The Question: What should I do?
This could be anyone. We all know these exact feelings: “I will keep applying to published jobs, but I am 99.9% sure this is not going to work. Unfortunately, I am not good at calling companies directly, I am not good at sales, and I don’t have the confidence to call anyone and explain what I have done. What should I do?”
My Answer – Beginning:
I agree with you about published jobs – they attract a crowd. I understand about not wanting to make calls. It’s not fun, even when you get good at it. The problem though is that your intended targets are getting crushed with email and response rates are getting lower and lower. In some cases, I’d even suggest sending letters (like actual mail) just to do something different. Maybe even cards – but you have to keep it simple.
The other thing is that you need to change your attitude from thinking about this being a sales effort. Of course it is, but so is almost everything else anyone does in life if you really think about it. However you will do better in your search if you think of yourself as a solution provider looking for problems to solve. At your level, one way of doing this would be to read press releases and / or professional publications literally looking for other people’s problems to solve.
As a recruiter, I have never sold anything. I know recruiters who work that way, they sound like car salesmen, and put a lot of effort into pushing whatever they have. I put my effort in providing solutions – listening, doing research, and showing companies people I was pretty sure they would want to hire. I include resumes and pretty objective summaries and tell them to let me know if they are interested. That’s all. I don’t badger anyone to test drive any of my candidates. Usually if/when I work that hard on a search, my candidates get interviewed (and prepped of course). From there, my interview to placement ratio is 3:1, industry average is 7:1.
When I market a candidate or when you market yourself, it’s the same thing – show people the right solution at the right time and they will respond. In marketing, the timing is the wildcard. If you are not replying to job postings, you don’t know who needs what right now – which is when [right now] you are contacting them. You have to offset it/timing by increasing volume. You still have to do the research though and it has to be spot on.
This is the same way I do recruiting. I might, literally, look at 1000 LinkedIn profiles, contact only 10 people, and maybe only get 2 replies. However if I’ve done good research, my replies will be from viable, interested candidates and that’s money to me (even though really reading 1000 carefully researched LinkedIn profiles is a lot of work, especially when you know beforehand that 990 will be a waste of time).
What, To Whom, and How?
The two challenges for you right now are: What you are communicating (and to whom) and mode of communication. Your messages have to be well written and short. They have to be grammatically and structurally perfect. You have to work on this. It’s worth it though.
You have to seriously refrain from selling yourself. Your emails should start with something like: I can help you! And then include very few examples based on specific, researched knowledge, for example: You just read in Supply Chain Monthly (fake magazine) that XYZ Company is having delay issues with their Latin American suppliers and you know how to help them. If the article names a VP you even have a contact. The key to this is writing the best, most perfect, short message that you can – putting time into editing. You’ll use pieces of the message over and over again so it is time well spent.
Don’t send your resume or even tell them more than is absolutely necessary until they ask. Again, for example, if you are contacting someone about solving one of their problems, only mention your experience that is relevant to their problem, like before with XYZ Co. above, “Here’s how I solved delay issues with my Latin American suppliers when I was at ABC company, depending on your exact needs, I could help you do that too.” If they are interested, they will ask about your other experience, for a resume, etc. If not, keep moving.
Using this approach, my time goes into research, writing, and editing. A simple way to look at this: High Quality Research and Writing = High Quality Replies. Quantity becomes irrelevant.
The other challenge, the mode of communication is tougher. As I said, people are drowning in email. It still works and is better and less intrusive than phone calls but you have to set yourself apart. Again, well researched targets will help. A good subject line will help. A short, precise and technically perfect email will help.
If you send a card, do the same thing –
“Hi I’m Joe*, senior supply chain professional, I can help you solve your Latin American supply chain issues. I solved similar problems at ABC a couple of years ago. I’d love to share ideas with you and learn more about your goals. Please email me at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call me anytime.
PS: I sent you this nice card because I’m sure you get a million emails but very few nice cards. Have a great day!”
Keep it Easy! (for them, not you)
Make it this short. Don’t include a resume or anything else. Don’t make anyone work to figure out why they need to talk to you. Make it easy for them. (Again, the right targets at the right time will respond.) Wait for them to ask you for more information, then show them how you can help.
Honestly, I might send cards just to mess with people and see what happens. You could go buy a box of cards with some nice, neutral image, something someone would put on their refrigerator or something. I know it is a high pressure, important thing – your job search. Just like me, working on commission. Even so, you can experiment, make a game of it somehow, take chances, have fun with it. You are aware of your weaknesses, so work around them. Define your targets around your strengths. Try different approaches. If you do cards, you can feel good every time you send out a well-researched and well written card. It doesn’t matter if you get replies. It is the act of doing the research, composing the message, and sending it from which you can derive satisfaction. And, sooner or later, one will hit the right target at the right time.
Kurt Schmidt is the author of “Modern Job Search” and the President Converging Point, an executive search firm focused on supply chain and strategic sourcing jobs in manufacturing and energy.
Photo: London, UK