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Hope Is Not a Job Search Strategy

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Popular business magazines and books are loaded with self-help advice for life and work. But there is little solidly researched, deeply informed, demonstrably practical material to help people take care of their job searches.

In this article, we’ll discuss a wide array of topics (in no particular order) and offer advice we think is timeless as well as priceless.

Strategy #1 – Befriend gatekeepers. Many ill-informed job seekers use every single tactic they can get their hands on in an attempt to get through, around and over the gatekeepers. Guess what? It didn’t work ten years ago, and certainly doesn’t work today. In preparing to write this article I personally talked with several gatekeepers from companies that I regularly work with. Here is what I asked them:

What is the biggest mistake job seekers make whenever they call you? And here is the answer I received most often: “They lie like a rug.”

These are the unedited, actual words repeated by the majority of gatekeepers. Here’s my advice: If you’re ever tempted to lie to a gatekeeper – don’t. Be friendly, professional, and tell the truth. Personal assistants already know everything, everyone, and every place that their bosses deal with. Lying is pointless.

Strategy #2 – Here is a basic rule, whether you’re in a job search, dealing with people or growing a business: The right risk brings you closer to the right life. What is the right life? The right life is a life where you feel more like yourself, when you’re doing what you want to do – not what other people tell you to do. Where you recognize that you were given a gift when you came into this world, and that your job is to discover that gift and develop it to the point where you can give it back to others. The meaning of your life comes from giving that gift back. Any risk you take should, in some way, enhance your ability to discover your gift, to develop it or to raise your chances of giving it back. The first key ingredient is to believe that you have a true talent. The second key ingredient is to believe that you’ll not be totally happy until you develop that talent. The third ingredient is to ask yourself, “When am I going to start doing that?” And the answer to that question is start now.

Strategy #3 – Listen to those who know more than you do. Someone knows more than you do. That may be hard for you to believe but it’s true. And some of those who know more than you will share that information. Find them. Ask for their help. Unfortunately, very few job seekers ask and even fewer do what they’re advised. Don’t be like that. When you ask, really take the advice that’s offered. After all, you may be asking someone who knows more than you. Don’t waste the exchange.

By the way, do you want to know how to find out if other people know more than you do? LOOK AT THEIR RESULTS. RESULTS NEVER LIE. If their results are better than yours, then they know something you don’t know. Or maybe they’re just willing to do more than you’re willing to do. In any case, pay close attention.

Spend some time with those who are doing better than you. Observe them. Listen to them. Figure out what they’re doing, and then go do it yourself. If you duplicate their effort, then you will duplicate their results.

Strategy #4 – Every correspondence you send to a hiring authority must be a quick read. That doesn’t necessarily mean it must be short (but shorter is always better). However, what you write must have several obvious entry points. So, no matter where the hiring authority chooses to “opt in,” he or she will read something that makes total sense and that prompts him or her to quickly take one of two actions:

  1. Move to another part of the correspondence and continue to read.
  2. Make a hand-written note on the correspondence and redirect it to someone else in the organization.


Strategy #5 – Strictly adhere, without exception, to the “96-hour rule.” Don’t send anything out in the mail unless you’re prepared to follow-up within 96 hours after it has landed on the person’s desk.

The biggest complaint I hear from hiring managers is this: people ask for a meeting or apply for a job, and then don’t follow up. The job application process isn’t complete without a follow-up. Recruiters and employers are busy. It’s up to you, not them, to press your candidacy forward. A good follow-up is also a good indication to a manager of your overall work habits.

Always mark a follow-up date on your calendar. When that day comes, pick up the phone and call the employer. You have two simple goals: to send a message that you’re a serious candidate, and to gauge your job search status or follow up on the interview that you already had.


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