01 March, 2011

How To Get A "Co-Signer" For Your Job Search

Yesterday I told you why all these worries about how to hide your age, how to explain employment gaps or how to explain why you're currently unemployed or underemployed will melt away if you have a "professional co-signer".  I told you that a job seeker with a great resume is no match for a candidate with the right relationship. I told you that employers receive resumes from great candidates and still don't hire because they're waiting for a professional co-signer. I told you that if you have a professional co-signer you can skip the low percentage game of sending resumes and sitting for interviews leapfrogging over  terrific candidates who answered ads, sent resumes and sweated through through interviews.  I told you that, chances are, you're no more than two degrees from your next job; somebody you already know knows somebody who will give you your next job. In other words, somebody you already know is probably the professional co-signer you need.

Today I'll tell you how to get the edge that leapfrogs you over and past better-qualified candidates who lacked a professional co-signer.

And I'll tell you something else that may surprise you: the person who becomes your professional co-signer and helps you get your next job is probably not a close friend or relative. No, the person who co-signs for you is likely to be someone you don't actually know all that well. It may even be someone you aren't sure will help you. Why? It's simple math. If you're like most people you only have a handful of close friends or relatives who are rubbing elbows with employers but you might know hundreds of people casually so the person who ends up helping you get your next job is likely to be someone you don't really know all that well.

I want you to get a legal pad (you're going to be surprised at how much paper you'll need for this exercise) and write down one of your past jobs as the heading. Now, write down the names of every boss you had at that job, every co-worker you can remember at that job, every vendor you can remember at that job, every client or customer you can remember at that job and write down the names of anybody you can ever remember meeting when you worked there. If you knew the guy who owned the bakery across the street, write him down. My guess is you've already filled up a page.

Do this for each job you've held.

Now, write down the name of a professional association you belong to or a board you serve on or a charity you volunteer for. Write down the names of everybody you've met through each of these orgs.

Draw a little map of your immediate neighborhood. Would the couple next door like you you to lose your house and stink up the housing values on your block? Probably not - and if you're a good neighbor, your neighbors would rather take their chances with you than with some new neighbor who may play his music too loud so write down the names of the couple next door and the couple across the street and the couple at the mouth of the cul de sac who throw the block Christmas party every year. Where do these people work? What do they do? Who do they know?

By now, you have dozens of pages and hundreds of names.

Somebody on this list is going to say your name to your next boss.

But you have to help them remember to say your name.

Using every means at your disposal - Linkedin, Google, Facebook, even the old-fashioned phone book - start looking these people up and telling them you're looking for a job.

Only your pride will stand in the way of doing this. Don't be ashamed. Don't be embarrassed. You're not alone.

Even if you formed a consulting company with no clients and your Linkedin profile says you're the President at "XYZ & Associates" or "The ABC Group" make the call and tell the truth.

"Hey, Sarah, I hope you remember me, we worked together at Excess Capacity until we were laid off. I was the manager of the _______ department and since then I've done _________ and I'm looking for a job doing _______."

If your pride makes the first call hard, it'll get easier. After you've made a few of these calls and heard your old customers' and co-workers' stories you'll realize that a lot of good people are underemployed or unemployed just like you.

And when you make these calls, don't assume that the people you're talking to know what you did or what you'd like to do. Job titles sometimes don't help much. Start thinking about how to explain "Business Analyst" to someone who doesn't know what a "Business Analyst" is. Start thinking of how to describe the stuff you did since you last saw Sarah at Excess Capacity 10 years ago. Sometimes the reason old Sarah hasn't already dropped your name to a potential employer is because Sarah really doesn't understand what you do. We don't just work in boxes and cubicles, we work in "black boxes" where only a handful of people really know what we do. Start talking to the people on your list about what you did when you knew them, what you've done since and what you hope to do in your next job. be as specific as you can.

I got my first management job without submitting a resume because two guys were having a beer together at a hotel 200 miles away and one guy mentioned my name to the other guy. The guy who hired me had already received resumes from far better candidates than me but when his beer companion mentioned my name, the job was mine to lose.

I never interviewed for the job. I never submitted a resume but I got the job.

What a consultant once told me about the secret of success in the consulting business is just as true of job search: "Get people to say your name. Getting people to say your name is the Holy Grail."

A guy once gave me $26k in consulting business just because a guy I'd never met said my name.

Don't settle for "leads". Getting a lead for a job is almost no help at all unless the person giving you the lead also "co-signs" for you. Here are some of the ways one of those hundreds of people on your list can co-sign for you:

1. The co-signer hand delivers your resume to a hiring manager. I once got a job because a very good friend hand delivered my resume to the person doing the hiring.

2. The co-signer arranges a meeting between you and the hiring manager. This meeting could take the form of a Starbucks before work, a weekend cookout, a business lunch, a jog after work or any other means of making the introduction.

3. The co-signer sends the hiring manager an email introduction. This is not as good as a personal, face-to-face introduction but it's a thousand times better than a mere lead.

4. The co-signer makes a phone call to a hiring manager for you. This is better than an email but not as good as a face-to-face.

5. The co-signer sends your Linkedin profile to a hiring manager. The co-signer should replace the generic message with a personal message.

Remember what I said yesterday: there are hiring managers out there right now who are sitting on stacks of resumes from great candidates who haven't been offered the job because they don't have professional co-signers.

The candidate with a great resume is no match for the candidate with a relationship.

I told you how to make a list of your relationships. Somebody on that list knows your next boss. Ask him to co-sign.

People who have recently changed geographies (like Steve in Hampton Roads) or industries are at a disadvantage relationship-wise because all their potential co-signers might live in another state or work in another industry but you're still most likely to get your next job because you have a relationship the other candidates didn't have so start networking like crazy.

Somebody you already know knows your next boss. Start working that list and I wouldn't be surprised if you have a new job in 24 hours.

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