The Expansionist Theory For Job-Search Success

There’s certainly no shortage of job-search advice. But you’ve got to separate the wheat from the chaff. The chaff, in my view, is the harmfully restrictive advice that imposes arbitrary limits on job searches. Disciples of networking have effected the most damage on executives already stifled by servitude to corporate America. They’ve persuaded millions of such job seekers to relegate direct company contact and related search methods to secondary status.

But the resulting widespread inertia among job hunters can give an edge to candidates who understand that networking is just one step of a multistep, high-volume process. Call this approach to job search “the expansionist theory.” While your competitors in the job market bow to the gurus and are sometimes enticed into duplicitous tactics, you can be busy outmarketing your rivals, following a strategy that produces offers.

In comparing restrictive search theories to the expansionist theory, remember this simple truth: You can never be guilty of making too many contacts, but you can certainly be guilty of making too few. At the end of the day, the sheer magnitude and quality of your job-search campaign will get results.

The strategy I advocate employs four main tactics: direct company contacts, recruiter contacts, classified ads and networking. It’s a winning formula, involving no restrictions or duplicity.

Step One: Direct Company Contact

The unqualified success of direct contact stands as the sharpest rebuke to irresponsible disciples of networking. I advise you to ignore the unsubstantiated drivel about breaches of confidentiality and overexposure that these folks preach.

Power packaging and high-volume marketing can get results. Research, select and query executive decision makers using online and print directories for contact information. Prepare a cover letter that presents your skills and achievements in a way that will hook the reader, enticing him or her to review your resume. Never underestimate the power of words.

Step Two: Recruiter Contacts

Job seekers reach out to the much-maligned recruiting industry for one reason — recruiters have job orders to fill. But they are only one step in the process. You shouldn’t depend on an industry whose loyalty naturally lies with its client companies. The bottom line is that recruiters are vital to any search as long as you don’t rely on them.

Although retained search firms — represented by such icons as Korn/Ferry International and Heidrick & Struggles — are often considered more reputable than contingency firms, don’t overlook these scrappier competitors. Contingency recruiters, as their name implies, are paid only if and when they place a winning candidate.

Arm yourself with a CD-ROM directory of executive recruiters that will give you contact information for hundreds of firms. Volume counts. Period.

Step Three: Classified Ads

The Internet nullifies old excuses for failing to answer classifieds promptly. It has ended the agony of reading, analyzing and sorting hard-copy classified ads whose tiny print once all but blinded readers. Online classifieds are so easy to use that it’s hard to make a mistake.

By typing in a keyword or two, you get instant access to convenient lists of relevant job listings in the help-wanted sections of leading newspapers. You’ve finished a task that once took days — and you can respond to these ads in record time.

Responding to online classifieds with a custom-packaged cover letter and resume is a one-two punch that gets you in the door with an interview invitation.

Step Four: Networking

Exploit networking for all it’s worth, but assume you must achieve a career move on your own. As one step of a process, networking is obviously important. While some networking gurus offer sage advice, others have detoured into duplicitous tactics. They endorse bogus schemes to gain access to decision makers so that the topic of jobs can be broached at a later, more opportune time. Those amenable to these roundabout tactics can certainly employ them.

I’ve had few job-search clients who would abide this subterfuge. You can instead adopt such tactics as third-party introductions. These can be extremely effective.

While nurturing and sustaining work and social relationships is a top priority, 85% of my clients achieve career moves through means other than networking. Even the best networking is no substitute for a multistep, high-volume search process. You’ll outmaneuver your competitors by applying a truth that many job seekers invariably sidestep: A job search is, and will always be, a numbers game. Widespread failure to play the game only benefits those who do.

If you have a winning resume, you already hold an edge in your job search. While it’s true that resumes alone won’t get you a job, it’s equally certain that a quality package can produce the right interviews. To capitalize on luck and timing, your resume must be in decision makers’ hands at exactly the right moment.

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