What’s the job hunting approach everyone can use? Start with Occam’s Razor, and you’ll find it. A reader asks:
In all the muck and quagmire of “Internet advice” for the jobless, your bits of wisdom shine like flecks of silver. My question: How does an early middle-aged, twice-careered (both in service industry management), with a recent graduate degree in Economics best market one’s self?
Thanks for your kind words. It’s not about marketing yourself. People get brainwashed into thinking we are products — something to sell. That’s nonsense.
Jobs are not about people. Shocking, isn’t it? Well, grow up. (“Hey, it’s about The People! We count!” No, you don’t, not really. Not yet.) Jobs are about work. What’s the work? You need to figure out what work companies need done, and how you can do it.
But, the job boards have it backwards. That’s why everyone is chasing their tails. Don’t search for jobs. Search for companies you’d really like to work for, then figure out what work they need done. Your challenge is to show a company how well you understand their business, and how you’re going to contribute to their profit. Do that, and a company will create a job for you.
Life is short. Why interview for a job at some company that just comes along? Pick the companies. Select, don’t settle. Go for the ones you’d love to work in. Then drill down through industry information, product lines, management, employees, and so on — to figure out how you can help them. Figure out how you can do the work, or somebody else will.
Forget resumes. Why? Because resumes are about you. A job is not about you. It’s about the work. So, focus on the work. Respect the work. Address the work. That is what a savvy employer wants (and will pay for), and if you can show you respect the work, the employer will fall all over itself to respect you, hire you, pay you well. But, don’t start with any cocky idea that this is about you and that you just need to figure out how to market yourself. That’s cock and bull. It is totally wrong. If it were about you, employers would beat a path to your door.
(Consider the obvious, cautionary analogy. Today, the entire world is all about marketing. Companies plaster their advertisements — like you plaster your resume — everywhere. “The Brand” is under bottle caps. At the bottom of your e-mail. Positioned on a desk as a prop in a movie. On disposable shopping bags. Anywhere so everyone will see it. And it’s all crap. A desperate attempt to get visibility at the cost of integrity. That’s what “marketing yourself” will do to you — turn “You” into an over-sold name plastered on job boards, social networks, resumes circulated by the thousands. Do you get it? Marketing yourself puts the focus on You. At worst, it turns you into a self-centered shill trying to convince, sell, persuade, influence, sway, induce, talk an employer into a job and out of a paycheck. At best, it turns you into a hired gun: A journeyman. A good employer wants to hire a person who gets it. And it is the work. Don’t believe me? Let me test you. Consider the last job you found posted somewhere that you applied for. Let’s say you get the interview. Can you walk into the manager’s office, go to the white board, outline a clear, accurate understanding of what exactly the business challenge is, what work needs to be done day one, week one, month one — and a plan for how you’d do it, along with a supportable estimate of how much profit you would drop to the bottom line? No? Then, you lose because you don’t get it.)
Prepare a business plan for the job you want to do. Use the 4 Questions — they’re in my book. (Buy or borrow from your library. I make a about a buck a copy, and my agent already got me my advance, so I’m not selling books.) There’s also info on the 4 Questions in The Basics.
Forget the companies that are hiring. Go find the company you want to work for, figure out how to make it more profitable (even the lowliest jobs contibute to profit, by either increasing revenue or helping lower costs through efficiency, etc.). Then show them.
This works for people middle-aged and fresh out of school. I learned a long time ago that the best solution to any question is usually the parsimonious one. Learn about Occam’s Razor. It cuts to the core of any issue. And the reason the approach I suggest for winning a good job is the best approach is because it works almost anywhere for anyone, because it is so simple — it goes to the core of hiring. It slashes that resume you have sitting on your desk to shreds. It’s not about You, because — I guarantee you — you cannot do the interview I described above because winning the job is not about who you are. It’s about knowing what the work is. And, smart and wonderful and motivated as you are — you probably don’t.