If my views on job hunting and hiring (and career development) seem different from most “experts” in the field, it’s mainly because I see the most fruitful ideas on these topics coming out of the netherworld. That is, from non-career-related areas. Unfortunately, the career industry spends so much time chewing and re-digesting its decades-old cud that its pipeline is clogged with crap. But, there’s guidance elsewhere, if you pay attention and look for it.

I should share more of the source material I find, so here are a couple of bits you might enjoy — and find stimulating. (Where do I find this stuff? It’s my lunch-time reading. I get more subscriptions than you’d ever want in your mailbox. Actual printed rags mean more to me than stuff published purely online. The way I see it, when a publisher spends money on paper and ink, what he publishes will be better than most of the mush we find online only. I emphasize most. There’s some great stuff online, of course…)

Fortune magazine has a cover feature this month titled Go Get the Money: How to sell in any market. (It’s in the September 29 edition, but not all the material from it that I discuss below is available online. So, buy a magazine that you can read anywhere.)

Item 1: Job hunting and hiring are 90% about selling. And 90% of sales is about your attitude and about the attitude you project to employers, job hunters, headhunters, and anyone else you brush up against in when your objective is to match a person with a company.

Anne Sweeney, Co-Chair of Disney Media Networks, talks about a quote that motivates her. “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” Sweeney found a new attitude in that quote.

This is about making choices. Think about that quote the next time you start wasting your time sending resumes to 200 companies you picked out of the weed garden called “The Job Boards.” Choices? Those aren’t choices. Those are companies you barely know anything about (except that they posted a job opening). Stop it, Dopey. Why pursue companies you think might hire you? Close your eyes. Imagine the lush garden of companies you’d give your eye teeth to work in. Pick one, two, three, or four, and don’t worry about failing. Go after them like a mad dog, like nothing else is in your field of vision.

Item 2: Another article in this feature is worth the price of the mag by itself: How to Sell in a Lousy Economy. (What do you think you’re facing if you’re job hunting today?) Fortune profiles nine sales people. Their sales strategies are not the point. (Some of them are as old and stale as career advice.) What’s worth noting are the crude little hand-made sales tools each of these nine have fashioned. (Kudos to reporter Jia Lynn Yang for laying these out on the table.)

  • How to get away with being pushy. (Warn the prospect up front about your style.)
  • Send an e-mail just before going on a sales call. (I love this subtle technique of avoiding surprises in the meeting.)
  • How to exploit volunteer work.
  • The one thing you need to know about getting personal with a prospect. (Do not believe the nonsense about asking personal questions to get a manager to open up.)
  • How to edge through a closed door. (Make a special trip.)
  • How to know when to stop.
  • How to use references. (Before the prospect asks for them.)

Item 3: Then there’s this precious little nugget that reveals just how little online tools are worth to pros whose job is to convince someone to pay for something they’re trying to sell. It’s a survey of how salespeople use social networking web sites. I always figured that apart from entertainment, the main utility of these sites was enjoyed by salespeople digging for contacts. But,

  • Half don’t use social networking sites at all.
  • Only one-fifth use them to ferret out new contacts in their client companies.
  • Less than 15% use them to make connections with new prospects.
  • Fewer still use the networks to track down old contacts.
  • And only 6% use the social networking sites to find a new job.

If salespeople — the most goal-oriented people on the planet — barely use social networking sites to sell, what does that tell you about the utility of social networking sites?

The rest of the Fortune feature reveals in more detail how salespeople spend their time — hanging out with people they want to do business with. (You mean I have to get away from this pc and go meet people if I want to find a job? Well, no, only your competition needs to do that.)

There’s good advice to be gleaned about job hunting, hiring, and goosing your career, but not where you expect. You’ll find it in the netherworld of business — so go take a look.

Where do you find the most useful tips about job hunting and hiring?

  1. “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

    I heard a slight variant of this in Brian Tracy’s excellent audio program “The Psychology of Achievement.” I’d recommend that to anyone who is serious about improving their lives, including job hunters.

    And I’m totally with you on the social networking sites. I’ve been on LinkedIn for over a year now, put up a profile on Classmates, and for a while, even had a MySpace page. Guess what? Almost nobody looked for me there. And definitely nobody who could help my career.

    I’ve come to the conclusion after reading your blog, newsletters, and web site, and much research into achievement, that the only person who is going to help me is myself.

    I may just pick up that issue of Fortune to learn a thing or two. And if I can’t find in at the store, there’s always the library (and I practically live there). Thanks, Nick.

  2. Social networking sites are just that – social. I use livejournal to connect with friends and arrange gatherings, but it’s not a job networking site – well, no more than your personal email list, and less so in some important ways, the most important being that it is neither urgent nor direct.

  3. Nick –

    A book that radically changed my approach to my own employment searches and to those I help with finding work is High Probability Selling by Werth and Ruben (read the first four chapters free online and obtain other helps at http://www.highprobsell.com).

    I think the ideas in HPS dovetail very nicely with the idea that job searching is about selling. This is NOT a book of tricky closes and ways to overcome objections, but rather, sets forth a philosophy and methodolgy that affirms and supports the sales person (job seeker) and helps get the seller (candidate) and the buyer (potential employer) together a la Ask the Headhunter.

    In fact, using the basic ideas in HPS I was able to develop what I call a self-marketing campaign methodology that can result in several actual, real job interviews every day. Now I realize this goes against your encouragement to find those three or four companies that intrigue us and go after them. But in both situations – targeting a few or looking for many – High Probability Selling should prove helpful. In fact, I would argue that when the job seeker or career changer takes the time to ask and answer the Who am I? and What do I want to do? questions, and then starts presenting him- or herself in the way suggested by HPS, that that person will find a whole new sense of confidence and self-worth coming to the surface, along with an improved (more positive) attitude.

    At the very least I believe that after reading HPS the job seeker will be motivated to identify and confidently present his or skills and abilities in a positive, forward-looking, honest and non-manipulative way. And that the job seeker will start feeling less like a beggar and more like a person who has something valuable and meaningful to offer.