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7 Steps Worth Climbing: How to Open a Career Door
The best way to introduce yourself to a company that doesn’t appear to be actively looking is to know the “What, where and how you can help the company”. I can give you a better-than-even chance to get the door to open to be able to introduce yourself, perhaps even create a job that is just right for you. It will take time and careful preparation, but it will pay a dividend.
Step 1 – Functional strengths: Begin by listing all your functional strengths across the top of a sheet of paper. Some examples of ‘functional strengths’ are, marketing, financial operations, research and development, information technology, engineering, strategic planning, recruiting, training & development, etc. Some people have several; some only one. List as many as you can.
Step 2 – Core competencies: Next, under each functional strength you listed, write down anything and everything it qualifies you to do: Qualifies you to do for any organization, not just those you may be considering today. Of course not every organization needs help in every area but it is good for you to know in any event what you have in your armory. To do this you need to think in terms of employers’ needs, not just in terms of your strengths.
Step 3 – Think like an employer: To think like an employer requires that you think in terms of solving problems and recognizing opportunities. For example, if “Marketing” is your functional strength, under it you might list Uncovering new markets; Identifying markets for new products; Finding new usage for old products; Improving internal/corporate communications; Stimulating client communications; Evaluating expansion opportunities; Stimulating sales; Writing brochures; Coordinating events, Community outreach, etc. as ‘competencies’ tied to your that strength and where problems and/or opportunities may be found. Hence, you are thinking like an employer.
Step 4 – The “big picture”: You will need to develop a big picture perspective for targeting employers. First, carefully review your experience and your interests, giving equal consideration to both. There may be experiences you have where you performed well but didn’t enjoy yourself. No sense focusing where job satisfaction will be lacking. Next, with an open mind review all your experiences trying not to lock yourself in to traditional position or industry boundaries. Take the “blinders” off … broaden the scope. For instance, your experience may be in the Pet Supply Industry but your “Marketing” prowess extends throughout “supply chain” or maybe it lay more in the program management and strategic planning side and tied less to a specific product category. Or perhaps you may enjoy service-oriented environments, organizing people and moving them forward smoothly and well. This may suggest other organizations. Maybe your perspective turns to the client-side suggesting a very different set of organizations such as ad agencies or associations, councils … or consulting firms, for example.
Step 5 – Targets: Once your have completed Step-4, you are ready to identify the types of companies most appropriate for your strengths, experiences, skill-sets and competencies, and you can begin to find the names and decision-makers of such companies, with the confidence that those you uncover are also those most likely to have need for someone like you. (This part can be accomplished with a minimum amount of Internet savvy). Once you have identified companies’ names that are likely to need you, and the decision-makers, you are ready to prepare your approach strategy. (If you already had a company or companies in mind, take the time to complete steps 1-4. The exercise is still invaluable for developing your personal introduction as an “individual solutions provider”).
Step 6 – Ready … Aim… MARKET! As you may already know from job searching experience, your initial approach should be a letter targeted to a decision-maker and written as if you had only that person in mind. Since you want to position yourself as an “individual solutions provider” and not a “job searcher” – one from the masses – a resume is not included. In place of the traditional ‘cover letter and resume combo’ you can style a letter that incorporates some of the language and elements of your resume. This is your Direct Contact Resume Letter, one of the more frequently used letters in job searching. This format is more likely to help you stand-out as an “individual solutions provider” and “sell” you. It will look something like this example letter:
Mr. Farley Ranger
444 Olde Mill Road
Port Hercules, MI 55555
Dear Mr. Ranger:
Anyone in our industry knows that a company like yours in today’s market is anticipating a period of rapid growth. This will require an outstanding effort on the part of its people. As an avid environmentalist and a small farm owner who has worked extensively in establishing and developing habitat in partnership with conservation services, and has helped to build an organization in the same industry, I believe I know something about what that will take.
Unless I miss my guess, your anticipated growth has probably created needs in a number of areas already, and I believe I can help. For example, you may need help in controlling the direction of the company so that your growth is smooth, profitable and lasting. Acquiring, training and motivating new personnel may be an area where you can use my help. Another may be shifting some of your administrative burden to give you more time for other pressing matters that an executive in your position may face; and there is likely more that you are considering at this stage where my help can give you an edge..
In addition, I led men and women in groups of 30 to 500, built teams and managed budgets in the millions of dollar as an officer in the United States Army for the last 20+ years; and working for the government I needed to be innovative in order to stretch those dollars for they were usually shy of what was needed for the objective. I also worked with foreign leaders often contrasting ideas for achieving the objectives and had to build consensus to accomplish the common goal. I have learned how government and bureaucracy work and know what it takes to make things happen.
Having recently transitioned out of the military I have returned home and I am interested in working with your company; and when I say that I believe I can help you, I speak with conviction that comes from having done it. I will call next week to see if we should arrange a meeting. A short conversation will no doubt tell us whether or not we have the basis for getting together. I look forward to it!
Step 7 – The Follow-up: When you call to follow-up on your letter you will likely connect first with an administrator. In preparation, call the company’s main number and ask for the name of the decision-makers administrator. When you call, use the person’s name and simple state: “Good morning, Ms. Smith. This is Rob Taub calling. I promised Farley Ranger last week that I would follow-up this week with a call. Is he in?”
When you get to the decision-maker, be direct. Your research told you that this is a company that has needs for your talents and experiences. You are not on the phone to ask for a job interview but to propose a mutually beneficial get-together: An opportunity. Reference the letter directly and ask for the meeting. If you encounter any resistance it will probably be something like this: “Can you tell me again why you are calling me?” or “Why I should be getting together with you?” Reference the letter and reel off about three or four key areas where he needs your help and quickly follow-up asking if he feels there’s any room for improvement, advancement, stepping-up… in those areas and when he replies “yes” (because there’s always room) you set the meeting. If the response is still negative – if you feel you hit a road block – you will need to employ strong telephone technique. Part of your initial preparation is to become familiar with telephone techniques. You can read my October 21st career advice piece “Overcoming Phone Phobia” at CAREEREALISM|Because EVERY Job is Temporary: http://bit.ly/4kGsak. You can also find other useful telephone techniques there and on other career sites.
In conclusion, many people assume that if a company isn’t actively looking then there is no job. It is the experience of many job searchers familiar with the steps listed here, that tells us otherwise. Take the time and carefully prepare and you, too, may say otherwise.
Rob Taub, MBA, CCM ( Credentialed Career Master) and CAREEREALISM Approved-Expert, is a 25-year veteran in the job searching and career marketing field, helping recent grads, young on-the-rise professionals, and mid- to senior-level managers and executives with individual job searches and career transitions. Rob is Principal at Job Search Corner www.JobSearchCorner.com and creator of the blog “Job Searching with Rob” www.JobSearchingwithRob.blogspot.com.