I recently did a 30-minute radio interview about how social science research can improve the job search on a delightful radio show called The Measure of Everyday Life on WNCU (90.7) in Durham, NC. The show is devoted to exploring the interesting ways social science research can be applied to improve the human condition.
It’s a fast-moving and fun conversation, and we covered a number of job search topics not included in the book as well (including how social science can help you answer “Tell me about yourself,” which I described in a recent Huffington Post article here).
One highlight of the conversation was about how new technology can distract job seekers from simpler yet far more impactful tasks. (question at 8:10, comments below at 9:30):
I think tech can be seen as a red herring… [it can be used to] postpone the really scary part of the job search [networking], where you face rejection, where you reach out to strangers and ask them for their help, where you get ignored time and time again.
* I enjoyed some free therapy about my own “accidental” (or iterative) career path at 20:12.
* I compare the modern job search to hurling yourself into a clear plexiglass wall at 21:36.
[Because of online job postings] People feel like they’re five feet away from the job of their dreams, but in reality they’re separated by a six-inch pane of plexiglass that goes as far and wide as the eye can see…
Every time people apply to an online job posting, they’re hurling themselves into that plexiglass wall… You’ve got to walk around it, but [career coaches must] give infrastructure… a backpack full of water and food to help [job seekers] start that journey and to give an alternative to hurling themselves into that wall.
* I discuss the “defensive job search” at 24:00, where job seekers prioritize quantity of job search efforts over quality (because loved ones mistakenly equate quantity — like # of resumes dropped — with the degree of effort, despite its low correlation to success).
[Job seekers have a low expectation of success, so] people do a very defensive job search, and by that I mean they’re job searching not for success but for stats: how many resumes did you submit today? how many hours did you spend?
To me, that’s devastating because people are trying to win social proof through their efforts rather than actually be successful — they know [online job postings] are black holes, but they just don’t know what else to do.
* I suggest what universities can do to better prepare a new generation of workers at 25:55
Some job seekers struggle with populating their target employer (LAMP) list. Here’s a great new tip for doing this that a colleague shared with me. If you’re struggling to expand beyond well-known employers, try a bright spot analysis on your favorites using LinkedIn’s Similar function.
LinkedIn’s Similar function is basically an expanded version of LinkedIn’s “People Also Viewed” section on any company’s LI page. “People Also Viewed” is great (you can find it on the lower right hand side of the page), but only six employers are displayed, and they’re only displayed as logos, making copying-and-pasting impossible. The Similar button, on the other hand, produces a list of fifty similar organizations rather than six (and in text rather than logos, making a copy-paste operation more feasible), but locating that button is tricky.
To find it, enter the company you’re trying to identify competitors of in the search bar at the top (called “Search for people, jobs, companies, and more…”). A list of options will auto-complete underneath as you type, but do not click on any of those. Simply hit “Enter” to get all results once you’re done typing.
Your dream employer will show up in this list. (If not, change the top search field’s dropdown category from “All” to “Companies.”) Again, do not click on this employer’s name once you find it — just look at its bottom row of info. When applicable, the number of people in your network who work there will appear, and to the right of that will be a link called “Similar.” That’s the one we want.
Click on it, and that list of 50 similar employers will appear. Not all of this will be similar in industry or location, but those results can be specified in the lower left-hand corner (premium LinkedIn membership is required for some; I only have basic, myself). Though the results are not perfect, they are a helpful and fast way to populate a LAMP list in industries or cities where you’re not already familiar. Simply start with your favorite target employer, pull up its Similar list, and build your list from there!
I’ve recently become a regular contributor at The Huffington Post, which has been an incredibly fun experience. Here are my two most recent columns: “Gen Y: You’re Not Entitled, You’re Unlucky.” and “If You Wouldn’t Eat Cereal with a Fork, Why Would You Use Social Media for Your Job Search?”
I’m finalizing a new HuffPo column about the most important 5-minute job search resolution you can make this New Year’s, so please follow me at HuffPo so you can get a single e-mail alert when any of my new posts go live. Heck, become an official Steve Dalton Fan while you’re there. (There’s a button for it and everything!)
Also, I’ve posted some interesting updates to the book on The 2-Hour Job Search Q&A Forum LinkedIn Group. (eg, I now recommend using LinkedIn’s Advanced People Search to locate alumni, rather than schools’ own increasingly out-of-date alumni databases.) Please check it out!
Happy 2014 and happy job hunting!
In my book The 2-Hour Job Search, I recommend using Group connections as a bit of a last resort (after grad/undergrad connections and 2nd degree connections). My thinking has evolved a bit.
The problem with 2nd-degree connections is they’re slow. You need two people’s help instead of just one. Group connections may be “colder,” but they’re faster.
Your options for contacting a Group or 3rd degree connection in LinkedIn’s search results are limited to 1) Invite them to connect (which is an awkward way to approach a stranger) or 2) Send them an InMail (which costs money). With Group connections, there is a way to message them directly for free, but only if you access their profile correctly.
To take advantage of this, find a Group connection you’d like to message. Then, click on the name of the Group you share with them. You’ll default to the Group’s “Discussions” page, which still won’t give you free access.
However, if you click on the Members page, something magical happens. Look up your contact’s name in the search box on the left and find their profile. Hover your cursor over their profile, and a new option will appear on the right: “Send a message”. Bingo.
What if a person isn’t a Group connection?
What if they’re a 3rd degree connection, or worse? What if you don’t even have a last name to work with? Just first name and last initial, or generic “LinkedIn Member”? Don’t fret — try this instead.
In these cases, copy and paste your desired contact’s job title into Google, putting quotes around it (e.g., “Lead Graphic Designer”). Do the same for their employer’s name, and finally add “LinkedIn.” This will make your search field look like this: “Lead Graphic Designer” “Graphix Consulting Co.” LinkedIn
The results should give you your desired contact’s full name (your results are only restricted to first initial & last name or “LinkedIn Member” within LinkedIn’s infrastructure — public profiles found through Google search are not usually restricted in the same fashion). If you click on this public page and scroll down to the bottom of the page, a list of that contact’s Groups memberships will appear at the bottom. (It appears blank at first, but give it a second.)
At this point, you may request membership to whichever of those Groups appears most applicable to your interests and goals. Once approved for membership, you may take advantage of the process outlined above.
The above clip is by a DJ named Gregg Gillis, better known as Girl Talk. His claim to fame is taking hundreds of samples from other songs and mashing them together to make a unique work. (He also attended my undergraduate alma mater, Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University.)
Legally, his work exists in a gray area. He does not get permission from the original artists for all of the samples he uses. He argues “fair use,” meaning that he creates a transformative artistic work that fundamentally differs from the source material. While he cannot legally sell his “albums” (since then he would have to pay royalties on the samples he uses — he can offer the album for free download and ask for donations, as the link illustrates), he can perform concerts that consist entirely of other people’s songs stitched together as in the clip above.
While there are some original ideas in The 2-Hour Job Search, most of it is recycled.
What makes it a “transformative work” is the way the pieces are fit together in the most efficient and effective manner possible. 2HJS is an alternative to the “more is always better” approach of heaping advice onto an already-overloaded job seeker, where lack of results are attributed to an insufficient amount of time devoted to searching.
The 2-Hour Job Search (just like Girl Talk) is not for everyone. For a particular audience, I am hoping that it resonates very deeply. It’s a sample solution, rather than a collection of “tips.” If you or a loved one is unhappy with your job search results to date, please check out The 2-Hour Job Search at your local bookstore or library (or download the free sample from Amazon).
And please do join the brand-new LinkedIn Group, “2-Hour Job Search – Q&A Forum.” It’s a great forum for asking 2HJS questions, sharing 2HJS ideas, and posting adorable cat pictures. (Cat picture functionality coming soon…)
Very appropriately, I’ve found myself spending more and more time on LinkedIn Groups to get information about my industry. I enjoy the back-and-forth discussion.
Therefore, I just created my very first LinkedIn Group for 2-Hour Job Search users. Please join if you are a practitioner of the 2-Hour Job Search, a career coach, or are just simply curious. 2HJS was truly envisioned as an open-source concept which (like flannel sheets) would improve with each washing, so perspectives from users and professionals alike are welcome and appreciated.
The first topic posted was about how I recommend modifying The 2-Hour Job Search for more senior job seekers, and my most recent post was on the relative superiority of Bing over Google when trying to locate e-mail addresses for potential contacts.
If these or similar topics are of interest, or if you simply enjoy listening to people geek out over job search technique, please look up the “2-Hour Job Search Q&A Forum” Group in LinkedIn and ask to join. I hope to see you there!
I injured my thumb over the weekend. While it didn’t make e-mail impossible, it made typing more painful and much slower, reducing my typing speed by about 75%.
Oddly, this hasn’t devastated my productivity at work. Now that each additional word “costs” me something (a few seconds, and a little bit of pain), I’m trying harder to make points concisely so I can minimize keystrokes.
It’s neither fun nor an efficiency win, but I love its poetic justice. While _I_ may prefer a painless 70 lightly-edited words per minute to a painful-but-more-thoughtful 20, I’m fairly certain my readers don’t. In that light, throttling my typing speed would be rational, even after my thumb heals (a Dvorak would be a witty-but-temporary solution).
It got me thinking — as a career coach, what if offering one additional piece of job search advice (verbally, in writing, etc) cost me something as well? Not a lot, but something: ten cents each time, or twenty seconds of leisure time — maybe even a pinch on the arm.
Suddenly, more advice isn’t automatically better. All advice is not equally valuable, and having to “settle up” an advice bill at the end of each day would incentivize me to both prioritize and curate my advice better. In this scenario, what advice would I cut? Not because it’s not good advice, but because it’s not sufficiently good?
For years I’ve struggled to pare my job search advice to its bare essentials, but I have room for improvement on my word counts. Just because I’ll soon be able to type 70 WPM again doesn’t mean I necessarily should.
A common misunderstanding about The 2-Hour Job Search is what the “2-Hours” refers to. Contrary to some reviews, it does not actually refer to how long per day I think people should spend job searching. Such advice would be totally arbitrary, and I’m frustrated that such daily minimums (“at least 30 minutes per day) have become so popular in career advice.
The 2-Hours from the title refers to how long I would spend job searching if you told me I had to start looking for a job right now — after two hours, I’d be done for the day, since any less time would be insufficient and any more, unnecessary. A bystander could look over my shoulder, and I myself would follow the steps from my book for the exact durations of time specified.
Within that 2-hour period, I’d create a 40-employer target list sorted into a precise order of attack based on easy-to-find data, draft an effective outreach e-mail template, identify the most promising starting contact at each of my Top 5 employers, and sent my first batch of informational interview requests out. Further effort beyond that would serve only to exhaust me, since the bottleneck in the job search process is not work ethic but the speed at which potential advocates respond.
After the first two hours, the job search largely goes on autopilot. The rules tell me what to do when, removing most of the anxiety from the process. In this way the job search becomes finite. You do legitimately “finish for the day” at a certain point, with some days featuring no job searching at all.
The job search is not a solo task; one pretty quickly needs the help of others. However, networking doesn’t accelerate just because you spend more time worrying about it.
Research has shown people make better decisions in advance than they do in the moment, so I recommend picking a follow-up routine (I’d use the 3B7 Routine I outline in 2HJS) for the outreach you send, then forgetting about it until further action is required (your contact responds or your routine’s Outlook reminders tell you to act again). Stress avoided altogether is far preferable to stress coped with.
Successfully persuading an audience to act requires a convincing message. However, not everyone listens to messages, as any teacher, consultant, HR professional, supervisor, lawyer, career coach, and so on can attest, so what do you then? Especially when your performance depends upon reaching the entire audience?
The short answer is “Spend less time worrying about messaging.” New-and-improved messaging doesn’t reach those who don’t listen, so save some breath and time here. It’s futile to try different versions of the same tactic but expect a different result, and messaging projects can be dwelled over forever while having limited potential for success due to their small audience (those listening but yet to act).
Avoiding low-potential messaging projects saves time, sure, but time savings itself still doesn’t reach non-listeners. Reaching them requires a different approach. Our career center recently tried a new approach for getting non-listeners to act – specifically, to get students to look for employment off-campus in addition to the on-campus recruiting our office provides.
This is an unpopular message, however. Students dread the off-campus job search, specifically due to its lower convenience, ambiguous rules, and uncertain returns. Historically we tried to combat this dread through messaging: explaining the benefits of off-campus job searching, presenting statistics, increasing the frequency of reminders, etc. All of those seemed only to preach further to the choir, who were basically OK with the original messaging. The non-listeners were the issue.
However, if my entire audience was already skilled at finding jobs off-campus, their non-listening would largely be irrelevant since 100% would find jobs anyway. That’s not the case, unfortunately.
Some of my students arrive proficient at job searching already, some don’t. Some arrive ready to learn, some don’t. For discussion’s sake, let’s plot these (four) groups of audience members – universal regardless of your profession – in a matrix:
Stars: Stars are both already proficient and open to further learning. In my case, this would be a student who is charismatic and networks with others easily (meaning she has “high” current proficiency) while still being open to further instruction from our career center. As a coach, I can take Stars from good to great, and I don’t need to worry about them. This is “the choir” from above.
Learners: Learners are open to instruction but aren’t already proficient. In our world, many students arrive eager to learn but not very comfortable with networking or making a good impression on strangers (low current proficiency). We can turn Learners into Stars over time and continued effort on the student’s part. Learners in your profession may be those who don’t like computers but are nevertheless committed to figuring out the new expense tracking system, for example. This group is also part of “the choir” who listens to messaging.
Naturals: Naturals, like Stars, arrive ready to go. I regularly see students at orientation who are charismatic and comfortable in networking situations (currently proficient)… only to never see them again. They’re fine on their own and opt-out of any career center programming, having no interest in further learning. (Thus, this is our first “non-listening” segment.) However, because they are already skilled job seekers, their low willingness to learn does not prevent their success in finding a job. The important thing to note is that messaging campaigns are wasted on this group – they don’t listen but can still get by. In an HR setting, Naturals might be the ones who don’t listen at computer training but intuitively figure out new software and quickly pick up expense reporting in the new system.
Dreamers: Dreamers are the ones who keep us up at night. They are neither currently proficient nor open to learning. Worse still, this groups tends to think they are proficient. At school, Dreamers may overestimate their charm or trust their GPA and resume alone will convince a hiring manager to give them a shot, so they throw all their efforts into on-campus recruiting and pray it all works out. In other professions, these might be your audience members who hate computers and skip computer training, only to then call tech support monthly month for 1-on-1 help submitting receipts.
Having identified these four groups, a few insights pop out:
1. Messaging may not reach Dreamers, but requiring them to demonstrate proficiency does.
When all is said and done, listening isn’t quite paying attention, and paying attention isn’t quite actual learning. If Dreamers are required to demonstrate their skills, the difficulty they experience may again make them teachable (i.e., Learners – not yet proficient, but open to instruction).
Our department leveraged this insight this year. In a major paradigm shift — perhaps the first of its kind — we granted our MBA students access to on-campus recruiting only after they showed they knew how to find a job off-campus – specifically by successfully securing and conducting an informational interview with an off-campus employer (we taught them the process from my book, The 2-Hour Job Search, but they were free to follow any method they chose).
Between the compelling message about our moral obligation – so we knew they could find a job after we’re gone – and the compelling reward, well over 95% of our students completed the assignment.
2. When you reach Dreamers, your entire audience benefits.
Talent demonstrations help Dreamers recognize their potential for improvement, yes, but they also provide experience and confidence for Learners, Naturals and Stars as well.
In down economic years the percentage of each class employed at graduation may be 70-80%, while in good years it will be more like 80-90%. Thus, the battle isn’t really over the full 100% of each class, since about three-quarters tend to be fine regardless – it’s over the one-quarter or so who struggle in any economy, many of whom I’d argue are Dreamers.
Therefore, if you target Dreamers, your performance evaluations will improve, but all other audience members will benefit in the process. (Messaging campaigns, alternatively, would only reach Learners and Stars, missing Naturals and Learners entirely.) Additionally, our office received more questions about off-campus recruiting much earlier this year – “requiring” all four student segments to face an intimidating-yet-critical informational interviewing task brought a learning opportunity front-and-center to their attention.
3. Identifying individual Dreamers (or Learners, or Naturals…) is unnecessary
When I’ve shared this concept previously, invariably bystanders start assigning their audience members to segments: “Oh, Mary is a TOTAL Dreamer” and “Sachin is more a Natural than a Star.” This can be a fun exercise, but it’s not necessary. In 1-on-1 settings these segments can provide a good rule of thumb for how to reach someone, but if you’re trying to reach a larger audience, just assume Dreamers are out there and act accordingly.
This construct is less to facilitate stereotypes and more to point out that messaging does not reach everyone, nor will it ever. Furthermore, spending a lot of time working on messaging is likely to offer only limited results, because the possible audience members who are both listening and not already helped by previous messaging is so small.
Finally, recognize that time tends to move audience members in a counter-clockwise motion around the matrix. Naturals who fail to update their talents become Dreamers. Dreamers who discover they have areas for improvement become Learners, and Learners who keep applying themselves become Stars.
In closing, my suggestions for how to use this information going forward:
1) For any new initiative, ask “Would this reach Dreamers?” If so, it’s probably a great use of time.
2) Start by getting the process right; the messaging can come later (and is much simpler to change).
3) Teach Learners and Stars; Require talent demonstrations to turn Dreamers into Learners.
I’m currently working on a longer post for career coaches, consultants, HR professionals — really, anyone who works in change management — that I hope to have up within a week.