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Tis’ the Season To Be Fired / Hired


– 6 Ways the Job Market Really Works
– 50 words / 20 seconds
– 4 hours x 5 days x 4 weeks = job offer

It’s only Wednesday and I’ve already had 5 strangers call me for career advice because they were fired, retrenched, downsized, let go or made redundant.  Unemployed, by any word.

The night before,  a global exec told me that his boss ordered him to retrench a bunch of people before Christmas so it wouldn’t have to be done during Christmas (gee, Big Company, thanks for the early present).

It’s the season when big companies let go of hundreds of people. (Ho Ho Nooo!)

Tis’ the season to fire people and that means tis the season to refresh your job search skills because no one— I mean, no one— is exempt.

So let’s review 6 ways in which the job market really works:

1)  Don’t call me, I’ll call you. You’re better off asking Santa for help than me.

I’m an exec search consultant, I (and others like me) work on a retained basis only.  I don’t market people or shop résumés to prospective employers.  I work for companies that pay me, not unemployed people who don’t.   But you can find everything I know about the job market in my LinkedIn articles for free.  (Merry Christmas!)

If you can find a contingency recruiter to represent you, someone who will market your résumé around in the (un)likely event of securing you a position, then by all means do so.  Every job market is peculiar so serious job seekers use available resources but be realistic about your chances of success.  A recruiter’s priority is finding paid work for themselves (same as you!), not finding gainful employment for strangers.

So don’t naively bank on a contingency recruiter spending time to find you a job in the hope of getting paid, someday by somebody, somewhere by some company.

That’s why I say you’re better off asking Santa for help, although he has his own employment problems.

2) Say it in 50 words / 20 seconds.
If you can’t tell me what job you want in 50 words or fewer, in 20 seconds or less, then you haven’t thought deeply enough.   You’re using a shotgun when you need a laser; you’re being broad and indecisive instead of focused and committed.  No one can help the unfocused fool who prattles that “I can do anything!”  Everyone can assist the focused person who expresses their goal in 50 words/20 seconds.

Job seeking is winnowing, ie, identifying the opportunities for which you’re truly suited and eliminating the many others for which you’re not.   Play the percentages.  Invest your time where it provides a return.  Pursue the opportunities where you have a chance of success and forget the others.

I’ve long said say that 80% of job seekers eliminate themselves from consideration by not devoting sufficient time and energy to articulating exactly what they want to do.   If you can’t say it clearly, succinctly, and directly then how is anyone else supposed to know how to help you?

3)  Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and yes, there is a company that wants to hire you right now.  Trouble is, that company doesn’t know you exist.  That company doesn’t know how to find you any more than you know how to find it.  That company can’t hunt you down so you must look them up.  That’s what an intelligent job search is:  you doing the necessary homework, legwork and networking to find the companies that require your skills.

Homework:  identifying companies that can appreciate your labor
Legwork:  hitting the street, phoning people, knocking on doors (metaphorically speaking) and narrowing your focus to companies that do the work you want to do
– Networking:  constructing a web of people who can supply you with information.

Take those 5 phone calls I received.  I wasn’t able to help any of them directly but I was able to assist all of them indirectly.  That’s the point:  networking is not so much about who you already know that can help you but who you need to know (ie, to meet, be introduced to, to contact) that can assist you.

It’s like geometry, you build from the known to the unknown.  You fit things together, even disparate parts, into a larger whole pattern.  You construct a career; you don’t inherit it.

For years I– and every other expert— claimed that advertised jobs are like the tip of the iceberg.  That is, just as 90% of an iceberg lies beneath the water line, so too 90% of available jobs are unadvertised and unseen.

But that was then and this is now.  Forget the iceberg!

4)  Nowadays, thanks to social media, technology, an evolving job market (and they all evolve), it’s safe to say that all jobs are advertised, somewhere, sometime by somebody, but you have to know where to look.   You now have greater access to job vacancies than any time in history.  But if you don’t see it, can’t find it, or won’t look for it, you’ve deprived yourself of opportunity.  Jobs aren’t hidden nowadays, unless you close your eyes.

The old problem remains, however, how can I stand out above the crowd in order to be considered?  One report conducted by Jobs2Web in 2010 claimed that your chance of getting a job from a major job is <.5%.

That’s bad math for you but here’s some good math:  there are too many jobs available for you.  Even in hard times millions of jobs are available.  You just need to find the employer who will value your skills, ability and contributions.  So narrowcast rather than broadcast, ie, isolate the particular sector or companies mostly likely to appreciate you, rather than apply for every advertised vacancy.  Introduce yourself to the few companies most likely to pay for your skills and give them good reason(s) to hire you.

5)  Play the end game:  not any job, the right job.
I’ve debated this vigorously with people who say, “I have to provide for my family.  I need a job, any job!”  I respect that and perhaps you may take an unsuitable, short-term, stop-gap role to survive.  But never lose sight of the end game which is to find meaningful work.  Soul-crushing employment accompanied by a pay check won’t enhance your life and makes you awful to live with (ask family and friends for verification).

Don’t panic and take the first —and usually wrong— job that is offered to you.  Remember, the end game is to advance your career (and life) rather than begin a string of unsatisfying stints of employment.

6) How Much Work is Required?
Do not underestimate the amount of effort required to find a job.  My rule is:  4 solid hours per day and no more.  That’s 4 hours spent phoning, emailing, meeting, researching, interviewing, reading, homework, legwork, networking.  The other 4 hours of the day should be devoted to gym, surfing, beach, golf, family, friends, anything you want to do.  Work-Life balance, see?

Bottom line:  4 hours pd x 5 days pw x 4 weeks = 1 job offer

If you spend 4 hours per day following the advice above, and get 10 information gathering interviews per week, for 4 weeks (ie, actively job searching for 20 hours per week for a month), I predict you’ll receive at least 1 job offer and probably 3+.

I speak from experience.

Here’s my story, I too was retrenched once during a recession.

So I made 228 phone calls over a 5 week period, gained 56 interviews, and received 3 job offers, all of which paid more money than my previous position, and none of which were advertised.  That’s a lot of work.  But that’s how the job market really works.

The best part was:  I drove the process; I wasn’t a passive victim.

Take charge of your career, take charge of your life, it’s the best Christmas present you’ll ever give yourself.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Duff Watkins hosts the Business Podcast of the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia and is Director of ExecSearch International- Australia [www.execsearch.com.au]

He has appeared on Australian television and radio and speaks at international conferences.

About Dr. Duff Watkins [www.execsearch.com.au]

international executive search consultant / author-- dispensing career advice about how the job market really works


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