“Do you know the next call you need to make?”

Over the years, I’ve consistently made the claim that “job hunting is simple, it’s just not easy.”  No matter what anybody tells you, or tries to sell you, the truth of the matter is that looking for a job is not rocket surgery (to combine two of my favorite cliches) and is, in fact, a disarmingly straightforward exercise.  Once you’ve figured out the type of work you plan to target, your next step is simply to identify the set of employers and individuals most likely to hear about (or have) openings in your field, then start reaching out to as many of these targets as possible, on a daily basis, to uncover opportunities.

Of course, this is not how most job hunters proceed.  In an effort to avoid rejection, many professionals in transition will “complicate” the process or indulge in the fantasy that there might be some magic beans out there (or a recruiter, perhaps) that will spare them the indignity of having to actually go out and sell themselves.  As a career coach, I see this behavior every day.  People spend weeks agonizing over what resume format to use or which networking events to attend or whether they should call somebody they used to work with years ago or not.  Or they’ll spend two hours monkeying around drafting a cover letter to somebody, when they could actually just pick up the phone and make a quick two-minute call, asking the person for an appointment.  Again, while these small-scale decisions do play some role in the strategy of the typical job search, they shouldn’t be confused for a moment with the main activity that leads to success — which is to engage in an aggressive, structured barrage of outbound activity on a daily basis in order to promote your credentials to as many relevant companies and contacts as possible.

So the burning question I’d ask those of my readers looking for work is this: “Do you know the next call you need to make?”

The question is binary.  There’s either a “yes” or “no” answer.  If you DO know the call or calls you should be making next, based on the type of work you’re targeting, then you should go make them — right now!  Don’t wait.  Don’t make excuses.  Don’t stall until after Thanksgiving or rationalize that you should wait until a Thursday since some studies suggest people are in a better frame of mind on Thursdays.  In all of these cases, your brain is simply trying to trick you (darn you, brain!) into avoiding some short-term potential pain in the form of a negative employer response.  But this immediate pain avoidance will almost certainly lead to greater pain, down the road, since it will become a major barrier to your ability to find work in a competitive market.  So buckle down, dust off your to-do list, and go make 5 calls today to pitch yourself to a set of appropriate companies and hiring managers — or to recapture “top of mind” status with some of the folks in your network.  Heck, while you’re at it, make 10 calls.  Or 15.  Again, making these contacts may not be easy if you don’t have a natural sales bent to your personality, but job hunting is undeniably a “numbers game” in many respects and you’ll get better at pitching yourself, faster than you think, if you just make the effort.

And if your answer to the above question is negative — and you DON’T know which call or calls you need to make next — well, that’s a slightly different problem.  This suggests that you may not yet be familiar with the amazing array of tools out there today (e.g. LinkedIn, Zoominfo, Indeed, etc.) that can be used to turn up potential prospects related to one’s line of work or industry preferences.  Honestly, barring only a few exceptions, I’ve yet to meet the job hunter who isn’t able to generate an almost endless stream of useful prospects to contact when they put their mind to it.  So if truly feel you’re at a standstill, and don’t know who else you could possibly contact as part of your search, it might be time to get some help with that issue — whether from me or another coaching professional.  Compared to certain other challenges of career transition, “dry funnel syndrome” is a problem that can easily be fixed.

Again, though, the point is that jobs are really hiding these days.  You can’t wait for them to find you; you’ve got to go hunting for them.  As one successful client of mine recently put it:  “The only tip I can give to your clients is to be consistently diligent in their search every day.  It got really boring and depressing, at times, but I just perservered through it.”  Along those same lines, I’ve heard a friend in the recruiting business tell people repeatedly over the years that if they just were to “pick up the phone and call 100 relevant companies, pitching themselves, they’re bound to find at least one company that happens to have a suitable need at the moment– and bingo, end of job search.”

Now I don’t know whether this advice needs to be adjusted a little bit for inflation, given current market conditions, but either way, the principle still holds true.  Timing is everything and you need to create your own luck by being methodical, persuasive, and proactive.  Along these lines, the indefatigable Tom Peters describes the job search process (or any sales-based process) as one of “no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no YES!”  He then points out that winning job hunters (and salespeople) rush to get through this predictable string of “nos” as fast as possible, in order to get to the prize, whereas less successful folks sit at home trying to concoct a way to leapfrog past all of the rejection — and avoid having a single door slammed in their face, literally or figuratively.

So again, when somebody comes to me and claims to be at an impasse, in terms of finding work, my first order of business is to figure out whether they are truly out of ideas in terms of what companies to call — or who to contact next — or whether they are instead clouding their job search with a smokescreen of excuses to avoid putting their ego in harm’s way.  The results are usually around 50/50.  Half of the people I meet have their heels dug in the sand, and simply won’t take the actions needed to find work in a competitive market, while the other half are those who simply need to be pointed in the right direction — and shown how to research and build a suitable pipeline of targets to go after.  The process, again, is fairly simple.  It’s just not easy.  So figure out the next call (or 20) you need to make, do whatever it takes to switch off your cerebral defense mechanisms, and go for it!  THAT’S WHAT THE MOST EFFECTIVE JOB HUNTERS DO.