First Aid

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Navigating through the Evil Parallel Universe

In today’s tight job market, many project consultants are entering new territory – an Evil Parallel Universe where PMPs, .net Architects, and BI Specialists are not fawningly courted by employers and asked to ‘name your price’, a labyrinthine Netherworld where dark, narrow alleys leading to guaranteed assignments unexpectedly open to cul-de-sacs packed waaaay beyond the fire code limit with scores of consultants each holding more and more stellar resumes. It is indeed dark out there – and it’s time for extraordinary consultants to mount a full frontal assault in order to land even an ordinary assignment.

Warning: Those who follow their tried-and-true procedure for landing their next assignment will continue to return false-positives. It’s always worked before doesn’t work anymore.

Your job search is your job
Get up, change out of your PJs, OMG take a shower(!), and put in 8+ hours everyday – your job search is your new job. Perhaps you’re going to meetings – networking sessions, classes, interviews (fingers-crossed!), job fairs. Maybe you’re billing time creating or updating artifacts – resumes, LinkedIn profiles, Facebook profiles. It could be you’re doing analysis – searching for opportunities and applying online, reading articles on CareerBuilder. At this moment you work for yourself -- this is your new job and those who are successful will attack it as such.

Create a spreadsheet
Thank goodness for Excel, where you can track all the opportunities you’re working on. You’ll need columns such as job number, job title, job description, company, date applied, recruiter contact info, rate, any info you can gather about the hiring manager/department, and maybe some columns to note contacts, interviews, and notification that you were rejected. Make sure if you’re working with a recruiter that you get the internal hiring manager’s job number – yes, they really can give it to you – so that you can ensure that you are not granting permission for submittal to multiple recruiters. If you leave the house print this document and take it with you, in case you get a call while you’re out. Those who prefer more elaborate tracking can use MS Project. This job search is your Six Sigma Black Belt project, and you need to ensure your artifacts are up-to-date.

Be available, ready, and open
Give your cell phone number as your main number on your resume, in your applications, and to recruiters you’re working with – so that you’re always available when a hot iron strikes. Return voicemails promptly. Do your mental work upfront and be ready to agree to submittal when one is offered – know what type of opportunity you’re seeking, what type of rate you need. The recruiter doesn’t have time to negotiate and cajole – she wants to get your answer and either submit you or move on to the next equally qualified candidate. (Don’t expect to be able to call her back 24 hours later to accept – that open job has been closed to submittals and the hiring manager is working through 40 excellent resumes by then!) Be open to new ideas – when a recruiter asks you to reevaluate your rate or tweak your resume – do it.

Maximize your networking
It has never been more true – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. You can open an enormous can of network partners right from your desktop. Join and mine LinkedIn and Facebook. Flesh out your LinkedIn so that it is as full as your resume. Join groups on LinkedIn – former employer alumni groups are very good places to find former co-workers, or business or technical networking groups can lead you to new contacts. Update your ‘What are you working on?’ everyday, so that your name is constantly on connections’ minds. And connect, connect, connect – add connections and stay in touch! Join networking groups at churches, go to professional affiliation meetings and network there. Go to job fairs, if only to meet other people. Have lunch with former co-workers and share tips.

I feel like my postings are becoming more shrill and preachy as the weeks pass and the ticker tapes go lower. And I think I get this way because so many folks I’m working with are still in denial about our situation, or in some sort of that’s-not-for-me La-la Land.

Just to shed some light, if you find yourself wondering why your recruiters haven’t called you in a while, after you turned down the last two opportunities because the rates weren’t good enough, if you find that your two-hours per day job search tactics are not hitting pay dirt, you need to read this posting again from the top.