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Jobs That Don’t Blow
Unemployed or unhappily employed? Here’s how to get the balls of change rolling
by Kent Lewis

 

Over the past two or three months, I’ve had coffee with two-dozen friends, peers and former co-workers looking for job leads and ideas. Every time I sit down over a fresh cup of joe I think I’m fresh out of ideas, but when I get to talking, their specific needs or experience lead down a new and interesting path. I figured it was about time I compiled and shared some of my thoughts and experiences with Anvilites.

There are a few basic ingredients to getting the ideal/decent/any job. You need a resumé, fingers (to type and dial) and lips (for talking and kissing ass). For more advanced jobseekers, a portfolio of relevant work, (art, writing, blueprints, etc.) in hard copy or electronic (email attachments or a Web site) and personal business cards are helpful. Without these basic tools, you’re stuck to relying on personal references and recommendations (which can be more than enough often times, in which case, you’re done).

Where do the less fortunate (or connected) start? The Web, of course. If you don’t have a computer or access at home, check out the local library. If you don’t already have a resume, you can create one with the help of a few online resources like Resume.com and resumewriters.com. If you want to get a second opinion, get a set of experienced eyeballs to look it over, the more the merrier. Ask for feedback and suggestions. Leave your ego at the door. Proof it and use heavier paper stock. Try to keep it to a page, and always start with relevant experience, computer skills and end with lesser qualifiers like interests, associations and volunteer experience.

Before you start pounding the pavement with your 100% bulletproof resume, make sure you post it online at mega-sites like Monster.com, hotjobs.com, headhunter.net, FlipDog and jobs.com. These sites are one-stop-shops for information and tips on resume building, interviewing and negotiating compensation. For additional content, be sure to hit portal sites like Yahoo! Careers and Excite Careers, especially if you plan on relocating and need to calculate cost of living and related expenses. Most if not all of these sites allow you to post your resume online for free, provide useful tracking tools and free email or voicemail to screen interested parties.

Don’t stop with generic mega-sites, however. There are also industry-specific job sites like techies.com and dice.com (for the high tech community). You should also look for geography-specific sites in search engines. A search for "Portland jobs" on Excite located Portland Jobs, PDXJobs and jobsinportland.com.

While you may now have your resume posted on multiple job sites, there is still no guarantee your potential employer is seeing it. Cover your bases by talking to (gulp!) a headhunter. It’s’ okay, really. There are national and regional headhunters, some specializing in industries, some in job titles. Start with a search on the Web, and then go to your local Yellow Pages. In the Portland area, two technology/marketing firms come to mind due to the strength of their talented and well-connected staff: Woodworth International Group and Lee Koehn Associates. Nationally recognized technology-focused firms like Kforce and hall kinion fill both contract and full-time positions.

Even though you can sleep at night knowing your resume and headhunters are out there pulling for you, there is still much work to do. Before you can get that killer interview set up, you actually have to get out there and press the flesh. Head out to local networking events. If you don’t know where to start, surf the Web and ask people in the industry where they go. For a look at Portland technology-focused networking events, check out Networking: A Portland High-Tech Guide.

Now that you have a few leads and are getting your face in front of people, you can start to get a feel for what companies are hiring and which are better to work at. Target your ideal list of potential employers, and pull in chips with friends and peers to get the appropriate contact (ideally not HR at first). The higher the position the better (i.e. VP or CEO). Once you’ve identified them, follow these handy networking tips:

1. Do your homework. Find out what you can about the person you are going to talk to. Check out the site, press releases, talk to people you know. Worst case; use the receptionist to find out whom to talk to. Keep talking with employees until you know you have the right person.

2. If you don’t know them, start with an email message introducing yourself and requesting a meeting in the form of an informational interview. Follow up shortly after (24 to 48 hours) with a phone call. Alternate email and phone calls until you get through and are able to schedule a meeting. Inviting them to lunch to pick their brains is very effective. Wait to give them a copy of your resume until they ask, or in person during the meeting, when you have the opportunity to talk them through it. If it’s not set up as a job-seeking mission, ask them to review the resume and give feedback and tips.

3. If you do know them, or are getting a referral, use the opportunity to send a resume or ask for a meeting, depending on your objective and their style. Don’t bother with a cover letter; just send the resume with a brief intro via email.

4. Find out as much as you can about them during your meeting. Ask about their past experience, what they like about their current position and what motivates and excites them. Show that you did your homework about them and their company, but do it subtly (i.e. "I saw that you recently won the Johnson account, congratulations"). Get a feel for the company culture. Find out who does what. Ease into current opportunities slowly and carefully. Use the listening time to figure out how you may best fit into the culture (if at all). Be confident but open and honest. Make a connection if possible, especially a common interest or hobby. Don’t overdue it though, be sincere. Always send a thank you note regardless of the outcome.

Next thing you know, you have more job offers than you can shake a stick at. Happy hunting.

 
 
Kent is taskmaster for Anvil and hangs out with his friends at goodguys.com, looking for good discounts on electronics.