Last month, my position was eliminated. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t them—our clients’ needs had changed. I had 30 days before I’d be unemployed. I needed a new role, and fast. But I wouldn’t take just anything—I have specific skills and interests. To find the right role quickly, I needed to penetrate the impersonal fortress of applicant tracking systems and general contact forms.
The day I found out I was losing my job, I turned to my network, including the Triangle Marketing Club. I landed a job 30 days later.
Job Searching is Hard
A 2015 study by Jobvite found that the average job search takes more than six weeks. For senior and executive level professionals, it can take nearly 10 weeks.
With the technology available today, you’d think the process would be easier. But in some respects, technology makes job searching harder. In February, Talemetry published a study that found that 487 of the Fortune 500 use an applicant tracking system. Many of these systems use algorithms to prioritize applications, which leaves little room for professionals to tell their story.
With a timeline of just 30 days to find a new job, I couldn’t afford to “play the application lottery.”
Networking My Way to an Opportunity
It’s no secret that the key to overcoming these obstacles is networking. But how?
This was my approach:
1. Build relationships—before I needed them
I’ve always valued building relationships with peers in the marketing industry. For me, it’s as simple as being a good coworker to my colleagues. I’ve made new contacts and kept up with existing ones at events like the Triangle Marketing Club’s monthly meetup. Volunteering my time for the Club and the American Marketing Association have been the most connective (and uplifting during my search). I’ve found that common causes help bring me closer to my colleagues.
2. Know who I am and where I’m going
When I found myself on the job search, I received valuable advice: help people help you. I needed to give people in my network a concise idea of who I am, what motivates me, and where I wanted to be. This would empower them to be my advocates.
Who I Am
In any job search, the job seeker is defined by their mission, experience, and the value they would bring to an organization. So I asked myself, “Why do I work in marketing?”
I revisited my personal mission: to make the world a better place by driving the adoption of emerging technology. I do that by helping brands overcome buyer’s barriers to adoption through new approaches to branding, messaging, and advertising. I’ve got 10 years of progressive agency and in-house experience across a variety of marketing practices.
For the purposes of my job search, I summed this up into a 30-second elevator speech.
Where I’m Going
In a large and dynamic market like the Triangle, there are plenty of job opportunities. I helped people help me by narrowing my field of interest to 30 organizations. This way, my advocates could think about whom they knew at the places I cared about, rather than trying to sift through their entire network for me.
I also identified my ideal role. I knew my advocates had several connections at larger organizations. By giving them an idea of my preferred job, I helped them figure out how best to connect me.
The Job Search One-sheeter
Once I figured out who I was and where I was going, I needed a way to communicate it. Fortunately, my friend and American Marketing Association colleague Stan Phelps had recently shared a tool he developed that did just that. Following his format, I described my objective, skills, background, target roles, and target employers.
During my search, many people complimented this one-sheeter, noting that it helped them quickly identify how to assist me.
3. Identify advocates
I knew who I was and who I was targeting, and I had it down on paper. It was time to identify whom to share it with. I made a list of friends, family, current and ex-coworkers, fellow alumni from my alma mater, and fellow members of professional organizations like the Triangle Marketing Club. It was over 100 people. I then prioritized my advocates by the strength of my relationship with them and their ability to help.
4. Ask advocates for advice
I knew those advocates would want to help me—so I set them up to do just that. I asked some for their expertise on my career and the local job market. I talked with others about their current or prior work experience at my target companies.
Each person was in a position to share their expertise – and I did it on their terms. It was easiest for some to take a quick call after work. Others preferred a face-to-face over lunch, in their neighborhood. I made it convenient for them. Most importantly, I was responsive—I treated all communications with the urgency they deserved.
The outcomes of my meetings varied. My contacts helped me refine my list and think about target roles, and introduced me to people inside organizations so I could conduct informational interviews. In a few fortunate cases, I was given referrals to new contacts on the hiring teams at my target employers.
No matter the outcome, I thanked my advocates early and often. And I firmly (but professionally) held them to their commitments.
5. Keep advocates engaged
Since my advocates took the time be a part of my search, they deserved to be in-the-loop on my progress. Even as they numbered into the dozens, I was careful to keep track of who did what for me. I shared developments that were relevant to them. For example, if an advocate put me in touch with somebody for an informational interview, I reported back with the outcome of my discussion.
The Outcome of My Search
Ultimately, I met with 70 people during my 30-day search. Each week, I spent about 10% of my time reviewing job postings and applying. The rest was talking to people.
It was Chris Douglas, Triangle Marketing Club’s Co-founder and Digital Connector, who got me in the door at my new employer. Without his intro, my resume might not have made it past the application inbox. So, thanks Chris! (Apparently, he’s something of a job connecting ace: I’m the 55th person to have landed a job with the help of the Triangle Marketing Club.)
The insights I gained from conversations with Chris and 69 others were a boon to my job interviews. My network helped me hone my search and led me to companies I’d never heard of, some of which ended up at the top of my list.
Overall, my advocates brought focus, support, and motivation to my search. I could have simply thrown hundreds of applications over the proverbial hiring wall and crossed my fingers for a response. But it was by engaging my advocates that I was able to find the right opportunity and get hired.
You Can Do It
Transitions are anxiety-inducing, job searches are work, and employers make it hard to speak with humans. But your network can help. By knowing who you are, what you can bring to a role, and which organizations you want to bring it to, you can help your network help you. Together, you’ll conquer the search and find your next big opportunity!
For more specific ideas around organizing your search, asking advice of your contacts, and interviewing, I recommend the 2-hour Job Search by Durham’s own Steve Dalton and What Color is Your Parachute by Dick Bolles.
You can hear Stan Phelps discuss his job search one-sheeter, Monday, September 11th at The Frontier at 12:00 p.m. He’s speaking as part of a monthly series I host for marketing job seekers on behalf of the local American Marketing Association.