I wish a had a dollar for every time a military person complained during their job hunt about individuals in companies who don’t return calls, don’t respond to their letters or when they do, they take a very long time. A bit of advice, your job hunt is YOUR priority, not there’s. You come from a culture that expects and rewards efficiently, effectiveness, punctuality, and responsiveness. Not so in the private sector. There are many factors that go into making a hiring decision. Chief among them is, “Is this person a good fit for my company?”
Many years ago, I was recruited by a firm that wanted to hire me for a senior position. I was comfortable in my current job so time was on my side but I was still surprised that the entire process took over four months. During this time I was interviewed by line personnel, then managers, then directors, then senior management and only then did we get down to discussing position, responsibilities and salary. It took so long, I thought they had lost interest or changed their mind. Once hired I found out they didn’t have many former military personnel in senior positions and were not exactly sure what to expect. All the interviews were designed to see if I could fit in with their company culture where everybody from the janitor to the President was on a first name basis. Nobody in the company gave “orders.” The expected leadership style was persuasive not directive. Business attire was jeans, polo’s and flip flops for the programmers and business suits for the senior staff. Indeed, the company was an eclectic mix of people, talent and tasks. In such an environment, a bad hiring decision can create a great deal of tension and disharmony. After several years in executive positions, many of which I made my own hiring decisions, I found out that most companies hire slow and fire fast. The firing usually occurs when disharmony results from a bad hiring decision or revenues drop forcing reductions in line and staff.
The key to a successful job hunt is create a full calendar of events with several meetings, social calls, interviews and engagements. Start building a rolodex (do they still have those?) of contacts. Be friendly, outgoing, and knowledgeable and use the indirect approach. Don’t start the conversation like “Hi, I’m Bob and I really need a job.” Build a relationship, ask for referrals so you can constantly expand your network. Yes, they need to know you are looking but don’t ask for a job. Job hunting reminds me of drilling for oil. Many new wells don’t produce anything but if you kept at it, learning and refining your approach along the way, you would eventually strike it rich.
One last tip. How do you feel about landing a job in sales? Most people I know recoil when you mention sales. Guess what, when you’re looking for a job, YOU are in sales and YOU are the product. Successful sales people know and are passionate about their product. They are the true believers. If a salesman really isn’t convinced his/her product is the best, others will see this lack of conviction and he/she will not be successful. Similarly, if you do not believe in yourself and your abilities and you don’t present yourself professionally or seem disinterested in the position, you will not be successful.
A successful job hunt is a journey, not a destination. You will learn much along the way and you will get better at it as time goes on. Since you are likely to work for several companies over the course of your private sector career, you will get plenty of practice networking, preparing for and interviewing for new positons. Believe me, in time, you’ll get really good at it.
©Bob Ulin, Center for Transitional Leadership, July 2014