Three Keys to Job Search Success
Three Keys to Job Search Success

Job searching is a funny thing. While it’s a critical life skill most of us will need to rely on multiple times in our lives, very few people take time to study it or get training on how to do it effectively.

So I thought it would be helpful, as a longtime career coach, to draw on my experience and share a few ways you can almost instantly take your job search to the next level.

Not only are these techniques free to implement, they’re applicable for any and all types of professionals — whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned veteran seeking your next executive gig.

look beyond the obvious opportunities

How many employers would you guess exist in Washington state? 5,000? 10,000? 20,000? These are the numbers I’ve heard most from job hunters. Yet, according to a quick search on King County library’s free ReferenceUSA database, there are no fewer than 345,000 businesses operating in Washington — including 182,000 in the Seattle metro area alone!

Sure, a skeptic might point out that many of these organizations are mom-and-pop shops or single-shingle operations involving people working from home and the like. But even if we eliminate all businesses with fewer than 10 employees (which, just so you know, is a piece of cake to pull off with the ReferenceUSA system) the list still ends up being nearly 56,000 companies.

At the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that for every goliath employer you’ve heard about, there are 99 smaller ones you’ve likely overlooked.

Matt Youngquist, Career Coach
Think about this for a second. You could nearly fill Husky Stadium with the number of entrepreneurs in the area who have not only launched businesses, but grown them into sizeable, humming concerns. And yet, the average job seeker (in my experience) continues to act as if every job in our region falls under the umbrella of Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks or one of the other household-name enterprises. They’re the ones everybody seems to have their eye on.

Don’t get me wrong, these large employers certainly do a lot of hiring. And there’s no question that some people prefer the culture and perceived stability of a larger firm versus working for a smaller, scrappier organization. But at the end of the day, it’s important to recognize that for every goliath employer you’ve heard about, there are 99 smaller ones you’ve likely overlooked. Plus, competition doesn’t get any fiercer than when you’re applying somewhere everyone else has on their radar.

That said, one of the most immediate things you can do to enhance your job search success is to roll up your sleeves and build a list of ALL the local companies in your target field or industry. Who have you overlooked? Who are the little guys? Tease these firms out of the woodwork, start tracking them, and consider reaching out to them to see what opportunities you can turn up.

Network your buns off — you know more people than you think

A second method for increasing your job search prospects quickly? Ask yourself some serious questions about the thoroughness of your networking efforts; you might have some untapped potential here that you could capitalize on.

Again, let’s be data-driven about things. According to a Pew Research Center study on social networking a few years back, the average U.S. adult has — wait for it — no fewer than 634 relationships (a.k.a. social ties). That’s right. Most of us know hundreds of people, not merely a few dozen. The only reason we think we know fewer folks is that we subconsciously add the filter of “who we think actually might be able to help us” into the mix, versus taking stock of the true size and scope of the relationships we’ve amassed over the years.

As a result, most job hunters I’ve met tend to engage only a tiny fraction of their contacts in their career outreach efforts. They limit their networking to a small circle of close friends or to individuals working in their target field or industry, overlooking the fact that people are often connected in extremely surprising and unpredictable ways. For all you know, your hairdresser has a client who just launched a hot new business intelligence startup. Or that friend of yours in the bicycle club knows the CEO of a kick-butt marketing agency. Or that fellow parent on your daughter’s soccer team is best buds with a recruiter in the aerospace field.

Of course, there might be a few folks you consciously choose not to enlist in your job search efforts, for whatever reason. But if we all truly know north of 600 people, I bet there are some you’ve merely overlooked or avoided contacting simply because you didn’t see how they could help. Is it time to cast a wider net and make more of your friends from the gym … or from church … or from your Thursday night Bunco group aware of your career aspirations?

Focus on outreach volume, not hours spent

Last but not least, when it comes to increasing job search effectiveness, I encourage you to think hard about metrics, planning and accountability. If you’re serious about finding a new role, it’s not about the sheer amount of time you throw at the process — it’s about how you allocate your time and how productively you’re able to invest it.

When you stop and think about it, there’s only one job search activity that has the potential to help you land an interview. And that’s the act of reaching out ...

Matt Youngquist, Career Coach
When you stop and think about it, there’s only one job search activity that has the potential to help you land an interview. And that’s the act of reaching out — be it to a relevant lead, contact or organization. Anything you’re spending time on in a job search that doesn’t match this description is make-work.

Aside from some occasional light maintenance of your resume and LinkedIn profile, ask yourself what types of tasks you’ve been spending most of your job hunting time on. Then see if you can throttle up the ratio to include more outbound communication to potential prospects.

If I were a betting man, I’d wager on the job hunter who bears down and bangs out 15 notes to their network in a single hour versus the person who spends half a day agonizing over the exact language of a cover letter or who trolls website after website hunting for a job listing they might have missed. In fact, as a benchmark, I’d encourage you to try to plant at least five new seeds every day out in the market — with a seed being any sort of direct communication to a relevant person or company.

Again, it’s about productivity, not time spent. And the old adage “looking for a job is a full-time job” just doesn’t adequately capture this.

So there you have it. Three quick-and-dirty thoughts around how you can quickly improve your job hunting success. Ask yourself whether any of these areas represent some untapped potential in your search efforts. If so, make a point to eliminate these roadblocks and ratchet up your opportunity-seeking endeavors.

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Matt Youngquist

Guest writer Matt Youngquist is a recognized career coaching expert and LinkedIn trainer in the greater Seattle area. He’s the founder and president of Career Horizons, where he helps clients across the Pacific Northwest tackle the challenges of job hunting and employment transition.

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