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Landing a job during an economic crisis

It’s depressing to see almost all of my friends being unemployed. Some of them, even with a Master’s degree, they struggle to make ends meet. You could blame your education, your family, people not acknowledging your brilliance, the economic crisis, the country you live in, and so on. But let me be frank with you: you’re the only one responsible for the situation you’re in. Nobody will come up to you and say:

“Here, here… take this awesome job! You deserve it”.

You don’t. Unless you prove can prove it.

The good news is that landing a good job isn’t difficult. Most people are average and terrible at the preparations they do (strategic thinking) when trying to land a job. Good jobs still exist despite the economic crisis. And I emphasise on good because people often play it safe:

“I’m lucky to even have a crappy job in this economy”.

No. Stop. Don’t settle. You are better than this. You can nail a job that will not only pay well, but is also meaningful to you and will satisfy you. Top people are still being recruited despite the economy going down. I’ll show you how to become a top candidate.

To land a good job, you just need to do four “simple” things:

  1. Change your mindset.
  2. Network.
  3. Prove you’re the best.
  4. Negotiate.

Mistakes job seekers make

Let me start off by touching on mistakes people make when applying for a job. Remember, you need to work smart, not hard. Apply the Pareto principle: 80% of the results should come from 20% of the activities.

Job seekers spend too much time:

  • on resumes and cover letters.
  • on jobs ads. You should separate yourself from the competition and show you’re different. Remember that the best jobs are taken before they’re even advertised.
  • on trying to get noticed (social networking).

Instead, be super specific about the job you’d like. Spend some time identifying your passion. A good way to finding your passion, is to ask yourself “what would I be doing even if I was doing it for free?”. Stop spending time refining your resume and fine-tuning your cover letter. Ignore job ads. Stop trying to get noticed by spamming your online feed (I’ll show you how to network). Change your mindset.

Changing your mindset

Like Shane Mac writes in his book “Stop with the BS”: resumes don’t get jobs. Forget about them. Always work on the relationships and when they ask, give them your resume. Forget about online job boards, newspaper ads, and job-seeker magazines.

Dream jobs aren’t even advertised. Get this well embedded in your brain. Spend time finding companies you want to work for, find the people you would be working with and get in touch with them. Don’t ask for anything. Help them out, become their friend, praise them and their work, and be thankful for their contribution.

And don’t think this doesn’t work in the corporate world of the “big boys”.

In 2011, according to the Wall Street Journal, over 7.6 million people applied to Starbucks for 65,000 job openings. Close to one million applied to Procter & Gamble for 2,000 positions. Two million people applied to Google for 7,000 openings. Put yourself in the recruiter’s shoes. Even after the applicant tracking and screening software has screened many of the candidates, it’s up to the recruiter to find suitable applicants. How much time would you spend on an applicant’s resume and cover letter? 10 seconds? 20 seconds? 30 seconds?

Most large companies have a recruiter and a hiring manager. The recruiter is a screener; the hiring manager is the one that will make the actual decision. Your job is to get your foot in the door of the hiring manager. Data shows that referral candidates are five times more likely to get hired than other candidates (Source). So you are five times more likely to get a job at Starbucks, if you know someone at Starbucks who can refer you. If that means making connections through networking in order to go through the “back door” and “skip” HR, so be it!

Few people know this, but I got offered a full time designer position at Google in Mountain View, California. And guess what: I didn’t get this offer by submitting my CV and cover letter.

Networking

Networking is a hot but old topic. We’ve all heard the phrase “it’s not what you know but who you know”. And I agree. You don’t need to spend 10,000 hours—made famous by Malcom Gladwell in its book “Outliers”—becoming the best of the best at your craft, and then get a job. You just need to be expert enough. You will improve and get better whilst you’re working at the job you have got because you made friends with the creative director. Speaking of expert enough, Corbett Barr often posts cool tips on his appropriately-named website Expert Enough.

A note on social networks. Facebook is about people you know. Twitter is about people you want to know. You can follow and get in touch with anyone from any field. Get started today connecting with them. Networking for most means being social with people you don’t like in the hopes that someone knows someone. Wrong. Networking is about giving and helping people.

You connect with people by helping them out. By solving their problems, you are letting them know that you can perform, and that you are dependable and reliable. After some time, you can ask questions and for advice. They’d be more likely to answer your inquiries then. You should follow-up showing how you used their advice and thank them for it.

Proving you’re the best

After you’ve got your foot in the door and you’ve put yourself on their map, you actually need to have something to say. You need to prove to the hiring manager/employer why you’d be a better hire than anybody else. Meaning, not a more experienced hire or a better technician. You do that in a couple of ways:

  • By actually knowing and understanding the issues they care the most. Research what worries them. What problems are they facing?
  • Showing, not telling, why you’re the best solution to their problems. Use the words they use, talk about the issues they talk about with their team. Prepare proof that you can do the job more convincingly than anybody else can.
  • Create a business plan. Create sheets with work you would do the first 30, 60, and 90 days at working there.

Negotiating

I won’t go into too much detail about this subject here, because I already wrote about it in another blog post. Nonetheless, let’s look into how to negotiate a salary if they say it’s not flexible.

When interviewers say the salary it’s not flexible, they implement the classic scare tactic. And because you’re terrified of negotiating—understandable, since nobody taught you how to do it; learn now—the interviewer owns you like a puppeteer manipulates a puppet:

“I know you don’t have any other offers and I know how much you made at your previous job. Now dance to my song”.

The best thing is to have multiple offers and be on the lookout for positions at other super awesome companies. Make sure you mention that you want to be compensated on value rather than time or experience (separate and differentiate).

Express the value they would get from hiring you. Pin-point your unique traits, and persuade them to hire you for other skills you might have—if you’re still not expert enough or without experience; e.g. out of college.

Make the case why you should get a higher salary. Get the pay range of the job position you’re applying for, from websites like Salary or PayScale, and show why you should be at the top.

Last resort: if I do an astonishingly great job, do you agree to revisit your proposal in six months and renegotiate my salary? Be ultra specific and ask them (bullet points) what you need to do to create great work. Present the deliverables in six months.

During the interview

When you get the chance for an interview, remember to ask smart questions. They’re finding out more about you, and you about them. Interviews are about telling your story. Use key words that you learned beforehand from the needs and problems of the company. Relate with their philosophy. Use the “Briefcase technique” made famous by Ramit Sethi.

The “Briefcase technique” is about bringing a briefcase and inside it have printed paper sheets with the deliverables (see above on creating a business plan) of the project and how you will improve the company. At some point during the interview, reach out and hand these sheets of paper from inside your briefcase. It’s a great way to make an impression and showcase your out-of-the-box thinking.

Stop watching those silly videos on acing interviews and focusing on specific questions that could be asked in an interview. You’re just setting yourself to be caught off guard and get nervous when a different question comes up. Rather, focus on these seven traits:

Leadership, Teamwork, Work Ethic, Integrity, Organisation, Adaptability, Overcoming change/failure.

Pick three major events in your life and focus on them. Tailor the seven traits with the events in your life. It doesn’t matter what the question is, it’s about how you answer the question. Also, acknowledge the things you don’t know and don’t try to hide them.

Remember that it’s not just the interviewer deciding if they want to work with you but also if you want to work with them. What might look like a great place to work from the “outside”, for various reasons it might not be such a great place from the inside.

Closing Tips

Here are some more tips to help you land and keep a job:

  • Stop waiting for someone to recognise your brilliance. Nobody owes to give you a job—hell even a chance—just because you are yourself.
  • Start an email list and send great stuff. Start a blog related to the job you want. This will not only get your name out there, but you will also learn by doing.
  • Try not to be the technician but someone with a vision. You don’t want to be a commodity, that’s easily replaceable, but a visionary.
  • Fake it till you make it. Start high, don’t start low.
  • Include testimonials, client list, perceived social status and validation on your website.
  • Don’t settle. Be an extraordinary performer. Ask your employer how you can improve in next three months. Discuss after three months about giving you a raise.
  • Surround yourself with people smarter than you. Learn from them and absorb knowledge like a sponge. If you’ve become the smartest, most able dude in the company, get the hell out of there! Failure to do so, will get you stuck in a rut. You’ll stop pushing to improve yourself and you’ll be living a false reality thinking you’re the best.
  • It’s not about being the best rather doing, and doing, and learning as you go, accepting criticism, failing, learning from it and continuing with the hard work.
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