Making your own luck with the job search.

An ever increasing number of people seeking new jobs are relying heavily on what I call reactive activity to deliver results in their job search. This is fine if you're already employed and are in no rush to move. However if you need to work after having been made redundant, or just returned from an overseas work assignment, or are coming back from sabbatical or family commitments, then there are smarter ways to stand out from other job seekers and to get work options for yourself.

Let me give you some examples of what I deem to be reactive activity.

There are a large number of HR executives who pin all their hopes on recruiters to find and introduce them to new job options.  Big mistake.  Recruiters get paid when they complete hiring assignments and their focus will typically be on filling the assignments they have open now, rather than scouting about on your behalf in the hope of speculatively filling an assignment.  The latter just isn’t part of the service model for most firms, no matter how much they may wish to be of help.  So by all means register and network with recruiters, but don’t rely on them - they are not job centres.

There are HR executives who pore over the job boards, spending hours every day, certain that every job advertised has been written just for them (given how vague most ads are on real hiring criteria, this certainty is perhaps understandable).  However so many career roles never go out to market, and plenty has been written on this elsewhere.  By all means scour the job boards but keep track of what job and company you’re applying to.  Eighty two applications for various roles to the same company isn’t wise and relying on your dream job to be advertised publicly, might keep you waiting for some time.  

Another aspect of reactive activity, is seen on a daily basis on LinkedIn.  HR executives update their LinkedIn profiles to show they’re looking for work, and wait for the phone to ring.  And wait.  And wait.  They will often bombard absolute strangers with invitations to connect.  No courtesy note, no reason for the connection request.  Just a wild hope that someone out there in internet world will find their profile so amazing that they’ll drop everything and talk to them immediately and offer them a job.  LinkedIn and other social media networks can be valuable tools but target who you want to connect with, and give your reasons for wanting to be in contact to avoid being viewed as a desperate spammer.

Looking for a job, is really a full time job in itself.  And sending out application after application to anonymous recipients in the hope of some kind of response, is simply soul destroying activity for anyone seeking work.  So be smart about your job hunting project.  And be intelligently pro active.

Engage your networks.  Seriously, at this level in your career, you ought to know a lot of people both in and out of the HR world.  And if you’re any good, these people will be your advocates for jobs in their own companies.  They're also likely to have different networks to your own, so ask them for introductions to potential hiring leaders and to let you know of any companies they hear are hiring.  Many a hire has been effected through a word of mouth recommendation.

I know the clout held by many C level executives and I’ve certainly seen them take great HR leaders with them to their new companies and/or make a HR position magically available for their favourite HR partners.  Don’t be shy about asking for help - if you've historically had a great relationship with a business leader, check whether they want to hire you again, or whether they can tap into their own networks to open up opportunities for you.

If you have genuinely unique knowledge, skills or expertise try publishing specialist articles.  You could also work the conference circuit, be a guest speaker at industry functions or specialist training events. Plenty of community groups could utilise your expertise (sure you probably won't get paid, but you aren't working any way so keep yourself busy!). There are a multitude of avenues to raise your profile and demonstrate your expertise which give you options to create interest in what you could offer a prospective employer and to open up job opportunities.

Try approaching companies directly.  But do it with some authenticity and with a targeted approach.  So many people apply to an on-line job portal and are then bemused when they get no response other than an automated acknowledgement.  Don't chance being lost as just one of thousands of online applicants every day.  It's easy enough to find the names of potential hiring leaders - try targeting these people with your application.  A speculative application focussed purely on how great you are, and with a generic cover note is just another form of spam - be sure to research how your skills and experience will solve a problem and reference this, along with the reasons why you want to work for that company.

There is nothing wrong with marketing yourself in the same way as you might with any other commodity.  Use multiple methods, multiple media, and be sure to always target your message to the potential buyer (or in this case employer).  Stay focussed, and consistent.  Be intelligently pro active, and make your own good luck to secure that next challenging career role.