Finding the right match for a career opportunity is like finding the right match for a romantic relationship. Here are 10 reasons why a job search might feel like dating, along with tips to help you find Mr. or Ms. Right Company:
1) GOING YOUR SEPARATE WAYS. You or your past employer might have lost that loving feeling. Now it's gone, gone, gone and you have to go on. After being in a personal relationship there is always the possibility of parting ways and, while you may be lonely, you will survive. But a professional relationship may be another matter, especially if you "separate" without your next move in mind. Now is the time to pull out your ' little black' professional book and ask yourself: WHAT AM I REALLY LOOKING FOR?
2) I NEED SOMEONE TO HOLD MY HAND. I really did! Just as there are dating coaches out there, there are career coaches too. I hired an amazing career coach Syndee Feuer for six weeks who helped me shape my resume, made great suggestions for my cover letter, and talked me off a ledge many times. As I was making a career re-invention move, I didn't want to just JUMP at the first opportunity. I wanted a soulful, reflective process to align my career and my values.
3) GIVE IT TIME. Understand that a job search is not a one-night stand, nor even a summer romance. This is a process that could take several months. The Washington, D.C. job market is holding strong, especially if you have a college degree and track record, but other markets might take more time. To use time wisely I embarked on a 'listening and learning tour,' and connected with dozens of fascinating people and many opportunities.
4) FACEBOOK IS FOR LOVERS, LINKEDIN IS FOR JOB SEEKERS to build their networks. Invest your time in social media to build connections and let key people know you are looking via Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter. Face-to-face and phone calls are always best, but a lot of my leads came from Linkedin (I would write messages to people that I was making a move). The best interviews came from seeing people out professionally who said 'call; let's meet.' When push comes to shove, who is hiring is the play of the day.
5) EXPERIENCE MATTERS. Of course your friends want to help -- but it really is again like dating -- they don't know a single guy (or gal) good enough for you. I suggest you have a really thoughtful three- to four-paragraph letter explaining where you are and what you are looking to do next. Specifics help your friends know with whom to set you up. Be sure to keep a 'cheat sheet' that includes your track record of key outcomes and skills that will add great value to your next company.
6) FIRST DATES & INTERVIEWS. It's one thing selling a company -- but another thing to get dressed up, go out, and sell yourself. I had 'potential suitors' not let any of their staff talk as they held court for a full hour at the interview. Sometimes people that know you best come to your emotional rescue during job searches, just as they did when you were dating. Then, and now, I have my loving mom who said 'Julie -- you are like Goldilocks -- one bed is too hard, one too soft, you will find one that's just right.''
7) PREP. To prepare for your interview, I recommend you research the company, see if your friends work for the company or are connected to with the person interviewing you (on Linkedin and other social media). Find commonalities. I have hired a few dozen people and I am always impressed when someone can give a tangible vision of how they can improve our company and get results. Then I'm ready to buy!
8) THE AIRPORT TERMINAL TEST. Interviews are a two-way street. One thing to ask yourself is if I was on a business trip and stuck in an airport terminal with the people interviewing me for three hours -- how would that work out? When I met with Chris Hertz, founder of Barrel of Jobs, I felt my brain opening up and that I was learning a ton (he is a natural teacher.) I said "YES!" when the offer letter came because Chris passed the airport terminal test with flying colors.
9) I HAD A REALLY NICE TIME & THANK YOU. Just like the importance of connecting with a romantic interest shortly after a date to say you had a good time, it's important to send an nice email follow up on the day of (or day after) the interview. It shows you appreciated the interviewer's time and are interested in the opportunity. Unlike a date, there may have been a team of people you met with; don't forget them.
10) ENJOYING PROFESSIONAL DATING. Anyone going through a number of first dates is excited but probably also riddled with fears and some insecurities especially if you've been off the market for awhile. A friend told me about a book called In Between the Trapezes, when trapeze artists let go of the swinging bar -- that is where the magic can occur -- before they grab the next bar and know they are safe. I learned to enjoy the 'in between' as it's a magic moment of being 'single' and 'dating again.'
Once you find 'THE ONE' great job for you, map out your plan to keep the 'candle lit' and continue to make a great impression by both promising and delivering. Start thinking about your friends who are still looking and what could help them fast track to something great. One resource is our new company Barrel of Jobs. It's the only site where if you help a friend get a job, you get a referral bonus (yes, $$$) and resources to support job training to the most vulnerable populations. Help a friend. Earn some money. Put America back to work!
Follow Julie Kantor on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JulieKantorSTEM