Thursday, August 27, 2009

How champions find hidden opportunities.

Post 313 - Everyone can make a wrong career choice from time to time. When that happens to champions, however, they don't stay around and suffer. Instead, they move up and out as quickly as they can. About 75% of the jobs available at any given time aren’t advertised. Most of these jobs are found by word-of-mouth, so that’s where it makes sense to devote the greatest part of your job-search time. When jobs aren’t advertised, being in the right place at the right time is critical.

Make your own opportunities.
Maybe there’s a company you've read about and thought, "I'd like to work there," but you’ve never see them advertising vacancies. Nevertheless, send in your resume. Then try picking up the phone and asking for a job. I got my first job at Mullard Electronics in London that way. I hadn’t heard back after submitting my resume, so I phoned the company, said I was in town for a few days, and asked if I could stop by and submit it again. They said sure. When I went to their offices, they said they’d just received a position requisition that morning that seemed to fit my qualifications. At my request, they arranged an interview for that afternoon. I hit it off really well with the director who interviewed me, was hired on the spot, and started work the following week. In golf and in life, timing is everything.

Many companies rely on employees to bring in new talent. It’s cheaper to recruit this way instead of placing ads or using a recruiting firm. So, your job search isn’t something you want to keep to yourself. Let other people know what you’re looking for and how well you’re qualified. The more people you tell the better. Start by having coffee or lunch with previous coworkers. When you meet - and this is very important - only ask them for information and advice. Don't put anyone on the spot so they think you’re expecting them to find you a job. Ask friends and contacts if they know of any vacancies at their company or at their friends' companies. If so, you may find your name being submitted at a higher level than if you were applying for a job that’s been publicly advertised.

How to get past the gatekeepers.
If you have the hiring manager’s phone number, call early – before 8 am, or late – after 4:30 pm, or at the 10:05 break time, or during lunch, to get around gatekeepers so you can speak to the person directly. Do this every day for several weeks. If you leave messages and the person doesn't know you already, don’t expect them to be returned. Still no luck? Personal assistants and secretaries can help or hinder depending on how you treat them. Be polite, confident, relaxed, friendly and direct. Remember, the less information you give out, the fewer the objections you invite. Try to sound like a champion. Listen to senior managers on the phone and model their pace, tone, pitch, pauses and emphasis. As a general rule senior people speak more s-l-o-w-l-y. For example: "Hello, this is John Cotter. If you could let Scott know that John is on the line for him? Thank you.” Record your approach and listen. If you were a gatekeeper, would you let the person on the recording through? Try practicing with a friend before you start calling.

When you leave a message and your goal is to receive a call back, a successful voice-mail should always:
• Have a professional tone with a direct message,
• Be at least one minute in length,
• Be fun and unique to engage the listener,
• Include your complete name, number and the purpose of your call.
Being professional is important but being fun will get your call returned. When you leave your complete name and number, you're just a number. The longer your message, the less likely it is to be returned. Fun doesn't have to be falling-down funny but leaving a unique message will usually engage the listener. Remember, the purpose of your voice-mail is to get someone to return your call. It's not to make a sale or make an appointment - it's just to get a returned call.

Practice your pitch.
Once your call has been returned or put through, know what you want to say and speak clearly. Your pitch may go something like this. "Hi, Scott, my name is John. I’m calling about vacancies in the marketing department - is this a good time to talk?" If it isn't, suggest another time; "OK, if I call back at 4.30pm, will you be free then?" Speaking with confidence and pinning down a time to talk is important. Ask for a direct extension and call back at the proper time.

Keep your pitch short, sweet and include the right information - your name, where you’re currently working, why you’re calling, and what you want (a job with more opportunities, a meeting to discuss vacancies, etc.) If the answer is yes, then pin down a time that week or next and consider the meeting a job interview. If the answer is no, ask if you can send your resume with a list of your accomplishments and email your contact details in case something comes up in the future. Keep a record of all your calls and the firms’ responses. Make a note if you’re told, "There's nothing now, but call us back in six-months." Then call back at the suggested time.

Watch your self-talk.
Hope is not a state of the world but a state of mind, an orientation of the spirit. Vaclav Havel in an essay, Never Hope Against Hope, writes, “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. It is this hope, above all, that gives us strength to live and to continually try new things, even in conditions that seem hopeless.”

So, as you search, make sure your self-talk is about being extraordinary! Focus on your highest and best use. A lot of self-talk is negative – who I want to be that I’m not or what I want that I don’t have. Don’t go there. Our emotions are governed by the stories we tell ourselves.

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