You’ve been reading all that good news about how the American economy continues to rebound and how employer hiring remains strong. Indeed, in April nearly 500,000 jobs were created, proving that workers are finding good fits during this period of the "Great Resignation."
Yet, so far the good news isn’t applying to you, a person actively seeking a new job. You know you should be in the catbird seat, so what’s the catch?
The reality of today’s strong jobs market is that not all job seekers are successful. That may be because they lack the tools and strategies to find the employment they specifically desire. To succeed, they need to have the right approach.
The use of online sources like LinkedIn and job boards has very much changed the hiring environment. Yet some tried-and-true tactics never go out of style. Having made a few transitions in my 25-year Washington, D.C. career, guided by some truly inspiring individuals, I want to share some of the wisdom I’ve gained and the tactics I’ve "employed."
In November 2021, I left my employer of more than seven years and reentered the job market. I knew I did not necessarily want to put a badge back on and rejoin corporate America. I wanted to "test the market" and see not only what interested me but also who was interested in me. To do this, I needed a strategy.
Outlined below are my top tried-and-true tactics – as well as a new tool I recently developed for my most recent transition– to aid any career move.
Know What You Want. First ask, "Where do I want to be in five years career-wise?" A five-year window will help you frame the job to seek now, as well, perhaps, as the next one. If the job you are eyeing does not move you toward the career you want in five years, you probably should not take it and should refocus your search.
Be Patient. Even in today’s fast-paced marketplace, I still think a successful job search takes on average six months. Of course, depending on your past jobs and what you seek, the process can be shorter. But expect that landing the "right" job may take more time than you initially hoped.
Own Your Search. The harsh reality is, no matter how much friends and associates agree to help you, you are the one who needs the job. You need to own the search, commit the time, do the outreach. Reliance on any one friend, colleague, headhunter, or job board is risky and can lead you away from pursuing other opportunities.
Be Humble. Job hunting is not easy on the ego. It is not unnatural for the job hunter to have a larger sense of self-worth than is seen by the potential employer. Knowing what your value is, what your principles are, how you deliver value, and what you want in an employer are elements you need at hand. Just go into this knowing that others may not see you as you see yourself.
Say Yes to Any Interview. Accept an interview even if the job isn’t what you want. Why? Because that employer may set you up with other opportunities. Plus, interviewing is good practice in helping you refine your pitch.
Be Respectful. People are busy. When you meet with someone, they are taking time away from something else. Make it worth their while. Connect first on issues that matter to them. Ask how you can help them.
Build a Network. Meet with a range of people, including those who genuinely want to help and those who do it as a favor. Send them a thank you note (or email) afterward. Update your network on your progress. Let them know when you get hired and then update them 3-4 months into your job. People appreciate updates when you don’t need something! Offer to go to coffee and ask them if you can be of help. Such acts build a healthy network.
Maintain Your Network. There is no denying that luck and timing play a role here. Someone may have just left and an opening that didn't exist weeks ago is now open. Or a former boss who took a new job now wants to bring you on. That’s why you should continue to network after you land the job – including taking that meeting with a friend of a friend seeking new horizons.
Develop a Probability Board. In reviewing my recent search efforts, I realized that I was spending as much time on opportunities that I wasn’t interested in or that looked unlikely as I was on those that were likely to yield success.
I created a "probability board" using poster board and sticky notes. I drew three columns, one labeled "good chance," another "50/50," and the third, "little chance." I wrote on a sticky note for each opportunity or lead or promise and placed it in the appropriate column on the board. This visual tool helped me to prioritize.
Over time, I saw many stickies in the "good" or "50/50" column materialize into offers. This arguably occurred because I had leveraged my time and network in favor of opportunities I truly wanted.
The results of my job search have worked out better than I imagined. While given the opportunity during my search to "re-badge" and join more than a few companies, I decided to start my own advisory firm. I made this decision because I asked myself what I wanted and didn’t want during this next stage of my professional life. Within six months of undertaking this latest career transition, I now have a stable of consulting clients. I also sit on numerous corporate and non-profit advisory boards, and am affiliated with a leading American think tank.
I hope your adapting of my tools and tactics results in a successful search. And remember, the next good job is highly dependent on how well you do in the job you have today.
Give it everything you have. Show them that you were the right choice.
Grow by doing new things with new people. All of this will give you more options for the next time around.
Daniel Fata is the Founder and President of Fata Advisory LLC, a recently-formed strategic advisory and consulting firm located in the Washington, D.C. He has served in senior capacities in Congress, the U.S. Defense Department, corporate America, and leading think tanks.