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Career Management

Ten Job Search Rules to Break

Article Written By: Liz Ryan
CEO and Founder, Human Workplace

1. Follow the defined process.

This is the first rule I want you to break. For many people it's the hardest one to ignore, because of all the follow-the-rules Kool-Aid we've drunk over the years.

We've been trained since childhood to do what we're told to do. The Black Hole will eat your resume and shred its atoms, but people keep lobbing resumes into those gaping corporate recruiting portals nonetheless. Don't do it! Reach your hiring manager directly with a Human-Voiced Resume(TM) and PainLetter(TM) instead.

2. If you know someone in the company, give that person your resume and tell them to give it to the hiring manager.

Just like in other kinds of marketing and sales efforts, your job search needs to focus on your message, your audience and the best channel to connect them. Your friend inside the company may be a great channel partner for you or a wretched one.

What good does it do to have your friend trudge down the hall to HR or even the hiring manager's office if your resume just gets dumped on a desk or re-routed right back into the same Black Hole you were trying to avoid?

Choose the most powerful channel for your job search, whether the channel is an intermediary friend, the direct approach via Pain Letter(TM), or a third-party recruiter. Don't assume that your in-house friend is your best job-search conduit.

3. Use a traditional zombie-style resume and cover letter.

Are you a zombie? I doubt it - zombies can't read. You're a creative, colorful and vibrant person, so don't brand yourself using zombie-style jargon like "Results-oriented professional with a bottom line orientation!" (Ropwablo for short.)

You can sound like yourself in your resume, and you'll make a stronger impression on a hiring manager if you do. As for your cover letter, toss that out the window and write a compelling Pain Letter(TM), instead.

4. In your overture to employers, emphasize the way your background matches the job spec.

If you have already held a job, you know that the typical job spec has as much in common with the actual job as I have in common with Huckleberry Hound. Focus on the pain behind the job ad, rather than the goofy and often arbitrary (not to mention delusional) bullets in the job ad.

5. Spend most of your energy applying for posted jobs, and do so online.

If you want to feel discouraged, isolated and very, very tiny on your job search, spend your days lobbing resumes into the gaping maw of the Black Hole. If you want to get your brand and story out, build your muscles and start pithy conversations with real people, step away from the Black Hole and take a more active role in your job search.

Split your job-search time three ways in equal proportions: spend one-third of your available time and energy responding to posted job ads, one-third of it reaching out to target employers whether or not they have jobs posted, and the final one-third networking.

6. Use your networking time and energy letting people know about your job search, your specific skills and how each friend can help you.

Your friends are awesome because they support you, not because they know hiring managers or might have an inside track on a certain opportunity. Use your networking to counsel your friends (nothing grows mojo better than coaching someone else) and to get their moral support in return.

Networking is for building glue, not trying to turn your friends into means to your job-search end. When people get jobs through networking - and they do, every day - it's because they focused on the relationship, not the transaction.

7. If you're asked to report your salary history, share every detail going back as far as the employer asks you to.

Why would an organization consider hiring you if they don't trust you? If they ask you to verify every salary you've ever had and you say "Fine!", what will the next request be: the names of the presidential candidates you've voted for, or the list of people you've gone past second base with? Keep your salary history to yourself.

8. When the employer asks you to jump, do it.

Remember Linda, way back in the first paragraph? She spoke her truth, let her new manager rise to the challenge she presented him, and walked away with a huge win. Don't start a new relationship by playing Doormat Guy (or Gal). A hiring manager will never love you more than they do the week before they hire you. If the love isn't showing in the interview process, run away fast.

9. Don't bring up the topic of salary - let the employer bring it up.

We demolished this bad advice over here.

10. Do whatever you need to do and say whatever you need to say to get the job.

When you swap your integrity for money, you are done. Your flame will get dimmer and dimmer that way. Survival is paramount, of course - you can take a survival job as a maitre d'or selling suits if you need to. You can even take a survival job in your industry in a firm or a role that doesn't feel great, just to tide you over. That's a perfectly fine strategy.

Just don't delude yourself that the survival job is anything more than that, and don't stop looking for something better and settle for a bad situation instead. If the water in the fishbowl looks murky from the outside as a job-seeker, you can bet it's even dirtier on the inside.

Stay yourself on the job search trail. The quicker you say "No thanks" to the wrong opportunities, the faster your awesome new assignment can roll in - the one that deserves your talents.