Time management is the demon that destroys a carefully executed job search. One client of recent memory spent seven hours a day at the computer sending emails, requests for introductions and participating in various LinkedIn groups. After three months he had only made five new connections that referred him to opportunities. And not one of the opportunities was right for him. He was demoralized. The demon was elated.
As his coach, I have to ask, “What’s wrong with this picture?” He is doing all the things recommended in my book, “Job Search Debugged.” Yet he hits the wall every day. After careful analysis and much defensive protestation on his part, here’s what I discovered.
1. He spent too much time in front of his computer.
2. He did not form a habit of telephone or skype outreach.
3. He followed up with his ‘ask’ only once. If the target did not respond, he moved on.
4. He repeated the same messages and research almost daily
5. He did not follow his industry blogs and newsletters for ideas and names.
6. He had not targeted five companies of special interest but rather depended on others to suggest companies.
1. First things first. We analyzed each message, each outreach and each conversation for clues about why he was not connecting with the people he needed to reach. What he was doing seemed spot on but it wasn’t getting him the results he needed. So we changed his message from a generic ‘ask’ to a more specific ask.
Old: Would you introduce me to two people who may know where there are opportunities for a global sales executive whose track record includes growing new business to 450% in four years?
New: Would you introduce me to two people who know companies not yet expanded into Dubai and or BRITs? I pioneer new geographies and bring fast revenue results because my network of distributors is in place.
2. Join new LI groups. This time with a focus on the geographies he wanted to grow instead of executive or sales groups. He can learn about people in companies and situations he’d not be able to know about otherwise. Cast your net to the people rather than the companies and you are more likely to get the information and introductions you need.
3. Follow the newsletters and blogs of industry leaders and pundits. A real time saver so you are not reinventing the wheel is find the people who know what you need to know and connect to their network. Find publications/blogs and notice whom they quote or who participates. The comments section is a gold mine for expanding your search to exactly the right people. Sure, it makes sense for you to comment but following up with others is where you find active participants in your field. Find them on LI and connect to see their connections, then ask for introductions as indicated. Also notice what groups they belong to. Join.
While I can make a long list of other activities to change or incorporate, let’s admit the time management demon thrives on thrashing.
4. Direct steps to tame the demon:
Make a list every day of three major accomplishments you hope to achieve. Then make a sub-list of activities to get there. Check them off as you do them.
Take a break. Counter intuitive, but when you stress out and don’t take time to refresh yourself, you are not productive.
Set time limits. Dedicate blocks of time for specific activities. Once the time allotment is up, change activities. This gives you goals, a fresh attitude and minimizes burn out.
Make it fresh. If one message isn’t working, change the focus.
Make as much face to face (telephone/skype) contact as possible. It revitalizes you and is more effective generating an outcome.
Change it up. Work down the organizations you hope to penetrate instead of up. Everyone wants to help, they just need to know what help looks like.
Define your ask as specifically as possible but don’t make it so difficult there is no answer. For example: Global Sales Exec positions is generic whereas Sales Exec for Brazil or China is not. But not Global Sales Exec for small, privately owned company located in the U.S. You don’t want your connections to work too hard to figure out who you need to know.
Focus. On-line research is distracting, frustrating and rarely direct. Set a limit on how much time you dedicate to your random searches. For example, 15 minutes of research after you have completed a few phone calls. Or 20 minutes after lunch. Don’t let on-line research seduce you into believing you are engaged in productive job search activities. It may lead to it, but it is not in itself productive. Talking to people is productive.
Notice. Take inventory of what brought the results you intended. Do more of that.
5. Set realistic expectations. As with any sales situation (yes, you are selling a product, yourself as an employee), it takes about ten asks to get one yes. And while your sense of urgency is apparent, those whom you ask for support do not share it. Be reasonable about how long it will take for someone to get back to you as promised.
6. Biggest tip. The key to keeping your morale up is not assuming the worst. There is no way to know or intuit why someone did not do what you wanted them to do so stop trying. Notice who does respond and value that. Don’t torture yourself with who didn’t.
If they don’t respond or respond with a non-productive answer, do not despair. Keep them informed of your progress and send them links to things of interest, but don’t keep asking for a response to your original need. You asked for support because they are part of your network and there are too many reasons, most unknown by you, why they did not respond as needed or in a timely manner. Don’t try to guess and don’t punish yourself by assuming rejection. Preserve your network even when they don’t deliver because this is not the last job search you will ever do.
Now, stop reading job search advice and get back on the phone.