How to Go From “Stranger” to “Hired!”
Job Search is a process: it’s hard to break through to people you don’t know, and it’s harder still to get past applicant tracking systems. But there are practical ways to improve on your outreach and get hired…
It’s a seemingly universal thing, that people fear, or at best, suspect,“l’Étranger”. And I find that to be a particularly sad reality…after all, we’re all professionals in our given industries. In my world view, business inquiries should actually be welcomed amongst professionals. But not everyone is a true professional. If a person you are reaching out to doesn’t know you, or know someone you know, they can easily disregard your outreach.
It’s always best to go in with an introduction from a third party peer/colleague you both know, or, get a referral from a friend/colleague who is willing to lend their name (read: “social proof”) to help you forge a connection with someone new in your network when you’re looking to get hired.
That said, you don’t always have a third party, and need to “go in cold”. Some people try once, try twice, some even try to get hold of a person in their network three times, and don’t get any response. And (by rights) they feel burned. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard industry people complain “…well, I applied to X company three times, and have never heard back from them…”
The trick, I find, is that job search is truly an ongoing process – it is not a finite exercise. You apply once, don’t hear back, feel rejected, and never try again. If you take this “finite” approach, you are doing yourself an incredible disservice.
Networking literally requires a series of “marketing touchdowns” to get in front of the right person, at the right time, for the right reasons. Every business call I take, is from someone who doesn’t know me, who might be interested in my services. So I respond/follow up, and we have “the career chat”. I give them something to think about, and usually encourage a concrete action, like doing the goals exercise on my website, and encourage them to send the results to me. Then, I follow up on their goals with some concrete advice on how to move forward. Slowly, they learn to put aside their automatic distrust, hear me, and we further the conversation. Eventually, they trust me enough to hire me, and we proceed along with the business relationship. The one thing I know for sure, is that the business transaction is not going to happen over the first call or two. It needs to be nurtured.
The same applies to job search. All relationships, professional or personal, need to be nurtured. You need to orchestrate a small handful of opportunities that allow you to interact — give the relationship the chance to develop a little, offer some professional input or guidance, give it some time to sink in, and gently nudge the exchange towards “next steps” and get hired.
Pro Tip 1: A note on “professionals” …In my experience, professionals return their calls, respond to emails, and always further the conversation, as they intrinsically understand the value of making contacts and information sharing. Professionals facilitate for each other. That’s what they do. If they don’t, I argue, they’re not terribly professional — wouldn’t you agree?
Pro Tip 2: A note on “professionalism” …Don’t be shy to take your rightful place professionally. You can be an entry-level professional, a mid-management professional, or a senior management professional. But by all means, “own” being a professional, and being part of your professional community. You need not ask for permission to belong–you already do! Your education and experience allow you to be a card-carrying member of your professional community. Remember that. Professionals always appreciate professionalism… AKA, what goes around, comes around.
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