Because everyone should dig their job

The three secrets of successful job-hunting

By Richard Bolles

We are all destined to go job-hunting again. The only question is how soon.

The job-hunt now occurs some 5–9 times in most people's lives, with two or three career-changes thrown in, somewhere along the way, just to keep things interesting. So the job-hunt always awaits us (unless we are retired or semi-retired).

For most of us, this frequency of the hunt is not good news. Job-hunting is something most of us do fairly well during good times, but not so well when times are hard. (And times will always get hard, sooner or later, believe me.)

There are people, of course, who are good at job-hunting come rain or come shine. I know of a man who successfully changes jobs every three years, precisely on January 2nd, no matter what the economy is doing. We call such people (get ready for this) "people who are good at job-hunting."

I have studied such people, now, for three decades. I have pondered the question: "Why are they so good at job-hunting?" So far, I have come up with three answers.

1. Some people are just naturally good at job-hunting.

It's no mystery why. As Howard Figler points out in his book, The Complete Job-Search Handbook, the job-hunt requires four families of skills: self-assessment skills, detective skills, communication skills, and skills for selling ourselves.

Now, since some people have jobs which demand those same skills, if they are good at their job, they will be good at job-hunting. Same skills required, in both places.

They have a head start on the rest of us; but of course the rest of us can always learn those skills – self-assessment, detective work, communication, and selling – that they already possess. (Figler's book, or Parachute tell you how.)

2. People who are good at job-hunting are willing to change strategies, depending on the state of the economy.

During good economic times, they may stick to the strategies that require the least work: resumes, agencies, and ads or job postings.

But during hard times, or if the above didn't work, people who are good at job-hunting change their strategy and pursue job-hunting methods that require a lot more work. They spend lots of time doing homework on themselves, researching organizations in detail, doing informational interviewing, building their contacts, and other methods that require work. (These alternate ways are described in Parachute and other job-hunting books.) In other words, like species that survive best in nature, people who are good at job-hunting deliberately adapt to a changing landscape.

People who are bad at job-hunting usually don't. They tend to stay with the same strategies during bad times and good. Namely: resumes, agencies, and ads. When this doesn't work, they usually just do more of it. (Everyone's favorite definition of insanity.) 

So, if 400 resumes didn't get them a job, they send out 800. It does not occur to them to change their strategy altogether, in keeping with the changing economic conditions.

3. People who are good at job-hunting always have alternatives up their sleeve.

People who are not good at job-hunting tend to fixate on just one way of doing things.

  1. In describing what they can do, they use a job-title. Period. ("I'm an engineer.")
  2. In describing where they want to work, they use a field-title. Period. ("In the computer field.")
  3. In describing their target, they name large organizations. Period. ("I want to work for Apple.")
  4. In describing how they choose particular places, it's always places with known vacancies. Period. ("I'm studying all the ads and job postings on the Internet.")
  5. In describing how they get into organizations, they use one way only. Period. ("I'm sending them my resume.")

People who are good at job-hunting figure out alternatives to each of the above. And have them ready at hand. You could call it "their fall-back position," or "Plan B."

  1. Instead of just job-titles, they can name their individual skills.
  2. Instead of just field-titles, they can describe their favorite interests.
  3. Instead of just large organizations, they target small organizations also.
  4. Instead of just going after vacancies, they go after any place that interests them.
  5. Instead of just approaching organizations through resumes, they approach them through their personal contacts.

This is why they're good at job-hunting. When one thing doesn't work, they just switch over to the alternative.

Well, there you have the three secrets. If you keep them firmly in mind, you can change your own behavior so that you too will be good at job-hunting come rain or come shine.