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Job Search Better and Smarter Than Your Competition

To job search better and smarter than your competition means to do things differently. If your primary job search strategy is seeking out job postings online, know that you’ve got lots of company because your fellow job seekers are doing the same exact thing. In addition to boatloads of competition, there is another reason online job hunting can yield disappointing results. This second reason relates to the fact that many great jobs are simply never advertised. They are never on a recruiter’s desk and never posted on the Internet. This is because those jobs get filled before any of that needs to happen. They are snatched up quickly by people who made the right connections ahead of everyone else. Therefore, my advice to you is that you need to be one of those people who make the right connections ahead of the pack.

The strategies I am advocating are frequently referred to as networking and targeted mailings. Career experts agree that these are the most successful job search strategies with 60-70% of the job-seeking population finding employment using these methods.

The premise of networking is that you know someone who knows someone who can introduce you to many of the employers you would like to meet. As such, networking involves telling many people you are in the job market and looking for leads. Begin your networking strategy by writing down the names of all your acquaintances. Include all relatives, friends, neighbors, your hairstylist, people at your gym, professors, physicians, dentists, fellow commuters, and colleagues (only those that you can really trust). Make this list as large as possible. Keep it with you for several days so you can write down the names of people as you meet or remember them. We will call these people your primary contacts. After you have created your list, call or visit each of your primary contacts. Tell them about your job search and ask for leads.

Example of what you can say to your primary contacts:

“John, I was wondering if you could help me out. I’m looking for a job in corporate training and I’ m targeting companies in the financial services industry. Do you happen to know anyone who does corporate training?…What about anyone who works in the financial services industry?”

As your primary contacts provide names of others, contact these new folks who become additional (secondary) contacts.

At a certain point, depending on the situation and on your personal style, you will switch from calling people to sending your cover letter and résumé, which makes it a more formal job search inquiry. Imperative to this whole process is keeping good records of who you have contacted and when. Doing so will enable you to evaluate if you are reaching out to enough people (volume is important) as well as tracking your activity for follow-up with employers.

The approach called targeted mailings, is closely related to networking but gives you the opportunity to contact companies you are interested in working for, even if there are no advertised job openings and even if you can’t identify a single insider. It starts with developing a “hit list” of employers to target. You then send your résumé and very compelling cover letter directly to them and follow-up with a telephone call.

There are several resources you should explore to help you develop your “hit list” of potential employers.

Reference librarians can be very helpful in finding employer information. They are most able to assist you if you can be specific about your needs. Do so by saying something like this, “I am looking to develop a list of employers in the advertising industry within the metro New York area.” Reference librarians will direct you to business directories, which are useful for this type of research. Most use the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which assigns a code based on the business’ chief industry. Therefore, all companies within an industry will have the same NAICS code. This makes it easier to cross-reference other directories. Check out:

The Directory of Corporate Affiliations
The American Wholesalers and Distributors Directory
D&B Million Dollar Directory
Ward’s Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies.

Other good resources for identifying companies or organizations to target include trade publications specific to your field, and for Long Island job seekers, The Book of Lists and a few other directory-type publications created by The Long Island Business News. Your local library will have those publications.

The list you develop should include addresses and (ideally) the names of the best people to send your résumé to within those organizations. It will also be helpful to collect some information about these businesses-information that you can use to customize a cover letter or help prepare you for an interview.

The targeted mailing strategy has the great benefit of allowing your résumé to arrive solo, not in a pile with dozens or hundreds of others, which is what always happens in response to an advertised job opening. Though your résumé and cover letter will sometimes arrive when there is no opening, sometimes there will indeed be one. When that happens, you become the front-runner. Additionally, even if there are no current openings, your quality résumé and cover letter will surely be saved for future reference. Sounds great? Well, there is one catch. The catch is that targeted mailings can be a lot of work and you will need to invest some serious time and energy.

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