Strategically Managing the Job Search ... Taking Your Product to Market Written for Regis University Center for Career and Professional Development by John Corman, MS The title of this workshop first begs the question “Why do I need to be strategic about my job search?” and second “What do you mean I’m a product?” These are both valid questions so let’s start with several definitions. As defined in Webster’s: Strategic: Of, or having to do with, strategy; characterized by sound strategy; favorable; advantageous. Strategy: The science of planning and directing large scale operations; a plan of action; an artful means to some end. Product: Something produced by nature or made by human industry or art. We can certainly agree that the outcome of a job search should be founded on a sound strategy, one with a favorable and advantageous result. That strategy will necessarily entail a plan of action that leads to an “artful” (skillful) end result, i.e., a job! Can we also agree that we, as human beings, are produced by a natural act and formed by our own industry and art over the years that we have been alive? Well then, I rest my case that we are a “product” and we need to approach the job search with a strategic methodology. Let’s investigate a methodology that centers around five key roles within most businesses that may illuminate a new way to look at the process we define as “the job search”. The five roles are: Founder/Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Chief Financial Officer (CFO) VP/Marketing Sales Director Sales Representative With each of these roles, I will equate the business function of that role to a specific segment of the job search to provide you a method to identify where you are in the search and what your role should be. Founder/CEO In most companies, whether they are small start-ups or large corporations, the Founder and/or CEO are typically the person(s) who: Creates the “vision” (a mental image) of a business concept, Oversees the development of the product that embodies this concept, Establishes an organization with goals and objectives to reach that vision. Providing the “vision” for the company’s first product or, in the case of larger, established companies, the next product to be brought to market is critical to launching the effort to establish or increase revenue for the company. Without a vision, nothing moves forward. The product is shaped through extensive research, discussion and formulation until a viable idea is produced that has value and worth. Once the product is developed, goals and objectives must be set and a process of development is put into place. Job Seeker As the job seeker, you must have a “vision” of the product; in other words, who are you and what are you taking into the job market that will sell? Let me emphasize that this takes time and effort; it is not something on which most job seekers spend nearly enough time as they rush to get themselves “out there” on the market when job hunting. In the larger context of career decision, this process involves assessment, introspection and reflection before coming to any rational determination of the “product”. Note: See the Career Decision Making workshop on this website for more detail if you have jumped to this workshop first. You’ll be glad you did later in the job search! Identifying work–related preoccupations or passions and determining key skills stemming from education, training and experience is equivalent to the above process of formulating a “product” of value and worth. This visioning process should have the outcome of a fairly lengthy document that encompasses “who you are” and will be used later in the search so take some time and develop it as a mini-autobiography. Start by writing anything that comes to your mind about yourself then return to it and organize the material into a clear 3-5- page document. Now that you have taken this step, you are ready to translate that assessment into goals and objectives that will assist you in bringing your product to market. What do those goals and objectives look like? For the job seeker, they entail the determination to get as close to your passion, i.e. what you love to do, as possible in a job that will occupy close to 50% of your waking life! Defining your passion provides the foundation upon which a list of 10 key items you are seeking in a job can be built. We’ll call it your “Top 10 List”. Let’s explore the importance of this list for it is crucial to: Ultimate satisfaction from work, Your success in that work. Would you agree that these two things are important to you? Building the Top 10 List First, the “Top 10” list defines for others, as well as yourself, just what it is you are seeking. The value that it has for others will be explored in an upcoming section of this workshop but the importance for you to know and be able to articulate during your job search exactly what you are seeking is critical to finding it! Elements of this list might include, but are not limited to: Location, Home Fair (for cost of living comparison), Industry type, Organizational type (for profit, not for profit, non profit), Business type (mfr., distribution, etc.), Responsibilities you seek, Company culture (values and ethics), Management style of your boss, Compensation and benefits, Salary.com (for salary ranges) Other items important to you. I suggest that you put the list down on paper, frame it and place it where you will see it every day. Can you make changes to this list? Of course, but make sure it goes back in the frame and back to its proper place so that you keep the overall perspective of your objective firmly in mind. Second, the list serves as a gauge against which you will be able to measure any job offer once those are made to you. I’d like to step briefly here into the future, making some assumptions as to the results of your search and suggest that, after a significant amount of time and energy is spent in the job search, when an offer is made, you may have a tendency to feel “swept off your feet” by someone in essence saying, “We want you!” If you have no concrete assessment device as to the merits of the offer compared to what you are seeking, there may be a tendency to rationalize in your mind the positive’s of the offer to the extent that you lose sight of what you really want. I call this the “seduction of the first offer”. However, if you have your list, you are able to match the offer against it and see if you are receiving at least 70-75% of the items on your list. If not, my assumption is that you will not be satisfied with the position after the “honeymoon” is over and will either resign yourself to a job that you don’t enjoy or be forced to start the job search over again. Neither option is one I would look forward to having, would you? Fine, you say, but what about the reality factor – you may feel the need to take that first offer since you have bills to pay and others depending on you for support. Well, let’s look at the role finances play in the selling of a new product and how that is handled in a business. Obviously, when a new product is developed, one of the first things that are reviewed after the product is defined will be the resource’s required to bring that product to market as well as an appropriate pricing structure which will allow the company to make a profit/return on investment. Any start-up company goes through that review to determine how much investment will be required. Established companies also look to see what a new product will cost to bring to market and from where those resources will come. The job seeker dons the hat of the second key business figure in this product rollout, that of the Chief Financial Officer. CFO The CFO’s responsibility is to: Develop a plan that takes into account the variables of new product roll out, Establish a budget given the resources available that will take the company through a period of increased expenses and no revenue collections from the new product, Set pricing guidelines for the Sales organization to follow. Job Seeker The job seeker faces the same task of establishing a timeframe for the search, the resources necessary for completing the effort to find that new position and the “pricing” of the product. Where do you start? Many factors may have to be taken into account here because each individual’s circumstances are different. Suffice it to say that there are several basic issues that need to be reviewed: What is your current revenue stream? What is the timing factor around your search? What is the outcome you desire? Planning Your Budget Your current revenue stream might be made up of salary from a current position, savings set aside for this type of situation, a severance package given by your last employer, unemployment benefits or other sources of money that can be used to support you and others depending on you. Below I have listed a basic budget planning device and also a link to a more sophisticated planning device. Income Salaries, wages Interest and dividends Capital Gains Other Housing (Rent or mortgage payment) Food Electric, Gas, Oil for heating & cooling Automobile expenses Taxes - real estate, personal property, Income other than withholding Insurance - life, medical, home Automobiles, etc. Credit cards and other debts Clothing Entertainment Recreation & vacation Savings and other Subtotal Required Expense Items: Subtotal Optional Expense Items: Subtotal Total Expenses Total Income - Total Expenses = Discretionary Income Check Home Money for more information. The Timing Factor Establishing your monthly income vs. your realistic expenses places a figure on the number of months that you have to find new employment. The timing factor can be derived from the above calculation to determine the number of weeks/months you have to find that new source of revenue. Determining the number of months that it might take you to land a new opportunity will assist you in two ways. First, it gives you a sense of timing for your activities and second, it determines when the Top 10 List should be amended to keep reality in sight as to what % of your the list you should get from the job you’re offered before accepting. Note: A tried and true calculation of 1 month for every $10,000 of salary you seek can serve as a base line calculation but variables must be taken into account for each person’s situation. Setting Outcomes As well as the more esoteric elements of your Top 10 List, also important is setting the outcome of your search as far as compensation and benefits. Job seekers should have a clear idea of the “revenue” required to meet expenses, their value in the market and how market conditions will impact that perceived value. By researching this area early, you can establish your negotiating stance before an employer surprises you with an offer which may be mistakenly too low and cut off reasonable discussions about a fair offer. As with most CFO’s, you may need to adjust your plan based on any number of variables that creep in to your search over time. Trade offs might need to be made to extend your search long enough to get the right position for you. Determining those trade offs early and sticking with them will give you comfort when the search is over that you were able to successfully implement your plan even though you may not have obtained the precise job/compensation you sought. After they have developed a vision, created the product and established a financial plan, most companies then look to define the market for that product and the customers who will purchase it. This is a critical element to insuring that the product is sold, thereby generating the revenue that will be the lifeblood of the company. That all-important task usually falls to a person or group knowledgeable about the product, aware of potential markets and able to identify buyers. A target list of prospects/leads is the outcome of this exercise; without this list the sales department will be flying blind, thereby wasting valuable time and resources. Another important role of this function is to “position” or “brand” the product, identifying the key elements so that buyers gain quick recognition of the product’s features and benefits. VP/Marketing In accomplishing the above role, the VP/Marketing relies heavily on research skills to sift out the appropriate “targets” for the company. If these targets are correct, it will assist the Sales group in reaching the revenue targets set by the CFO and clearly have a major impact on the overall well being of the company. So let’s take a look at the issues a Marketing VP must consider: Where will the product sell– worldwide, national, regional local? What industries are most in need of the product - can the product be sold across several industries or is it one that will only spark the interest of a particular industry type? Within industries, which companies or company groups will benefit from the product? Who has the budget to purchase the product? Not all potential buyers will be in a position to spend money in a given time frame, whether due to economic factors, internal business issues or budget cycles. Positioning or branding of the product - how is it described in advertising so that buyers immediately recognize the benefit of a purchase? Job Seeker As you may well recognize by now, the comparison to the job seeker’s role with that of the VP/Marketing virtually overlaps. Consider the following: “Where do I want to work?” “Do I stay in my present location or move to a new one?” “Are there multiple markets that would be attractive or only one?” “To which industries do my skills and experience translate well?” “What types of companies meet the requirements of my Top 10 list?” “Which companies specifically seem to have the environment that will be conducive to my success?” Establishing the Geography All of these questions necessitate answers before the search begins and each may require varying amounts of research to answer. Many job seekers fail to spend enough time on this aspect of the search that obviously will negate positive efforts to come. The geographic issue is easiest for most job seekers to answer unless they are looking at multiple geographies or if they are unsure of where certain industry types are clustered. If industry type is not critical and you are remaining in your current location then the answer is usually related to how far you want to commute. Note: I recommend viewing a map of the area surrounding your home and draw a line encircling your home that equates to the furthest point of commutable distance in each direction. For every person, this is both a personal decision as well as a logistical and financial one. I know there are people who will drive over an hour to work and enjoy it – I am not one of those people so my decision would differ here! If you are looking at multiple locations around the world, nation or region then follow the above process given that you know roughly where you will live in each location. A resource that may prove valuable is the US Postal Service website for zip code locations. Defining the Industry Once you have the geography established its time to think in terms of industry type. If the position you are seeking cuts across most industries, this piece is not as important, unless of course you have specific comfort with a particular industry. There are multiple methods of researching this area; here are some key resources and links to assist you. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) will provide a breakdown of industries by code and also allow you to see the multitude of industry types, many of which you may not be familiar. The workshop entitled “Discovering and Researching Employers” on this site is a must read for this phase. It refers you to http://www.hoovers.com, an excellent research site; I would add two others, http://www.forrester.com and http://www.dnb.com. The Regis University Center for Career and Professional Development office will also be able to offer numerous other resources. Once you have compiled a list to your satisfaction, research each company through their website to ensure that it should remain a target. Establishing the Target List of Companies The end product is a list of companies within your industry group(s) that are located in the geography(s) that you chose. This list may be quite lengthy – I recommend that you narrow down to an initial target list of 20-25 to keep things workable. If the list is much longer than that, trim it by using company size or other variables but keep the names of the companies you trim for back up purposes. If you are working with multiple geographies, you’ll want to have a similar list for each. Prioritize the list and work from the top down to keep your self organized. Positioning and Branding I mentioned earlier that the Marketing function is also chartered to “position” the product. Another term heard frequently in marketing departments is “branding”. The concept encompassing both these terms is that the product and its value must be easily understood and its benefit quickly confirmed in the mind of the potential customer. Advertising campaigns are built on this and obviously the quicker customers identify the benefits of a product, the less time and money will need to be spent on the campaign and the easier the sales process will be. In the job seeker’s world, positioning and branding play a critical role in several aspects of the search. Remember I spoke earlier of a visioning outcome in the form of a document that could be used later? Well, here we are! Working backwards, we’ll develop these positioning/branding points for several requirements as you move forward. It’s basically a four-step process: Step 1: Refer back to the visioning document and start distilling it down through edit to a statement that could be read in approximately 3-4 minutes. This is the answer to an oft- used opening “question” in the first face-to-face interview, “Tell me about yourself.” Step 2: Next you’ll need a 1-2 minute version of this statement for the same question when called for a preliminary phone screen interview. (I’ll elaborate on these responses later.) Step 3: Once you have refined to this level, take it down further to a 4-5-line statement that I refer to as the “radio commercial”. If you had to sell your self on the radio in 20-30 seconds, how would you do it? This will be used at the top of your resume as an introduction for the reader as well as at a social or other type of gathering when people ask you to tell them about yourself. (Social clue #1 – they are not looking for your life story, in most cases!) Step 4: Last comes the ultimate branding exercise – bringing all this down to a phrase or sentence that encapsulates you. Impossible, you say, can’t be done! Let me give you my personal example. “I’m a recruiting consultant and career coach dedicated to assisting people and companies in identifying the right match” or a more spicy phrase such as “I’m a matchmaker in the employment world”. This is what is commonly referred to as an “elevator pitch”, enough to tantalize the right recipient so that when you get off the elevator s/he wants to know more. Now that the VP/Marketing has come up with the all important target list and a positioning/branding statement, a meeting with the next key person in the process, the Director of Sales, takes place to communicate the above and assist in developing a strategy to take the product to market. Sales Director In most companies, the role of the Sales Director is to: Design and implement a strategy to identify “suspects” and turn them into revenue for the company, Create a macro-strategy to reach potential customers utilizing the target list developed by the Marketing VP and knowledge of the market; the ultimate goal of this strategy is to reach decision makers within each target customer, communicate the positioning statement and close the sale, Develop goals and objectives for the sales force and sales materials including brochures, telemarketing scripts and other forms of communication. Meeting with the Sales force, the Director communicates the targets, segments the targets for each sales representative, establishes revenue objectives based on territory/accounts and provides the materials they will use to communicate product features and benefits. After the sales process gets underway, it is important for the Director to monitor and adjust the activities of each sales person to insure the goals are met in the timeframe allotted. Job Seeker Job seekers also must: Develop a strategy to reach their target list, Assess the market(s) that they are targeting, Develop the communication devices to reach those targets, Monitor activities, making adjustments as necessary. Developing a Strategy Let’s take a look at the development of a strategy first. The job search strategy goal is to reach decision makers in the hiring process as efficiently as possible. There are many methods to use in this effort but the overwhelming evidence supports the opinion that reaching these decision makers is best done through networking with use of internet job boards, print media advertising, direct mail and cold calling bringing up the rear. The general rule of thumb with most career coaches is that 75-80% of your time while in job search mode should be spent using your network. The author of the bestseller, What Color Is Your Parachute?, Richard Bolles affirms this, as do most career counselors and job search experts. There are two fundamental reasons underlying this opinion: Networking is based on the usually correct assumption that most human beings want to be helpful to others, Networking keeps you in control of the process vs. being subject to the control of others. Let me explain in more detail since I believe that many of you would rather not network for a variety of reasons. The first point is true most of the time but not all. Not everyone you meet in the networking process will want to assist you but the majority will if approached correctly. Every job seeker must realize that, as in sales, there will be a certain amount of rejection involved in the job search process. Note: Given the vagaries of the employment market, sometimes the “best person” doesn’t get the job; there is not always fairness in this process. Likewise, there will be people who will not welcome you with open arms in your networking for a myriad of reasons but this fact need not deter you from continuing since those reasons are generally not personal; we may simply make them personal in our minds. I can guarantee you that if you make the effort, networking can be effective in reaching your goal and also a great way to meet new people, some of whom may become close friends. Note: As a career coach, I have had numerous clients who have given me that feedback and thanked me for giving them a push when they were reluctant. The second point I mentioned, that of keeping control of the search, is true for two reasons. First, being in control through initiation of contact rather than waiting for others to contact you is much healthier for you from an emotional standpoint. For example, if you send off a resume in response to a job board posting or a print media ad, you have given control to the entity (it may not even be a person but a resume scanner) on the other end of that ad and you must simply wait for a response. In the job search, this can be agonizing. If you are initiating contact with your network and the leads it gives you, there is a positive feeling of accomplishment that comes from knowing where you stand with those contacts. Second, maintaining control over the search is an efficient use of your time, which will keep your “CFO” happy. Remember that you have a timeframe in which to accomplish your objective so the more efficient you are, the better use of that timeframe. We’ll talk more about the mechanics of networking and why it is more efficient in the next segment. Assessing the Market The Sales Director’s next step is to assess the market; so too the job seeker must be aware of the employment market and factors that may affect the direction you take. Reading business sections in your daily newspaper, researching trade magazines for the industry(s) that you target and browsing on the Internet are all valuable activities to keep current on labor market trends. Look for information that will point you to companies with specific business problems that you might be able to solve or those bringing new products to market that might entail hiring people to assist in that process. This body of knowledge may also increase your credibility in the eyes of decision makers you will meet later in the process if used at the appropriate time. Another way to assess the market is to understand that there are three types of jobs available, as diagramed in the “Iceberg” below: Those that are known to the general public via advertising (the top of the Iceberg), Those that are known within companies but not publicized externally (the middle layer below) and, Those unknown to even the company itself (the bottom layer). The tip of the Iceberg represents the smallest sector of the job market. Responding to advertised positions also places the jobseeker in competition with every other person responding to the ad, whether it be in print media or on the web, and out of control as we discussed earlier. That strategy, by itself, also eliminates you from consideration for the opportunities represented by the bottom two layers, a much larger pool of jobs with less competition labeled the “Hidden Job Market”. Effectively getting to those layers via your strategy of networking will be discussed later. Communicating to Your Market Lastly, the Sales Director must create sales brochures, as well as utilizing other communications devices that will assist the sales force in their efforts to influence prospective buyers. The sales brochure is simply put, a brief summary of the features and benefits of the product that encourage the buyer to seek more information regarding the product. Other communication devices are those things that we covered in the Marketing section such as the “radio commercial” and the “elevator pitch”. Since the jobseeker is also selling a “product” (just thought I’d remind you), a “sales brochure” must be created. Your resume is this sales brochure; something to entice a further look at your product. There are resources available (Center for Career and Professional Development is a great place to start) to assist you in the creation of a resume that will be appropriate for you. If you have what you feel is critical information that can’t be included on a two-page document, create an addendum page that can be provided during an interview or sent as a follow-up to a request for interview. Remember that the resume is designed to “influence” the sale not close it; in other words, it will get you an interview but not convince someone to hire you. The critical information in an addendum can assist you in this “close” at the appropriate time. A page that can be added to the resume or given to an interviewer separately with references listed is also advisable vs. inclusion in the resume. Note: Notice I said “influence” not “sell”; it is rare that buyers of any product will make a decision based on literature alone. There are exceptions but in most purchases involving significant sums of money, there must be human interaction to convince a buyer. From my experience over the years of working with job seekers, both as a recruiter and a Career Counselor, I have several suggestions that I would like to make here with regard to resumes: Limit dead white space on the margins, instead using that white space within the body of the document to separate key points, Use a “radio commercial” to introduce yourself to the reader, Within the body of each segment of your work experience, separate responsibilities from achievements/accomplishments, Make your achievements/accomplishments separate bullets underneath a 2-3-line responsibility statement, Create “selling statements” in these bullets by insuring that each one has a feature AND benefit section. If the statement doesn’t answer the “so what” test, it isn’t complete, With the aid of word processing, tailor each resume to target the individual position or type of opportunity for which you are applying by specifying your objective and customizing your bullets to that position/opportunity. Note: There are many good reference books on resumes – one of my favorites is Knock’em Dead Resumes, written by Martin Yate. It is now time to look at the all-important last step in the sales process, that of implementation. The people who are tasked to complete this implementation are the Sales Representatives. As most sales people will tell you, they are where the “rubber meets the road”. Of course they say and believe that since they must have a strong ego and loads of self-confidence to overcome the obstacles placed in front of them by prospective customers. Those people employed in other business functions will correctly argue that they have equal importance but sales is, in most for-profit organizations, where success or failure is most clearly measured. So for now, let’s give the sales function its status and due. Sales Representative In the process of training and preparing themselves for the sale of a product, Sales Representatives: Spend up front time learning the product so that s/he knows the features and benefits for their customers, Set up contact management systems to track their activities, Identify strategic connections that will allow them to get closer to the prospect, develops leads from these connections, Qualify these leads as to potential, Communicate with these leads via phone calls and follows up with mailings of sales brochures, Set up face-to-face meetings and works toward a close of the sale. In these calls, it is critical that the Sales Rep prepares for the call by researching the prospect, listens for needs, sells features and benefits to meet those needs and asks for the business! Job Seeker In the same manner, jobseekers: Review the “product” and develop a clear understanding of their features and benefits, Set up a contact management system to track all contacts made during the job search, identifies their primary network (strategic connections) with target list(s) and Top 10 list, Develop a secondary network of people within companies on their target list, Set up meetings with these people to identify key contacts/decision makers within the target companies, Set up meetings with these key contacts and send a resume, Meet to determine if there is a mutual benefit that can be derived from the jobseeker providing a service to the “buyer”. Reviewing the Product Let’s take a more detailed look at each of these functions. Reviewing the “product” simply refers to going back over the visioning process we described earlier and distilling the skills and experience outlined into a manageable set of feature and benefit categories from which job seekers can extract statements that will be answers to interview questions (see any book on interviewing for a list of questions that will probably be asked). These categories should be backed up with examples from your school/work/life experiences that reinforce the point your addressing. Note: Be reminded how important the restatement of benefits that the “buyer” will derive from your “product” is in creating a positive thought process that the “buyer” goes through in an interview as s/he assesses a hiring decision. If your benefit is not seen clearly, the buyer will have objections to a purchase. (Ask sales people about the importance of clearing away all objections prior to asking for the sale.) Tracking Your Contacts Setting up a system to manage the contacts that you will use is critical. The type of system is not as important as setting up one that you will use! If you follow the process that will be outlined below, you will be working with over 100 contacts. Keeping everybody straight and insuring that you are following up appropriately with each will tax your memory so a viable system, whether manual (card file) or automated (database) is imperative. From where do these multitudes of contacts come? Developing Strategic Connections This is probably the most important phase of this entire process; the work that the job seeker has done prior to this point will be wasted if this next step is not taken. Efforts to reach the “Hidden Job Market” will fail or be relegated to luck if the following are not completed: Start with your primary network; close family and friends who will not turn you down when approached for assistance. It doesn’t have to be more than 5-10 people but if there are more, that’s fine. Share your Top 10 list, the elevator pitch and your target list of companies with them and ask if they know anyone inside those companies regardless of job title. If they come up empty, ask them if they know anyone who knows someone that might work at any of these companies. The key is to get a list of names of people working in your target companies. From these second contacts, you are simply seeking information and advice about your career, not asking them to find a job for you. This makes a meeting much less threatening to them and easier for you. With this list, make calls to contact this secondary network with the goal of setting up “informational” discussions about their company. The objective of these meetings is to get the name(s) of key decision makers in departments handling the work you would enjoy doing for their company, getting general exposure for your search or, at the least receiving information that will be helpful in some way. If your contact is willing to introduce you (a warm call) in one form or another, that’s great! If not, simply thank them for their time and/or for any information they have shared then make a “cold” contact with these key decision makers. (Any sales person will tell you a “warm” call is preferable but a cold call can still lead to a sale.) Setting Up the Meeting With the key decision maker’s name, it is now time to make the call that most people dread since there is the chance that rejection will occur. This is most understandable, given that few of us enjoy being “rejected” but if you think of the call as a way to exchange ideas with your contact rather than seek a job, your conversation can be less daunting. This is also the only way to reach the above-mentioned “Hidden Job Market” thereby opening up a larger number of job opportunities. Having your call “scripted” can help with the nervousness but the script should be composed of talking points rather than detail. The points may include: Introduction, Your elevator pitch, Why you are calling e.g., “I’m calling at the recommendation of ______to set up a short meeting to get advice regarding my job search.”, Establishment of a meeting date, time and place. Meeting Preparation The next step is to map out your strategy for the face-to-face meeting with this decision maker; showing up unprepared is the last thing you want to do. It will reflect poorly on you, as well as lose this person as a potential ally and therefore any further contacts you might receive from the meeting, much less a job opportunity. The Meeting What are the keys to a successful meeting? First you must establish rapport with the person. Next, understand that this meeting can evolve in two different directions. It can simply be what you stated originally when you called to set it up, an information gathering discussion, or it may evolve into an interview. I suggest that getting your host to discuss their business as quickly as possible after the introductory remarks is essential to you in ascertaining whether or not this person may need your services or simply be someone who will be able to refer you on to their network. To be able to ask pertinent questions that accomplish this, you must have your “homework” completed. Just as a Sales Rep prepares for a sales call, you need knowledge of the company, its products and organization; basic information that you should have before this meeting. Your targets in this meeting are opportunities in the Hidden Market, the middle and bottom layers of the Iceberg. As the person talks about their business, you should be listening for business problems (every company is in the business of solving someone else’s “problems” and, in doing so, has issues that need to be addressed themselves). If you hear these issues come up, you need to ready to sell your “product” as a solution. You are also probing for a job requisition that is “in the drawer”, waiting for the right person to come along. (Many managers do not wish to make their open positions public and expose themselves to the barrage of resumes sure to come from public advertising.) At minimum, you are also establishing your credibility with those people so that they will refer you on to others who might be of assistance to you. Therefore, the better prepared for this meeting, the better the results, whether they be in the form of an offer, further interviews or several names to call from your host’s network. Finding problems needing a solution is the jobseeker’s task with qualification questions such as, “If I can do this for you to solve your problem, would you see a value for your organization?” Questions such as this get you closer to convincing a person who did not know they needed you to begin thinking that they can’t do without you. Those who have the job in the drawer, so to speak, start seeing you as the solution provider for whom they have been waiting. A critical understanding for the jobseeker at this stage is how an interview process progresses. A clear definition of the skills and experience you provide as a solution is necessary in the early stage, as shown in the diagram below, but as the meeting or series of meetings continues, more emphasis needs to be placed on building “chemistry” beyond initial rapport with the person with whom you are meeting. Look for “buy signs” that indicate the process has taken this direction. Comments such as “when you get here” are easy ones but the signs may be more subtle and may also include body language. There are many books on body language - I suggest you brush up on its meaning before you embark on your meetings so that you are able to interpret some of the basic signals of this communication form. The Close Once you feel you have arrived at the “close”, you are ready to “ask for the business”; seeking agreement that there is a “problem”, you are the “solution”, so “when do I start?” If there is still hesitancy on your host’s part, there must still be an objection you have not addressed. In the real world, you may never get that final objection out in the open and you need to know when to retreat gracefully. You will never know if there is an opportunity for you, however, if you don’t ask. Note: Closing is an art to many non-sales people but when I hear sales people discuss this aspect of the sale, it is described as a natural progression from identification of need, a discussion of solutions and then agreement between the prospect and the sales person that they will move forward to implement that solution. Asking for the business then turns into a step-by-step process that clears away objections once the need has been identified. Obviously if there is not a fit between the prospect’s need and the solution provided, there will be no sale. Follow-up At this point you either have an offer or you still may want to work on getting one after the meeting. I am often asked how critical follow-up is and my answer is a resounding “absolutely critical!!” It is the best way to differentiate yourself in the job market today since so few jobseekers actually do it. Follow-up can take a few different forms best determined by the circumstances of each meeting. A simple phone call, a handwritten note, an email or a formal business letter, all may work given these circumstances. Use your best judgment based on the type of communication that works best for the receiver. Incorporated in this follow-up should be a re-statement of the “problem” and “solution” if you are still closing. If you already have an offer or know that no offer will be extended, a simple thank you will suffice. Don’t ever assume that the person is no longer a resource simply due to an initial rebuff. I know many candidates who have left a favorable impression with a thank you note who are remembered later and called back for an interview. Also keep in mind that this meeting that we have discussed above could lead to another option, that of the “contract” position. This may take the form of an offer to provide services for a distinct length of time. Your openness to this is a personal decision you need to be ready to make quickly so give it some thought beforehand. What time span are you willing to commit to this type of offer and what hourly rate will you charge? (Keep in mind that there are several ways to pay you and they each may have tax implications best discussed with an appropriate professional tax expert.) This form of offer is being used more extensively in today’s labor market so be ready for it. Note: A great description of the sales process and how to reach the key decision makers in an organization for those of you who wish to understand the sales process more clearly is in a book titled, Selling to VITO, by Anthony Parinello. If you can identify how Anthony’s description relates to the job search, you have earned the proverbial “Gold Star”! Conclusion Let’s try to wrap all I have written into a brief summary. I believe the key element of this workshop revolves around the concept of the sales process and the fact that we are selling a product that will bring a positive impact to the labor market. Each of you must identify your product and be prepared to exercise the sales process to insure that somebody will take advantage of it. If you identify where you are in your search with the Five Key Roles that we have discussed and understand that you may end up moving back and forth between these roles at different times, I maintain that the search will be better organized and therefore more successful. You owe that to your self and the market so get out there and sell! Thank you for participating in this workshop. If you have questions about this workshop, contact Center for Career and Professional Development, or call 303.458.3508 or 800.388.2366 x3508.