I could be considered a professional job hunter. After a little more than seven months into my first job out of college I was laid-off. The company had staffed-up because they had two huge contracts they were guaranteed… Or so they thought. It was an early life lesson and one I would become intimately familiar with! About eight weeks after the layoff a call came in from my previous employer–low and behold, there was still work to be done and they wanted to hire me back on contract. Me: “You want to pay me how much? That’s about twice what I was making before…” Him: “Yes, that’s right. We would like to hire you for a three month contract.” Me: “Um, let me thinkaboutitok!” (yes, that is one word). I did it and then ended up getting my contract renewed a couple of times and after eight months was offered another full-time position, but I was miserable in that department and they didn’t want to pay me enough, so I opted to head out on my own, knowing I would make more elsewhere and I was right. But, it took about three months, which seemed like an eternity. I would have one more stretch like that after another layoff, but it was “the big downturn” (or “dot-com bomb”) of 2001 that was extremely difficult… 2.5 years of some un-employment and a lot of under-employment. I made due by ramping up a Web design business and various other jobs, but it was extremely difficult and I interviewed and applied and interviewed and applied until one of my many part-time gigs turned out to be an extremely cool job that became full-time and is what led me into the events/hospitality/meetings industry. That job came about through someone I met at a networking event (this will come up again later). I do believe all of the difficulty is part of the journey, but it is quite difficult to see when you are going through it.
I realize that was a long intro to lead into the meat of this blog post, but I think some perspective of what got me here will help as I explain why I think it is such a phenomenal time to be job hunting, despite the current state of the economy. And on that note, by the way, the sky is not falling! If everyone would just relax and not feed into the media hype, all would be alright. I recently stumbled on my first resume from 1994… It was printed on my dot matrix printer and had been created on my Mac LC (which was state-of-the-art in 1990!). It is that resume that I paid to mail and fax to each potential employer after I found the potential positions in the Sunday newspaper “want ads.” It was a little more labor intensive without the Internet, but we also were not competing with 500+ other applicants… And you were pretty much guaranteed that your resume would at least be looked at. It is a different world now to be sure. You need to get a little creative.
What we have now is not just the Internet, but an amazing mix of traditional and social media that not only enables us to find available jobs more easily (and immediately), but we are now connected to just about anyone we have *ever* worked with! What a tremendous opportunity to leverage those relationships we have created over the years. It is well known that the “best” way to find a job is by referral. The challenge there can be that you might put too much stock in that particular person’s “clout” at their company and you also have NO idea who else is up for the job (remember, internal candidates come first). It is frustrating when you get referred by a friend and then you hear nothing, but keep in mind that it is very likely that it has nothing to do with you. I met recently with someone who thought I must be able to give her some advice because I have appeared to be having very good luck during my current job search (this one was “self-inflicted”, by the way!). What I learned was not that she wasn’t doing it right, but that there was just more she could be doing. The biggest missing piece was the networking within her industry—nothing beats that face-to-face communication and we have to remember that we should always be doing it (not just when we are in need of work).
Everyone’s journey is different and this one was easier for me for a few reasons: networking, social media, and good follow-up. I have been a serial networker for the past eight years or so. After being referred to a job by someone I met at a San Diego Chamber of Commerce networking event, I was sold. Each person I have met along the way could connect me to my next job and with the emergence of social media that becomes even more prevalent. I have said this a couple of times in the past week: “If you have ever had a job, you need to be on LinkedIn.” By my estimation, if you are not on there, it’s almost as though you don’t exist. I am now adding every person on LinkedIn from whom I have received a business card (as I meet them) and that allows me not only to connect with them personally, but to potentially connect to those they are connected to (and, almost as importantly, to *stay* connected when they move on to a new job). It’s this amazing Web with a reach totally unlike anything we could ever do for ourselves alone. This social media avenue also enabled me to post as my current job that I was looking for a new opportunity. People who know me saw that and asked for my resume so that they could pass it along to people they thought might want to hire me. Can you imagine – other people doing your thumping for you? Amazingly cool! I also posted it on Facebook and it enabled me to not only get help in my search, but to then “tease” the new position I ultimately accepted. Being in business development and having friends and connections on Facebook and LinkedIn enabled me to let everyone know once I took on a new position, which lets them know I where I am going and also opens up the opportunity for us to potentially do business together.
Today was my first day working for Swank Audio Visuals (www.swankav.com) in their Event Services (staging) division as the Director of Business Development. I was able to pursue several opportunities during this search and take my time. I haven’t felt like I’ve had that luxury in the past and most people who are looking don’t, but do it if you can! Work your networks both in person and online by attending industry events and connect with people from every company you have worked for. LinkedIn is the hottest job board right now, and also provides an opportunity for you to join groups related to your industry and to begin networking online. Join in on the discussions and post questions related to your industry. By doing that, you will show that you provide value and you will open yourself up to opportunities you might not have known about otherwise. And, finally, be sure to always follow-up with those people who have asked questions of you and those people who have reached out to help you.
Happy hunting and please feel free to reach out to me if you need any tips or help!