On October 20, we held a webcast entitled Find Your Fit: How to Create or Land a Job You’ll Love, with three of the contributors to our new book Find Your Fit. We were unable to get to everyone’s questions, so we’re replying to some of them in this blog post!
During the webcast, Laura Labovich talked about finding people who work at companies you are interested in and reaching out to them to learn more about the company and become “an insider.” The first two questions relate to that discussion.
1. How do you become an insider without seeming totally self-serving? I could see this turning people off: “You're only doing XYZ because you want a job here.”
This is a very common concern. The way to mitigate other people’s perceptions of you as a self-serving job seeker is to set up meetings with people in your target companies before there is a job opening. There is no risk of sounding self-serving, or appearing desperate, because there is no job. You can ask for support, advice, information, referrals, and recommendations, but you won’t be at risk for asking for a job, because there isn’t one.
Another important point is to not ask them if they know of any jobs (at their company or elsewhere). That’s a conversation stopper! You are meeting with them to do research, gather information, get advice about what is happening in the field, find out which companies are doing interesting things, and so forth. If you approach it from that point of view, and have good questions to ask, it is much less off-putting.
Finally, always remember to ask if there is anything you can do for them. While you are meeting with them, stay alert for any opportunities to offer them contacts or information that might be useful to them. It doesn’t have to be work related. You’d be surprised how easy it is to find a connection to something that people care about if you’re looking for it.
2. How do you contact people who work or used to work at specific companies, especially when you don’t know anyone or don’t live in that city?
You don't need to be in the same city, or even know anyone in that city, to find contacts there. I recommend making a list of target companies in your target geographic region, and identifying people you know who may know people within these companies (regardless of location). I use the Find Alumni feature on LinkedIn often for this type of search. You can search by where they live (geography), where they work (company), and what they do (function), all of which can help you find people of interest. You can narrow this down even further by entering a graduation year. This is a great conversation starter and a way to get in the door at your target companies. For example: "We both went to Michigan State—go green! Would you be willing to chat with me for a few minutes? I’d be grateful for your time!”
Laura goes into more detail in chapter 7, “Effective Networking,” of Find Your Fit.
The next two questions relate to improving your digital presence.
3. If you are an active job seeker, do you suggest making that explicit on your LinkedIn profile, such as saying, "Exploring opportunities in the area”?
If you ask 10 people this question, you will get 10 different answers. Of course, you could put "Actively Seeking Opportunities" in the header, although I recommend against this because you can use job titles or keywords that best reflect your expertise, which is a far better use of that space. Recruiters use specific titles and keywords in headers to help them decide if they want to contact you; “actively seeking opportunities” doesn’t tell them what you can do.
Instead, include that information in the "Advice for Contacting Me" section of your profile. Add your phone number, email address, mailing address, and something like, "I am actively seeking opportunities as a marketing manager for a pharmaceutical or consumer products company in the Washington, D.C., area." That way you make it clear you’re a job seeker without drawing undue attention to the length of unemployment. Of course, you should be honest about when your employment ends, so if you are unemployed, add an end date to your most recent job. Employers will see that you are unemployed, so this won't be a secret.
4. What if there is some digital info about you that is wrong or negative?
When you Google yourself, you will find one of four kinds of footprints: no brand, a bad brand (arrest records and the like), a haphazard brand (a little bit of this and a little bit of that), and a proactive, purposeful brand. The goal for the first three instances is to transition to a proactive brand. To do this, you need to know what brand you want to project and start creating content that will boost your positive results and lower your negative results. You can do this in any number of ways:
- Create a LinkedIn profile dedicated to reviewing business books in your field.
- Create a blog or start commenting on the blogs of others (you can find great topics and people on alltop.com).
- Become active on Twitter
All of these ideas can help you raise your profile in a positive way on Google and lower your negative or less-focused results.
If, however, the information you find is simply wrong or there is a result linked to you because you have a similar name to someone else, you can contact the company or website where the inaccurate information is posted and ask them to remove it. It can be a challenging process, but this article goes into detail about steps you can take to remove negative information from search results.
Chapter 6 of Find Your Fit goes into more detail about building your digital presence.