Posted by Brian McCullough
This is a Job Search January post.
A job search is a complicated and time consuming business. Sometimes your goal is simple: you know exactly the job you’re looking for, so there’s not a lot of “search” involved. It’s all a matter of getting your face in front of the person who does the hiring for that position.
But more often than not, it’s a job “search” because you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. You know you need a new job, but the who, what, where and which job questions are wide open. It’s this sort of job search that can become chaotic. The choices are overwhelming.
This approach gives your job search organization and focus
Nowadays, people in this sort of situation just hit the job boards and carpet bomb their resumes everywhere they can think of. This is one of my problems with using the job boards as your primary job search tool. They make it so easy (A click of a mouse and your resume has been sent out 200 times! Surely one of those resumes will get a response!) that you get fooled into thinking 10 minutes of job search activity is sufficient.
This is a very counterproductive job search method. If you’re managing 200 applications, you’re not really focusing on any one of them. In addition, have you given 200 different positions any thought at all? A successful job search is about research, focus and a careful consideration of your qualifications and chances. You need a strategy, not a roll of the dice.
So, instead of the scatter shot method above, why not consider employing a strategy I’ve been suggesting to my clients for years?
It’s called the Rule of Thirds.
No, this has nothing to do with photography.
The Rule Of Thirds
The basic concept is a simple one. You need to bring some sort of organization and cohesiveness to your job search. So what you do is divide the positions you’re looking at into three categories and focus of these one set at a time.
- The first category represents jobs you think are probably outside your league. These are the jobs you run across that make you say, “Gee, I’d love to have that job. In another life maybe.” They’re jobs you’re not quite qualified for, or positions at companies you’d love to work for but don’t think you’d be able to stand out from the competition. In other words, these are the dream jobs.
- The second category covers the jobs you think you can probably get. These are the most likely candidates, maybe not as glamorous as category-one jobs, but perfectly respectable. These are jobs you’d be happy to have and jobs you are pretty sure you could qualify for easily.
- The third categories are random jobs. I mean, completely random, out-of-left field jobs that you stumble across and think, “Why not?” Maybe you’re qualified, maybe not. Maybe they’re outside your career field even, but hey, they’d be fun.
So what I would tell my clients to do is bring me three jobs that fit each category… a total of 9 jobs. Then, we’d sit down and evaluate them and apply to each one. We’d agree on a period of time to wait for responses (24 hours, 72 hours, a week… all depending on the situation). The key would be, the job searcher wouldn’t apply to any other jobs until the time period was up.
Sometimes if time was an issue, we’d select only 3 jobs (one from each category) or even 15 (five from each category) but never more than that.
Why This Works
This method always seemed to be unusually successful. I think the reasons are twofold…
The Rule of Thirds gives you discipline
Firstly, the three categories give structure to the job search. This method has a set of purposes and goals, instead of the mindless lets-play-the-numbers approach of carpet bombing your resume 200 times. The three categories are each balanced to allow for taking a chance, playing it safe, and random chance. Don’t underestimate the random approach of category three. As in love, there’s a lot of serendipity to the job search, and you should always allow for that.
So the three category approach gives your job search focus… a game plan that is still wide open and flexible to fit several different kinds of opportunities. But secondly, the Rule of Thirds also gives you discipline.
The very act of selecting and categorizing the openings forces you to give each position greater consideration and scrutiny. In addition, forcing yourself to wait a given amount of time allows you to think about each job and really suss out potentials and strategies. By forcing my clients to wait, I found that they’d done more research on each company/position in the intervening time. They were often better prepared, and sometimes had even taken the time to find other avenues of applying, such as walking in and applying in person.
The modern job search approach of pointing and clicking is impersonal. No job opening is anything more than a mouse click different than another. You’re just another faceless application to the employer; and the employers are just another name on a list to you. The Rule of Thirds approach slows you down enough to make it more real.
So, give it a try and let me know your results. Don’t be afraid to tailor it to your own situation. If you’re skeptical, try it out with only 3 total jobs at first, one for each category. Maybe try varying your focus time limit… sometimes wait a day and sometimes wait a week.
If you try this and have any feedback, let me know in the comments.