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Thursday, June 03, 2004

Jobseekers! Look for smoke, not fire...

"If you always do what you've always done, you will always get what you've always received," said some wise person. This is certainly true when it comes to job-hunting, especially during a "sucky" economy. How many times have you applied to a job on Monster.com? Now ask yourself, "How many other people have applied for the same position?" The numbers are discouraging I assure you. Should this keep you from applying to jobs online? By no means, job boards are a necessary part of the process. However, if you limit your jobsearch to seeking only those jobs that you are qualified for then you are making a mistake. Am I suggesting that you do a "shotgun" effect with your resume and apply to as many jobs as you can hoping that by some miraculous twist of fate you catch a recruiter's eye? No... and yes, in a way.

Let's put on our imagination cap for a minute and think of a horrific fire in a subdivision at the peak of rush-hour traffic. What is your immediate focus? The fire blazing bright? Sure... Are you concerned for the people in the subdivision? I hope so... "Now breathe deeply and concentrate," I say in my Yoda voice. "See more, you will, young Jedi." Could it be that you see smoke? Could it be that you hear a fire engine? Perhaps a helicopter with a reporter giving the TV viewers a scoop on what is happening? Perhaps there is another chopper for radio listeners? Perhaps in the distance are people who don't know about the fire yet and are honking their horns and cursing the 5 o'clock commute? Perhaps all of this and more and why are they all there? Well, duh... they are all there because of a fire.

Now, I know what you're thinking, "What does all that have to do with my getting a job?" "Everything," I say smugly.

Let's say that you are looking for a job as a network engineer. So what do you do? You look for Network Engineer jobs, which is a good start but not the finish. Consider the events and surroundings concerning your job and imagine what surrounds that job. Let's see... to network computers, there must be a group of unconnected computers somewhere. For a group of unconnected computers to be sitting somewhere, that would mean that some salesperson had to sell them to somebody else. So, who sells the computers that I am qualified to connect? Why "Computer Company A" sells the kind of computers I am qualified to connect. Why don't I call Computer Company A and ask for a friendly sales person? Perhaps with my powers of persuasion (and a little bribery of lunch), I can get him to tell me who his best customers are. I bet his best customers could use a network engineer to hook up all the machines they just bought.

You like that? Let's go deeper...

New computers being connected suggest new office space. If I was going to buy new office space, who would I go to? Maybe I can call the leasing office of some business complexes and ask who handles their leasing. Maybe they can refer me to someone? Maybe they lease their own space and will give me a tip on companies looking to move into their space. A possibility... Better yet, I could pick up a copy of "The Atlanta Business Chronicle" (assuming you are in Atlanta) and review their real estate announcements to see who bought what. Whoever is buying lots of office space is someone I would want to talk to.

Do I have your wheels rotating yet? The trick is not to look only for the fire (in this case, a network engineering job), but the smoke (those people who operate on the periphery of that job). Let me go a step even further. What happens after a fire has been put out? There is water damage, smoke damage, medical issues on occasion and so on. There has to be someone or some group of some ones to clean up the mess left behind. All that to say, as soon as one person gets hired somewhere, there is a possibility of an opening behind them. So, when you read in the paper about Company X has just signed on a new CIO formerly of Company Z, my advice is to call Company Z for a job. This is an especially good technique if you are an Executive, because many senior management types foster a "cult following" and bring other execs with them. (Happens all the time...) Does this go for executives only? No, this would be a good heads up for techies and marketing types as well. Why? New leadership means new processes and new processes often demand people to adapt or stand aside for new personnel who can.

"Now let's go deeper into the force," I say in a bad Darth Vader accent. And imagine that you cannot imagine other positions that are connected to the job you are qualified for. Imagine that you are just clueless on how to think along these lines. (Anybody can draw a blankā€¦) For these folks I say, look for the recruiter jobs. If you see a company looking to hire Recruiters, Staffing Consultants, Internet Researchers (people who support recruiters by finding resumes online) or Online Sourcers (same thing as Internet Researcher), then that should sound like a cowbell at dinner time.

If you are thinking to yourself, "Why should I care about HR jobs? That's not my background." I suggest that you slap yourself. Why would a company hire recruiters? They hire recruiters because they are about to load up on new employees! What kind of employees? Well, look at the kind of recruiter they want! Are they hiring technical recruiters? Sales recruiters? Executive recruiters? Ahh... I see the light bulb has just flashed over your head, you're with me now. (Glad to meet you-wink).

There is an old joke by a comedian named Robin Harris that says, "If you cannot get to the man, get next to the man that is next to the man. And if you can't get him. Get next to the man that is next to the man that is next to the man and so on..." If you are feeling frustrated in your job-search, look beyond finding jobs that fit you, but rather seek out people connected to what you do. If you cannot connect with them, then connect with the person next to them and so on and so on and so on...

Comments:
Jim,

Great stuff! Excellent advice in a story well told. I think you should consider a career in sales. This is real 'hunter'-style "how do I find people with a problem I can solve" thinking.

Mike
 
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