Even if your resume, pitch and communications skills are stellar and your background is in demand, you may still be in for a long job search. Many opportunities simply won’t pan out through no fault of your own; budgets, priorities and hiring managers can change unexpectedly. To ensure that you’ll have a quick job search, play the numbers game to win; have many things in the works at every stage of your search.
To have many things in the works, you need to take the active approach to your search. Don’t passively wait for the search firm to call or the job posting to show up (and then compete with potentially thousands of applicants). Instead, 1) create a plan that casts a wide enough net to include enough potential positions, and 2) implement the plan via networking and cold-contacting people you don’t know in these organizations. Let’s talk about the numbers you should be aiming for to land a job quickly.
The Planning Stage: Target 200 Positions
If you fish in a sea with few fish, it’s unlikely you’ll catch one. Similarly, if you’re chasing too few positions, you’ll find that landing a new position seems to take forever. You need to actively pursue a large number of potential positions to improve your odds. By “potential” I mean positions that exist, whether open or filled. My GetFive coach colleagues and I use 200 positions as a rough rule of thumb.
Here’s an example. A jobseeker came to me for help after a year of job-search frustration. Her assumptions about what was wrong included “I’m too old” and “there are no jobs.” A quick conversation, however, revealed a different issue. She was targeting a niche area of the finance industry, in a narrow geographic region in which there were only 13 companies. She was looking for a “chief marketing officer” position, and she estimated that each of the companies she was targeting had only one such position.
When we did this analysis it became clear to both of us why things were taking so long. First, she would have to wait for one of just 13 potential positions to become vacant, and then she would have to compete with possibly hundreds of other applicants!
To expand this universe of potential positions beyond 13, she revised her job search marketing plan to 1) expand geographically and include more companies, and 2) add additional industries and job titles. In the end, her new plan identified roughly 200 potential positions. She reached out to her new target organizations by actively tapping into the hidden job market, and landed meetings, interviews, and ultimately job offers.
The Execution Stage: Let 200 People Know About Your Search
I encourage my clients to think expansively about their network. In fact, I give them a stretch goal to let 200 people know what they want to do and where they want to do it. Many of my clients inevitably say something like “200 people? I only know five people!” In fact, we all actually know many more than that. Think expansively about your network, and understand that introductions to hiring decision-makers often come from the people you least expect could help.
For example, one of my clients reached out to a former classmate she hadn’t spoken with in 18 years; this outreach resulted in her landing an interview at the company where her former classmate worked. Another client decided to email his neighbor, who he didn’t know well, about his search. It turned out that his neighbor’s wife’s sister worked for the CFO of one of his target companies. He received an introduction to the CFO, and got an interview. With this as context, examples of people you might reach out to include:
- Your family and friends
- Your dentist
- Your nice neighbor who you don’t see very often
- People you haven’t worked with in many years, but the memories are positive (or even just neutral)
- Old professors
- Recent or current colleagues
- People you meet at a relevant association ( join one – e.g. if you’re in marketing join the AMA, in talent development join the ATD, etc.)
Your LinkedIn network can be a source for many of these people. Contact them by email, so they can easily forward your information. In the email, share: 1) Your value proposition for your job target (your pitch), and 2) Where you are looking to add value; list specific organizations that they might have heard of, as seeing these names will help them remember who they know.
Assessing Your Search: Have At Least Six Meetings In The Works
I often hear something along the lines of “I had my second (or third) interview today, I really think I’m going to get this job.” All too often, the person saying this wants to drop everything else they are doing because they hate job-searching; they just want to focus on this one “sure thing.”
If the sure thing doesn’t work out, however, they are devastated and left with no other options. So I (and my GetFive coach-colleagues) encourage them to have at least six meetings (interviews or informational meetings) in the works at any given time, with people in a position to hire them. While most of these won’t work out, it’s very likely that at least one of the six will turn into the offer you want, simply because you’re playing the numbers game to win.