The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
We established in the last article that our imaginary job hunter, Beryl Klein, seems to have some skills that could be used in sales, and he is definitely willing to pursue sales as a career. At this point, most job counselors would advise Beryl to get a good résumé, possibly by hiring a professional résumé writer. Then they would teach him how to search want ads, perhaps with some introduction to social media like Facebook or LinkedIn. If he lands an interview, some preparation might be in order. In our previous articles we have explored the chances of finding a job this way, and they’re not encouraging.
A job-search coach would tell Beryl that “sales” is way too broad a category. It could include everything from selling hats in a small retail store to selling high-tech medical equipment. Which type of sales position is right for Beryl can depend on many things, including the work environment, the level of technical knowledge needed, and the extent to which the customer expects to have a personal relationship with his vendor. It is also critical to consider issues like the amount of travel that might be required, and the impact of Beryl’s Jewish values. Beryl needs to consider all of these factors and use his conclusions to create a job description. Then he will focus his search so that he can locate that job and get himself hired.
Before Beryl can write his job description, he needs to learn more about the world of sales. The most effective way to proceed is by conducting informational interviews. Beryl should make a list of 10-15 people he knows who work in sales, in as many different areas as possible. He will ask each one several questions so he can understand the nuances of each position: what do you sell, and which activities consume most of your time? Who are your customers and what does your product do for them? What are the key skills you use and how did you learn them? Do you enjoy your work and why?
There are two questions that Beryl (or anyone else) should not ask. Even if well-meaning people want to give their opinions about these things (and they will), Beryl should not listen. He should not ask about job prospects in this field. No one has prophecy, and people tend to be pessimistic about their own fields. And Beryl should definitely not ask if it’s a good field for him. Only Beryl can decide on the field that’s right for him, and how hard he’s willing to work to find the right position.
This effort, which narrows the job search to a specific job description, is a critical step, and one that is often skipped in the rush to find “something, just anything!” Hunting for jobs without focus is like hunting for ducks by aiming a shotgun toward the nearest lake. You might hit something. But the odds are that it won’t be a duck, and certainly not a duck you want to bring home. As Jim Hopkinson writes at Salary.com, “When it comes to job hunting, you can’t use a shotgun. You need a sniper rifle.”
For those who are not NRA members, let me explain the metaphor. Shotguns fire a lot of bullets at once, which all go generally in the right direction. Most of the bullets won’t hit anything, but the chances are that at least one might. A sniper rifle is a precision instrument, used by a highly trained expert who systematically searches for the right opportunity, takes one carefully aimed shot, and accomplishes his mission.
A job hunter should do the same. He needs to carefully define his job, and then build a target list of organizations where people do that job. The companies on that target list should be places where Beryl would really like to work. They should be places whose values and approaches are in line with Beryl’s beliefs, and where he feels that he can grow. And then, like our sniper, Beryl is going to take a really good, well-planned shot at getting that job.
Studies show that this kind of job search has a success rate above 90%. So now that Beryl has the right weapon, we’ll teach him how to find the right target. v
Rabbi Mordechai Kruger is the founder and director of Pathways to Parnassa, an organization providing job-search and career coaching to our community. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.