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Managing Your Expectations  
7/2/2008 10:05:11 AM

I receive a fair number of email communications from men and women in transition. I'm not able to answer them, unfortunately--the volume is just too great--but I do read and think about them. And of late, I've noticed a trend. Many of these messages are variations on this theme: "I've done everything I'm supposed to do online, and I still don't have a job. I've searched the postings and archived my resume at job boards, I've done research on employers using browsers and other services, and I've joined networking sites and interacted with my peers, and all of that has yet to yield a job offer. What's wrong?"

The short answer is probably that nothing’s wrong. What’s out of whack is our perception of what the Internet can and cannot do. This technology is probably the single most effective means of connecting with attractive employment opportunities ever devised, but even so, it takes time to work. The Internet is not some genie that can transport you to the job of your dreams in the blink of an eye. It is not a magic carpet that can carry you off to employment bliss the minute you hop on. No, the Web for all of its reach and technological power is bound by the pace of the humans who use it at the other end—the employers and recruiters who turn to the Web to find new talent.

So, the key to using the Web to your best advantage is, first and foremost, to manage your expectations. You can do everything right on the Web, and it will still probably take some time to connect with the right employer for you. There will always be exceptions to that rule, of course—there will be individuals who go online one day and get their dream offer the next—but for most of us, it will be a lengthy and, therefore, frustrating campaign. As the old saying goes, finding a new job—at least one that you want to work in—is the hardest job you will ever have, and the Web doesn’t change that.

There is, however, a second set of rules for ensuring that the Web serves you well. They are:

  • Performance Trumps Actions Every Time

    And

  • Virtual Works Best With the Best That’s Real.

    Let’s take a look at each of those two principles.

    Performance Trumps Actions Every Time

    The benefit that’s extracted from your use of the Internet depends not only on what you do, but how you do it. Yes, of course, you want to take advantage of all of the capabilities the technology offers. You should tap its job boards, research sites, networking capabilities and other resources in your job search campaign, but simply using them does not ensure success. Activity alone isn’t enough to optimize your return on the time and effort that activity involves.

    What else should be present? Expertise. You must not only do the right things online, but you must do them in the right way. Your activity must be accomplished with skill. The better your performance, the better your outcomes.

    For example, you can visit the first job boards that come to mind and that step will certainly give you a check mark in the box labeled Use Job Boards. It will not, however, ensure you see the best employment opportunities for you. To achieve that outcome, you must do your homework and determine which job boards typically post the greatest number of the kinds of jobs you want at the salary level you can command. Invest your time and effort at those sites, and you are much more likely to reap a real and significant return in job opportunities for which you are qualified.

    The same is true with online networking. Lots of business people are flocking to LinkedIn.com these days to build up their virtual address book of connections. That’s fine, but it’s not networking. To transform those connections into relationships with people who are willing to be helpful to you in a job search, you must practice the Golden Rule of Networking. You must give in order to get. If you want the people behind those connections to share their knowledge and contacts with you, you must work at sharing your knowledge and contacts with them. And that activity is dramatically different from simply adding another name to your address book, and it often takes far more time and effort. The result, on the other hand, is also far more beneficial. Instead of having a stupendous but sterile stack of names, you have a vibrant network of relationships with people who are willing to be helpful to you.

    Virtual Works Best With the Best That’s Real

    The Internet is a very seductive place. Its vast array of resources and very engaging format can be hard to turn off. But turn it off, you must. As capable as the virtual world is, it is not the one and only answer to employment It cannot be your one stop shop for finding a job. You definitely won’t maximize your odds of success by ignoring the Web, but you won’t do so, as well, by excluding the real world from your job search campaign. The best approach, therefore, is one that integrates the best of what you can find on the Web with the best of what’s available every place else.

    How do you know what that is?

    Recently, we asked the visitors to my Web-site to identify how they found their last job. Basically, we were asking them to tell us the most effective methods of job search. Over 17,000 people responded. Here are the top five strategies they identified:

  • Searching the jobs posted at job boards and/or archiving their resume on those sites;
  • A tip from a friend (or what most of us call networking in the real world);
  • Reading the ads published in a print newspaper;
  • A call from a headhunter; and
  • Being referred by an employee of the company (also a form of networking).

    As these findings make very clear—and despite our culture’s infatuation with the Web—when it comes to finding a new or better job, old fashioned job search methods are often just as effective. There are five different strategies cited by the respondents, and three and a half of them (a tip from a friend can occur online or off) occur in the real world.

    Do these results mean that you should immediately start doing as many different things as possible in your job search? Absolutely not. It’s better to begin by investing some time to figure out which (of the hundreds of job search) methods play to your strengths and which are apt to put you at a disadvantage. For example, if you are an outgoing person, you might opt for traditional face-to-face networking, but if you’re more introverted, networking online, where you interact with others remotely and in text, might better serve your needs. Look at all of your options, but select those that you can do best or learn how to.

    Ultimately, the best strategy for a successful job search campaign is a combination of both of the two principles I’ve described. Select a range of job search methods,, high tech and low, and then perform each of them to the best of your ability. It’s not the number of things you do that will lead you to success, but the expertise you apply in using those methods that will serve you best, given where you are in your career and your employment objective.

    Thanks for reading,
    Peter

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