Friends and Family in Career Doldrums? Five Tips That Will Help

by E. Stuart

Jane S. Howze, Managing Director of Alexander Group : "All of us have friends, family or co-workers who just seem unable to find that next position. Although The Alexander Group is not on that side of the placement business, we have counseled untold numbers of executives seeking jobs – more so in this downturn than at any time in my 30 years in executive search. Here are five tips you can offer your friends that will make you seem like the guru of career counseling."

1) Re-evaluate your resume.
Ask friends, especially those who are in human resources or any type of writing field to critique your resume. It is very difficult to do your own resume. Remember that a resume should show how you made your company a better place. I’m interested in a resume that shows me not just duties but quantifiable achievements. If you have a broad background you may need more than one resume depending on the position for which you are being considered.

2) Use LinkedIn.
LinkedIn is a tremendously important tool for many career related purposes: getting new business, checking references, following particular companies, locating people from your past. Many think that it is enough to be registered on LinkedIn. Not so. Anyone seeking a new position should have a picture, fully completed profile and be aggressively adding contacts. We recommend spending a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour every day reaching out to potential contacts that include both search firm professionals, past and present business contacts, former managers, classmates, friends etc. Additionally, seek a couple of recommendations and join alumni groups of your schools or corporations. Spend time examining the connections of your contacts. Is there someone who is friends with a contact of yours who could possibly help you? Use Google to find articles on how to use LinkedIn in your job search. If your job seeking friend can’t do all of the things mentioned above, they are running a race blindfolded.

3) Understand what recruiters can and cannot do.
Most people misunderstand what recruiters and executive search professionals can do and can’t do for them, especially retained executive search firms. We hear complaints that the job seeker called Korn/Ferry, Russell Reynolds – and any other retained firms you can name – who refused to meet with them. All retained search firms are stretched pretty thin since the layoffs of 2008. Thus recruiters are focused not only on their existing client work but keeping their own jobs by trying to bring in new business. Given a choice between meeting a prospective client, an existing client, or a job seeker, most of the time the job seekers come last. If your company had a relationship with a search firm before you were unemployed the above should not apply. Search firms are interested in relationships and if you have given a search firm searches, don’t hesitate to ask them for help reviewing your resume and introducing you to other partners in their firm. They owe you. If a retained search firm has helped you, don’t thank them by referring all of your other out of work friends to them. You thank them by telling them that once you get a new position they will get your first search.

4) Be your own headhunter.
Encourage your friends to embrace introspection, research and responsibility. If you could design your own position, where and what would it look like? Can you think of specific companies that attract you? Do you know anyone at these companies? Some will say “I just want to get back to work again”. But if you are not working, why not spend time thinking and researching what type of company would be a fit for you. After all, who knows what makes you happier than you? Job seekers must assume responsibility for their job search at least in terms of being clear of what they want. Don’t assume a new position will fall in your lap. Do not be afraid to send your resume directly to the president or board member of the company. It may be better received coming from you rather than a recruiter.

5) Don’t get discouraged.
Because of existing market conditions it is hard not to get discouraged, believe that your networking efforts are not working or worse, take the rejection personally. As an old riend said to me “there have never been two winters in a row.” Nothing lasts forever – including your current job stress. The only constant in our life is change and this challenge will also change. Think of flowers/leads may bloom. With bad weather conditions (think the economy), maybe only one flower/lead will bloom. But this does not stop you from continuing to plant the seeds or making contacts because it only takes one and the next contact you make may be the one. Ask for help—both personally and professionally. Many find it hard to reach out and say “I’m struggling and getting despondent.” They think it denotes weakness. Force yourself to reach out to friends for reinforcement and encouragement and vow to yourself that you will give to others. You cannot get what you don’t give.

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