Question

I always look forward to your column, whether I’m looking for a job or sitting comfortably in one. You have a way of cutting through the crap on this subject. And you did it again very well in your column in the Seattle Times: “Why Can’t I Keep a Good Job?” You posed the question, “…will you choose your next job, or will it choose you?” Wow. That really sums it up. I took the wrong job. Now I’m stuck. Any suggestions on how to start job hunting now?

Nick’s Reply

start job huntingThanks for your kind note. You have hit on a very simple but profound idea, and I’ll take it to the next step for you. People need to be job hunting all the time. Not heavily, but persistently.

There is simply no excuse for needing to start a job search all of a sudden.

Start job hunting

By then, it’s too late, because it takes quite a lot of work and time to find the right job. You’ve heard me say it before. As I suggested in that Seattle Times article, most people who are job hunting are doing it because they took the wrong job to begin with… because they acted out of desperation.

Every day, everyone we meet and talk with is a potential source of opportunity. Pursue those opportunities! There is no need to be rude or intrusive about it. Practice discussing opportunities even when you are not job hunting.

Try this: Ask the next few people you meet, “So, tell me about your work. What exactly do you do at your company?” Then, let them talk. People love to talk about their work. Steer the conversation like this: “What’s your company like as a place to work?” Let them tell you.

If the answer is mostly positive, express your interest using your own version of the following:

How to Say It
“Your company seems to be one of the shining lights in the industry. At some point, I may be interested in making a career move. I’d like to learn more.”

You’d be surprised at what can come out of such a discussion. Please note that at no point are you asking for a job. If the company sounds really good, however, it may be time to make a gentle request for help getting in the door.


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New jobs come from people that know you

Asking someone for a job lead or for a job interview is awkward. Asking to meet other people who do the work you’re interested in is a different story. It’s natural to express interest in other people’s work.

How to Say It
“I work in [marketing or whatever]. I’m interested in learning more about your marketing department. I think it’s important to get to know people who are among the best in their field. Is there someone in your company’s [marketing] department that you think I should talk with?”

This approach is a great ice-breaker. If you get nervous, let it drop. Try again with someone else later. In time, you’ll enjoy talking with people about their work and their employers. When you need a referral, you’ll have a list “this long” of people who already know you are interested in their companies.

Start your job search now. Learn to hang out with people who do the work you want to do. That’s where good new jobs come from.

Are you always job hunting, or do you start job hunting at the last minute? When you meet people that you need to ask for help, how do you “say it?”


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4 Comments
  1. “Practice discussing opportunities even when you are not job hunting.”

    I’ll even take phone calls from “recruiters” to even get practice and intel (even if it’s to see who NOT to use as an agency as an employer OR candidate).

    The other thing I’ve found: Don’t wait to talk to people until you need a job [and then to go as far to ask them for a reference].

  2. This covers just a part of the employment scenario. Both hiring managers and job seekers both suffer from short sightedness. They guide by need. Job hunters wait until they need a job then activate a search, and hiring managers don’t look until they need someone for a job.
    Nick’s covers the former nicely. It’s spot on for the job seeker. And answers the question that kicks around “When should I look for a job?” Answer, right after you start your next one”.
    As a manager, recruiting and timely hiring, work best if you never stop looking. Recruiting is all about searching, Hiring is all about budgets. A job is merely about budgetary blessing to address a managerial need. Hiring has an end game & process. But you never stop recruiting.
    There’s really no such thing as a hidden job market. In the eyes of HR, If money isn’t attached to it, it’s not a job. So HR is totally job focused. To the point I’ve seen instances where they get very nervous if they become aware that a manager is “recruiting” when they have no jobs to fill.
    But there is such a thing as a hidden potential job market, which can spell opportunities for the job seeker especially those that never stop looking. And for the company.
    I never had a situation as a manager where I had all the people I needed. Nor my peers. We had to manage status quo & in so doing at times needed to replace people who moved on.
    But more motivating & interesting for all parties, is we needed/wanted people to help drive into new territory. To Innovate, create, new processes, product or services.
    This potential job market exists in the minds of managers and teams, biding their time to press on & gain budgetary approval to take it on. (keeping in mind when things are really locked down, you often don’t get replacements. You must make do)

    When I managed, there was a lot of survival mode behavior in it, honed by working for hard ball playing companies who excelled at managing their money. So you learned to manage worse case. that’s where you’re granted budget to hire, only to find the job had a short life & it would be pulled or frozen.
    So I always had some resumes in my drawer, with enough contact behind them to establish strong mutual interest. I could quickly refine my recruiting to a phone call “Are you still interested in coming aboard?” And I’d have them on board so fast the budget didn’t know what hit it.

    Where and how did I find the time and these people? Mostly from previous interviews and/or referrals. If I only had 1 job blessed, but I’d met 3 very good potential hires. I’d hire 1 & keep in touch with the other 2. Ditto on referrals. I’d refer people to others and they would refer people to me. We’d establish mutual interest & Keep in touch.

    Transparency/honesty is key. You don’t BS people. You make it clear “there is no job right now” but I want to do such & such …..This is often a source for my referrals. The person I’m talking to know it’s not for them, but knows someone(s) who I should know & they do some connection work. So you can add more value to those conversations by being a connector. You will be remembered.

    My other source would be from conversations Nick exemplified. And they can be rewarding making you aware of both jobs and potential jobs. Both present &
    future opportunities. Likewise for those on the other end of the conversations which can be the source of those ideas and needs. And when they
    are, the job hunter is positioned to create their own job.

    It’s call networking. And when you look at the hiring dance you can see much of it is done with an absence of these conversations, and as such lacks a solid foundation. So talk

  3. Through the local one stop center, I have been told that it is best to network. Also that the holidays are the best time to look for work. Most people stop looking because they assume that all companies are shut down. It’s not the case. You will have less competition. And be on top of the employer’s mind when you have sent your resume and cover letter in response to the opening.

  4. “Job hunters wait until they need a job then activate a search, and hiring managers don’t look until they need someone for a job.”

    Good managers , managing 5-10 people, know that they will lose one every 1-3 years, or sooner in a “good” economy

    Not only does everyone need to be searching, every good manager needs to be hiring, ALL THE TIME

    If you are waiting for a req to be approved to start your process, you are a C grade manager.

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