btripp_books (btripp_books ) wrote,

A different approach to finding a job ...

The current volume comes to me courtesy of the good folks at Ten Speed Press, who obviously felt that Donald Asher's Cracking the Hidden Job Market: How to Find Opportunity in Any Economy would be a good fit with my The Job Stalker blog over on the Tribune's “ChicagoNow” site. Considering that I've been doing “book features” over there on all sorts of social media topics of late, it certainly will be a “return to subject”!

Those following along at home will realize that my own job search has somewhat stalled following the “one of three finalists” situation I had back in November, followed by an intensive burst of freelance work. It was from these doldrums that I approached Mr. Asher's book (I should say "latest book" as he has another dozen titles in print). The author has a high-end consultancy for executives between jobs, and has developed the “HJM” approach in this book from his work over the years with these clients.

While none of this is ground-breaking in the finer granularity of particular tasks, it is organized into an approach that allows the job seeker to systematically work through its elements, and this system is a good deal different than anything that I've read. One thing the author doesn't do is coddle the reader, at many points in Cracking the Hidden Job Market he sounds positively drill-sergeant insistent on what one should and should not be doing. Key to these is to not hide behind a keyboard and just fire off resumes to posted jobs, and #1 on the “to do” list is: Talk to people!

Parts of this will be difficult for various types. As I've noted, I'm equally plausible to be working in any of five or six quite distinct roles within the wider “communications” umbrella, having successfully held these jobs at various points in my career. One of the more difficult things he focuses on here for me is to figure out a maximum of three job titles, and only go looking for those specific positions. I guess I've “never figured out what I want to be when I grow up”, so I find that level of filtering very difficult to do (which has proved a stumbling block in many other job-search “systems”), and would really prefer a position where I “wear many hats”. This divergence initially put me off on the book, but the “action elements” here were sufficiently strong that he eventually won me back over, even if I'd have to do a “dartboard selection” for a career goal.

The major difficulty that I think most folks are likely to find with this is the notion that one needs to have at least 100 leads active at all times. This takes dedication, drive, organization, and a lot of work to develop. The “job seekers” who spend most of the week on the couch with a remote in their hand are not likely to be inclined to gear up to this task (the “average job seeker” spends only six hours a week actively looking for a job, Asher suggests a “full-time schedule” of 8 hours M-Th, plus a half-day each on Friday morning and Sunday afternoon, plus a Sunday-night session with a 15-point “scorecard” to assess what you've achieved in the week).

The key element that keeps coming up throughout Cracking the Hidden Job Market is getting into face-to-face meetings with people who may lead to jobs. This differs from the “networking” model (that I've been applying) in that it's not just being out and rubbing elbows with folks, but actively contacting people and setting up meetings, be they in an office setting, over a cup of coffee, or a breakfast or lunch. Having a focused target and constant in-person activity to move towards that target appear to be the main points in the “HJM” system.

One thing that also set the material in this book apart from others is the author's insistence on being insistent. calling multiple times a day (not leaving more than one voicemail, but making the phone ring), re-sending e-mails that have not garnered a reply, and ways to get around recalcitrant “gatekeepers”. As far as calling goes, he even says “Call once a day until one of you dies”!

While he does counsel insistence, he doesn't suggest bashing one's head against the wall, and there are many situations where one might be looking for the wrong job in the wrong place with the wrong experience. If a dozen or so different folks you've met with tell you it's not happening, it might very well be the case (I think the example he used was for a welder wanting to get into high-fashion photography while living in Des Moines), and you should probably adjust some elements of your search (he is very pro-relocation here).

Asher gives examples of various folks that he's worked with, and many of these, applying these principles, made transitions in a matter of weeks … but the key is getting to the folks who are hiring before the jobs are posted, possibly even before the hiring manager has actually set up a job. One technique he suggests is calling up some identified contact at a company and saying ”I wonder if you're thinking about hiring a #####. Who would I talk to about that?” … you either get blown off or you get referred to somebody closer to hiring you. One of the lines that stood out in one of the many “action lists” here is ”Repeat until hired.”, do the proper activities in the proper sequence, and with enough repetition, they should result in that job. After all, you're only looking for one job, and if you push through enough targeted activity, it's the only sale that matters.

Anyway, Cracking the Hidden Job Market has only been out since the start of the year, so should be on the shelves of the brick-and-mortar book vendors who carry job-search books. It has a very reasonable cover price, and at the moment Amazon has it at about 1/3rd off, which makes it a very small price to pay for what could completely change your job search.


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