The Job Search: The Basics

The job market, which is conservative and myopic by nature, requires a great deal of understanding and hard work by the job seeker in order to land a job. Employers interpret your capabilities in terms of your past career choices and your tenure in prior settings. Understandably, your most recent position is the clearest indication of your highest level of competency. The fact that you are making a change can raise questions about your motives. Are you running toward something or away from something? It is important to stay in control of your search to ensure that these market forces do not dictate your choices. Job seekers must use all the resources available to them to customize an approach to suit individual needs and overcome market obstacles.

Every job search book on the market expresses a resounding theme: do what you do best and do what makes you happy. Just finding any job is not enough. It is important to find a job that energizes you, involves skills which come naturally to you and is situated in a setting you find compatible. By taking the time to understand where you fit in the world of work and to learn successful job-hunting techniques, you are likely to thrive in this competitive market.

Effective Methods

Typically, when people enter the job market, the first thing they do is survey the Classified Ads section of the newspaper, despite the fact that studies show that no more than 15% of placements occur through such formal mechanisms. According to Richard Bolles, author of What Color is Your Parachute?, the average company hires one person for every 1 ,470 resumes it receives. Obviously, job seekers who rely solely on traditional search strategies, like scanning classified ads or going to executive recruiters, won't find work easily. Plan to use a variety of methods to approach the market in proportion to their effectiveness.

Informal and personal methods of filling vacancies are preferred by both employers and employees over more formal mechanisms because informal methods are more in-depth and accurate. Employers are much more likely to hire an individual they know and can rely upon or someone who is known by an individual they respect. Employers are not anxious to have to process hundreds of resumes and applications that flood in when an ad is placed in the newspaper. Informal methods are also preferred because they reduce recruiting costs and hiring risks.

It is paradoxical that attorneys, who are so adept at massive research projects, ignore the research stage of the job search process. Most attorneys skip Step 1: Self-Assessment, Step 2: Career Exploration, and Step 3: Skill Development and instead begin at the end with Step 4: Implementation. The same people who would never think of going to court or to a meeting unprepared short-change themselves in the job search process by not being properly prepared.

Use a Business Plan Approach

A job hunt does not have to be a devastating experience; it does not take guts so much as it requires thought, stamina and a willingness to sacrifice monetary pleasures for a long term goal. Keep in mind that job searches take a long time. Legal Search Consultants suggest that people should expect to be in the process one month for every $10,000 they earn. A creative job search may take longer.

Given the nature of today's economy, a proactive, creative approach to your job search is essential. Therefore, before you pick up the Classified Ads Section, consider using a "Business Plan" Approach. By following the steps outlined in this book, you will be able to successfully:

* define your "product" (through self-assessment)

* analyze your market (through career exploration)

* market your product (through your resume and cover letters)

* sell your product (by translating skills and assets into benefits)

* evaluate your offers

Make sure you do not spend too much time on process and not enough time on some of the more challenging activities such as self-assessment, networking and interviewing. Remember, it is not necessarily the most qualified person who gets the job, rather, it is the person most skilled at finding a job.

Start-Up Job Search Tips

If you are conducting a job search while employed, avoid placing your current position in jeopardy.

* Do not tell colleagues of your plans prematurely.

* Do not use office equipment to facilitate your search

* Schedule interviews wisely. Try to use personal vacation days when possible. Too many doctors appointments and sick grandmothers will raise suspicions.

* Instruct potential employers not to contact you at the office. Include a sentence in your cover letters such as: "As I am currently working, I would appreciate a confidential call to my home number."

* Do not burn bridges. When you are ready to tell your employer you are leaving, develop a mutually comfortable exit.

Excerpted from Jobs for Lawyers by Hillary Jane Mantis & Kathleen Brady (Impact Publications 1996).