Job Search Lessons


This month I’m shifting from my usual data-centric writing to put together some tools and processes to help students or professionals jump into the job search. I spent 19 years with one company, so when it came time to search, it was like being a student again. Over the past month, I’ve met with dozens of students and talked to 2 classes about the job search. It’s also notable that several people ask you “how” to go about that after shifting careers. So, what better way to try to help than to kill off my regular data posts and put together a framework? I’ll also have materials in the resource section of my blog for support or examples. Given this is a data blog, be ready for data commentary. It’s surprising how much data and technology revolves around this industry!

I think it’s important to note that a change of any kind will take some courage. You will likely be stepping out of your comfort zone. You will have to network with people, take aptitude tests, negotiate salary, and interview. If something scares you in the process, write it down so you can devise a plan around it. If interviewing scares you, then do practice questions. If networking scares you, then use some simple networking techniques. Change happens if you make it happen in the job search, and discomfort is short-lived. You can do this. Sometimes it will be slow, and you might struggle at first. Your path is different from everyone else, and you may sometimes be discouraged. Finding your first or subsequent job is about sampling. If you haven’t read the book “Range”, you should. Most people need to sample and try new things. That’s how we learn.

Throughout this series, I’ll talk about values. Understanding your values is something I believe in deeply. So deeply that I frequently as others what values they have and what they need from an organization. Note, I said need. Finding and evaluating companies and people on values is the most powerful thing you can do.

A Framework
The framework that I usually lay out for people is the following:
Step 1: Learn
Find a coach, guide, or process you want to follow.
Journal the experience.
Dive deep into your values.
Understand how online searching works.
Step 2: Prep
Build Your Application Kit with a Resume, Cover Letter, Proposition Email, and Proposition Linkedin Message
Build Your Interview Kit with 1 Pager Stories and Practice Questions
Update your LinkedIn
Step 3: Grow
Grow your network by Asking People to Coffee, Connect on Linkedin, Connect in person
Setup your target list of companies/jobs
Create Visibility and Connect
Step 4: Repeat
Practice Questions with a Friend
Adapt your Stories and Notes for Interviewing
Adapt your application kit to the job (Jobscan or another tool)
Send in an application/request
Follow-up with the recruiter or connection online after a week
Interview and repeat

This article will be a 4 part series, with 1 article released each week!

Step 1: Learn
Guides and Processes
I cannot stress the importance of using something as your guide. This blog series will hopefully give you a high-level framework, inspire you, and enable you with a tool you hadn’t thought about, but there is a massive amount of fantastic literature. The one I recommend to people is “Amplify your Job Search” by Jeff Ton. Choose your own adventure here. Not every process works for everyone; you can mix and match some of them to create the best outcome for yourself.

I needed to update my resume when I started thinking about a change. I didn’t realize how powerful your network, process, and the right tools and coaches can take you. In my case, I hired a coach, Lisa, to help me. She opened my eyes to how to think about your resumes, LinkedIn, and my network. Her perspective was that this is a marketing approach. Your resume, and any tool, are components of a marketing plan. Your resume is the first part of your toolkit, but it’s an evolving creature. So before I just started winging applications at companies or calling contacts, she had me build a toolkit that I’ll lay out in this series.

Along the way, I think it’s important to reflect and think. Jeff talks about this in his book, and several people have recommended it. Your journal can be anything, digital, voice recording, or paper notes, as long as you have something. I would write down answers to these questions weekly and reflect on what I was doing.

  1. How did I feel about my work, projects, etc., today?
  2. Are there specific things I’m not getting or want?
  3. What should I try next or contemplate?

As you write, what starts to form are clear pictures of what you’re thinking about. You can derive your values from that information and how you need to align with a company or leader.

At its core, your values are intimately related to your needs, and people frequently confuse values and beliefs. Your beliefs are derived from experiences and function as a contextual framework for your understanding of the world, and values transcend that context and are part of you. In that sense, beliefs are external factors, while values are internal factors. But why is that important?

To understand why that’s important, let’s explore what happens when your values are misaligned. Pretend you have a friend who loves collaboration and relating to people, but they take a job in a high-pressure sales organization. You hang out on the weekends and slowly see the individual growing angry, tired, depressed, frustrated, and sad. Each week takes its toll on them, but the money is so good they can’t pass it up. You talk to them about their values and find that they are family, collaboration, harmony, and other factors that their job will make impossible.

Values are the framework for your decision-making process. In decision science, values are known to drive goals and motivations. Values are generally part of unconscious behaviors, meaning you’ll act on them even if you haven’t thought about them. If you a misaligned with them in the workplace, your decision-making suffers, and you suffer as a result.

Now that you understand values, the hard part comes. You have to do some real thinking to figure out what some of your values are. I encourage you to write these down, and as many or as few as you want, but I encourage you to try to find 6-8 that resonate with you. Those will be your uncompromising values. It would help if you tried to answer some questions like:
What do you like about your work/school now?
What do you not like?
What gives you energy?
What saps it?
Here’s a tool you can use to help you work through your values.

Want to know what some of mine are?
People - I enjoy working with others in collaboration but also in connection and getting to know them.
Charitable Control - I want to be able to connect and volunteer as part of my job.
Family-like Teams - I have to be able to connect with people on my team.
Humor (I laugh…a lot) - If you’re not going to laugh and learn from a mistake, you’re too serious for me.
Helping Others (Teach people to fish) - I have to have opportunities to connect with people and help them.
Problem-Solving - I have to have the opportunity to find solutions, creative and novel. It doesn’t matter.
Building Things - I want to be a part of building things. I like building stuff at home, at work, and on this blog.
Leadership - I like to drive and set direction working with people. I hate hypocrisy in leadership, though. I would never ask someone to do something I’m unwilling to do.
Resonate - I want to feel connected to my work and its producing long-term results.
Variety - I get bored doing the same thing over and over.

Online Searching
Without discussing data, I can’t write a post on my data blog site. Online searching is a data game, so there are a few things to remember. The advent of tools like Linkedin means that some recruiters are slammed with hundreds of resumes for every job posted. That means you’re playing a game of percentages and trying to increase your chances just enough to get into that top X% that they interview. There are application tracking systems (ATS) technologies that human resource teams use to help them weed out candidates that aren’t a fit. Unfortunately, the technology is built on top of a flawed process with resumes. It uses a bag-of-words technique in most cases. A bag of words algorithm works as a simple word matching and frequency. There’s more complexity, but that’s the gist of it. For example, if the job description has the word leadership in it, and your resume has it, that might increase your chances by 1%. If the word is mentioned several times, and you only have it once, but someone else has it three times, that might increase their chances over you. The key is that a machine learning algorithm determines if you make it to the next step. The best way to ensure that you have the right words is to use a tool like Jobscan that shows you how a particular ATS might rate you. Remember, the first phase is all about increasing your odds. More on that when we build your toolkit.

Stay tuned for the next article.