How to find a job quickly and easily

A simple guide to executing a systematic job search.

Finding a job in your 20s can be kind of tricky. Especially when you get out of school. This is what has worked for me. I think it will work for you too.

People waste SO much time on their resumes and their cover letters, when those are the LEAST important part of getting a job. The best job you can get is the one where you don’t even submit a resume. First, some overarching advice.

You might want to consider moving.

If you have some geographic flexibility in your job search, that’s very helpful. For example, you’re going to have a much easier time finding a decent job in Houston, Texas than in Detroit, Michigan. There’s nothing wrong with Detroit, but let’s be honest – it’s always going to be easier to find work in the growing oil boomtown than the bankrupt economically unstable ex-metropolis.

Where you are also plays a big role in the kinds of jobs that are available:

Companies will sign away their firstborn for a good software engineer in the Bay Area, but may only be willing to give up a non-vital organ in Kansas. Same goes for mechanical engineers in Houston. Quantitative smarty pantses on Wall Street. Artisanal pickle specialist in Brooklyn etc.

Industry/sector first. Job second.

To understand why this is so important, you should go take a look at my post on How Not To Get Fired or Laid Off.

Even in a growing boomtown or bustling metropolis there are some industries that are going to be thriving and others that won’t.

For example, New York is the center of the publishing universe. If you are a writing type you could work for a book publisher (pretty stable, but in trouble because of ebooks), or a newspaper (totally screwed, pending some imaginative entrepreneurs figuring things out), or a hip high flying new content site (don’t quite know how they’ll make money, but probably the future anyway).

If you had to pick one of the three, which should you pick? If it were me, I’d pick the high flying content site.

Why you ask?

When in doubt always bet on growth.

In a growing company there are options. Even if you start in a job you don’t love, if the place is growing there will be opportunity to prove your ambition and skills in unexpected ways. Before long you can change titles and responsibilities, get a new role or whatever. Plus, other hirers will see that you came from a growing company and want to hire you for their company – even though you probably only had a little bit to do with the growth.

When you are around successful stuff, you acquire the sheen of success – even if you don’t totally deserve it.

Define your archetype.

It rarely pays to set your sites on a single specific company to work at. “Google or bust.” or “Facebook or bust.” or whatever isn’t a great strategy. What if the particular location of that company in your region is struggling or has bad management? Then what? Do you just not get a job? Are you doomed to permanent unemployment?

It makes more sense to define the archetype of company you want to work for and then find companies that fit that description. For example, when I was laid off in 2008 I set a handful of criteria for my Austin-based job search.

1) Had to be involved in some way with technology (that’s my interest area)

2) Had to be located within 1 to 2 miles of downtown austin

3) Had to be a growing company

It made my search SUPER easy to define.

All I had to do was compile a list of every well-regarded technology company in the 7870X area codes of Austin. I knew if I could find a role in any of those companies, at least at a macro level I was going to be in good shape.

Do an honest self evaluation.

What are you actually good at? Don’t kid yourself. Confidence is critical in a job search, but self-delusion is another entirely.

If you don’t have specific job skills yet (maybe this is your first job), think about your aptitude. Do you write well? Do you learn technology quickly? Are you a leader?

Are you NOT any of these things?

Where have you failed? If your new boss asked you to do something, what’s the one thing you’re most scared of?

You can either try to find a job that doesn’t require those things (kind of lame and limiting) or start to work on addressing them.

If you’re taking the time to read this, then you’re probably motivated enough to go to the library, get a book, and get to work addressing those weaknesses.

How to get an interview at any company.

Step 1: Make a spreadsheet.

Get the whole document here.

Now this is where it gets interesting and all your hard work is going to start to pay off a bit.

  • Take your list of companies that fit the archetype and put it in the sheet. Need help making your list of companies? Here are some ideas:
    • Go to Hoover’s and look up competitors to companies you respect and may want to work for.
    • If you want to work in startups, go to VC fund websites in your town and look at companies they’ve invested in. Here’s one for Austin Ventures.
    • Look up people that sponsor networking events and job fairs in your town. They’re probably hiring.
    • Call your local Chamber of Commerce. Yes, you may have to use the phone.
  • Go to the job boards of every company and list out the TYPES of jobs they are hiring for.
  • List out the SPECIFIC jobs they are hiring for.
  • Do an honest matching exercise.  Am I remotely qualified? Yes/No
  • Research the company’s hiring approach. For example, if you wanted to work at Sprinklr where I work, we publicly post our company values and we have all kinds of blog posts from employees describing what it’s like to work here. Here’s one my boss wrote.

Step 2: Do some stalking (it’s fun!).

Now this is where you do some sneaky/fun/stalking stuff.

Stalk CURRENT employees:

– Go on LinkedIn. Do a search for Current employees. See if you have any 1st or 2nd degree connections to people that work there. If not, see if you anyone who currently works there seems accessible and friendly to locals. If you get that vibe or have any connections.

Cut/Paste the links to their profiles into the “Potential Contacts” column in your spreadsheet.

– Go on Facebook. Use their awesome semantic search thing to do the same thing.

Stalk PAST employees:

Do the same thing as above but with a ‘past’ employee filter.

Stalk the Hiring Managers.

If you are looking for marketing jobs. Find the Director of Marketing that works locally. If you are looking for an IT job. Find the CIO that works locally in that region.

Cut/Paste any likely person’s information into the Hiring Manager column.

Step 3: Apply to one company and one job at a time.

A lot of people will whine and moan and say “I spend 4 hours a day sending out resumes and no one calls me back!” well my response is that you’re doing it wrong. If you are executing your job search correctly, well then you should really only have the time and ability to attack ONE. Just ONE. job per day.

Here’s how you do it.

Write your cover letter specifically for the job using keywords and phrases that match the company’s culture and the specific requirements of the position.

Did they say they need a process oriented leader with project management skills to work in a fast-paced high stakes culture?

Well, then describe yourself as an experienced project manager and team leader with a history of success in fast-paced high stakes environments.

Funny how that works, huh?

Don’t lie, but do use their language back to them. It’s called mirroring. It works.

Step 4: DO NOT APPLY TO THE JOB.

Go to the column of your spreadsheet where you stalked individuals that work or worked at the company.

Now, I’m going to have you do something CRAZY. Get out of bed. Take a shower. Brush your hair. Apply deodorant. And go buy some of those people some coffee.

You may actually have to close your laptop and leave the house to get a job.

Ridiculous, huh?

It’s super duper easy to do. Just send them a note that says:

Hi,

You are a great leader in  XYZ industry/company in YOUR TOWN. I really respect your accomplishments.

I’m trying to break into XYZ industry/company in YOUR TOWN also. Do you have any time for a coffee next week?

I’d love to learn more about you and how you got to where you are in your career.

Thanks so much in advance.

Regards,

YOUR NAME

Easy right? This note will almost always net you at least a coffee where you can network closer to the job you want. If not, it will at least net you an e-mail conversation where you can ask a couple questions and maybe get referred to someone that CAN meet you to discuss the job/company/industry you want.

Step 5: Get the referral.

Once you are talking to the person, what you are looking to do three things;

1) Demonstrate your value

Show that you are passionate about the industry, company, and job (in that order) to the person. Explain why you picked them to network with. Show them that you are a superstar potential hire and they’d be lucky to know you and work with you in the future.

2) Explain your objective (to get a job, duh)

3) Ask for a referral either directly o the hiring manager or to HR for the position you want.

This is easier than you think. Most companies will actually PAY their employees thousands of dollars if they refer a qualified candidate into a position at their company. Recruiting is SUPER expensive. It costs $10,000+ to fill a role at a company. Referrals are the cheapest way to get good people.

Once you’ve got the referral, re-write your resume & cover letter again with any new information you gleaned from your coffee shop conversation.

Step 6: Submit your resume.

Now submit your resume to your internal contact, the referred person, and HR. Follow up diligently.

Get your suit steamed and pressed. Wait for your interview.

 

What do you think? Did this work for you?

 

 

How to Not Get Fired or Laid Off in Corporate America

This post is about how not to get fired. It will not teach you how to be great at your job and excel in life. Just how to know if you’re at risk of getting fired and what to do about it. Eventually I’ll write some other posts about being awesome at your job.

How To Not Get Fired or Laid Off

The easiest way to not get fired is to recognize that you might get fired and start interviewing for a better gig instead. Then you can change jobs on your own terms, make more money, and hopefully not get fired from your new company, department, or team. The rest of this post is dedicated to teaching you how to know if you’re about to get fired, and then what to do about it.

A couple things that should be obvious

  • Don’t have sex with the intern (or skintern as one friend terms it) in the office supply area.
  • Don’t have sex with your boss in the bathroom.
  • Don’t vomit on the CEO at the Christmas party.

Basically, don’t be an idiot. If you’re an idiot, the rest of the advice in this post can’t help you.

Lesson 1: It’s not about you.

Not getting laid off or fired is actually fairly straight forward if A) You’re not an idiot (see above) and B) You are situationally aware of your environment. Let me explain:

Most of the time that someone gets laid off  in corporate America it’s not personal, it’s structural. It’s not that your boss doesn’t like you, but rather that the brand new gizmo R&D spent 4 years and billions building is a piece of junk and kills children in third world countries.

If you have a clear-eyed view of the structural environment around you, then you can see whether you are at risk and take steps to fix it. The good news is that it’s easy to figure out what’s going on. Here’s a step by step way to figure out if you’re likely to get fired. Because I like naming things, I call it “The Job Security Pyramid.”

Lesson 2: The Job Security Pyramid

How the pyramid works is simple. You answer the questions to progress up the levels. If at any point you stop progressing up the levels before reaching the top, then your job is at risk and you may be about to get fired. Sorry, that’s just how it works.

Job Security Pyramid

Pyramid Level 1: The Company

This question is first because it’s actually the most important. Companies that are growing and making lots of money can carry a lot of dead weight. Hopefully you aren’t dead weight, but if you are, a good company is actually a pretty good place to hide. Here is how to tell:

  • Is my company in a growing sector or industry?
  • Is my company the top 1 or 2 company in that sector?
  • Does my company have some unique advantage over the competition in our sector?
  • Is my company  participating in the latest and best trends in its space?
  • Is my company run by trustworthy and dependable leaders?
  • Do people pay my company on time?
  • Does my company pay its bills on time?

In short, would Warren Buffett invest in this company?

If your answer is “yes” to all or most of these, then proceed to the next level. You are probably not getting fired.

If the answer to a bunch of these is “no,” then I can pretty much guarantee your company is going to lay people off. It just will. It’ll cut costs and someone (maybe you) is going to get fired.

Pyramid Level 2: The Department

Is my department or function within the organization healthy? How to tell:

  • Does my department generate more money than it costs?
  • Is it integral to the strategic future of the company?
  • Is my department close to the revenue engine for the company? Translation: do we help create cash for the business.
  • Is it led by people who are trusted by executives?
  • Are the leaders directly tied into C-level leadership?
  • Is your department hiring?
  • Has your team been meeting whatever public, numeric performance measures management uses?

If you answer answer is “yes” to all or most of these, then proceed to the next level. You are probably not getting fired.

If the answer to a bunch of these is “no,” then it’s time to update your LinkedIn photo. If you’re in Austin, I know a great photographer.

Pyramid Level 3: The Team

Is my team a high performing team within our department? How to tell:

  • Does your team know accurate gossip and company news before other teams?
  • Is your boss on a path to be promoted?
  • Do other departments say nice things about your team during bullshit sessions?
  • Has your team been entrusted with a special or pet project lately?
  • Has your team been meeting whatever public, numeric performance measures management uses?
  • Does your team make or save more money than it costs?

If you answer answer is “yes” to all or most of these, then proceed to the next level. You are probably not getting fired.

If the answer to a bunch of these is “no,” then it’s time to get a new interview suit. I’ve heard Suit Supply and Knot Standard are nice.

Pyramid Level 4: Your Performance

Am I good at my job? How to tell:

  • If I quit, would it take more than 12 weeks to replace me fully? (Be honest.)
  • Is what I do aligned to the strategy of the company and how it makes money?
  • Am I trusted with special projects on a regular basis?
  • Am I relied upon to hit ‘unmissable’ deadlines when others might be equally qualified?
  • Have I suggested and then taken an initiative to a successful conclusion in the last 3 months?

If your answer answer is “yes” to all or most of these, then proceed to the next level. You are probably not getting fired.

If the answer to a bunch of these is “no,” then it’s time to print up some resumes. Have you tried thick linen paper? It’s nice.

Pyramid Level 5: Your Personality  

Do people like me? How to tell:

  • Do people come to me for help solving tricky problems?
  • Do people confide in me on their work issues and needs?
  • Do I get invited to do stuff outside of work by my coworkers?
  • Do I participate in stuff outside of work with my coworkers?
  • Am I friends on social media with my coworkers?

If your answer answer is “yes” to all or most of these, then you win! You are almost definitely not getting fired. You can probably ask for a raise.

Lesson 3: Things Change

Did you make it to the top of the pyramid? Awesome. Congratulations. Now go ask for more money….

… but not so fast.

First, put a reminder in your phone or something to go through the pyramid in 3 months and then again every 3 months for as long as you work in corporate America. Never forget that things change. Competitors make new moves. Bosses change. Technology changes. You and your performance change. The all star employee in the all star team at the all star company can get fired 6 months later. It happens, and more often than you think.

Conclusion

Hopefully this helps you know where you stand and not get fired.

If you’ve thought real hard and are pretty sure you’re at risk, don’t despair. There’s a lot you can do about it. We’ll discuss all those things in future posts, but for now take some simple advice – if you didn’t make it to the top of the pyramid, start thinking about how to get there, or start looking for a new gig.

Not tomorrow. Today.