Striking A Fine Balance Between Persistence and Pestilence When Job Hunting.
You might believe that my 2020/21 client list was chiefly made up of people who’d lost their jobs due to the pandemic, but alas, no. For many, the virus was a catalyst for long-awaited change and what drove them to my door.
The Wall Street Journal calls COVID-19 a wake-up call, and CTV News reports one in four Canadian workers are considering a career change, according to a report by Morneau Shepell. Millions of pandemic pivoters (yes, it’s a thing) will shift from being passive job seekers (those who need to be enticed to move) to become active job seekers. This means competition isn’t leveling off; it’s about to get red-hot!
Standing out from your competition is vital in any job market, and tools like a dynamite, results-based resume, an optimized LinkedIn profile, and razor-sharp interviewing skills will put you ahead of the crowd.
But even with the shiniest lures in your tackle box, you’re bound to have a bad day of fishing here and there. That’s when you show up on rainy days and do what most candidates fail to – swallow your disappointment, keep your eye on the target, and apply one of my favorite tactics of all, sticking power, aka, persistence.
How do you feel when you pick up the phone to ‘cold call’ a potential employer? How about following up with a hiring manager after a week of not hearing back for an interview you thought you’d aced? Squirmy? A little nauseous? Like you’d rather eat dirt?
If you said yes to any of these, you’re not alone. Being a pest isn’t a label most of us aspire to owning. But when job searching, the fear of being persistent is one you need to face. The best part? It’s a learnable skill, and as Goldilocks will attest to, you mustn’t apply too much of it or too little. You need to do it just right. There is a difference between persistence and pestilence.
A Great Little Story
A client recently shared the story of her first “cold-call” to a potential employer. She (let’s call her Karen for simplicity’s sake) wanted to intern at an architectural firm and learned her mother was a friend of the owner. Karen’s mother agreed to contact the owner to facilitate a meeting but forgot. Not only didn’t her mother remember to call him, but she also failed to tell her daughter that she’d forgotten.
Oblivious, Karen called the office and boldly told the receptionist that the boss was expecting her; the receptionist patched her through immediately. Karen remembers the owner acting somewhat surprised by her direct approach, and yet, he scheduled a meeting with her for the next day. Long story short – Karen got the internship and it wasn’t until later that she learned her mother hadn’t warmed up the connection. Karen admits that had she known she was cold calling, she wouldn’t have dialed his number.
Mindset Shift: Similar to the story of my client’s first foray into cold-calling, act as if your targeted employer is expecting to hear from you. Think of persistence as showing leadership and letting the organization see your dedication and enthusiasm and your go-give attitude, and how badly you want to work for them.
Make it a Habit: Set a schedule for what you’re going to do each day—networking, filling out applications, searching job sites—and then stick to it. This will help you stay on track and make sure you’re not letting other tasks take priority over your job search.
Get Strategic About Networking: Information is power, so make a list of twenty organizations you’d like to work for, finding out all that you can about each one. Narrow the list to five and throw all your energy into your pursuit.
Use LinkedIn’s search and filter tool to find decision-makers and other “in the know” employees in the five targeted organizations, and then follow them in the newsfeed, impress them with thought leadership, and engage with them when the time is right.
Request an informational interview. These are short and focused conversations where you introduce yourself, state your intention, and ask for feedback. By keeping your conversation short, smart, and to the point, you’ll build trust while gaining valuable insight into the “who’s who” of the organization and the nuances of the way it operates.
Offer to intern or volunteer, or whatever else you can do to get “your foot in the door.”
Stay in Touch: At every point of contact, follow up with an email or thank you note. It keeps you top of mind and is also good manners. Do it even if it’s a rejection call; it’s easy to shrink away or get angry in this situation but don’t. Thank them for considering you for the job and ask if they’re aware of other upcoming opportunities that match your skillset.
Connect with the hiring manager(s) on LinkedIn and send emails or hello notes whenever the time is right – think birthdays, work anniversaries, or when they’ve achieved something outstanding. Sometimes, being in the right place is all about timing. Be sure to let them know if you’ve upgraded your skillset or education or have satisfied other previously unfilled gaps that had prevented you from getting hired.
When working on your networking plan:
- Consider everyone you know – friends, colleagues, relatives – telling them you’re looking for specific work in a targeted space. Give thought to sending a networking letter, asking for introductions and referrals while giving them an overview of your skills, i.e., I’d be grateful if you took a look at my enclosed resume. If you know anyone who might be looking for someone with my background, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember: you never know who can help you until they do.
- Go beyond your inner circle and begin building relationships on LinkedIn or other social platforms. Consider giving genuine and specific compliments, offering valuable tips and advice. Show thought leadership by posting original content, blogs and adding your own spin to curated or shared articles.
- During informational interviews, the goal is to come across in a way that inspires others to help you. Talk about important industry trends in addition to your skills, and ask questions that speak to your intelligence and interest. Like these:
- How do you get into this line of work?
- What do you enjoy about it?
- What’s not so great about it?
- What’s changing in the sector?
- What kinds of people do well in this industry
- Immediately, thank everyone who helps you with their time. Send a thank-you email, but know a handwritten note *really* stands out. Last, whenever possible, be sure to return the favor!