washingtonpost.com
The Five Best Ways to Hunt for a Job

Thursday, August 6, 2009 5:41 PM

We turn now to the five best ways to hunt for a job, in my forty years' study of this field. If your job-hunt stretches on for weeks or even months, these are the strategies I recommend you start with, in case your energy runs out before you've finished working your way through all eighteen methods. I will list these five in reverse order. That is to say, I will save the best one for last. We'll start with #5.

#5: A 33% Success Rate

You ask your network for any job leads.

Method: You ask them one simple question: do you know of any jobs at the place where you work-or elsewhere? You ask this of your family. Your friends. Former professors or teachers at any school you ever attended. Business associates. Anyone and everyone you know.

Success Rate: This search method has a 33% success rate. That is, out of every 100 people who use this search method, 33 will get lucky, and find a job thereby. Sixty-seven job-hunters will not-if they use only this method to search for work.

Payoff for Using This Method: If they know of any vacancy in a field that interests you, they can introduce and recommend you. You don't walk in as just a stranger.

Biggest Problem with This Method: The vacancies, if they know of any, may not be in a field that interests you. But you may be tempted to try to make yourself fit the job, rather than making the job fit what it is that you want for your life.

My Comment: You may think a success rate of 33% doesn't deserve to be called one of the five best ways to look for a job. I agree, but it's all relative. "The fifth best" out of the eighteen job-hunting methods that are out there, isn't necessarily saying much. But to put things in perspective, do note that this method's success rate is almost five times higher than the success rate for resumes. In other words, by asking for job leads from your family and friends, you have an almost five times better chance of finding a job, than if you had just sent out your resume.

#4: A 47% Success Rate

Knocking on the door of any employer, factory, or office that interests you, whether they are known to have a vacancy or not.

Method: You go after places that interest you, preferably small employers (100 employees or less) rather than the large behemoths.

Success Rate: This results in finding a job for 47 out of every 100 people who use this method.

Payoff for Using This Method: You often happen upon a vacancy that just got created. One man I know was a draftsman, and he walked into a place that interested him at 11 a.m. The draftsman who was working there had just quit at 10 a.m. The relieved boss hired our man, on the spot.

Then again, using this method you may help to create a new job there, if they meet you, like you, and want to hold on to you-and never let you go.

Biggest Problem with This Method: It is not for the timid or the terminally shy. It takes a bit of moxie to knock on a door, and ask for five minutes of their time, without prior appointment.

My Comment: It is amazing to me how often this job-hunting method works. You fear, ahead of time, that your visit may be intrusive and unwelcome and you will be rudely sent away; and indeed that does happen, but would you really want to work at such a place? 'The right place' is as much a matter of what kind of people work there, as it is a matter of what do they do there. You'll usually do better with small employers (in this case, fifty or less employees).

#3: A 69% Success Rate

By yourself, using the index to your phone book's Yellow Pages to identify subjects or fields of interest to you in the town or city where you want to work.

Method: Once identified, you then look at the listings in the Yellow Pages to identify organizations that look interesting; then you call them up (or go visit them) to ask if they are hiring for the type of position you can do, and do well.

Success Rate: This results in finding a job for 69 out of every 100 people who use this method. Your instinct tells you that it shouldn't work so well; but it does.

Payoff for Using This Method: Even in the worst of times, some employers are still hiring. I saw three "Help Wanted" signs in store windows just last week. But these jobs remain part of the 'hidden job-market,' meaning they are not advertised in the places where you would normally expect them to be. This method often uncovers them.

Biggest Problem with This Method: During brutal economic times job-creation diminishes, so this method doesn't appear to work as well as it does in good times. Also, phoning people doesn't work as well as it did in the pre-"Please listen carefully to the following menu" days.

My Comment: Still, it works ten times better than a resume-based job-hunt.

#2: A 70% Success Rate

Working with others in a job-club, using the index to your phone book's Yellow Pages to identify subjects or fields of interest to you in the town or city where you want to work.

Method: Same as the previous method, except here you work with a partner to identify leads. Moreover, you share with the rest of the group what kind of job you are looking for.

Success Rate: This results in finding a job for 70 out of every 100 people who use this method.

Payoff for Using This Method: Say you're in a job-club that has 48 other members. With this method, once you tell them what you're looking for, you get an extra 48 pairs of eyes looking on your behalf, and an extra 48 pairs of ears listening on your behalf-all the time that they're out there looking after their own interests.

Biggest Problem with This Method: Nathan Azrin invented this method back in 1973. It had an 84% success rate; but most so-called 'job-clubs' today do not follow his model religiously, so the success rate has declined to 70% or less. Azrin's job-club model was all about action, doing phoning in the morning, going out and doing the actual job-hunt every afternoon; while many so-called job-clubs today are instead about inspiration, pep talks, and encouragement; but the actual job-hunt occurs outside the group.

My Comment: This is a personal comment. I was talking to Nathan just the other day (it is April 2009, as I write) and he would like to know of any job-clubs that are still following his model religiously. You will know who you are. Please let me know you exist, and I will convey the message to Nathan (my email is fivedayworkshop@aol.com).

#1: An 86% Success Rate

Do homework on yourself, taking inventory in detail of all you have to offer and what you are looking for.

Method: This homework revolves around three simple words: What, Where, How.

1. WHAT. This has to do with your skills, specifically your 'transferable skills.' These are usually verbs, like analyzing, organizing, researching, communicating, etc. You need to inventory and identify what skills you have that you most enjoy using. I didn't say: that are most marketable. No, these are the ones you enjoy using the most. That's usually because you're best at them. They are called your transferable skills, because they are transferable to any field/career that you choose, regardless of where you first picked them up.

2. WHERE. This has to do with job environments. Think of yourself as a flower. Every flower has an environment where it blossoms. In that sense, you are like a flower. You need to decide where you would most enjoy using your skills, because that is where you will do your most effective work. Experts call these your 'fields of fascination,' or just 'fields.' These are usually nouns, like technology, finance, the arts, chemistry, automobiles, criminal justice, nursing, hospitality, etc.

3. HOW. This is a matter of how you find out the answers to five things. You want to know how to define:

a) the manner in which you perform your job. (These are usually adjectives or adverbs, such as thoroughly, quickly, economically, expertly, etc.) They are often called 'traits.'

b) the job titles (it may be several) of work that involves your transferable skills in your fields of fascination.

c) the names of organizations (in your preferred geographical area) that have such jobs to offer (we call these organizations your targets).

d) the name of that person in each target organization who actually has the power to hire you.

e) how can you best approach that person to show him or her how your skills and knowledge of that field can help them with their goals and challenges.

Success Rate: To be sure, this doesn't feel like a job-hunting method, but it is. And according to records kept for years, this method has an 86 percent success rate. In other words, 86 out of every 100 people who use this method succeed in not only finding work, but truly rewarding work that matches the gifts they have.

Such an effectiveness rate is astronomically higher than virtually every other job-hunting method there is. For example, doing-homework-on-yourself works 12 times better than resumes, when you're looking for work. This means, that by doing the hard thinking this method requires, you have a 1,200 percent better chance of finding a job than if you just send out resumes!

To toss in a dose of realism here, it doesn't work for everyone; 14 job-hunters out of 100 will still not find the jobs that are out there, if they use only this method to search for them.

Payoff for Using This Method: Well, there are three, actually:

1. You can more accurately define to yourself just exactly what you're looking for, beneath the shifting shape of job-titles. In a brutal economy, job-titles like 'accountant' just aren't detailed enough. New thinking is called for: you are not 'an accountant' (or whatever). You are a person, who . . . You are a person who has these skills and these experiences.

2. You can more accurately describe to your family, friends, and networks just exactly what you're looking for, in detail. Not just "Uh, I'm out of work; let me know if you hear of anything," but exactly what kind of work, in what environment.

3. Lastly, you can more accurately describe to employers exactly what is unique about you, and what you bring to the table that, say, nineteen other competitors for this vacancy don't bring, in spite of the fact that their experience and skills look as though they were equal to yours.

Biggest Problem with This Method: It involves work. 'Thinking' kind of work. Most job-hunters therefore avoid it. Takes too much time. Demands too much thinking.

It certainly is not for the lazy, nor for those looking for the easy way out of their unemployment situation. (It actually can be done in a full weekend, or on six successive Monday nights; but why spoil people's fantasy that they won't do it because it would take forever.)

My Comment: You know, I wondered for years why this particular approach to job-hunting worked so well. It was obvious that it did. Careful records were kept by its early practitioners such as John Crystal, Arthur Miller, Bernard Haldane, and Sidney Edlund. No doubt it worked. Superbly. My curiosity was: Why?

I couldn't come up with any satisfactory answer, for a long time. And then I went through the experiences I described at the beginning of this chapter, where I learned that not only must you keep your eyes always on the target you are trying to reach, but that the more detailed your picture of that target the more likely you are to reach it.

Case in point:

When you're throwing, not just the clothes hamper, but the corner of the hamper.

When you're driving, not just the lane, but the very center of the lane.

And: when you're looking for meaningful work, not just a job-title, but the details of the work beneath the title: using what transferable skills? in what fields of fascination to you? surrounded by what kinds of people? serving what kinds of customers? meeting and solving what kinds of challenges? furthering what values or ideals? etc.

It was a universal truth: you must keep your eyes always on the target you are trying to reach. And the more detailed your picture of that target, the more likely you are to reach it.

It suddenly made perfect sense to me, why this was, and is, the most effective way to look for a job.

Vision is everything.

So, what have we learned from this chapter?

How about this: you're out of work. You're comforted by all the tools at your disposal: the Internet, ads, agencies, resumes, networking. And yet the most effective method of finding meaningful work depends not on the tools you have. It depends instead on your Vision. Your Vision of Yourself, and what you want to do with your life.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2009 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive