Diagnosing a Stalled Job Search

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If you feel stuck in your search, understanding where the problem lies is the key to moving forward. To diagnose your search and find the “cure”, ask yourself these questions, split into three broad categories: Your targeting, your marketing, and the volume in your search. If your answer to any of these questions is not clearly “yes”, you may have a gap that you need to address.

For the targeting, consider– am I going for the right position for me? Is it a fit with my background as I’m presenting it, or is there a mismatch? Is my search focused enough, or am I trying to be all things to each target? Am I pursuing 2 to 5 clearly defined targets in sequential but overlapping order? (At the Five O’Clock Club we define a target as a combination of three parts: 1) specific position or job description, 2) company type or industry, and 3) geographic area. Changing any one of these parameters may require different positioning.)

For your marketing, consider– are your pitch, resume, and cover letters/emails all sending out the same message for each target? Are they written clearly and with the appropriate message and tone for the audience? Do you have a marketing plan, listing the organizations you are interested in by target, and are you showing this plan to those who could help you?

Are you marketing yourself by using all four ways to get interviews (networking, direct contact– directly contacting people you don’t know, search firms, and ads), and are you prioritizing the first two? Networking and Direct Contact have been shown in Club research to be far more effective in landing interviews. In interviews, are you asking the right questions, and following up assertively to influence the outcome? Are you speaking to your target audience about how you can help them, or are you just talking in terms of the last job you had? All these areas get to the quality of your marketing effort.

If your targeting and marketing are correct, then it becomes a numbers game. You want to go for 6 to 10 things in the works with your “Stage 2” and “Stage 3” contacts. The reason we say this is if you go for 6 things, five of them will fall away through no fault of your own. Using the Club’s terminology, “Stage 2” means contacts you are talking with who are in a position to hire you or influence the hiring manager, but have nothing open now. “Stage 3” means the same “Stage 2” contacts, but now you are talking about a specific open position. So, do you have six to ten things in the works?

If you don’t have six to ten Stage 2 or Stage 3 things in the works, maybe your “pipeline” is running dry. Stage 1 contacts– essentially everyone that you know, are the people who can help you get the Stage 2 & 3 meetings. You should aim to get the word out about your search to 200 people in Stage 1 (including family and friends, co-workers you haven’t talked to in years, your dentist, etc.). Are you?

Similarly, on average you need to be targeting enough “potential”, roughly 200 potential positions, to end up with a job offer in a reasonable time. By “positions”, I don’t mean open positions, but rather a specific position in a company whether it is open or not. This number will vary depending on the industry growth rate. So, are you targeting enough positions?

If the volume is not there, are you spending enough time on your search? If you’re currently not employed, at the Five O’Clock Club we recommend spending 35-40 hours a week, and if employed 15-20 hours a week.

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