5 Job Search Success Tips

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Conventional wisdom holds that it can take one month of stealth job searching for every $10,000 in salary that you earn. (Top-level or highly specialized attorneys can take years to find the right fit because of the limited availability of positions. One client mused, "There are probably only 20 jobs for me in the entire country." After a pause, he revised: "No, probably fewer." Because he was comfortably and securely employed, he chose to position himself to take advantage of the rare opportunities that interested him, rather than to widen his search to consider other positions.)

Here are some tips to speed this process up significantly:

Success Tip 1: Job boards are lotteries

Do not wait until you see a job ad to send your resume to an employer. Research suggests 80-85% of job opportunities are never posted. Those that are attract swarms of applicants. Yes, you gotta be in it to win it, but if your job search strategy is limited to responding to job ads, then your individual odds of winning are quite low -- even if you're well qualified for the position, you have to fight through the hundreds (or thousands) of applicants who aren't. Allocate your time and other resources accordingly. You wouldn't consider reliance on lottery tickets to be sound financial planning; please don't mistake reliance on job ads as sound job searching! 

Success Tip 2: Networking is still the number one way to find and secure new opportunities. 

How do those 80-85% of job opportunities get filled if they're never posted or advertised? Networking. Your legal resume and other career portfolio is a powerful tool for your allies to understand your background and value add, to understand what sort of opportunities your looking for, and to advocate for you. To the extent you can, get your current network involved in your job search. Then start expanding your network. A network is a living thing -- you must take the time to nourish it so it can grow and bear fruit. A network is also reciprocal -- if you want people to help you, then you must demonstrate willingness to help them. It's all about a group of people helping each other reach their goals. 

Success Tip 3: Research potential employers

Focus your job search on employers who value what you offer. Again, you gotta be in it to win it, but moderate how much time, emotional energy, and other resources you spend chasing employers who don't value what you offer and who likely won't be a good fit. That kind of job search can be frustrating, unproductive, and -- even worse -- poison your best job search by wasting precious time and undermining your self-confidence. Research employers that look like a good fit, and then send your resume in before they post a job ad so that you'll be in the running for all those unadvertised opportunities.

Success Tip 4: Mirror each employer

Remember what we've developed are master documents. By definition, they should work well for the general target we had in mind when designing the documents. But also by definition, you'll want to review them before sending them to specific targets. Your resume should mirror the needs and culture of the specific employer you're sending it to. Do you need to re-order the bullets or sections? Tinker with your branding statement? When you can incorporate each employer's language, priorities, and culture -- often you can do this just by adding (or changing) a phrase or two in the resume. This is a time when a small modification can make a big difference.

Success Tip 5: Follow up

Silence does not equal rejection. Unless specifically instructed not to follow up (another hazard of job ads!), you should follow up on every resume you send out. Whether networking or job searching, use the 3 strikes rule: after mailing your resume, follow up the next week with an email. Follow up the week after that with a voice mail. Let it rest a week or two, then follow up again. If you still hear nothing, wait 3 months and then make contact again. It's this kind of perseverance that not only leads to jobs now, but helps build relationships for opportunities down the road. 

BONUS Tip: Be gracious, be grateful, and stay in touch

It's hard to be gracious in the face of apathy and rejection. But every successful person must learn to do so. A "no" is an opportunity to leave a lasting, positive impression; don't waste it! When you get a "no," send a sincere note thanking the contact or hiring director for her time and asking her to keep an eye out for other opportunities within the company that might be a good fit. Whether you start another position or not, send her another note in three months. Again, your job search isn't only about the now; it's also about the later. After all, just because the employer doesn't have an open position for you this week, doesn't mean it won't have a position two months from now, or six years from now. And remember -- hiring attorneys and directors change jobs too. When she moves to another employer that does have a good fit for you... don't you want her to remember you?