Articles written by Bettina Seidman

Best Practices in Job Search

July/August 2001

Sometimes job searchers do not spend enough time using networking and targeting techniques to identify interesting positions. It often seems so easy to contact the search firms with whom you have a relationship, and hope that they will "do all the legwork". Don't forget that when you are the candidate, you are not the client……and search firms are not in the business of finding jobs for anyone. The fact is that you will achieve success sooner if you conduct a comprehensive job search utilizing all possible job search techniques and budgeting time for targeting and networking.

Networking is still the single most successful job search technique. Today, it is common for professionals and executives to belong to more than one professional organization and to have many other business contacts such as vendors and consultants. Begin by making a list of people who know you and would be happy to take your telephone call, and briefly explain that you are beginning to explore the marketplace (perhaps confidentially) and you would like to know if they have any contacts who are not currently in your network.

Networking consists of a few simple steps:

  • Telephone the people you know and briefly explain that you are looking
    for a new job in a specific field and you would like to know if they have
    any contacts in that field
  • Carefully note the key information about the new contacts - name, title,
    company, street address, telephone number, and e-mail address
  • Develop a few "talking points" before reaching out to these new contacts
    (please suppress the urge to ask for job leads because most people don't have any)
  • Ask for a brief meeting and prepare 5 or 6 questions for discussion - spend time preparing everything you want to say in advance
  • Think about your communication style of choice and which method is most comfortable for each new contact - is it telephone, e-mail, or snail mail - and use that method to get started
  • Consider calling before or after regular business hours in order to reach the key person directly.

It is important to maintain thorough notes about all your contacts and, therefore, a great opportunity to learn to use a contact database such as ACT!, Outlook, or Access. A good tip is to keep a hard copy on hand so you can update your notes when you receive an important telephone call and you are not near your computer.
Targeting is a very proactive job search technique and a comfortable method for professionals in the non-profit sector. You are very likely to have an idea about some of the organizations you really would like to work for. Begin to put together a target list including organizations of interest (maybe in 3 tiers), location, niche, culture, size, and other important characteristics. Keep in mind that there are about 7 different specialty areas within the non-profit sector - education, healthcare, culture, organizations, direct service, disease-related, and trade & professional associations. Since the Internet is probably within a foot of your nose, at home or at work, you can go to each website and begin to conduct some research. Keep in mind that anything written on a website is subjective, but this is still a great beginning. Then you can check out the groups further by talking with colleagues and going to the library to use services like Hoovers and Lexus/Nexus in order to obtain more objective data.

The next step in a targeted search is to write a creative letter to go along with your resume. It is often possible to use just one or two letters to contact over 100 groups in your area, and then use a mail merge technique. Putting the time into identifying the "decisionmaker" and writing a really good letter, highlighting the skills and experience you bring to the table, will definitely pay off. Always follow up with a telephone call in about a week.
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Bettina Seidman is an experienced career counselor and career coach in private practice. Her services include providing career management assistance to individuals and groups in clarifying goals, job search strategies, resume development, interviewing, networking, and negotiating. She also works with clients on improving interpersonal, presentation, and political skills.

For a copy of the 2-Minute Pitch Worksheet and sample networking questions, e-mail seidbet@aol.com