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Five Minutes to a Better Job Search in 2014

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Searching for a job and an attainable New Year's resolution? The perfect job search resolution can be completed in just five minutes.

The single best job search action you can take in 2014 is this: e-mail someone who has your target job and request a phone call to discuss what he/she's learned while at that job. That's it.

Your gut reaction to this is probably skepticism, which is entirely fair.

I see thousands of new job-seeking students every year between my full-time job as a career coach at Duke's Fuqua School of Business and my visits to universities worldwide to address this same topic, and the reaction is always the same: "Nobody wants to help you find a job."

But for one word, I would agree completely.

Almost nobody wants to help you find a job. That majority of people either wants to focus on their own jobs or dislikes their jobs too much to discuss. However, some people actually do want to help you find a job, so all of the people who ignore you are actually doing you a favor.

For our five-minute e-mail, we're going to target that minority of people who are genuinely helpful -- a group I call 'boosters'.

Asking a stranger if he or she is a 'booster' willing to help you find a job is efficient but can feel pretty threatening, even for boosters. However, the good news is that there's a simple, subtle way to separate boosters from the rest in an e-mail, and the body can be written in under 50 words.

Don't believe me? Try this:

"Hi Jamie,

I read your Q&A on YumSocialMedia.com and I liked your perspective on why companies should shift social marketing efforts from Facebook to Twitter.

Could you spare some time to discuss further? I'm trying to learn more about how marketers optimize social media usage, so your insights would be appreciated.

Steve"

Note: there's no need to mention your interest in a job. Your potential booster knows that already, since nobody executes this process for fun. Keep your interest in a job implicit.

This approach works because boosters are more responsive to social norms (requests for favors) than to market norms (sales pitches). Not so coincidentally, a favor request is much easier to write than a sales pitch and can be written in fewer words.

In my book, The 2-Hour Job Search, I call the above a five-point e-mail. A five-point e-mail usually yields a 40 percent response rate and, typically, about half of those responders are Boosters.

In other words, even using a proven process, you're going to have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your boosters, but an internal referral is a must in the modern job search and boosters are the only predictable way to get referrals. (How? Simply ask them about themselves.) Therefore, the return on these simple, five-minute investments can be momentous, and none is more important than your first one.

You may not be a natural networker, but you don't need to be to find employment, just as you don't need to be an athlete to perform the Heimlich maneuver. Technique is a great equalizer.

Furthermore, how well you navigate the uncertainty of turning strangers into advocates is actually an excellent predictor of how well you'll manage the ambiguity of the modern workplace. Consequently, effective execution of strategic outreach is a much better demonstration of qualifications than a resume or cover letter ever was.

Happy New Year's and good luck with your booster-based job search! Your five minutes starts now.