How do successful job hunters do it?

Byby Richard N. Bolles
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

SACRAMENTO (JobJournal) -- We are all destined to go job hunting again. The only question is how soon. The job hunt now occurs some five to nine times in most people's lives, with two or three career changes thrown in somewhere along the way, just to keep things interesting. So the search always awaits us (unless we are retired or semi-retired).

For most of us, this frequency is not good news. Looking for a new job is something most of us do fairly well during good times, but not so well when times are hard.

There are people, of course, who are good at job searching come rain or come shine. I know of a man who successfully changes jobs every three years, precisely on January 2nd, no matter what the economy is doing. We call such people (get ready for this) "people who are good at job hunting."

I have studied such people for three decades and pondered the question: "Why are they so good at finding new jobs?" So far, I have come up with three answers.

1. Some people are just naturally good. It's no mystery why. As Howard Figler points out in his book, The Complete Job-Search Handbook, the job hunt requires four families of skills: self-assessment skills, detective skills, communication skills, and skills for selling ourselves.

Since some people have jobs which demand those same skills, if they are good at their job they will be good at finding a new one. They have a head start on the rest of us; but, of course, the rest of us can always learn those skills (Figler's book or mine -- What Color is Your Parachute -- tell you how).

2. Good job hunters are willing to change strategies, depending on the economy. During good economic times, they may stick to the strategies that require the least work: resumes, agencies, and job postings.

But during hard times, or if the above doesn't work, people who are good at job searching change strategies and pursue additional methods that require a lot more work. They spend lots of time doing homework on themselves, researching organizations in detail, doing informational interviewing, building their contacts, and other labor-intensive methods. (These alternate ways are described in Parachute and other job-search books.) In other words, like species that survive best in nature, people who are good at job hunting adapt to a changing landscape.

People who are bad at the hunt usually don't. They tend to stick with the same strategies during bad times and good. Namely: resumes, agencies and job boards. When this doesn't work, they usually just do more of it (everyone's favorite definition of insanity). So, if 400 resumes didn't get them a job, they send out 800. It does not occur to them to change their strategy altogether, in keeping with the changing economic conditions.

3. People who are good at job hunting always have alternatives. Poor job hunters tend to fixate on just one way of doing things.

  • In summarizing what they can do, they use a job title. Period. ("I'm an engineer.")
  • In characterizing where they want to work, they use a field title. Period. ("In the computer field.")
  • In describing their target, they name large organizations. Period. ("I want to work for Apple.")
  • In recounting how they chose particular firms, it always involves places with known vacancies. Period. ("I'm studying all the ads and job postings on the Internet.")
  • In telling how they contact organizations, they talk of using only one way. Period. ("I'm sending them my resume.")
  • People good at the hunt figure out alternatives to each of the above. And have them at the ready. You could call it "their fallback position," or "Plan B."

  • Not limited by job titles, they can name their individual skills.
  • Rather than just naming fields, they can describe their favorite interests.
  • They target small as well as large organizations.
  • Beyond just going after vacancies, they go after any firm that interests them.
  • Instead of only approaching organizations via resumes, they pursue them through personal contacts.
  • When one thing doesn't work, they just switch over to the alternative. This is why they're good at finding new jobs. If you keep their three secrets firmly in mind, you can change your own behavior so that you too will be good at job hunting come rain or come shine.

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