Bruce I. Doyle, III, Ph.D.


Sounds like a real paradox, doesn't it?  How am I going to find something if I stop looking for it?  Well, the real question is, "Do you know what you are looking for?"  "Sure," you say, "I'm looking for a job."  Well, what if I told you that most of the people that are successful in finding a new job don't go looking for "a job?"  More double talk, eh?  Not quite - just a matter of perspective. 

The majority of those that find themselves in the situation of needing new employment often charge off "looking for a job" without much forethought.  They end up totally frustrated, depressed, and down on themselves because they get a mailbox full of "reject" letters and no one returns their phone calls.  Sound familiar? 

Think of how successful a new company would be if it started off selling a new product - "looking for customers" - before it clearly understood the product's attributes and value, the benefits to the user, the user's buying habits, the best way to increase potential customers' awareness, and finally, the most effective way to deliver it. 

I'm sure you'd agree that without knowing this information, things would be pretty hectic from a selling standpoint and it's unlikely that the company would be successful.  The company president would most likely be fired or go bankrupt if it was his/her own business.  Any Monday morning business consultant would quickly say that the company should have done some market research before attempting to sell its products. 

That's my point - if you're out there selling and you don't have a focused game plan, you're not going to do very well.  So, if you're having trouble finding a job, stop looking for one.  Start looking for information.

What I'm referring to is what career consultants call "informational networking."  The concept emerged about 15 years ago and is now recognized as the most successful way to find a new career opportunity.  This technique provides upwards of 80% of trained job seekers with success.  Unless you've been through formal career counseling you probably never heard of the concept.  Job seekers first exposed to it, as I was years ago, think it's just letting your network of friends know that you're looking for a new job.  Effective informational networking goes far beyond that. 

To get started, mentally divide your search into two phases: "Research", i.e., gathering information and advice, and "Implementation," specifically seeking a defined position.  I seriously doubt that you will ever get to the second phase.  My experience, working with former clients in career transition, is that they find jobs during phase one.  Jobs just seem to show up when they are focused on looking for information and not focused on looking for a job.  The shift in focus will often alter your mental state dramatically.  The focus of "looking for a job" usually contains pressure, stress, and negative judgments about yourself.  If you're not doing well and if finances are an issue, you might be experiencing panic.  These are all emotional states that don't serve you well during a job search. 

The shift to focusing on gathering information tends to create a mental state of excitement and anticipation.  We all love to learn.  You are looking for new and exciting career possibilities.  Something that you have never thought about could be the ideal next job for you.  You're asking others for advice and information on how your skills and abilities could be used in new ways.  You'll want to learn about other industries, investigate different company cultures, see how other people got to where they are, gather other's perspective on your skills and experience, get feedback on your resume, evaluate starting your own business or possibly becoming a consultant. 

You'll also need to gather information on how things have changed in the job market. If you were with a major corporation for, say, 20 years, you could have a rude awakening.  The rest of the world isn't like your Alma Mater.  On the other hand, having been with a major corporation for some period of time will have given you training, experience and value far beyond your own recognition.  This could significantly increase your negotiating position when dealing with a small or medium-sized company that desperately needs your skills.  You need to determine your full value and where best to deploy it before you begin selling. 

Many new job structures have evolved during the past 10 years that you need to consider.  Some positions can only be obtained through what's referred to as "temp to perm."  More and more hiring companies want to evaluate a candidate on a noncommittal temporary basis before making a full time employment offer. 

"Contract work" is also becoming more popular as companies attempt to dodge their headcount quotas and/or maintain workforce flexibility to rapidly counteract adverse market dynamics.  Many "temporary agencies" have emerged that provide temporary positions or contract work for just about any position you can think of.  Some even provide benefits.  If the term "temporary" brings to mind only providing secretarial and clerical support you need up-to-date information.  You may also want to investigate "job sharing".  Job sharing is where more than one person shares a position when neither of them wants a structured full time job.  You might also want to find out about having the flexibility of working several part-time positions.  In today's work environment, many job seekers are vowing to never again "put all their eggs in one basket."  You see, there is a lot of information and advice that must be obtained before you run off blindly selling yourself. 

The possibilities for you to consider will expand with each informational meeting you have.  In addition to gaining valuable information, you'll gain valuable interviewing experience. In information-gathering you will learn to ask relevant questions - essential practice for the big interview.

Information-gathering opens door after door after door.  If you ask someone for a job and they don't have one, the conversation stops there.  You've run into a dead end.  The door closes.  On the other hand, if you ask for information and advice, most people will be open to supporting you.  Everyone loves to give advice.  Don't you?

This same shift in focus will also help you when you are scanning the want ads. Instead of looking for a particular job (position), start looking for ideas about new career possibilities and about what companies and individuals could be added to your network.  This change in perspective will give you a lot more information. 

At each informational networking meeting, ask for several referrals that might be helpful to you.  Ask if you can use their name.  And, after each meeting, write a short hand written note of thanks and continue to give your contacts feedback on how you are doing.  They will be pleased to know that they were able to help you. Informational networking is also the technique that will help you uncover many unpublished job opportunities. 

If you add two or three names to your networking list each day you will have a new and exciting job before you get to the end of the list.  Try it - I would be surprised if you ever get to "looking for a job."

This information is free and available for you to print out and copy for your personal use.
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