If you’re in the process of searching for work, I’ll lay it on the line for you. One of your primary challenges is going to be making action a higher priority than analysis.
Amidst all anxiety of a modern-day search, it’s far too easy to get paralyzed by the little details of things. Surprised by the lack of response you receive from employers, you can’t shake the feeling that you must be going about the job hunting process the wrong way. You fear your resume must somehow be off-kilter. Or your elevator pitch is missing the perfect sound bite. Or your cover letter is underwhelming. Or that there must be some other great websites hiding out there that you somehow overlooked, laden with tons of terrific openings.
For example, I get asked questions like the following multiple times throughout the day:
“Matt: There’s this person at XYZ company I’m thinking about trying to contact, since that company seems like a good fit with my background. What’s the right way to contact this person? Should I call them or e-mail them? What time of day works best? Should I leave a message? If so, what should it say? Should I follow up with them if they don’t respond? If so, how many times? And in terms of addressing them, would it be better to say “Dear Mr. Jones” or just “Mr. Jones”? Or maybe I should call them “Bill” instead and shoot for a personal touch. What do you think? I really don’t want to screw this up…”
The truth? You can’t afford to think like this. You can’t invest a whole day analyzing this kind of thing to death or your lead generation efforts will almost inevitably stall out.
To put it simply: What. Trumps. How.
The “what” is the outcome you’re trying to achieve — which, in this case, is to intiate a conversation with an appropriate contact person or hiring manager. That is what you need to get done, at the end of the day, to generate a viable job lead. And in terms of how exactly you get there, well, that’s largely irrelevant. I don’t care (and you shouldn’t either) whether you make this happen via phone, fax, snail mail, or carrier pigeon. Don’t think. Act. Try something, and if that doesn’t work, try something else. Trust me, if there were a foolproof formula of exactly what to say to get somebody to respond to you, every single time, somebody would patent it and make a trillion dollars. Some people like getting e-mails, some prefer getting phone calls. Some are morning people, some are night people. Some are friendly, and some are jerks. And since there’s no way to know these things in advance, you’ve just got to rip the bandaid off and take some chances.
As wise master Yoda once said to young Luke Skywalker: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
At the end of the day, this type of action bias is essential to creating job offers. By way of further example, let’s say you’re somebody who has decided your career goal is to sell medical devices. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that of all the people in the world you should seek to cultivate relationships with, the sales managers of a medical device firm would be at the top of the list. They’re your ideal target customer. So you do a quick search on LinkedIn and within minutes, thanks to this ever-amazing tool, you’re able to turn up the names of 304 appropriate sales executives in the Puget Sound area — all of whom work for medical device organizations. Seriously, it’s that easy. I just ran that search and 304 names came up.
So again, what’s the “what” that needs to happen? It’s that you need to make contact with as many of these people as possible sooner, rather than later. Any one of them could be sitting on a need for your skills that won’t be evident, from the outside looking in, since relatively few jobs ever get publicly advertised. So if you were this hypothetical person, how long would this process take you? An hour? A week? A month? Or would you, like so many struggling job hunters, rationalize your way out of contacting your best potential customers?
I know I’m laying it on thick, and I know this mindset can be difficult to maintain during the confidence-challenging stages of a job hunt, but I wouldn’t preach about it if: 1) I didn’t think you had it in you (most professionals are far more resourceful than they realize; they’d never let the silly “how” part stop them on the job) and 2) if I hadn’t seen it in action, myself.
On this latter note, I was on vacation last month when my wife and I got an e-mail from a friend of ours, on a Monday, who reported the unfortunate news that he’d been laid off from his current company. Four days later, he sent us a second e-mail. This note was to share the good news that he’d accepted a brand-new job — and had turned down two other offers along the way! How did he do it? He simply got up, each day for four days in a row, and made over 30 contacts per day to appropriate companies and people in his network, letting them know of his availability. And one of them bounced in a favorable direction.
What. Trumps. How.