Headlines blare: “Why You Should Hire Me.” While times may be challenged, there is work (and jobs) to be had. I’ve been in the people (and teams) assessment business for over 25 years , both as a coach to managers and teams and as someone directly responsible for hiring thousands of people through roles running large staffing / recruiting operations. I’ve designed selection processes, designed and run interviewer training programs, and written and spoken on the subjects of recruiting and selection. From that experience I have a pretty good sense of how and why people get hired. “Choose Me, Hire Me!” is a nine part series on the ways people can improve their chances of being hired.
Part 2 – Know Yourself & Networking
“Any port in a storm ” sounds great when you need it, but whether it be a job or port, it’s really safe harbor that you’re seeking. Absent serious financial challenge, it makes little sense to move from the proverbial skillet to the equally daunting frying pan.
So Rule Two is know yourself – what do you bring to a job? What can you honestly claim that you can do? What makes you qualified for any particular role? What do you want to do in life?
So how do you do that? It’s sorta easy – get to know yourself.
I believe the best way on the job front is a version of information interviewing that is a twist from the approach originally advocated by Richard Nelson Bolles of What Color is Your Parachute Fame. (BTW – Best job hunting and career thinking resource that I know). In the Bolles model, information interviewing primarily is a way to learn more about industries and roles in a receptive sense. In the J. Mike Smith version you do that as well but you also engage in two-way dialogue on whether your background and skills map to what you are thinking of doing.
Here’s the brief 1-2-3 (and 4-5):
- Use your networks (undergrad, grad school, parent group, church, pool shooting, soccer playing, etc.) to find people who might know something about the position roles, industries, or companies that map to your interests and what you perceive as your skills and abilities.
- Ask if you can spend 30 minutes picking their brain on whichever’s appropriate (industry if they are in the appropriate industry, role if they are familiar with the type of role in which you’re interested, company if they’re familiar with the firm you might think is appropriate.)
- When you meet with the person, focus the conversation on gaining information about their expertise (“tell me about how you got to your current position”), sharing briefly your background, and seeking feedback on how your skills, background and experience might map to your particular interest (company, role, industry, etc.) I think it’s important for a couple of three reasons to establish personal connection with the person, rather than simply trying to scamper up “spec jobs”. While the eventual objective is finding a job that matches your background and interest, never, ever ask someone any version of “Do you have a job for me.” If they think you’re qualified for a job they’re familiar with, they’ll mention it to you.
The key questions to ask people with whom you connect in the information interview are:
- Given my background and interests, does what I want to do (example: become a lobbyist for a wind power firm) make sense? How so?
- If so, are there companies or people you suggest I talk with further? (And may I use your name as an intro?)
- If you don’t think that my skills and experience map to that (in this example the lobbyist aspiration) what does come to your mind in terms of best job / industry / company matches for me? – and are they people or companies in this area you think I should speak with? (And may I use your name as an intro?)
Repeat the process with the what should be an expanding set of contacts. The goal of the “interviews” is to have people get a sense of who you are, make personal connections, thoroughly vet your qualifications, and increase the number of eyeballs potentially looking out for opportunities for you.
In a future post I’ll outline the importance of caring for and nurturing your networks. In the meantime, as noted in Part 1, show up on time, and say thank you promptly. And by the way, part of the deal is to be willing and able to returning the favor of help when the time comes.
Using this process ensures two things. One, you’ll get a strong, well-honed sense of who you are as seen through the eyes of many others – think of it as market testing. Second and more importantly, when the real deal interview comes up, you’ll be able to comfortably map your background and skills to the job qualifications and responsibilities.
She wrote: I’m ready for part 3 or 4… Being on time/showing up for interviews is definitely important, but how do I even get the call after sending in the cover letter/resume? Not hearing back is a first for me… it’s a little shocking to my system. Can you skip to that part of your series next?
It’s coming next. . .
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive and team coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above.