Career Psychology   |   A Free Career Book

Chapter Four

Career Psychology is copyright © Dan Joseph Cavicchio. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be republished, reproduced, or transmitted in any form without the prior written permission of the author. The material in this book is provided solely for informational and educational purposes. It does not substitute for professional counseling or therapy. Information in this book does not represent clinical advice for treatment of psychological disorders.


Chapter Four
The Job Search

You might be thinking, "OK Dan, I've found a career I'd like to try. But how do I find a job in that field?"

There are three primary ways to find new job opportunities. I will spend this chapter exploring each of these approaches in detail. Then, as I did in the last chapter, I will include a series of Q&As that will dive deeper into the process.

Please note that I will not be covering self-employment in this chapter. This section is for folks who are seeking roles with existing companies. If you're interested in setting up your own business, feel free to move right to chapter ten, which focuses on entrepreneurial activities.

Here are the three most common ways to find new work opportunities:

  1. You can apply for jobs that are advertised.
  2. You can make yourself visible so that recruiters like me can find you.
  3. You can have conversations with people to learn about opportunities. Some people call this "networking."

"Ugg. Not networking. I hate that," many people say.

I'd encourage you to keep an open mind as you consider that third option, as up to 80% of jobs are found through personal or professional connections.

The third method is extremely powerful. Plus, I'm going to offer an entirely new approach to the process that may appeal to you, especially if you find traditional networking distasteful.

Recall my early job stories from the start of this book. I landed my computer store job by walking into the store, introducing myself, and asking if they needed help. My chat with the salespeople on the floor opened the door. That falls into the "jobs through conversations" category.

My job with the road crew came when my mother asked an employee if they needed additional workers. My second stint with the paving company came when I saw the company in town and approached them. Neither of those jobs were advertised. Again, both of those came from the conversations category.

My internship with the regional planning company came through a friend of my family—another personal connection. Only my fifth job with the detergent company came through an advertised position that I applied for.

As I mentioned previously, direct conversations with people in your fields of interest can often open doors. Some people love to "matchmake," and those folks would be excited to help you get a job if there is a match to be made. Chatting with people might be all you need to do.

I'll explore career-oriented conversations in greater detail later in this chapter, including the new angle that I referenced.

For now, though, let me begin with a discussion of what most people associate with job searching: applying for jobs that are publicly posted.

First Avenue:
Posted Job Ads

Let me begin by stating that the key to a successful job search is keeping a very open mind throughout the process.

I cannot state this too strongly. As you read job postings and consider them, you will probably face a continual temptation to rule out what you're seeing. You mind will want to say, "not a fit, not a fit, not a fit."

This is completely normal. Most of my clients experience it. I myself experience it when I'm reading through resumes as a recruiter. The mind wants to reduce the complexity of the process by saying, "nope, nope, nope."

To maximize success, I encourage you to notice when that rule-out dynamic is happening and—despite any resistance—move in the direction of re-opening the mind. I will share some cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to help with this process in the Q&A section later on.

To illustrate this dynamic, here is a typical conversation I've had with many of my career counseling clients:

"Dan," my client says, "I spent the week looking through job postings like you suggested."

"And how'd it go?"

"Terrible. None of the jobs out there are a fit. I'm ready to give up."

"Tell me more."

"I look at the skills they need, and I never have them all. There aren't any good matches. Nothing is a fit."

"You probably remember that I work as a recruiter during the day," I say.

"Yeah."

"Well, I write some of those job ads. And I can tell you that in twenty years, I have never found a single person who matches everything on a job description."

"So how can you tell if you're close enough?"

"Often you can't tell," I say. "If you seem to be in the ballpark, and are interested in the job, I recommend that you apply and see how it plays out. The elements that don't match might be the least important to the company."

"But what if it says that certain skills are required?"

"Sure," I say, "those may be essential. However, when I write job descriptions, I often have a group of people giving me big lists of requirements. After a few interviews, many of the ‘required' skills become ‘nice to have.' If you feel that you're in the ballpark for a job, I recommend that you send in an application, highlight the matches, and let the company sort through things."

Now, some clients are OK with this. Others keep looking for a near-perfect match with a job description.

When those clients finally find a match and apply, they often don't receive a response and feel very discouraged. After weeks of looking, they found a great fit on paper. But for whatever reason, the real-life match didn't happen.

Because of that, I encourage you to apply for any roles that you find interesting—as long as you're in the ballpark. It's not in your best interest to waste energy second-guessing what the company may or may not be prioritizing.

Please also know that during the hiring process, I'm having a parallel conversation with my corporate clients.

I'm saying to them, "Just because this candidate's resume doesn't fit every bullet on the job description, it doesn't mean that she won't be a great fit. Let's keep an open mind and interview her. Perhaps there will be great interpersonal chemistry. Let's just invite her to interview, and see how it plays out."

Again, open-mindedness is key. It's key for job-seekers, and key for employers. Much of my day is spent encouraging both parties in this process to drop their preconceived notions and approach potential relationships with an open mind.

In the next chapter, I'll talk about how to structure your resume in order to make potential matches pop. But for now, I want to encourage you to simply maintain an open-minded attitude when you're looking through job descriptions.

If you feel fatigued or overwhelmed in the job search process, that's perfectly normal. Almost everyone experiences that. Reading through hundreds of job ads can be exhausting. Both job applicants and recruiters frequently become information-overloaded. At those times, the mind will try to short-circuit the process by saying, "Not a fit, not a fit, not a fit."

Notice when that type of fatigue hits. Take a break when that happens, and allow the mind to calm, rest, and relax. Then, when you're ready, approach the job search again with as much open-mindedness as possible.

Know that we HR folks are trying to do the same thing from our side of the table.

Finding Ads

Let's now tackle where to find job openings. There are four main locations in which jobs are posted:

  1. General job sites like Indeed, LinkedIn, and Monster.
  2. Specialty job sites aimed at specific fields or groups.
  3. Company web sites.
  4. Government web sites.

In addition, there are nearly endless "aggregator" sites that collect and re-post jobs that were originally featured at these four sources.

Each of these four type of sites can be fertile ground for a job search. I encourage you to explore all of them.

As a recruiter, when I have a conventional job I'm trying to fill, I often start by posting job ads on the general sites. Positions like administrative assistants, sales professionals, accountants, and so forth are commonly featured on places like Indeed, LinkedIn, and Monster.

However, when I have a niche job that I need to fill, I often post an ad on a specialty site as well. For example, I've recruited many optical engineers over the years. When I have an opening for a job like that, I may turn to the Optical Society of America (OSA) job site, or the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE) career center. These specialty job sites cater specifically to optical engineers.

I wish that more job seekers would visit those types of sites! If you're in a field (or part of a group) that has a specialty jobs site geared toward your background, please keep an eye on postings on that site. You may be one of a small group of people who see those ads. Specialty job posting sites exist for veterans, teachers, people in skilled trades, and many other groups.

Specific company websites are another important source of jobs. Although general sites like Indeed often repost jobs from company websites, a large number of job postings are missed. I always encourage my clients to bookmark the "careers" web page of specific companies that are interesting, and manually check postings every week.

A bonus of manually checking a company's website is that you get the most up-to-date read of which positions are still open. When we recruiters fill a position, we usually delete the job listing from our company's website immediately. Paid job ads, on the other hand, are often set to expire on their own after a month or two. Some ads on general job sites might be highlighting positions that were filled a few weeks ago.

Many large organizations—including universities and health care companies—feature hundreds of jobs on their own sites. Some of these jobs will not show up elsewhere. I encourage you to regularly visit the career pages of any companies, institutions, or organizations that catch your eye.

Finally, there are government sites. Let me be the first to admit that it can be challenging to search for government jobs.

There are many different levels of government, each of which has its own job site. Many government jobs are not featured on general sites or caught by the aggregators. Therefore, you'll need to do some searching.

This searching process can actually be a good thing; the harder it is to find a job posting, the fewer applicants there will be. Your research skills will help you stand out!

Let me give an example of the levels of government.

When I have a career counseling client in Boulder, Colorado who wants to explore government jobs, I encourage them to visit:

  1. The city of Boulder website.
  2. The county of Boulder website, which is a different organization than the city.
  3. The state of Colorado website, which only lists state funded jobs—even though some of these jobs might be located in Boulder.
  4. The federal government jobs website at USAjobs.gov, which has no connection or overlap with any of the previous three levels. Jobs with the National Forest Service, the IRS, the armed forces, the Environmental Protection Agency, or any other federal group will be posted here, even if they're in Boulder.

So there are four levels to explore: city, county, state, and federal.

In addition, I'll encourage my clients to visit government job sites for all neighboring cities and counties. Depending on commuting distance range, this may involve an additional 10 to 20 sites!

This can feel like an overwhelming and complex maze. However, as I mentioned, the harder it is to find these job postings, the fewer applicants there will be.

You can treat the process like an exploration game. When you stumble upon a somewhat-hidden job post, you've found something valuable. Few people want to engage in the hunt. You can find openings that others may miss.

Building a Habit

As I stated earlier, one of the greatest challenges in the job search process is overcoming fatigue and information overload. It's important to pace yourself, and not allow your mind to become overwhelmed by the many options.

Let me share a recommendation to help with this.

It is a recommendation that almost every one of my clients resists at first, despite how strongly I pitch it.

It is this:

Treat your job search process like brushing your teeth. Set aside a few minutes each day to look through job ads, just like you set aside time to brush your teeth. Keep things simple, easy, and routine.

Each day, schedule a few minutes to browse through job ads and perhaps send a resume off to one of them. Then stop for the day.

The next day, do it again. Then again the next day.

You're forming a habit as you do this. Don't allow yourself to over-extend yourself, or "push through" stress or overwhelm. Instead, take small, regular steps each day.

This is completely opposite from how most people approach job searching. Most people plunge into a job search with anticipation. They eventually find a job that sounds great. They send off an application and excitedly wait to hear back. After several weeks of not receiving a response, they become very discouraged and give up on the process.

I have spent an enormous amount of time encouraging my clients not to do this. We want to minimize the roller-coaster of emotions. We want to focus on the relaxed formation of a habit.

To help with this, I encourage my clients to write down their daily job search steps on a sheet of paper. We call this a "practice record" in cognitive behavioral therapy, and it can help to strengthen new habits.

A practice record can look as simple as this. (I've included a link to a blank one in PDF form here.)

You can limit your steps to just a few minutes at a time. 5 to 15 minutes a day, as the person did in the example above, form a powerful new habit and move things along nicely.

As absurd as it might sound, you can even scale back to just one single minute a day if you'd like. But actually do that one minute of job searching every day. Let it be the basis for a new habit.

To underscore this, let me share a conversation that I've had numerous times in my counseling sessions.

"So Adrianne," I say to my client, "how did the job search steps go this week?"

"Well," says Adrianne with a sheepish grin, "You're not going to like this, but I actually didn't do anything on my job search this week."

"That's fine," I say. "No rush from my side! However, I'm curious what made it challenging to take some steps."

"Well, I want to be in the right headspace."

"And you didn't feel that you were ready."

"Yeah. I didn't want to force anything."

"OK, would you be willing to try an experiment this week? Perhaps we can have you do a tiny step each day, even if you're not really feeling it. Even something simple like bookmarking one job site each day. Would you be OK with that?"

"I'm not sure that a tiny step will help me get a job," says Adrianne.

"What tiny steps will do," I say, "is help the mind feel more comfortable with the process. After a week or two of tiny steps, you might find that you're ready for bigger steps. If you're up for it, I'd recommend taking just one minute a day over the next week and track your steps on the practice record."

Now, something very interesting happens when I encourage people to engage in job search steps for a single minute each day.

Some clients of mine come back the next week and report on how the practice worked. We begin to build on that traction.

Other clients, however, come back and say, "Dan, you won't believe it, but I couldn't even do a single minute a day! I can't understand it!" Suddenly, I have an opening as a psychotherapist to explore resistance that is getting in the way: fears, conflicting wishes, or any other subconscious elements that may be inhibiting the forward progress.

I share this because I encourage you to set a manageable (even absurdly manageable) daily goal for your job search—five minutes, or just one minute—and track your progress each day. If you find that even one minute each day is too much, you may want to explore what is inhibiting your progress.

Feel free to choose anything for your daily job search practice: browsing job ads, bookmarking job sites, proofreading your resume, filling out an application, or anything else. Establishing momentum is the key.

If you encounter minimal resistance in this process, and are able to spend twenty or thirty minutes each day looking through job ads and sending off an application or two—great! You're well on your way. Thirty minutes a day is probably enough time for most people, if it becomes a daily habit.

Let me now share some recommendations about seeking and reading the job ads that you find.

Seeking and Reading Ads

As I mentioned, I write the types of ads you'll be seeing. Most of the time, job ads are ideal "wish lists." Often ads are a mish-mash of multiple people's wish lists. No candidate will hit every element. Please don't let yourself feel discouraged if you don't find any perfect matches.

Instead, simply browse through ads, notice what you find interesting, and consider sending in an application to any position openings that may be in the ballpark.

No one in the HR world will be upset if you apply for a job that isn't a tight-enough match. Instead, most of us recruiters will be happy that you're on our radar in case we have a similar position in the future—or in case the position definition changes during the hiring process.

We are grateful that you are expressing an interest in our role. You are doing us a favor by applying. We know how much time and work it takes to submit an application. On behalf of the HR world, I want to say thank you.

"Dan, you've got to be kidding me!" you might be thinking. "I've talked to recruiters who don't care about me in the least! They treat me like I'm just a cog in a wheel."

You're right, of course. There are folks like that. But there are also recruiters like me who are honored that you are interested in our job openings.

The people who don't value you are probably not long for the world of recruiting and human resources. When they move on to other things, their replacements might see an old application of yours and give you a call.

The reason I share this is that I want to encourage you to shift your perspective if you're worried about applying for jobs that aren't a perfect fit. Many companies will be grateful that you are interested in helping them, even if there isn't a match for an immediate opening.

I appreciate every applicant who has taken the time to express interest in one of my roles. I keep every one of them in mind for other opportunities that may be a better fit. I have filled many openings by contacting applicants that had applied for a different job in the past. This happens all the time in the recruiting world.

Three Do and Don't Tips

Let me return to the statement I made at the beginning of this chapter: The most important thing you can do in your job search is to keep your mind open as you read through ads.

Along those lines, let me offer three tips to help expand your options:

1. When you're looking through job ads, search for unique keywords that may appear in the body of the ad. Don't only search on standard job titles.

Let's say that you've spent your career working in sales. If you search only on ads that contain the word "sales" in the title, you may miss out on roles like "Account Manager," "Business Development Specialist," "Customer Experience Liaison," and other uniquely titled roles.

To find relevant job opportunities, it's best to search on multiple keywords. I recently had a conversation with a friend who is seeking a role in marketing communications. I encouraged her to search on a variety of unique keywords like "collateral" (as in marketing collateral), "InDesign" (a common design layout program), "copy" (as in copywriting), and so forth.

If you search only for conventional titles, you might miss a number of ads, especially those from companies that use creative and unusual titles. It's best to include a wide variety of keywords in your search.

2. Bookmark a variety of job-posting sites and visit them regularly. Don't only rely on automated email "alerts" from the larger sites to send you jobs.

Email alerts for new jobs are great, of course. By all means, sign up for them. It's wonderful to have job openings arrive directly into your mailbox.

However, I recommend that you also regularly visit a variety of job sites that you've bookmarked. If you search on multiple keywords, as I recommended above, you'll probably want to do that via a manual search. Otherwise, your email box will become overloaded with alerts.

When clients of mine are engaged in a job search process, they often bring a laptop into our sessions so that we can bookmark job sites. I then encourage my clients to rotate through those sites every few days. Government job sites on Monday. University sites on Tuesday. Health care companies on Wednesday. And so on.

Almost every time a client has told me, "I can't find any job openings," I have been able to help them identify a number of job sites that they hadn't visited. There are always new possibilities to consider.

You can create a strong foundation for your job search by remaining open-minded as you bookmark sites—including smaller sites you might not have thought about at first. Then, as you form a habit of checking these sites regularly, you'll be covering a great deal of ground.

3. Stretch to open your mind as you consider which opportunities may be in the ballpark. Don't give in to "not a fit, not a fit, not a fit" mental patterns.

I've covered this repeatedly, but let me discuss it one last time. Occasionally, my career counseling sessions go like this:

"So Dorian, you said you would love to work with cars. What do you think of this ad for a mechanic?"

"Nah Dan, mechanic jobs are terrible."

"Really?"

"Yeah, my cousin is a mechanic. He hates it."

"But you said that your goal was to work with cars. And it looks like this company will do training."

"I trust my cousin. He says to stay away from mechanic jobs."

"OK, how about this ad for a customer service person at a garage? You could still work around cars, but you wouldn't be a mechanic."

"It's probably like being a mechanic."

"OK. How about this job with the city doing work on the buses?"

"Sounds like mechanic work."

And so on. You can see the resistant mind frame that Dorian is in. If he's willing to open his mind a bit, he will likely begin to see things differently. I might say to him:

"Dorian, would you be willing to do an experiment with me? Just for the next week, forget everything your cousin or anyone else has told you. Try to clear your mind completely. Then print me out three car-related job ads that seem like the best ones out there. Don't worry if they're a great fit. Just print them and bring them to our session for us to discuss."

If Dorian shows up for our session with his three ads, we will hopefully be able to crack things open a bit.

I'll be curious about what he liked from the ads he brings. At the very least, it will help me understand his psyche better, and suggest some better alternatives. Doing this exercise will hopefully bridge him from a "no, no, no" mindset into a more solution-oriented place.

In the same way, you might find it helpful to stretch your own open-mindedness as you look through ads.

You can try what I did with Dorian: You can print out one job ad each day, and identify the pieces that you liked from each job description. Then use those pieces to expand your keyword searches for tomorrow.

You might even consider taking a leap and sending off an application to one of the closest fits you printed off. It might turn out that the job is a bit different from what you originally envisioned.

Let me conclude this job ad section by saying once again that I know how tiring it is to read through hundreds of job ads.

I also know how disappointing it can be to find a job that seems like a great fit, and then not hear back from the company. I have experienced this myself, and I have also experienced it with numerous clients. You have my deep respect for your willingness to keep moving ahead, despite these feelings.

Job seeking can be fatiguing. That's why I recommend that you take regular, easy, relaxed steps each day. Neither job seeker nor employer knows when there will be a match, or how long the search process will take. That is why patience, comfortable pacing, and open-mindedness are so important.

Second Avenue:
Becoming Visible to Recruiters

Applying for posted job ads was the first option in your job search. Making yourself visible so that recruiters like me can find you is a second approach that can be helpful.

You might be thinking that you will never be contacted by a recruiter—that recruiters only focus on tech workers, executives, or other groups. However, that is not necessarily true, especially during tight labor markets.

As a recruiter, I proactively reach out to people for every single one of my job openings. I do this through networking, cold-calls, resume database searches, and other methods. I have contacted assemblers, accountants, administrative assistants, salespeople, office managers, and all sorts of other people.

No matter what field you're in, or what level of seniority you are at, you can expand your job search options by making yourself visible. Let us recruiters do some of the work for you!

The most direct way to signal to recruiters that you're open to new opportunities is to post your resume online—on Indeed, LinkedIn, Monster, or any of the specialty career sites in your field.

Of course, there are pros and cons of posting a resume. Let's consider them carefully before you make a decision about this.

Posting Your Resume: Pros and Cons

The biggest risk of posting your resume is that your current employer might see it and conclude that you're planning to leave your position. This can cause ripple-effects, both harmful and helpful.

If your employer sees that you've posted your resume, they might assume (correctly or not) that you're unhappy in your current role and are preparing to quit your job. They might begin to prepare for your departure. They might even start an active search for your replacement.

Or, alternatively, your employer might see your resume and talk to you about increasing your job satisfaction. They might ask if there is anything they can do to improve your happiness at work. This might end with you receiving a pay increase or promotion!

I have seen both of these ripple-effects, and others.

At the extreme negative end of things, I have heard of companies who are prepared to fire any employee who is seeking a new job. Personally, I think this is a self-destructive response. But you should know that there are employers out there who will terminate the employment of any active job-seekers.

Because of the potential impact on you, I recommend that you consider very carefully if you feel comfortable having your employer see your resume. Even if you try to post your resume confidentially, many employers can read between the lines and recognize details. Always assume that you may be identified.

This might not be an issue for you. Perhaps you are between jobs. Or you might be starting out in your career, and do not have a current employer. Perhaps everyone in your company posts their resumes online.

For clients of mine who are not at risk of causing waves with a current employer, I always recommend that they consider posting a resume. It is one of the best ways to signal to us recruiters that you're open to being contacted.

You can post your resume for just a day or two if you'd like to see how it goes. Or you can post it for the entire time that you are job seeking. You can even keep your resume posted permanently, updating it every time that you enter a new role.

I see all types and approaches in my work; there are no rules about this. The choice is yours.

A Few Caveats for Resume Posting

Let's say that you do decide to post your resume online. Here are a few scenarios I'd like you to be prepared for:

  1. You may be contacted about job openings that aren't a great fit. This is very common, and to be expected.
  2. You may be contacted by people who promise to find you a job in exchange for money. This isn't common, but it does happen on occasion.
  3. Your contact information might be "harvested" by companies that are collecting data. I'm not sure how common this is, but read on for a method of protecting against that possibility.

The first challenge—being pitched on jobs that aren't a fit—is something that you should expect. Many recruiters are working at a breakneck pace, and often don't understand the nuances of the roles they're trying to fill.

This is especially true for highly technical positions. Recruiters may pitch positions to you that are outside your scope of knowledge or interest. If you have a few minutes, you can explain to them precisely what you do, and why this role isn't a fit. Or you can simply choose not to respond. We recruiters are used to that!

To smooth out communication and save time, I encourage you to state, right at the top of your posted resume, any preferences or parameters.

For example:

"Recruiters: I am only interested in work-from-home remote opportunities."

"I am only interested in part-time (20 hour/week maximum) roles."

"I am interested in IT management roles, not software development."

"I am willing to relocate only to Los Angeles. I am not open to relocate to any other location."

Or whatever else you'd like to say. We welcome these points of clarification. These statements probably shouldn't appear on a resume that you send in for a job application. However, for posted resumes, they are perfectly appropriate and welcome.

The second challenge—people approaching you for money—is to be avoided. If someone promises you that they'll get you a job if you pay them, it's likely a scam.

Recruiters like me are paid by the companies we work for, not by you. Legitimate recruiters never charge candidates. Not ever. If someone encourages you to give them money in order to get a job, I'd recommend ceasing all communication. It's very likely a scam.

The third challenge—having your contact information gathered—can be mitigated. Here is what I recommend to my clients who decide to post their resumes online:

Create a new Gmail email address for your job search, and only use that Gmail account on your resume. Do not use your personal email address.

Sign up for a Google Voice phone number connected to that Gmail email address, and only include that on your resume. Do not use your own phone number.

Include your city/state/zip (as many of us recruiters will be searching resumes geographically), but do not include your street address.

You can then set your new Gmail email address and Google Voice number to forward to your primary email and phone number. You can turn off this forwarding whenever you'd like.

That way, you're buffered from unwanted emails and calls. Your personal contact information is also protected. You can turn off the flow of communication whenever you want.

So to recap: The primary risk of posting your resume is that your current employer may see the resume. Also, you will probably be approached for jobs that aren't a great fit. Some people might try to get you to pay them to find you work. Your contact information might be harvested. That last issue can be mitigated by using a new email and phone number, and leaving out your street address.

Now for the big benefit. By posting your resume, you are sending a signal to us recruiters that you'd like to be contacted. This puts you at the very top of our lists for many roles. We prefer not to bother people who are uninterested in new opportunities. However, we rarely know who is and who isn't open. By posting your resume, you are moving yourself to the top of our lists.

As an example of this, let's say that I am working on a search for a Sales Manager for a lasers company. I will likely spend weeks cold-calling sales executives at lasers companies, networking with people in the lasers industry, researching, chatting, and cold-calling some more. This will take a great deal of work.

However, before I do any of that, I'll run a quick search on various resume databases—including those at specialty job sites dedicated to lasers. Why not start with people who are open to being contacted? Those people will pop to the top of my list.

You, too, can pop to the top of lists by making your resume available online. Again, please do not post your resume if you are at risk of harmful ripple-effects from your current employer. But if that isn't a concern, resume posting is a great way to open the door to opportunities.

LinkedIn

The other way to make yourself visible to recruiters is to create a profile on LinkedIn, and become as connected as possible.

Most of us recruiters use LinkedIn on a daily basis. The most basic subscription level gives us visibility to our immediate group of connections, plus anyone connected to our connections, plus anyone connected to those people. So there's a "three level deep" group of people whom we can see and contact. In order to expand past that, we need to pay for higher subscription levels.

I share this because many recruiters at small companies will only be able to see your profile if you're in their first three tiers. In order to reach that level of visibility, I recommend connecting with at least a hundred people.

Once you have a hundred or so connections, you'll start to become quite visible to many recruiters. Don't worry about making thousands of connections (although that certainly can help!)

Who can these connections be? Anyone at all. Friends, family members, high school or college classmates, current or past coworkers. They can be people on your softball team, folks you volunteer with, or your neighbors. LinkedIn asks that you have some connection with these people, so it's best not to send invites to strangers. (Although many recruiters will be happy to receive unsolicited connection requests.)

LinkedIn also allows you to signal that you are "open to work." This is similar to posting a resume.

As of this writing, there are two levels of visibility about your openness to work. You can:

  1. indicate only to recruiters that you're open to work, rather than the general public; or
  2. indicate it to everyone, with a special flair on your photo.

The risks and benefits I covered in the resume section apply here as well. Your current employer might see that you've tagged yourself as open to work, and this can lead to ripple-effects. However, many recruiters will also see you, and might approach you with job opportunities.

What to Include

When you're creating your LinkedIn profile, it's important to include as many relevant keywords as possible.

Many people simply list their company and title on their profile. While that is OK, you will be much more visible if you include keyword-rich descriptions of the work you've done. These keywords are what we recruiters are frequently searching on.

As an example, I'm currently working on a search for an Embedded Systems Electrical Engineer. I am searching on keywords like "FPGA" (field programmable gate array) and "Zynq" (a specific brand of chip).

People who have included those keywords in their profiles pop up in my search results. People who haven't included those aren't as visible.

As part of your keyword mix, you can include acronyms—and also write out what the acronyms stand for. We recruiters may be searching on either the acronym or the phrase, so it's a good idea to include both.

For example, restaurant managers might say "back of house (BOH)." Medical workers might say, "electronic health record (EHR) system." Or for a cleaner look, you can simply alternate the acronym and the phrase throughout your profile.

It's also helpful to include specific systems, software, and other products that you use in your work: point-of-sale systems, electronic record systems, software platforms. We recruiters might be searching on specific names, brands, or manufacturers like the Zynq chip I mentioned above.

One easy way to add keywords to your LinkedIn profile is to update the "skills and endorsements" section. As of this writing, you can add 50 skills to your profile. These skills become searchable keywords as soon as you add them.

LinkedIn will not try to confirm how skilled you actually are at any of these. Please add any skills that you consider applicable!

What Not to Include

What you shouldn't include is anything that is confidential information. I have seen people list private company sales figures on their LinkedIn profiles—information that is not meant for public knowledge. Displaying this may cause a new company concern.

Please also don't include anything that is an attack on a past employer. I have seen profiles that accused companies of fraud, mismanagement, and other acts of malfeasance. If you feel the need to post comments about past employers, it's best to limit these comments to employee review sites like Glassdoor, where you can post anonymously.

Finally (and this is just common sense), please don't include anything mocking or exclusionary in your LinkedIn profile. I have seen dozens of profiles that were filled with sarcastic, demeaning statements—often directed toward politicians, but sometimes directed toward people of a particular nationality, orientation, or other group.

If you have this type of material on LinkedIn, I recommend that you remove it. It may have been intended as humor. However, it is visible to those of us in recruiting and will cause most employers concern. Even if you've "liked" someone else's posting of this sort, the post will show up in your activity feed.

I ask my clients to take a close look at their profiles, and try to imagine how an HR person might view the content. I encourage everyone to remove postings that express intolerance—even if these postings were meant to be sarcastically humorous.

Companies are filled with people who hold a diversity of values, beliefs, orientations, and creeds. Almost every company wants to maintain a professional, welcoming environment. Hostile, sarcastic posts will trigger concern in almost every human resources professional. It's best to eliminate anything of that sort.

Open Communication

Let me make one last suggestion before I move on to the next section. I encourage you to dialogue with recruiters who reach out to you, even if you're not interested in their immediate opening.

Let me give an example of how this can be helpful. Let's say that I contact someone in Texas about a position in Boston.

The person says to me, "Dan, I want to stay in Texas. But if you have something in the Dallas or Austin area—or something that can be done remotely—I'd be interested."

That's great information for me. Perhaps a few weeks later, my corporate client lets me know that the position I'm working on is now remote-eligible. I can now reach back to that person in Texas and see if she might be interested.

Her willingness to tell me her preferences opened the door for opportunities. And of course, perhaps I'll start working with a client in Texas someday! If so, she's on my list of people to call.

Letting recruiters know your preferences can lead to future fits. It's great to form those relationships and keep the communication flowing.

Third Avenue:
Conversations

Applying for job ads and becoming visible to recruiters were the first two job search methods we covered. Now let's move on to the most common way that people find jobs: conversations.

This third avenue is the big one. As I mentioned, as many as 80% of jobs are found through personal and professional connections.

I am not going to use the word "networking" to describe this approach. Networking, for many people, has a connotation of "using" people to "get" something (in this case, a job).

Many of my clients have said to me, "Dan, I hate networking. I refuse to do it. I refuse to use people and have ulterior motives and agendas like that."

In response to that concern, let me introduce a concept that I call "flipping the script." If there is just one thing that you take from this book, I would like it to be this concept. I will return to this throughout the chapters to come as well.

Here's what I mean by flipping the script:

Most people approach the job search process with the attitude of, "I need to get a job." This is completely normal. There's nothing wrong with that approach.

However, in order to be more successful, I propose that you flip the script in your job search, and approach the process with an attitude of, "Here's what I'm excited to give."

Instead of focusing on what you want to get (a job), you can lead with all that you have to give (your talents, abilities, and other gifts.) This can change the entire process of job-searching in powerful ways. It brings a whole new tone to the endeavor.

Let me give a personal example of this to illustrate what I mean.

A few weeks after I graduated from my counseling program, I set up a therapy practice. Instead of focusing on getting clients, I instead focused on how I could give to them.

I asked myself: How can I give most fully to people that want therapy help?

The first thing that came to mind was to offer my services on a sliding-scale. That seemed like a good way to help people who might be struggling financially.

Next, I created a website with worksheets and therapy tools. I was happy to give information to people, regardless of whether or not they came to me for sessions.

I rented offices in two different cities, 45 minutes apart. This ensured that people wouldn't have to travel very far to see me. I also created session openings in the evenings, in order to make it easy for people with daytime jobs.

When I met people at coffee shops or elsewhere, I handed out my business card and said, "In case you know of anyone who is struggling with career or other issues, I'm happy to help."

Within 12 weeks of doing this, my practice was completely full. I began to run a waiting list, and soon there were people on my waiting list three months out. At that point, I stopped the waiting list and began to refer everyone to other therapists.

For the next decade, my practice remained completely full. By focusing 100% on what I could give to potential clients, I ended up with far more clients than I could handle.

I share this story because conversations connected to your job search don't have to be focused on getting a job, or getting a lead, or getting anything else. Instead, your conversations can be focused on all that you have to give.

When you meet someone, you can describe to them the gifts you're eager to share, and the help you're excited to offer. This will be far more impactful—and enjoyable—than the conventional networking approach.

An Example of Flipping the Script

As an example of this flip to giving, let's say that you're at your weekly softball club. The old-fashioned way to "network" might look like this:

"Hey," your friend says. "How are you?"

"OK, I guess," you say. "I'm actually looking for a job. If you hear of an opening for a Medical Assistant, let me know."

"Medical Assistant? OK, got it. That's not really my field, but I'll let you know if I see anything."

"Great, thanks."

"No problem. Good luck."

Now, that's probably not going to produce any results. That's the old approach—"I'm trying to get a job. Let me know if you hear of anything." There's nothing wrong with that method, though it's unlikely to produce a large number of leads.

Here's how the new, giving-focused approach might look:

"Hey," your friend says. "How are you?"

"Doing fine," you say. "I'm actually at a point where I'm looking for a busy medical office to help. I love working with patients and helping doctors. I'm excited to find a medical office that needs some extra hands. The busier the better."

"That's great," says your friend. "You know, come to think of it, my doctor's office was slammed the other day. I had to wait 45 minutes to get into my appointment. Let me know if you want the name of the place."

That was a small shift, but you can see the difference. In the first approach, you told your friend that you were looking for a Medical Assistant job. He'll keep his eyes open for you, but that's about it.

In the second approach, you described what you enjoy and how eager you are to help. That immediately triggered a memory of your friend having to wait at his doctor's office. You didn't mention a job, a title, or any details of your job search. You simply led with your enthusiasm to help.

Is your friend's doctor currently advertising a job for a Medical Assistant? Who knows! Your friend certainly doesn't know. But he does know a busy medical practice that perhaps could use some help. He just gave you a good initial lead.

Here are some other examples of "giving" statements:

"I'm a designer, and love to help companies develop everything from websites to brochures. I enjoy helping people to get messages out."

"Kids are so much fun. I'm always excited to connect with families that need help with babysitting."

"Flying is my greatest joy. I really love being a pilot. I'm excited to find new opportunities to fly."

If someone said that last statement to me, it would get my wheels turning.

I might say, "I hear the local flight schools flying over my house from time to time. Have you talked to them? And now that I think about it, a friend's brother-in-law flies for UPS. I think they're about to hire some people. And I once met a glider launch pilot here in town. I wonder if that company needs people?"

If instead the person said, "I'm looking for a job as a pilot. Let me know if you hear of any openings," I'd probably just say, "Sorry, haven't heard of anything."

The point is that by focusing on what you want to give, and expressing your eagerness to share your gifts, you are much more likely to open avenues.

Flipping the Script in Networking Meetings

Let me now take this a notch deeper, and discuss conversations in a more "classic networking" setting.

Imagine that you're seeking a new job as a hotel manager. A mutual acquaintance introduces you to the owner of a hotel, who is willing to have a chat with you.

In your conversation with the hotel owner, the old-fashioned approach would be to say, "I'm looking for a job as a hotel manager. Please let me know if you have an opening, or hear of one."

There's nothing wrong with that approach. It's how networking has been done for decades. It's a perfectly acceptable way to go about things.

However, a far more impactful strategy might be to say something like this:

"Thank you for chatting with me, Ms. Jones. Aren't we lucky to be in hospitality? I've really been enjoying the increase in tourism traffic. At this point in my life, I'm really excited to help a hotel that values its customers, and treats each visit as precious. I enjoy giving visitors five-star treatment, and am looking forward to finding a place that can use help with that."

Ms. Jones is smart; she gets that you're looking for new opportunities. But you're leading the conversation not by asking for a job or leads, but by expressing your enthusiasm and ways that you like to be of help.

There is no explicit "ask" of Ms. Jones. There is nothing you're trying to get from her. You're simply expressing your enthusiasm for hotel management, your values, and your desire to give your gifts.

As you say this, you're allowing Ms. Jones to respond in whatever way she wants—which is itself a gift. There is no pressure whatsoever on her. (The sense of pressure to "get" job leads is what usually leads people to hate conventional networking.)

If you want to put icing on the cake, you can flip the script completely and ask Ms. Jones if there's anything you can do to help her!

You might, for example, say, "Ms. Jones, please let me know if there's anything your hotel is struggling with. If I can be of help myself, great. If not, I might know of someone in the industry that could assist you. I'm always happy to make connections."

Instead of trying to get something from her in this conversation, you're entirely focused on giving. I myself end many business-oriented conversations by asking the person if there's anything that they can use help with. Very few people are asked that question, and most people are touched by the offer.

Reflexive Empathy

Let me conclude this chapter by sharing a psychological concept that builds on this.

In the world of psychology, there's a dynamic called reflexive empathy where one person's mind "mirrors" another person's.

We've all seen this in conflict situations: One person's anger triggers another person's anger, and a cycle of escalation forms.

This same dynamic can be used in positive ways. In the example above, your spirit of enthusiasm and helpfulness will very likely trigger Ms. Jones's spirit of enthusiasm and helpfulness.

Her mind will very likely mirror yours, to some degree. An alignment will take place.

Even if Ms. Jones doesn't have an opening at her own hotel, she might suddenly recall a fellow hotel owner who is losing a manager to retirement. Her desire to be helpful—sparked by your desire to be helpful—might bring that, or other leads, to her mind.

I encourage you to experiment with this in your day-to-day conversations. Try leading with a spirit of enthusiastic helpfulness, and note if the people you're talking to enter into a similar mindset themselves. You may find that this happens frequently, especially when you're talking with sensitive and empathetic people.

I will be discussing this giving dynamic in the chapters to come. For now, let me dive deeper into the process of job searching with a series of Q&A's.

click for Chapter Five:
The Job Search: A Deeper Look