March 6, 2008

The 2-minute Dutch uncle

Filed under: Job Search

I used to do a blog for InfoWorld. When it ended, my last posting was up only very briefly, and I’ve been asked to reprise it here for those who missed it. It was a two-minute version of the Dutch uncle routine, for those who enjoy the Ask The Headhunter approach to job hunting, hiring, and success at work. Hope you enjoy it.

1. New jobs don’t grow on trees, or on job boards. Any job-search method that involves picking from what’s available will likely lead you to the wrong job, and you’ll be job hunting again soon. So, start with where you want to work, and what work you want to do every day. You must sit down and figure it out. Sure, this is obvious. But in almost 30 years of headhunting, I’ve met very few people who really get it — or do it.

2. Pursue companies, not jobs. Any job that looks attractive (or acceptable) today will turn into a different kind of work in six months. Maybe twelve. The work always evolves. Go to a company that will let you — and help you — evolve with it. That means the company must be as golden as they come. If you have to, go ahead and accept a slightly crappy job, if it gets you into the company where you see a sweet future. Why go to work anywhere, if you can go after the company you really want to work for? Go after it like a mad dog.

3. It’s the people, Stupid. Once you pick the company, forget everything you think you know about that company. Dig into every nook and cranny. You’re looking for one thing. Good people. If you don’t find them, move on. The only way to meet enough people connected to the company to make a sound judgment is to triangulate. Talk to the company’s vendors, customers, lawyers, accountants, PR firms, even reoprters who write about it. Ask for insight and advice. Do it right, and you’ll be pointed to insiders who will help you decide — and if you decide it’s a go, you’ll now have the contacts you need to get a job without a resume. Your success will hinge on the quality of the people you hang out with.

4. Don’t take anybody’s advice about the best way to get the right job. Including mine. Job hunting and hiring are so over-defined in our society that almost every job-hunting and hiring method is stupid. Want the best method of all? Invent it. That’s right: re-invent this wheel for yourself. If you follow the sad process everyone else does, you’ll wind up unhappy or wrong. Or both.

Job hunting and hiring are not about resumes, job descriptions, interviews, negotiating techniques, or skills tests. All those “tools” are weak, indirect methods for creating and developing good relationships. If you’re good at your work, you can be good at getting the right job. Approach it like a new project where there are no rules or precedents. Start by seeking out people who do the work you want to do. Then hang out with them — any way you know how. As long as you don’t ask them for a job lead, they will help you. Talk shop instead. Then ask them, how do I get to work on that manager’s team? Like you do at your own work, invent the solution. Don’t accept anyone else’s worn-out path.

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One Comment on “The 2-minute Dutch uncle”
By Phil Singer
March 8, 2008 at 6:23 pm

Thanks for (re)publishing this. Best one page plan for finding a job I’ve ever seen (and my copy of “Parachute” dates from 1976).

But, now I have a question about your point#3. My paycheck comes from a large (>4000 bodies) I.T. staffing company. Definately not a ‘body shop’, but not a consulting company either. I’m currently placed at a low-rent client. All the evidence points to “the wrong place”.

But, the people I work with are excellent. They have a great deal of technical knowledge, they have a great business sense, and our interpersonal relationship is terrific. So, in this group, I have found the “right people”.

Wrong Place/Right People. What are your thoughts as to which trumps which?

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