Sunday, September 28, 2008

BE PROACTIVE IN YOUR JOB SEARCH--contact organizations directly

As the Bay Area job market slows down, it’s going to be even more important for job seekers to practice proactive job search strategies. One of the most effective proactive approaches I encourage my career clients to pursue is contacting organizations directly.

When I compare job seekers who struggle to get interviews with those who maintain a strong level of interview activity, I usually see a difference in their approaches. The ones who struggle tend to be more passive about their search. They rely heavily on job boards, and then versus customizing their resume to match the opening, they send the same resume in for jobs they see posted. Usually they aren’t sure who even posted the position, or who is receiving their resume. They are completely dependant on the recipient of their resume seeing them as a fit for the position.

They may also have their resume with a few recruiters. Working with recruiters certainly enhances one’s exposure to the market; however, one still must wait for the recruiter to decide which, if any job, they want to contact you about. That’s as far as most job seekers usually go.

I believe looking at job boards and working with recruiters is a basic necessity for your job search. However, you shouldn’t stop there. The people I work with who tend to have the most interview activity, certainly use job boards and recruiters, but also spend time working with and expanding their network. Linked In, , is probably the most popular networking tool out there.

The most significant edge I see in successful job seekers utilizing is reaching out to organizations directly. A few weeks ago, I showed a career coaching client of mine a web site where one can find companies in different locales within the Bay Area. When we visited a few of the company web sites, she was amazed that jobs she was qualified for were posted on the company websites, and not posted on mainstream job boards. Doing a little homework, and finding leads that the average job seeker is missing can feel like discovering gold.

For more information about how to target and identify prospective companies of interest, as well as learning what to say once you’ve contacted them, check out Alchemy’s Career Services practice:

--Steve Hernandez

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Finding Time for Networking

The following is a composite of clients I have known over the past couple of years:
James, currently in the midst of a job search, began his story with, “A few years ago I made a horrible decision . . . and I’m still paying the price today.” The decision involved staying at a high paying job that he disliked, instead of returning to his home town to take lower paying, but much more satisfying job. In the intervening time, he has gotten divorced and relocated to the Bay Area to work 10 hours a day at something he considers, “very disappointing.”
As you can imagine, he is frustrated, angry, and even embarrassed. He claims he has no “time” to change his situation. After listening to his story, I asked how he has been conducting his job search. He answered, “Craigslist, Career Builder, HotJobs, and trying to connect with headhunters” who aren’t returning his calls, because his resume, impressive in many ways, shows no real focus or direction.
We talked about the importance and necessity of networking and he vehemently responded, several times, that he had no time for this activity. I then asked him to step back from the job search to analyze how he spends his time each day, and to his surprise, he found he has 30-90 minutes of “discretionary” time each day. Once he got over his shock and apologized for his “stubbornness,” he recognized that even if he used a minimum 30 minutes a day for networking, in a month’s time, this would create options that would not be possible through posting resumes and responding to job openings.
We then focused on where he could begin his networking. He swore to me that his key connections, of which he has dozens, were “old” and hadn’t been contacted in years. We spoke about how he could approach these people (“I know it’s been a long time, but I want to let you know that I’m in a transition period in my work life . . . and I could use your help and advice . . . . “) and once he had his “script” worked out, we finished our session by having him create his “Top 20” list of people to contact in the weeks ahead. And even if he calls just half of those people, think about the doors that might open for him . . . .
Best wishes.

Mark Guterman

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Ease your transition back into the job market.

In my career coaching practice I work with many clients who have had significant time away from the conventional workforce. They work with me seeking assistance on re-entering the marketplace after a long hiatus. Sometimes they’ve been away as long as twenty years.

In most cases they’ve been out of the workforce for an extended period because they’ve been stay home parents. I’ve also had clients who took time off to care for sick relatives, extended sabbaticals to travel, or recovery from serious illness. Now, because their personal/life circumstances have changed, they find themselves seeking work in a new world of work. That task can be especially challenging in a tenuous job market, such as the one we’re living in now.

When I work with clients who are embarking on a job search after a long hiatus, one of the first things we delve into is skills identification. We make lists of what technical skills they have. We also spend time talking about their intangible qualities as well (communication/interpersonal skills). I ask questions like, what types of things are you good at? What subject matter do you know well? In what areas do you have unique expertise?

What we’re trying to accomplish is identifying what skills and experiences this person has that may be valuable to employers in today’s marketplace. Sometimes it’s easy to find connections. Often it’s difficult, especially if the individual has been out of the workforce for more than five years. In these cases, depending on what career field they seek to enter, additional training, education, and new exposure are necessary. It can be a long process.

With these realities in mind, it may be prudent to try and stay connected to the workforce during your hiatus. Clearly, if you’re taking a long sabbatical traveling around the world, this advice is not feasible. However, if you’re going to be taking time off of work, and living in or near a marketplace where you might eventually re-enter, staying connected to it as much as possible is a good idea.

What can you do to stay connected during your hiatus? You can try and work part-time in your field or one that is related. You can you take classes to stay updated on the latest software or technical pronouncements in your field. You can you get involved with professional associations that keep you connected. You can you do volunteer work that keeps your skills sharp, or teaches you new ones. You can incorporate professional networking into your lifestyle, wherever it may fit. And finally, as you get closer to potentially having to re-enter the workforce, you may want to consider working with a career coach to assist you with your transition.

Alchemy’s Career Development Services works heavily with individuals struggling with the challenges of career re-entry. For more information about our services, contact

--Steve Hernandez