Focus on these three activities when searching for a job

Job hunting can be a tedious, boring and stressful activity – like trying to clear out old toys or sort through the loft. Painful. But it doesn’t have to be – in this post I’m going to encourage you to focus on these three activities when you’re searching for a job.

I advocate a similar amount of time for each one, but experiment with your own balance. Depending on why you’re hunting for jobs, what you’re trying to achieve, and the opportunities open to you, you’ll need to flex the amount of time you spend on each activity.

The important thing is that you spend some time doing each one. Over time this use of your time will pay off as you’ll have a balanced portfolio, a good network and the right skills to get a job.

It’s not easy though. What follows is pretty tough work and requires consistency and habitual focus. But I know you can do it.

The three main activities that you should be doing to get a job are:

  1. Building Your Network
  2. Job Hunting
  3. Learning

Building your network

Having a wider network opens up plenty of opportunities for you – opportunities that you may not have known existed. Doors open that you’d never known were there before.

A wider network means a wider pool of people to support you, offer advice and introduce you to people who may have jobs going.

This wider network amplifies you in ways you wouldn’t have original imagined. A wider network can lead to greater diversity of opportunities.

Some people don’t like networking because they feel it is “cheating” on their current employer. I can understand this. Why would you want to network and connect with the goal of getting a job when someone else is currently paying you?

Firstly, networking is not just about finding a job. It can be about opening sources of learning, finding a tribe to join and making friends.

Three women working together in an office

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

Secondly, don’t ever rely solely on your employer to look after you. Don’t deny opportunities for yourself through a feeling of loyalty to your employer. As much as most business owners would love to take care of their staff forever, the reality is that businesses change. There comes a time when most businesses need to make a tough decision about the future of the business. No amount of loyalty on your part will matter if you’re a headcount they can’t afford to keep.

Be loyal to your employer and committed to the business if you’re enjoying it and getting value, but there will come a time when you need to jump on an opportunity elsewhere. Networking is a way of ensuring that you get more of these opportunities and you have access to the jobs that can often be hard to find.

How to widen your network

Widening your network starts in the company you work for.

Most people just to the conclusion that to grow your network you need to do this outside of work – but the reality is – our workplaces often have a wide and diverse set of opportunities that could be open to us.

In some companies, entire departments operate very differently from each other, so if you’re looking to move because you don’t like your job, boss or colleagues, then moving to a new department could be the answer.

Even within your own company a wide network will give you plenty of opportunity to improve your ability to do your current job, ask for help and solve systemic business problems. Not to mention, all of those people in your current company who know other people outside of the company – who may also have opportunities for you too. The network effect is very real.

The best way to grow your network within your company is to simply start speaking to people. Find out what they do, how they do it and whether or not you could help them with it. By offering insane amounts of value you will be seen as a support, a friend, a trusted colleague. Don’t be doing this stuff just to get a job though – do it because it’s the right thing to do – and it helps the company succeed too.

Be effective and liked. Be productive. Add value. And this will garner support, friends and trust. In turn, this will translate to a wider network.

Outside of work try local Meetup groups. Try Facebook community pages. Try LinkedIn. Connect with people, offer support, offer kind words, build rapport. It’s hard work, but by adding value to other people, you will garner value back at some point. It might not be now, or in a month, or even 6 months, but people always remember how you make them feel. Make people feel good, supported, cared for, appreciated – and be genuine about it.

People with hands in the air at a networking event

Photo by Jaime Lopes on Unsplash

It will come back to you at some point.

Widening your network has both positive and negative effects

The more connections you have, the weaker your real emotional connections may become. I have a very wide network, but I try to keep my immediate network of close friends and people in the community small. This helps me to connect to a wide range of people but also maintain strong relationships with those around me.

The more connections you have the more career opportunities you should encounter. A wider network can also help in times of trouble, like when you need a job or support in a personal crisis.

Networks should not be abused though. If you treat your network as a ticket to bigger pay, more sales and more self-promotion then you’ll start to lose the network you have.

If you strive for positive interactions, treat others with respect and add epic value to others then your network will help you when you need it.

Connect in-person

I still believe that face-to-face connections are preferable over purely online ones. The Internet has brought the world closer together, but it’s yet to replace the nuances and pure enjoyment of face-to-face connections.

Connecting in-person helps to solidify online relationships you already have, or kick start new relationships in-person that can continue online.

Connecting with people is what helps us to identify with whom and what we are. We are social creatures and like to hang around with like-minded people (mostly). As such it’s important to build connections. Connections can help us feel a sense of belonging.

I’ve found in-person connections to be stronger than purely online connections. Seek out as many opportunities as you can to connect in-person.

You are always being interviewed

When you meet people in-person, either in your industry or from the wider public, you are always being interviewed.

You and the person you are speaking to might not always realise this, but you’ll both potentially remember the interaction. The memory of this interaction could land you a job or dismiss you from the process completely.

When you are networking at events you should be aware that anyone you speak to could be a potential employer or have influence on those who make the decisions.

  • Have you ever had a manager approach you and ask what you thought of X colleague you used to work with?
  • Have you ever met someone you’d never want to work with?
  • Have you ever met someone you’d hire right on the spot?

You are always being interviewed. If you are a hiring manager, you should always be interviewing.

When you meet someone, show passion for what you do, have confidence in your own abilities and be pleasant and nice. You’ll likely create a good impression, and this can lead to great opportunities.

Good hiring managers are always hiring. Good candidates know this.

Jump on opportunities

One of the most important things I hope you take from this blog is the fact that you need to be ready to pounce when opportunities present themselves.

What would you say to your kids if an opportunity for a job popped up for them? “Go for it!”

The same goes for you – go for it.

Opportunities have a weird way of working – they often appear when you’re not looking. When you need an opportunity they often don’t show.

As well as hustling your own opportunities you need to jump on those presented to you. You can only do this if you’re prepared and ready.

Some networking ideas outside of your business

Meetups, events, industry nights and user groups

Use the Meetup site to find local gatherings. Don’t just stick to your own industry meetups, consider anything in your local area that sounds fun, interesting or has the potential to have hiring managers there.

There are loads of events going on in your local area. You’ll just have to find them.

Meeting people in the local area and building a network can help you locate those jobs that might go unadvertised on the mainstream sites. You may also make good friends.

Some people networking in an office

Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

Recruitment events

Most industries have a recruitment event of some description. There can be lots of value in connecting with employers at these events; after all, they often hold the keys to interesting jobs.

Social networks

I’ve talked heavily about social networks, but they really do help you to connect to people you previously may have never encountered.

Community Groups

Join an online community group around your specialism or interests. These online communities can provide great insights, opportunities for friendships and a way to see what other people are up to. They can be a savour if you feel particularly frustrated with your current job – as you may also see many people are too.

Job hunting

To get a job you’ll need to track one down so spend a significant amount of your time scouring job sites, planning your speculative applications, applying for jobs and updating your CV.

“Find a good job. Find a job you enjoy.”

It’s the advice I will no doubt give to my kids. I want them to be happy in work. They will likely spend 35+ hours a week at work so it’s important they are happy and fulfilled. It’s easier to say than do though. Finding good jobs for many of us is hard.

In my line of work, I meet far too many people who don’t enjoy their jobs.

Parents, often driven by the baby effect, can find themselves trudging through the mire of work to keep a roof over their heads, never really finding the time or energy to change it. It’s easy to get stuck. It’s not impossible to move – I hope this book is in some way inspiring you to make a change if you need to.

Some jobs are only bad because we make them that way. We can often change our work and our environments for the better if we try, yet many people are happier complaining than acting.

We can also learn to appreciate what we have and to make the most of it; that way we can turn a bad job into a good job.

Tap your network

The best way to find out about jobs and to land a new role is to tap your network.

Your network can be called on in times of trouble and times of need but be sure to give something back. I strive to do something good for my network each day. It can be as simple as re-tweeting something interesting, providing free advice, getting on a Skype call with someone for coaching, creating free content or just sharing my insights and knowledge.

Parenting community boards can be a great place to ask questions about industries and jobs. The community members of most parenting sites are diverse. This means you’ll get a nice set of opinions and insights.

Respect everyone in your network though, and they should respect you.

Build relationships

Building relationships is tied to tapping your network. Without good relationships, no matter how big your network is, you’ll likely receive little help.

Making connections, respecting others and genuinely working hard to maintain these relationships will give you a strong foundation for a network.

Building strong working relationships with people online and offline will open doors you never knew existed; doors to collaboration, interesting content, and opportunities to learn and, of course, job opportunities.

If you provide value and help others, you will enrich other people’s lives. Don’t do this just to get a job. Do it because you want to.

Direct Applications

We’ve talked about asking your network and peers for opportunities, but sometimes firing off applications directly to companies works too? Few people do this, but the rewards can be plentiful. We’ll cover this approach in more depth later but for now consider it a winning strategy.

Many companies have an email address for people to send their CVs to, so make use of it, even if they aren’t actively advertising a role.

Photo by XPS on Unsplash

Start early

As soon as you feel you need or want a job start looking. Don’t put it off. Don’t “hang tight” as you might miss opportunities.

Scour job boards

The web is now full of hundreds of jobs boards. Some of them are attached to communities, some are run as a business and some are part of social networks. They clearly serve a function; they advertise jobs.

Job boards are a good way of finding open positions in some industries. The same position is often available with multiple recruiters and worded completely differently so be aware of this when applying. Job boards can also be a serious waste of time, so keep experimenting.

Social channels

Follow twitter hash tags like # [Your Industry] #jobs and other industry related hash tags. See what hash tags other people are using in their tweets; you’ll then find other filters that might lead you to the right networks.

Also seek out location-based hash tags on Twitter such as #Winchester or #Hampshire.

Not all jobs are advertised on all channels, so seek some diversity and try as many as you can handle.

Learning

There will always be a job that requires some skill or experience you don’t have.

When I do talks on learning I hear a variety of reasons and excuses why people believe they cannot learn new things.

I once did a session on learning for a group of school leavers and one person stated that he was unemployable due to a lack of relevant skills.

When I asked him what he was doing during his unemployed time to advance his skills he replied, “playing Xbox”. The group laughed. I laughed. But joking aside, is there any wonder he wasn’t getting job offers?

This is the same for many people.

Replace “playing Xbox” with anything that is stopping you from shipping stuff or learning such as “watching TV”, “surfing the web for houses I can’t afford”, “chatting with people on Facebook” or “mindlessly scrolling through Instagram”.

The following are some of the excuses and reasons I’ve heard from people over the years:

  • I don’t have the money
  • I don’t have the time
  • I don’t have the skills
  • I don’t need to

There are many more reasons and excuses of course, but for parents, it’s usually the “I don’t have time” response as it is indeed hard to find time, but it’s not impossible.

Let’s explore each one of the above in turn.

I don’t have the money

I’m assuming when I address this point that people have enough money for a basic Internet connection or access to a library with Internet facilities. This may be an assumption too far, but it’s an assumption I am applying this to this post.

There are many schemes and charities available in the UK to help you gain basic access to the Internet if you don’t have it at home. I would advise starting at your local library for further information on Internet availability schemes. As most jobs are now advertised online it’s becoming an essential requirement for job seekers.

I was at a conference once talking about learning and someone said they didn’t have enough money to buy most of the courses, books and training needed in their industry. This person had a freshly brewed coffee with him. After a little digging, it turned out he bought a fresh coffee each day from a well know high street chain. That’s about £3 per weekday. That’s £15 over a 5-day working week.

Over a year, with holidays and other days off, he was probably spending about £500+ per year on coffee. Imagine the amount of learning he could buy for that money.  Or nappies. Of course, it’s about priorities. Just be sure you’re clear on what yours are.

Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

Most excuses against learning aren’t serious blockers at all. They are merely examples of where priorities are not in tune with career plans.

In the example above this person placed greater priority on buying coffee over buying learning material. There’s no harm in that at all, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for not finding a job because he didn’t have the skills he needed.

The ironic part is that many learning resources are free.

What follows are some of these free learning sources.

Wikipedia

Despite some inconsistencies and inaccuracies, Wikipedia still offers a wealth of articles on almost anything you care to consider.

When reading the article be sure to follow links to external blogs, other Wikipedia pages, external articles and anything else that takes your fancy; there will always be something to learn.

Why not visit a random Wikipedia page each day and read it?

Coursera

Coursera is an online learning portal with access to many detailed and valuable learning courses from top learning institutes.

Some content is delivered for free over the web in video lecture style. Some you need to pay for. There are lots of topics such as computing, social sciences, research, design, programming, social network analysis, finances, accounting, communication and architecture.

It’s an amazing source of information and genuinely easy to access and use.

Udemy is similar and there are some great courses on there also.

Twitter

Even if you never tweet anything its worth tracking the people in your industry and hash tags associated with your work. For example, if you work in the customer service industry you will find the hash tag of #custsrv useful.

Every day people are sharing new sources of information and learning.

Be careful though, there are loads of companies and people pushing Best Practices and magic solutions via Twitter, so apply critical thinking to some of what you see there. Your role as a modern job seeker is to work out what is good and what is bad and filter accordingly.

Mumsnet et al

Mumsnet and the many other parenting communities can be incredibly helpful for job seekers. They sometimes have jobs listed but the real power comes from the discussion forums where parents share and chat about skills, jobs and their experiences in the job markets.

This reason this book exists is because I followed a thread on Mumsnet about job hunting. I was saddened to hear of so many parents unable to get back on the job market. This was in about 2014 and not a lot has changed since then.

Back then I wrote a goal to create a wonderful resource for those parents who feel they need support – I do hope this blog gets close to that goal.

There are many other parenting forums too.

eBooks

There are many free eBooks flying around the web that may be useful for your learning. The trick is finding them.

Places like AmazonLulu and Smashwords are good sources. A lot of people will give eBooks away for free. Apple books [14], Google Play books and Guttenberg are great sources of free books, eBooks and other reading sources.

The library

Your local library, if you have one, probably stocks several modern books that might not be directly related to your industry but will give an open mind a rich source of learning material.

Read anything and everything. You would be amazed at where ideas and lessons can come from.

I tend to visit the library and wander around the social science section grabbing random books. Some are great, some are good and some I struggle with, but the randomness of it all can bring about a great degree of learning. You could do the same for any industry you’re working in, or looking to work in.

The library also has computers, magazine, audio books and reference books – all useful for helping you learn a little more or do job searching.

Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way of learning about a new topic. They are the ultimate portable learning resource. You can listen whenever it is convenient (commute, walks, sports). There are podcasts on practically anything you are interested in.

There are many systems and applications that will download and sync the latest podcasts with your phone or music device.

Blogs

There are literally millions of blogs on almost any topic you wish to learn about.

Some are good, some are not so good. Use an RSS reader to make subscription and updates easier, or simply find the blogs social feed if it has one (Twitter etc.).

Vary your feeds so you don’t become too focused on just one niche. Let your mind expand by reading things that make you uncomfortable, challenge your thinking or downright disagree with your views. Some of this content will provide you with nothing but rage, yet some will set a spark in your mind.

I don’t have the time

Time, or lack of it, is a common argument against learning. The problem is that many people who say this have very little idea of exactly where their time goes.

I started to make a note of where my time went as I was struggling to get anything done at all after the birth of my first son. It was frightening. At one point in my early fatherhood days I was spending an hour each day simply browsing car auction sites. I would spend hours playing online video games too.

Making a note of where my time went allowed me to prioritise and change my behaviour. It wasn’t easy but I was making it more obvious where I was blatantly burning time. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have down time – of course you should. Seriously, take some time off. But becoming more aware of where your time goes is the key to organising your time more effectively.

It’s entirely possible to learn something in just a few minutes each day. It’s going to take a long time, but if all you have is those tiny few minutes then make use of them.

I now do my learning via podcasts during my commute to and from work.

Learning on a constrained schedule will require you to become organised and efficient so that you can use the few minutes to learn, not to find the learning source, open it, use it, close it etc.

Make use of the technology available to many of us now to make learning easier. Technology such as mp3 players, RSS feeds, social streams, audio books, text to speech, mobile phones and tablet devices. Or simply always have your book with you for when you get a few minutes.

  • Do you watch 2 hours of TV each evening? Why not spend 30 minutes learning and still watch some TV?
  • Do you go for a run or walk in the evening? Try listening to a podcast as you work out.

Practice time

For those skills that need practice time, such as learning to draw, try to snaffle a 20-30-minute period each day and squeeze in some learning time.

The trick with any learning is to just start it and keep doing it. I find it’s better to do something each day than just one big session once a week. Keep it fresh, get organised and make use of those minutes and hours you previously thought weren’t available.

I don’t have the skills

Nonsense. Ok, maybe there are some things that you’ll never be able to do, but unless you have a go you’ll never know.

I hear too many people say they can’t do something before they have even attempted it. Why not have a go and see whether it is possible?

Keep trying. Don’t give up at the first hurdle.

Learn what you can and keep practicing. There will be loads of opportunities to put your learning to use. For example, if you are learning to code, then why not create your own website or automate a tedious task you do each day?

If it is leadership and management skills you are after, then start running some meetings at work or try organizing events in the community. Work on becoming better and more effective during meetings and start asking for more responsibility at work.

Keep a journal of your progress and see how you have developed over time.

If you try, and try, and try and still can’t cut it then maybe your chosen learning isn’t for you. Everyone has limits. We can’t all be excellent at everything. That doesn’t mean you should stop when you reach your limit but be aware of when you might be pushing yourself too far.

I don’t need to learn

Nonsense, there’s always more stuff to learn.

The job market is moving and evolving all the time, especially so as machines replace humans, so it is crucially important to keep learning.

Very few jobs are for life now.

Graduates and school leavers often possess more “in-demand” skills than seasoned workers (maybe not tempered with experience but sometimes hiring managers won’t care).

It’s a reality people in every industry face. Some school leavers have already built a very impressive portfolio of work. Times are indeed changing. And this is awesome for our kids, but what happens when our kid’s generation are replacing us early in our careers?

You also need to rely on yourself to keep yourself employable. No one else will do it for you. They may give you opportunities but it’s what you make of those opportunities that count.

The company you work for aren’t in charge of your career. You are.

There are simply not enough jobs for everyone. In a sea of conformity, you need to stand out. Learning is one way to do this. It’s not the only way, but it’s a very important way.

Conclusion

I hope this post helps you with your job hunting journey.

It’s not enough to simply apply for jobs, it’s a serious case for working on all three of these things when job hunting; Finding Jobs, Networking and Learning.

Until next time.

Rob..