A few years ago while I was working with a well known outplacement agency I came across a fascinating statistic they had compiled from measuring the success path of their own clientele over decades of job searching: (paraphrased by me) on average it takes 20 to 30 conversations with different hiring managers before obtaining a final offer of employment. This blew my mind. I know I'm writing this but it's worth repeating: on average it takes 20 to 30 conversations with different hiring managers before obtaining a final offer of employment. A hiring manager is literally someone with the power to hire you - a decision-maker (so typically someone in Human Resources doesn't count). In better job markets the number is closer to 20 and in worse job markets the number is closer to or even above 30.
The next related statistic was also eye opening: and how does one get to have these 20 to 30 conversations with hiring managers? One has to have 20 to 30 job search-related conversations a week which produce information on target industries, companies and most importantly networking connections to hiring managers at your target companies. Whether there's a job opening posted or not the key step (and secret numero UNO) is making connections to and conversing with people with the power to hire. It's that simple and yet usually that difficult because it means putting yourself out there in a persistent, professional and disciplined way. These conversations don't have to be long - 20 minutes maximum. But you do need to get out there and make those phone calls and have those networking coffee chats and lunches. There is no way around it and you don't want a way around it because it will benefit you in a multitude of ways.
Perhaps these statistics feel somewhat inflated - perhaps they really are. No matter they drive home the point that sending out resumes, creating internet search agents, waiting to receive emails and phone calls are all nice but success lies in getting out there proactively and building your network. You want to discover job openings before they are even posted (also known as the "hidden" job market). You can only do that by talking with people and making sure you are available as the opportunities arise.
I'll use this quote again: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” - Seneca
20 job search conversations a week is quite a tall order so what's the key there? How do you get to do that? You do that by leveraging each conversation you have into obtaining your next conversation. This is secret #2: Never leave a job-related conversation (unless it's an actual interview) without doing the following 2 things:
- Ask the person you are speaking with who else they might know and could possibly introduce you to in order to help you learn about your target industry, geography, company or job opportunity. You could say something like "Who else would you recommend I speak with about possible future openings at ABC Company? What's their email or phone # and would you be ok if I told them you sent me?"
- Set some kind of time frame when you'll reconnect with the person you are currently speaking with. Even if it's only to thank them or keep them posted on your progress. An even better reason would be if you've uncovered some way you could help them in return for meeting with you and recommending others to speak with (see #1)
The final secret I'd like to share is: you will receive help if you help others. Have you come across a job opportunity that isn't a fit for you but might be very interesting to someone in your network? Then by all means pass it along whether that person is employed or not! You never know if someone is ready for a professional change. If you helped someone else get a job you will have made a friend forever! Be proactive at feeding your network with your own connections and job opportunities. It will come back to reward you in the future.
In summary, the 3 secrets are:
- Have plenty of job-search conversations each week. There is no internet/job posting/resume-sending plan that can replace proactive, in-person or over the phone real-time conversations.
- Ensure every conversation leads you to the next conversation.
- Help others find opportunities and you will be helped more than you know!
Good luck out there! It's rough but getting better.....