Counter-intuitive Job Search Tips

The Counter-intuitive Job Search

When you catch a cold, your first instinct is to hop in bed until you feel better. That’s understandable and healthy.

How about when you find yourself out of a job?

Your first reaction to a job loss may be the same — lie in bed until it blows over. Yet, unlike a cold, unemployment won’t go away by itself.

Instead, you can get hired faster by going against your instincts, according to John Challenger, CEO of the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas (

“When you’re out of work, most people would just as soon not tell anyone. Their pride can be an obstacle. But in reality, you want everyone to know about your job search. Secrecy won’t produce interviews,” says Challenger.

So, your first task is to advertise the fact that you’re looking for work. Pride is irrelevant. (Think about it: Will pride pay the mortgage while you wait for a job to land in your lap?)

To advertise your job search, start with your spouse. “Your husband or wife can provide job leads through their professional and social contacts. If your spouse has a job where couples are invited to social events, you should always attend. Unexpected opportunities may arise as a result,” says Challenger.

So, never turn down a party invitation. “When you go where the people are, you can build relationships, touch base and let others know of your search,” advises Challenger.

That means you should attend as many weddings, dinners, and other events as possible. And be smart about it. Never buttonhole anyone for 30 minutes and force them to read your resume, for example. But do try to set up appointments for later, when you can sit down and talk business.

Speaking of social gatherings, here’s a creative way to take a “counter-intuitive job search” to the next level: Create your own job fair. By holding a special event, such as a cookout or holiday party, and inviting people of influence (managers, CPAs, sales professionals, et al), you can cultivate job leads.

“You learn about jobs by talking to people, and in a relaxed social atmosphere, you can build valuable rapport with prospective employers,” says Challenger.

Again, be smart. Don’t hand out business cards as guests walk in the door. But do try to set up two or three business meetings later with those who attend your event. Think like a politician — smile, talk to everyone and share your message.

Yet another tip: Never take a holiday from your job hunt. During the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s period, for example, it can be tempting to stop looking for work. You might think that no one is hiring. And you would be wrong.

“The fact is, employers are hiring all of the time. If there’s a need for workers, it doesn’t matter if it is the week of Christmas. And, while some hiring managers might be on vacation, many other decision makers are at work during the holidays,” says Challenger.

Job seekers who maintain or even increase their activity level during the holidays will likely be rewarded with interviews.

Final tip: When looking for work, don’t contact HR. Contact your future manager.

“Human Resources people rarely make final hiring decisions, unless the job is in HR. The heads of departments are the ones who determine when new people are needed, so it is critical to get their names,” says Challenger.

If you want to work in customer service, for example, find and contact the head of customer service. The best way to get that name is simply to call the company.

As always, use your head. Avoid telling the switchboard that your call is about a job, or you will be transferred to HR — a dead end. Just say that you want to write a letter to the head of the XYZ Department and you need the correct spelling of that person’s name.

Now, go out and make your own luck!

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