When I started teaching people how to get jobs without groveling, lots of them got nervous. “Won’t something terrible happen to me,” they asked, “if I don’t follow the rules?
The job ad specifically said No Contact with the Hiring Manager allowed. You really want me to ignore that, and contact my hiring manager anyway?”
Look here, I said, in every company you’ve ever worked for, there were VPs and people walking around with the letter “C” in their title, right? Of course there were. Those people are executives.
Do you know how those executives got their jobs? They sure as heck didn’t throw their resumes into Black Hole recruiting portals and wait weeks for a terse auto-response reply. That’s not how executives get hired.
Executives figure that if they keep their networks energized and mobilized, they’re going to hear about new job openings as they emerge. They might even create a job opening, out of what looked at first like a consulting project.
The job-seekers who stay busy and income-producing are the ones who never treat any job as a long-term engagement.
They never know what’s going to happen next, so they keep their antennae up. The ones who get knocked for a loop are the folks who believe the first page in the Employee Handbook, the one that says “We hope you have a long and happy career with Acme Explosives.”
Here’s the thing about that handbook. It was written in 1962, and it’s never been updated. The person who wrote those words is dead.
The words don’t mean anything. I’m not cynical — I’m an HR person myself, and I believe in people, probably way more than is prudent.
I believe in people like crazy. I just don’t trust institutions, policies or empty Employee Handbook pablum. I teach people to stay alert and to look out for themselves.
If you switch your mindset from “I’m a job-seeker” to “I’m a Marketing person who’s always on the hunt for his next assignment” (or hers, and of course your field might not be Marketing) you’re going to have major advantages over people who think that their responsibility toward their own career is to go to work and perform their job every day.
You’re going to have something priceless when you start managing your career like a business. That priceless thing is altitude on your career.
You’re not going to fall into the Career Coma that keeps so many smart and capable people from seeing the handwriting on the wall, when things start to crumble at their current position.
That’s the worst thing that can happen — for you to give heart and soul to your job and be caught by surprise when the rug is pulled out from under you. I don’t want that fate to befall you, and that’s why I write these columns.
If you shift your frame from “I’m a job-seeker” to “I’m a professional in Field X, and I’m always up to talk about Business Pain and its solutions,” you’re going to do a lot more networking than you probably do right now.
People always ask me “What do I talk about on my networking coffee dates, if I’m not job-hunting?”
Don’t overthink a networking coffee conversation. Just talk about the person you’re having coffee with. What have they been up to? What’s on their mind? What are they seeing happening out in the marketplace, and which trends do they see emerging?
Who in their networks would they recommend that you meet next — not because you’re job-hunting (because you’re not, except that you also are, in the sense that every thinking person has one eye on the talent market all the time) but because it’s good for smart people to know one another?
Executives don’t use Black Hole recruiting portals, and if they did, they’d never be employed.
Those things are meant to screen people out, not in. I don’t want anyone to job-hunt in such a grovelly fashion.
I’m rooting for one or two ATS vendors (ATS being short for Applicant Tracking System) to rise up and humanize their products such that all the Human Workplace employers choose from the same set of talent-aware products, and the rest of the pack goes out of business.
An ATS, of course, is nothing more than a big dumb database. How hard can it be to add a human voice, human process and a selling (versus vetting) logic to a product like that?
Executives use their networks, and they also reach out to their target hiring managers directly using Human-Voiced Resumes and Pain Letters, which replace cover letters and are much friendlier and more effective.
A Pain Letter talks to a hiring manager not about the goofy, bordering-on-delusional job spec but on the Business Pain behind the job ad. Executives start conversations about common problems that crop up for employers at every stage in their life cycle.
They don’t bow and scrape and write things like “I’m a hard worker, and I learn fast.” They let their resumes speak for themselves.
You can do the same thing. You can job-hunt the same way a CFO does.
You and your CFO, after all, have much more in common than not. A CFO is just a Finance person who learned how to see the dollars and cents moving throughout an organization from a high altitude, to see how the pieces fit together. If you want to be an executive yourself, start by getting altitude on your own career.
Don’t follow rules that make no sense, and don’t pretend that doing something you’ve done a million times already without success, like lobbing resumes into faceless recruiting portals, is magically going to work for you this time.
Give up on that mewly job-search process, and reach your hiring-managers-in-pain directly. Ask any executive how he or she got where he or she is right now, and you’re likely to hear “I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and listening to my gut.” That course is available to anyone – especially you!