I have been fortunate enough, through most of my career, to not look too much for a job. When I moved from Delhi to Bangalore more than a decade ago, I was freshly married and didn’t have a job in hand – I had resigned my job in Delhi and was actively looking for one, in Bangalore. It is at that time I asked around for job consultants who specialize or focus in the communications/non-IT roles.
Back then, there weren’t many. In fact, I made a list of such consultants – there were exactly 3 in Bangalore. I’m still in touch with all 3 of them, after 10+ years. It’s a different story that they did not get me my job in Bangalore – a tiny recruitment advertisement in Ascent (Times of India) did that trick! I have never got a job from a job consultant or an online job service, though my wife had got her first Bangalore job, post a Chennai sojourn, via Jobstreet – she was even interviewed for it in Outlook Money!
But, at that point in time, with almost a month-long job search process, I learnt a few important things about networking. Considering the number of people I seem to be helping out informally even today, here are some job search tips and observations.
1. You should *always, always* be looking out actively for a job. Well, technically, not ‘for’ a job, but ‘about’ a job. Never be complacent about any job – ever. When I say ‘about’ a job, it means you need to keep a lookout for openings in your function and role actively, even if you’re not at all interested in a move.
2. Get yourself a LinkedIn profile and populate it in as much detail as possible – this is the most basic stuff that you can ever do. Make sure you list as many professional outings about you as possible including things you may consider trivial – like training in specific subjects, professional interests like Toastmasters etc. Join relevant LinkedIn Groups and showcase them in your profile. If possible, please contribute to those Groups and read what they are discussing, frequently.
Why is all this necessary? Because LinkedIn is the new resume. It is a live resume that needs live treatment, unlike a MS Word or PDF resume that is dusted and updated only when you’re looking out for a job. And it makes your professional self visible online, all through your career.
3. Never underestimate the value of job sites like Naukri and Monster, at least in India. I update my profiles from time to time (with a calendar alert to do so!), but I don’t use them for searching for jobs. Here’s how I use them.
– I subscribe to job alert notifications from both Naukri and Monster and read through the mails I get. Naukri matches openings to my profile quite well and it is mighty useful to go through the job descriptions – at least the ones that are lengthy and detailed. I have got tons of ideas from job descriptions about the kind of things I should be doing in my current job, over and above what I’m already doing!
– A quick glance at the notification mail also gives me an indication of the kind of jobs that are hot, in the industry. Take a look at this morning’s mail, for instance. It perhaps indicates that there’s a surge of interest in internal communication (or employee communication – the most ignored and under-rated of all communication jobs, but is the most, most crucial!)
4. Befriend job consultants! I mean it, seriously. I know of people who treat job consultant mails and calls like it is a spam from Padmashree Dr.Batra – it is not, if only you understand what more you can do with it. Here’s how I utilize such calls/emails.
– I always write back with a note of thanks even if it is not addressed to me personally, but is at least relevant to my job profile. It is an introductory note and gives an indication to the consultant that I value that lead.
– At one point, during mid 2000s, I used to send a select list of communication-centric job consultants new year cards – yes, printed new year cards signed by me. I know how I struggled, albeit for only a brief period of time, when I landed in Bangalore with no job, and know the importance of being connected to the people who matter when it comes to jobs in my function and role. I don’t send printed cards anymore, but I do send at least an email wish!
5. This is the most important point – help others.
So, why should you help others while you’re looking/not looking for a job. Because it helps you in return. Here’s how.
– When a job consultant emails me, and if I’m not keen on the opening (which I’m not, most of the time) I offer to help him/her out by passing that lead to someone I know who may be interested. The usual response to that offer, from most consultants, is asking me to send the resume of the person who I think is appropriate.
But, I’m not in the job consulting business and I don’t have a bank of CVs. So, after explaining that pertinent point, I give them an idea – that I’ll share that lead with my circles (on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and via email) and ask those who may be interested to contact the consultant directly. But – here’s the catch – I offer to not reveal the name of the organization while sharing it (after getting to know about it from the consultant and making sure it is a decent organization). The reason is simple – if the consultant is smart enough, he/she would notice that those who are interested in a move may at least call/email them through my lead to know the name of the organization. If he/she is smarter, they’d know how to gauge the interest levels of those who contact and how to pitch the job to them!
From my experience, very few consultants understand this nuance even after explaining it to them threadbare. It’s a simple reverse logic – just like a job seeker keeps an active eye out for relevant jobs, a job consultant could also keep an eye out for people who are actively looking out and remember them when an appropriate job materializes.
– When you do the above – considering you are among the very few that treated the consultant with respect and even offered to help him/her – you’ll be almost on the top of that consultant’s list when the next appropriate job materializes in that consulting firm. I don’t mind even if he/she calls me just to get leads – it helps everybody…I get to share a job lead that may be valuable to someone who is looking out; the consultant gets calls from possibly relevant people and he/she remembers my little help. Of course, there are people who have asked me what kind of commission I make on these leads – I don’t make any nor do I intend to. The implied value is more than the money it may offer.
– The value of a help without expecting anything overtly in return (besides implied, subtle ones like goodwill) is very, very powerful. And if social networking tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter help you in helping others with minimum effort, I strongly recommend you do that. No, you may not get jobs for 100s of people every year through your efforts – even if one or two people benefit, that is massive value in itself.
More than a job search, we should all be thinking about managing our careers and some of the fundamental things that fall under career management include,
1. Being aware of leaders in your role/function across India and across the world. For example, if you’re in PR, know who rules the PR world in India, and the world. Be aware of the possible reasons why they are leaders. Follow them on select social networking properties to keep yourself updated on their progress. The idea is to do this consistently even when you’re not looking for a change.
2. Go deeper into your job description and see what you can do to break the clutter and think out of the box. The job description is merely a guide – look around you to see other job descriptions to improve your own.
3. Have a voice. Stand for a particular kind of niche area or topic and be very good at it – talk about it. The internet allows anyone to do it if only they are interested. A blog need not be updated every day, but what kind of professional are you who cannot have a point of view about something within your profession…at least once a fortnight or a month? The internet gives you an opportunity to do so and it is up to you to make use of it and create a persona about you. How does this help? I have written how it helps already – here’s how: How are you helping the â€˜who are you?â€™ and â€˜what do you do?â€™ questions?
Finally, a relevant read from the archive: My advice to someone who wants to start a blog?