This is the story of George (as usual, not his real name) and how taking the application process seriously can be effective.
There is a lot of information both documented and anecdotal that the way to get a job is through networking. And it’s pretty much true: approximately 4 out of 5 jobs are a product of networking… Of course that leaves 1 out of 5 being a product of all the application stuff. You know what I mean, find an ad on one of the job boards, send in an application etc.
This is the story of one of those. George is an engineer, laid off in the spring of 2009, he joined NFJS that summer. Engineers are pretty consistent in that do tend to be organized and George definitely fits that mold. He is also a good guy and someone who approached his search very seriously. Normally that means he is a great candidate for a networking referral and he definitely worked that angle.
He also needed to do his three contacts a week to qualify for unemployment. This he did with genuine diligence. It wasn’t going through the motions. He had set up a daily email on www.Indeed.com sending him a list of potential opportunities, and every Monday morning he scoured through these to find the best three from the weekend, mostly the ads were less than optimal, but he found the best three. With each of these he would first go through the job description, then do some basic research on the company. Assuming the company came up as a real thing and not a scam, he would then customize his resume using his Work-Life DB™ and submit it the way asked for by the ad. By the time this story took place he had been honing his process for a while. He had done a complete job on his Work-Life DB™ and knew how to cut and paste up a new resume very quickly. Normal for an application was about a half hour. He also had very low expectations. After all he had been doing some variation of this process for 8 months and at best would get a personal turn down a couple of times a month. In spite of the very low response he got, he continued to go through this process with commitment and respect.
There is a process in psychology called “extinction”. Basically this is the term used to describe the elimination of a behavior. It occurs when a behavior is completely ignored: In other words, exactly what happens with the online job application process. If you are applying for jobs online, you know what I’m talking about. It is normal for people to get one response of any kind for every 10 or 15 applications they send in, and of those 75 or 80% are automated. So actually turning in 3 applications a week for six or seven months is one of the most difficult things in the job search. A key element in sustaining that effort is efficiency, so are you spending 20 hours a week to get your 3 applications in? I’ve been helping people with job search for more than 30 years, I’ve been doing it professionally for most of the last two and I have not found anyone who takes that long to turn in their three applications a week and who is still doing it after about four months. Their behavior has been “extinguished”.
What George did was find a way to contain this part of his job search to Monday mornings. Using the tools built through NFJS, he found a way to work past this very powerful psychological block and continue month after month. In his case, in the end it worked. In March of this year, he came to our West Seattle group Tuesday Morning at 11:00 and with a dazed expression reported that he had applied Monday (the previous day) and they had already called!! It did take another six weeks, but that is where he went to work.
Here’s how George was able to be successful:
- · The Work-Life DB™ is a tool that allows you to collect all of your business success and documentation in one place. Where you worked, who you worked for, what your accomplishments were, all of the recommendations that grew out of the job, etc.
- · “Job board aggregators” are a class of web site that allow you to set up an automated search of some very large number of job boards and have the results sent to you either through an RSS feed, or via email. These tools largely eliminate the need to scour the various boards for opportunities. George set up a search on www.indeed.com that dropped opportunities into his email every morning. One other worth mentioning is www.linkup.com (not related to Linkedin). It’s value is that it goes through company web pages and posts new openings as they occur.
- · Reading an advertisement to identify what matters to a company for a position is a very particular skill and George mastered it. In other words, (and in George’s case) when he saw an ad that asked for an engineer who could “design widgets” he would go through his history and pull all of the proof he had that he could “design widgets”, then he would include it on his custom resume and using the words “design widgets” every time he had some experience demonstrating he would be great at designing widgets.
- · Promptness is important as well and George had this part down. In addition to his Monday Morning ritual of getting out his three weekly, he checked his email feed from Indeed every morning and any time he identified something interesting he responded.
- · Persistence is also necessary and George had this part down as well. He had eight months of futility in this process before he connected, but he did not quit! Every Monday he got his 3 applications out and every other morning, he tracked what was going on, responding to every good opportunity he found.
The point is that it can work. It always requires persistence and it requires adequate luck combined with a lot of work.