yourself working there.
I’ve proposed in the past, and will keep on banging this drum, that we need stop networking and start relationshipping instead.
Stop networking like a machine. Start relationshipping like a person.
After 15 minutes, even if the conversation is going really well, stop and say, “It’s been 15 minutes and I want to be respectful of your time.” If the phone call has gone well, especially if you have them talking about themselves, most likely they’ll want to talk longer. Or, even better, maybe they’ll say, “Hey, why don’t you swing by the office someday and I can show you around.”
Music to thy ears.
After the call make sure to thank them through email, and give them a Twitter shout-out if they have an account.
“Just spoke with @_____. Wise, witty, and gracious. Please follow her for superb ______ advice.”
4. Learn the in’s and out’s of the company’s hiring process
Hopefully you’ve made some legitimate connections at the company you’re looking at applying to. Now, it’s time to send in your application. Go to that company’s website and read up on their suggestions for how to apply.
Some companies won’t have much info there and it will feel like you’re tossing your resume into an electronic black hole, however, other companies have extremely helpful insider tips on how to give yourself the best chance at snagging a job. For example, Wells Fargo has great videos from their actual recruiters, walking through step-by-step advice how to give yourself the best chance when applying.
5. After you apply, let your connections know
After you apply, send a quick message to your contacts, again thanking them for their time and letting them know that they were so encouraging and informative that you’ve gone ahead and applied at their company for _________ (put your position there).
Then write that you’d be incredibly grateful if they have any suggestions for improving your chances at landing an interview.
Turn that Job-Hunt into a Job-Feast
As I wrote in All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job!: “The job-hunt today is Millennials’ version of the Hunger Games, except without the cameras or any interaction with Jennifer Lawrence.”
There’s a lot of competition out there, so implement these strategies to turn your job-hunt into a job-feast. Searching for a job is the most important and exponentially rewarding job you’ll ever have.
Do the job-search strategically now, and watch the benefits pour in for years to come.