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Nuggets of advice when looking for a job- by Renat Gersch

A visitor post by Renat Gersch, Soon to be Sr Product Marketing Manager at [24]

For most people looking for a job is not an enjoyable task. If you’re currently not employed, it’s even harder. A friend recently recalled, in frustration, the advice she is receiving “friends are telling me to turn lemons into lemonade, well I feel like they are squirting the lemon directly on my open wounds”. This feeling of vulnerability, loneliness in the process and frustration transcends job types, seniority or experience. While you’re in it, it’s a rollercoaster and it sucks – yes, I do speak from experience. For me, I turned a corner when I opened up, stopped worrying about my vulnerability and connected – talking turned out to be most helpful in progressing my job seeking journey. That hesitation to speak out, I hear it often from fellow job seekers: “should I open up about my search?”, “what if my employer finds out?”, “how will I be perceived?”. At the same time I heard many “a-ha”, “you too?” and “that works” moments, I’ve summarized nuggets of advice. Leave your comment – could they work for you too?

ENERGY. Check in with yourself, you might be at your most vulnerable. Your energy is the first thing others “meet”, so you have to carry positive energy and lots of it. Be mindful to take care of you and do things that make you smile. The energy from these activities will help you continue on your least favorite activity: job hunting.

NARRATIVE. Some resumes / Linkedin are a list of jobs and projects. If you are not adding your narrative and weaving a story of who you are based on your career history then you’re expecting others to have the time to figure it out on their own – and often they won’t. I elaborate on this topic in the blog: You are your experience! Or are you?

GRAB A COFFEE. “Have as much coffee as you can” was the advice I got, but I was riddled with self doubt and confused about my next steps, “am I really good at this role?”, “maybe I should do something else?”, “what would I discuss over coffee?”. To overcome, I narrowed down what I was confused about and framed it as a research statement – my learning. Then use the research statement as a guide to seek out networking opportunities. It’s easier to grab coffee with an old acquaintance to discuss the “broad spectrum of the product manager role and the part it plays in innovating” than it is to ask about open opportunities at their organization. It’s a good way to obtain answers and let your network know you are looking for opportunities. Find networking opportunities and meet with people, even if you can’t see how it will help. Say “yes” to all recruiters and all companies. Any practice is good practice. Let everyone help you.

DEFINE YOUR UNICORN. Work on your wishlist. Who are you, what do you want? What type of company?, what type of team?, what is important for you? You might not believe that you will get there and maybe you’re thinking I just need the job and I’ll take anything that comes my way. But despite those internal battles, think through what you want, so you can talk to it when asked and identify it when it comes your way.

GET DISCOVERED. Fix up your LinkedIn and add the keywords for the jobs you seek to your profile. LinkedIn is the most popular tool for recruiters to discover candidates. And today recruiter follow leads they obtain through discovery more than they follow up on resumes coming in from job posting. Hence it is also important to keep your LinkedIn active by connecting, liking, sharing and posting content within your area of expertise.

TARGET. Make a list of target companies, or target markets; Actively reach out to people in your network from these companies and seek informal interviews or internal connections with hiring managers / recruiters. People are incentivized to bring talent to companies so while they are helping you, you will be helping them too. Note: if you intend to reach out to your network don’t apply to that same job directly (they won’t get the referral incentive).

PRACTICE. Give it time. Just like an athlete practices, you also need to practice. Practice on companies you are less into, if you can. Learn from questions in interviews. Go deeper into those you couldn’t answer well. For example, the first time I was asked “who would I employ for my PMM team?” I was caught off guard and without an answer. Needless to say that interview didn't go well. But I reached out to my mentor and discussed what I had wanted to answer (if I didn’t have a momentary lapse of coherency at the most critical time 🙂 ), and it helped me articulate an answer that I believed in. I also used questions I came across to refresh my recall of past projects and the details around professional areas I may have not practiced lately. With 15+ years under the belt you don’t remember everything. Go through old folders and projects looking for nuggets you have left for yourself. Finally, don’t be afraid of assignments, complete them with love (right after you experience the annoyance), they get your muscles working.

MULTIPLE BOYFRIENDS. I have two friends who married the first guy they ever dated, the rest of us went on a bazillion dates until we found the one. The numbers game kicks in when you’re looking for a needle in a haystack – the one company that will be a cultural fit, will challenge you, will be within a growing domain, with a great boss AND is looking to hire someone like you. So when the first company is showing interest in you as a candidate, avoid the temptation to see only that one opportunity through. You need to increase your attractiveness in this game by opening many leads. You’ll increase your funnel by doing both – targeting through your network and applying online. If nothing else, applying online gives you more practice by reading job descriptions and summarizing your narrative in the cover letter. I didn’t say it is fun, but it’s practice and a source of leads.

PREPARE. Prepare for interviews. Put in the time. Get to know the company, competitors, recent press releases, etc. Look up the manager title and get to know the leaders, identify the things that make you want to work with this leader. Speak with people in your network that are related to the domain. Bring value to your interview. Do your best and be proud of your interview AND know that the company’s follow up is not necessarily linked to your performance or talent. There are so many reasons why recruiting processes come to a hold, or take long. You never know what’s happening on the other end: resources may have shifted, decisions changed – unfortunately you’ll be the last person notified. Hence the need to keep those leads coming.

INTERVIEW. As an interviewer himself, my better half insisted I add a comment about the interview. His key insight is that you need to turn the interview into a conversation, an exchange of ideas, you can challenge too. Remember when answering technical, professional or logical questions, your approach to answering is as important, if not more, than the answer itself.

CLOSE. Your aim is to get to a close, ie get an offer. The moment you have an offer at hand your attractiveness increases and you can use that offer to expedite the recruiting process with other companies too. If you can orchestrate getting several offers at the same time – you have a promising sales career too :).

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