The Job Hunter
By Rabbi Mordechai Kruger
Pity the poor résumé. Once upon a time it received celebrity treatment, printed on 20-pound vellum and submitted in special envelopes stamped “RESUME—Do not bend.” Nowadays the dustiest spot in Office Max is the section called “Résumé Paper.” Who prints a résumé? Every opening gives a Web address for submitting paperwork, where a machine scans for keywords and decides your future. Posted at online job boards and e-mailed to prospective employers, friends, and probably total strangers, résumés ricochet all over the globe, while the stressed-out job hunter often goes nowhere fast.
There is a better way. Good résumés don’t have to wind up in trash cans or electronic oblivion. They can be effective advocates for a serious job candidate. This is best achieved when, unlike all the heroes you’ve admired for so long, instead of being the first contact to engage a potential employer, it arrives after there has been a face-to-face conversation. In other words, for a résumé, the best advice is “follow, don’t lead.”
While it is important to write the best résumé possible, people hire people, not résumés. The step that leads most often to a successful job search is building contacts with potential employers, employers that hire people to do the work that you do. Not to wait for an advertised opening, not to post résumés on job boards, not to submit résumés to corporate websites, but to find a way to talk to real, live people. Many job hunters have heard this advice before, but they don’t follow it, because, like so much good advice, it is easy to say and hard to do. Even my clients, with the benefit of my coaching, still don’t find it easy. But “not easy” is a lot better than “impossible,” and it really is the key to finding a job. So here’s a guide to the next step in the job search: networking with potential employers.
I have recently worked with two clients with similar backgrounds in IT (computer-related stuff, for the non-techies). Both lost their jobs when their entire department was closed. They are successful professionals who through no fault of their own need to find jobs, and both are old enough to worry that their age will somehow handicap their search. The steps they are taking could be adopted by many job hunters.
Since both of these clients want to find jobs in the same field they were working in previously, the first step is to write a target list of companies that use the same technology that they were working with before. Those companies need people to do the work that these people do, and, as I’ve said before, if they aren’t hiring today, tomorrow they might be. Now for one company, that tomorrow may take a long time to arrive. But if a company typically hires two people a year, then a dozen companies hire to fill 24 openings in the course of a year and there’s a good chance that one of them will be in the next few weeks. So a list of a dozen or more target companies is the basis of the job search.
How to find these companies? If these professionals worked with a software package, there was a vendor that sold the package. And that vendor also sells it to other companies. Even better, he knows the work that my clients have done, and can really recommend them to another employer. The same is true of former colleagues who went on to work elsewhere. The customers who were served by my clients’ firms are still in business, and they have had to find new providers for those services. So they also know who else does similar work. A customer may also decide to take work that was previously contracted out and move it in-house. The professional that serviced the account would be an ideal candidate for the job.
If someone gets in touch with his former vendors, colleagues, and customers, he could end up with a list that is too long to handle. Each contact may require repeated phone calls, meetings, and follow-up, and one person could easily be overwhelmed. The best strategy is to organize a job-search group composed of other job hunters, in these cases, other colleagues who were axed at the same time. Working together to stay in contact with all of the potential employers on the target list is the strongest approach for all of them, and it provides camaraderie and moral support as well.
Did you imagine that I’ve forgotten about the résumé? Not at all—I placed it in the background where it belongs, while the real work of job searching goes forward. When a contact is made, and a personal connection is forged, then it is time to let the résumé follow and reinforce the points that were discussed. Too many people think that having a good résumé means they are doing a good job search. In truth, when taking the strongest steps toward finding a new job, the résumé should always follow, never lead. 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.