May 8, 2012
Job seekers: high-five those helping hands
Used in its most common form, the phrase "human resources" strikes many folks as a cold, capitalistic and rather demeaning way to refer to the living, breathing souls who make up the workforce within any organization.
If you're in the midst of seeking a new job, however, this label is extremely appropriate. In fact, it's safe to say there's no greater resource involved in finding work than tapping into the community of human beings all around you -- be they your neighbors, family members, past or present co-workers, vendors, your hairdresser, your parole officer or pretty much anybody else you might care to name.
You'd think this would be patently obvious, wouldn't you? I'll tell you, though: I routinely encounter anxious job hunters who have barely scratched the surface in terms of their personal networks and the assistance they could potentially solicit from the folks around them.
Allow me to provide a quick brain dump of some ideas in this regard.
Not sure what you want to be when you grow up? The people around you can help you brainstorm new career possibilities. Identify your core strengths. Clarify your passions. Understand new industries and occupations you've never worked in. Expose you to volunteer opportunities. Determine the fastest shortcuts into a new field. Research the best training and development options. Find the courage to make a change. Help you stay motivated to pursue your goals and push through your doubts when the going gets tough.
Worried you're not "packaging" your skills effectively? The people around you can proofread your resume. Give you feedback on what they like about it. Tell you what they hate about it. Remind you of key skills, strengths and accomplishments you've forgotten to include and help you make tough decisions about what to leave on the cutting-room floor. Aid you in polishing up your elevator pitch. Chide you when you massively undersell yourself. Set you straight on how to put together an engaging cover letter or LinkedIn profile if you are at wit's end trying to write them.
Struggling to generate job leads and interviews? The people around you can alert you to jobs they see that might match your skills. Tell you about "hidden" jobs they've heard about through the grapevine. Put you in touch with appropriate recruiters they know. Forward your resume to hiring managers. Alert you to companies that match your skills and interests. Inform you about contract or temporary needs that come up. Point you to the best networking groups in the area. Give you great references or write testimonials for you. Connect you to their networks via social media so that you have a whole new arsenal of helpful people to draw upon, if needed.
Having a hard time sealing the deal? The people around you can give you objective feedback on how well you present yourself. Tell you where you shine. Give you tough love on where you need improvement. Role-play that critical interview you have coming up. Point out blind spots and bad habits limiting your effectiveness. Give you advice on what salary range to ask for. Help you evaluate job offers and decide whether to take (or leave) the first one that comes your way.
As you can see, the list of practical things that your contacts can assist you with during a job transition is nearly endless. And if push really comes to shove, who knows? You might need to lean on some of your compadres for help staying positive -- or possibly even a short-term loan or a bed to crash on once in a while. (Been there, done that.)
Sure, the web is a wonderful thing. But the awesome power of your network has the Internet beat, hands-down. Are you taking full advantage of this resource? Are you aware of all the help you could elicit from people? Most important: Are you asking for it?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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