The Wrong Way to Conduct a Job Search

November 5, 2008

A distressing number of competent executives are currently on the job market and if you believe what you hear, a lot more are about to join them. They enter a market that will demand much from those seeking to navigate its unsettled waters.
So how do you play the game to win? If you are like many who contact us every week, you spend your time perusing job boards, newspaper want ads, calling headhunters, and commiserating with your network. Tried and true yet passive and reactive, this approach may work for some but it will not work for most.
To be fair, job seekers have every reason to be tentative. Faced with an onslaught of bad news and a job market that seems both everywhere and nowhere, they struggle with where to start, how to segment the market and how to position themselves for success. They are befuddled by the whole notion of self-awareness, why it is so important, how to get it and how to use it. And they wrestle with whether to be surgical in their job search or carpet bomb the whole market? Many end up flailing away selling whatever they believe potential employers want to buy. There is a better way.
First, the good news is that there are jobs out there and lots more than you think. The Canadian industrial landscape is vast and large swatches of it are healthier, or minimally less unhealthy, than what is generalized in the press. There are literally hundreds of companies in every sector that most people have never even heard of. Many of these are vertically focused or niche and almost invisible to the public. They may be producing products or services targeted to utilities, transit authorities, emergency services, agriculture, or scores of other specialized markets. They may be standalone Canadian businesses or units of foreign-owned firms that were acquired in the past. Many do not care whether anyone outside of their market community knows they even exist. They do not promote themselves in the general media, nor do they participate in well-publicized programs celebrating the most entrepreneurial, fastest growing or best managed firms. Yet they are out there, and some are certain to fit and need you.
Finding and engaging with these firms and others is purposeful work, requiring a plan, one that starts with where you will thrive, and more importantly why. It is also targeted work that starts with the coveted bullseye and expands outward in concentric circles of lesser job fit. And it is a target best hit with a rifle than a shotgun.
Job boards, newspapers, headhunters, and networking are tools in support of a plan, but they are not themselves a plan. Relying on newspapers and job boards restricts your addressable market to a fraction of the total market. Calling thirty headhunters, most of whom know little about your target sector is not a plan, it is a waste of everyone’s time. And reaching out to people for the sole purposes of enquiring only about potential job opportunities fails to understand what that network can really do for you.
In my next few blogs I will offer thoughts on a better, more systematic approach to finding your next job.