Have you ever thought about the way in which you conduct your job searches—or whether you are a reactive or proactive job seeker? You may have heard about being proactive versus reactive in your parenting style, such as when your kids make mistakes—or in your workplace, being proactive about problem solving in advance, before issues can even arise. This principle also has a valuable place in how you conduct your job search.
Being a reactive job seeker can mean that you’re passively looking for a position, applying only when a position of interest crosses your field of vision. But, the more applicable meaning is that you’re applying only to positions you see online—most likely on job boards or company websites; you’re reacting to (applying for) a position that is already posted.
What is Proactive Job Searching?
Being a proactive job seeker means that you’re scouting out opportunities before they ever grace a job board or company website. This can be accomplished in many ways and is primarily referred to as accessing the hidden job market. Proactive job searching can include networking online or off, informational interviewing, cold calling, targeting employers, creating a direct mail campaign, utilizing a value proposition letter, or simply reaching out to employers about potential opportunities before they become public knowledge. The idea is that, by incorporating these methods, you’re staying one step ahead of your competition.
The Advantages of Being a Proactive Job Seeker
– The ultimate advantage of being a proactive job seeker is that you limit your competition. You’re finding roles before they’re ever public knowledge—so instead of competing against an entire army of job seekers you may be the only candidate being considered, or maybe one of only five versus 500. That puts the odds very much in your favor.
– You’re saving valuable time that you would have spent scouring job boards—and loads of frustration too. It can be stressful and overwhelming to see the perfect position online, to know you’re the best candidate for the job, to apply … and then never hear back. Unfortunately, searching job boards can feel like you’re submitting applications into a black hole.
– You avoid the frustration. I hear from job seekers every day about the stress they experience when using job boards for their searches. That frustration inevitably turns into doubt and/or desperation as they start internalizing the lack of responses, and begin to believe that something must be wrong with them or their resumes. In reality, it’s typically not an issue with the person—it’s simply a numbers issue; when you’re one of 500 you tend to get lost in the crowd. No matter how much the well-meaning HR person on the other end of the applications means to choose the most-qualified individuals, after the 200th application, they can easily find themselves overwhelmed and inundated beyond their ability.
How Can I Become a Proactive Job Seeker?
To become a proactive job seeker you need to scout out opportunities before they ever become public knowledge. Once the decision maker shares it with someone else in the office or HR it ceases to become a “hidden” job. So how can you find these hidden opportunities?
– Reach out to companies you admire and want to work for. You can do this several different ways: connecting with current employees or decision makers on LinkedIn, finding out who you know that may already work there and asking for a referral, reaching out for an informational interview with someone who is in the role you would be interested in having some day and finding out how they got to where they are now. Or you could mail a copy of your resume and cover letter or value proposition letter to the company.
– Ask for information. Find someone you admire in a position you hope to have one day and ask to interview them for 5-15 minutes; ask questions about how they became successful in their role, what got them to where they are, what advice would they have for someone like you who aspires to be in their shoes one day. Most people will take the time to talk if you make it brief and are considerate of their time. You can ask questions in-person over coffee if you know the person well, or in today’s fast paced society you can try to arrange a 5-15 minute call or simply ask if you can send them three questions via e-mail.
– Write a value proposition letter. Value proposition letters have been proven in studies to have an 85% success rate securing employment in 90 days or less. If you’ve been job searching any length of time you know that’s a phenomenal success rate. When done correctly a value proposition letter can open doors that networking and resumes may never be able to. Check out this information on value proposition letters to find out more and to see an example of what one looks like.
– Create a targeted direct-mail campaign in which you generate a list of all the companies within your area that you’re interested in working for, put together a list of decision makers, and then mail them a copy of your resume and cover letter or value proposition letter. I’ve heard some amazing success stories from top executives who’ve used this strategy and secured employment in less than three months—which is pretty hard to do when you’re making $200K+ a year. There are fewer of those jobs than any other.
Being a proactive job seeker means you’re taking an active role in finding your next opportunity. Instead of sitting back and waiting for the perfect position to cross your path, you’re going out to find it. Not only can this be a more empowering and less frustrating position to be in, it also produces more interviews and offers in less time. For more information on the Hidden Job Market, check out my article Kicking Down the Door to the Hidden Job Market.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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