I love new beginnings and fresh starts.
My favorites are the first day of each month, the first day of the week, and the first day of a new quarter. And, I especially love the first day of a new year because that is the “mother” of all new beginnings.
If you are unemployed, it’s now a perfect time to begin a new career search. When I was the head of staffing for various Merrill Lynch businesses (for about 7 years), the first quarter of the year always yielded the most number of hires, followed by the second quarter of the year. Things slowed down towards the end of the third quarter and came to a grinding halt by the fourth quarter. So even though we are in a tough economy, this is the greatest number of green lights we’re going to get for a while, so let’s get going!
Wipe away everything that didn’t work before: including any awkward networking interactions, resumes that had typos in them, and cover letters that just didn’t make the case for why you should be hired. Use what didn’t work to make your plan even better than before.
So, let’s take a deep breath, get organized, get positive, and put a plan together for everything that needs to be done. Here goes:
1) Identify your target companies: come up with a list of 10 and then take it to the next level. Organize this list in the following way: large companies v. small companies. Separate by industry as well. Indicate which firms you already have contacts with, and start to think about how you can get contacts where there are none now.
2) Create and perfect your resume, cover letters, email signature, cell phone messages. All should be professional and clearly crafted. Your resume should have quantifiable results and accomplishments. Your cell phone should not have music on it.
3) Conduct research: use online resources for jobseekers like Vault.com, TheGlassHammer.com, and a host of others. Find out everything you can about industries and companies.
4) Ensure that you are ready to meet people and leave positive impressions through networking, informational interviews and of course, job interviews (phone screens and face-to-face). Many companies conduct phone screens first to save time and money. You have to ace these to move forward.
5) Stay motivated and organized: The 11th commandment had to be: Never loose a business card. They are your entry way to networking so hold on tight to them and be organized about it. Ensure you are upbeat and positive and know that there will be a good conclusion to your search. You have to “fake it until you make it” because being negative will only repel those around you. As a recruiter, I could sniff out a candidate that was down and I could always spot someone who was upbeat. So do whatever you need to do to stay positive: workout regularly, stay current with industry news, volunteer, and pray if that works (and I hope it does!) but stay positive. It’s that important.
6) Be confident that once the offer comes your way, you can close it properly, dealing with all compensation issues (cash & non-cash, vacation, start dates, etc.). How can you be confident about this? You have to think about it in advance. Think about the cash & what you need and what the going rate is for this type of work. Think about vacation and if you could live with one week less than before. The more you prepare, the smoother you will come across in every interaction with the company.
Your demeanor during your job search should be like a duck: calm as could be on the surface, with water that just rolls off your back and in the meantime, your legs are going a mile a minute to get where you need to be. Make sure you excel at all the points above. Don’t practice on your dream employer: practice with a friend in human resources, or a career coach that can let you know what you are doing well, what you need to adjust, and can give you ideas for how to improve overall. It’s that important in this market.
Connie Thanasoulis-Cerrachio is a career coach and co-founder of SixFigureStart and has worked for the bluest of blue chips for the past 25 years. Her companies include Citigroup, Pfizer, and most recently as the COO of Campus Recruiting for Merrill Lynch. Connie also co-authors a career blog for Vault.com.
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