Picking the pennies up off the floor

Published on Mar 12, 2023 by Matt Bud, The FENG
Being Out of Work

I am often asked how one should budget one’s time when conducting a job search. The easy answer is that it depends.

I would suggest to you that the primary element of your search is, of course, networking, networking and more networking. The reason I say this is, it works best.

That said, just as the odds of winning the lottery on any given day are very low, and in my case nonexistent since I don’t buy lottery tickets, someone does win the lottery every single day.

Let me start you out with the idea that initially you need to devote yourself to creating a competent resume and a competent 90-second announcement. Both of these items are tools you need to conduct an effective search. However, working them to death in the absence of any other activity on your part is akin to what one president I worked for called “polishing the stone.” At some point you have gone as far as you can go and you need to wait for some “audience feedback” to get them to a higher level.

I’ll deal with networking last since it is the most important. Let me start with contacting recruiters. Most recruiters honestly don’t want to hear from you unless they happen to be working on something that is an exact match to your background. Like the lottery, what are the odds of that happening? Still, in keeping with our theme of the evening, there is that possibility and it makes sense to spend some time chasing them. You should reach out to all of the search professionals you have worked with over the years and let them know of your interest in new opportunities. If they have placed folks with you before, they will certainly be hoping to do so again. While some of these search professionals won’t have jobs at your level, they will generally take the time to review your resume and you can perhaps try your 90-second announcement out on them. They may actually know you and be able to offer valid advice.

Job leads are another area where you need to play the game. The ones that appear in our newsletter, I hope, are among the best you will find. They appear in our newsletter because I have been promoting The FENG to the search community for over 25 years now. And now that we are the largest networking group of our type in the entire world and because most members “behave themselves” and follow our “qualified members only” approach, we are viewed as a valued partner to these firms.

Answering job leads has the added advantage of giving you some valuable insight into the current job market. Not only what kinds of jobs and job titles, but also detailed descriptions of job requirements. Even if you never get a response from one of our postings, you should be able to do a little tune up work on your resume by comparing published job requirements to your primary marketing document. View the time you spend on answering ads as time spent improving your odds when the “real thing” comes along. You will also gain some sense of the kinds of jobs you honestly feel you can fill and will be able to use that information in your networking.

There are a huge number of job posting boards, some of which may be specific to your background. I only rarely hear of anyone who has found a job on one of these boards, but lightning does strike from time to time. Just keep in mind the low yield compared to networking.

Networking is the gold standard. Done properly you should be building an inner circle of friends upon whom you can depend for the rest of your working life. That’s the goal. If you view this as a one-time effort, you are wasting your time and the time of the many individuals who will take considerable time out of their work day to provide you with assistance.

Targeting your networking contacts will give you the best result. Compare it to asking for directions at a gas station. Unless you are in the immediate neighborhood of where you want to go, you are unlikely to get valid information. If you are in Westport, Connecticut and you pull into a gas station and ask them how to get to Phoenix, Arizona, you are going to get some strange looks. You might even get your head effectively handed to you. In much the same way, being unfocused in your networking yields the same result.

For members of The FENG, studying our membership directory listings BEFORE writing or calling gets the best results. Focus on individuals who have worked at firms where you have worked or at firms that were your firm’s direct competitors. These folks are most likely to have a valid understanding of the work you have done and the conditions under which you have done it.

In the case of firms where you have worked and people who know you or know of you, you are viewed as a “shirt tail cousin” and will tend to get the warmest welcome and the best advice.

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but asking a networking contact if they are aware of any open jobs is the original non-starter in a conversation. What you are looking for are more networking contacts who will understand who you are and how you perform your magic.

While I hope you will spend the bulk of your time on networking, it is the hardest work you will ever do. Effectively asking others for help when you have little to offer in return at that moment can be difficult. If you like, you can view the other activities I have mentioned above as your recreation time.

“Picking the pennies up off the floor” is a good thing to do since you may slip and fall on them if you don’t.

Regards, Matt