“Find-Hate-Lose-Repeat” Will Kill You Eventually – Job Search Advice from Hugh McLeod
Catching up with my favorite business card cartoonist, Hugh McLeod at Gaping Void, when the above cartoon jumped out at me.
A few weeks ago I spent some time on navigating the Phantom Job Market and how jobs are created. Basically, it all starts with a problem that a business needs to solve and the solution that’s decided on is a new employee. By the time the job is posted, it’s been narrowed to “4 years experience doing X”, “a background from Y preferred” and a narrow salary band that helps mitigate the risk in this solution.
Good luck finding a job in that last stage.
So what’s a boy to do?
As I alluded to in that last post, you need to start by focusing on Problems That You Solve. You have a lot of these problem/solutions that you’ve accumulated over the years. From seemingly simple tasks (I can answer the phone, I can 10 key with the best of them) to more sophisticated business knowledge (I can reduce a business’ credit card expense by negotiating the right plan) to more generalized processes (I can improve employee morale ), you can solve problems and Hugh would suggest you focus on the problems you are passionate about.
Make a big list. Put down any problem you can solve. Then work backwards through the list and narrow it to 3. Don’t bring a value judgement to your choices. If you can do it, feel good about doing it, and want to do it again for another business, put it on the list. Don’t worry about economic viability, don’t fret about the future outlook or competitive threats, just come up with 3 problems you can help businesses with that you feel good about. Trust me. This process works.
Here comes the next step. It’s another list. A list of everyone you know. Everyone. If you think they would recognize your voice or your name, put them down. Don’t qualify the name, don’t worry about what they might say, how old they are or if they’re even employed. This list is going to serve a few purposes, but the main one is this: everyone on that list can make a list that is equal to or larger than your list. Inside of their list is where you’ll find companies that need help solving the problems that you solve.
Makes sense, right?
This process takes advantage of a few things, the main one being this: if you tell 100 people “I need a job. Can you help me find one?”, you might get referred to 2 or 3 new opportunities and you’ll get a lot of generic job search advice. However, if you tell those same 100 people “I solve X for companies. Who do you know that I could talk to about that?” it moves people from thinking “Man, I’d love to help but I don’t know who to send you to.” into thinking, “That’s a good question. . .who do I know that would need that?”
I bring this up because you need to know that to get people to help you, you need to be very aware of your language.
“So, is that it,” you ask? Make a list of problems, and a list of people I know?
No. . .there’s more, but if you did make 2 lists and had conversations about the problems solved list with the contact list, you’d be moving the right direction.
Here’s what I suggest you do next. Make a 3rd list.
A list of 10 companies that you’d love to work for. A note of caution here: big companies (over 500 employees) have HR departments, recruiters and giant policy manuals. Getting into one of those is a post in an of itself. The list of 10 companies I want you to make is very specific.
Point 1: they need to be hiring. They don’t need to be hiring for the problem you solve, they just need to be hiring. Why? It’s an indicator. A sign that there may be life in that company.
Point 2: they need to have fewer than 500 employees. I used to sell marketing lists and I can tell you that 99% of companies are under 500 employees. Trust me on that. The under 500 number helps you once the list is done.
Point 3: the company needs to be interesting to you. If you feel nothing for the company, the next step won’t work.
You only need 10 of these companies. One afternoon in front of Google should do it for you.
Now, you have a list of problems you solve, a list of everyone you know and a list of 10 companies you’re interested in. Are you ready for the next step?
It’s time to get in front of your people. Here’s what you say: “[name], I’m calling because I am looking for my next opportunity. I solve problems like X and Y and the reason I’m contacting you is because I have a list of 10 companies that I want to find information on. You may or may not know anyone at these companies, so I’d like sit with you for a few minutes and talk about it. Will you do that for me?”
Does that sound feasible? It works. You know why? Because it takes the pressure off your contacts. They don’t need to find a new job for you because you’re doing that on your own. They might be of help. Everyone wants to help. You’re making it easy for them to help.
That’s a lot to digest . . . list of problems, list of contacts, list of companies. . .so let’s sit on that for a few weeks and then I’ll try and explain what happens when you put an approach like this into action.
It’s good stuff.