The Sensational Shift with Susan Bernstein, MBA, PhD
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Could You Be Unintentionally Fueling This Desperate Job Search Tactic?

Twice in one week, I received well-meaning, professional sounding emails from friends.

The emails made my skin crawl.

One of these emails said, simply:

photo-1448932223592-d1fc686e76ea“Dear Susan:

I am forwarding the resume of Chris JobSeeker, a hugely talented project manager, operations expert, and team builder. I’ve known him for 20 years, and he’s super smart, reliable, and hard working.

I’m reaching out in hopes that you know of a position that would be well suited for him in the Los Angeles area, or almost anywhere in California!  

I appreciate you taking a look at his attached resume. Please get in touch with him directly if you do have an opportunity. I have copied Chris here, so you can reach out to him. 

Together, I trust we’ll find Chris the right next career move

Thank you in advance!
Stella Friendly”

Aaaak! This strategy feels oh-so-icky to me.

Why am I diagnosing that this is a bad email?

It makes Chris JobSeeker look desperate

If this email is sent far and wide, it can potentially can ruin Chris Job Seeker’s reputation. 


Because Chris is putting it in the hands of others to figure out how to use his talents. He’s not managing his career.

He’s hoping and praying that someone else can figure out his career direction for him. Sorry, no one else is going to do that for him. Or for me. Or for you.

Sending an email like this might be an acceptable (if still non-strategic) job search approach when you’re in your teens or early twenties. Because you’re still trying to figure out “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

But with 20 years of work experience?

For heavens sake — don’t make someone else figure out how to use your talents. So what that you’ve been a project manager, an operations expert, and a team builder.

If I needed one of those, I wouldn’t hire someone who threw together a laundry list of titles they might fill, and had friends fish around for leads for them. No way.

If you receive an email like this, it’s not clear how you can really help

When I received this email, which had been forwarded by a well-meaning friend who knows that I hear about all kinds of jobs all the time, I scratched my head.

I had no idea how to help Chris JobSeeker.

Why not? After all, I’m a career and leadership coach. Shouldn’t I know what Chris can do?

No. Sorry. The thing is, Chris JobSeeker isn’t clear about the type of role he really wants.

So, am I supposed to read his resume and figure out what he wants? Given that I have limited time, there’s no way I’m going to read that thing and try to match what Chris has done with what he could do.

Besides, if Chris’ resume isn’t targeted for a particular kind of job, then it’s just a laundry list of past experiences. And a resume shouldn’t be created as a historical document. It’s a positioning document. 

A good resume shows only those stories that fit for a particular role. So unless Chris wants a job that’s pretty identical to one he’s had before, his resume is currently pretty worthless.

And if Chris wants a job that’s close to — or identical to — one he’s had in the past, why would he need someone else to find it for him? Can’t he do that for himself?

So this approach makes the recipients of these “spray and pray” emails feel pretty awkward. And unhelpful. Ugh. That’s icky.

What’s Dr. Susan’s potent remedy for Chris JobSeeker?

Prescription 1:

Chris needs to get clear on the kind of role he’s seeking. What skills and talents does he want to use? What problems can he solve?

Think about it:  A job is really a collection of skills, by a person, to solve a problem.

Until Chris defines how his skills solve a problem, he’s stuck.

Prescription 2:

Next, Chris needs to figure out who needs his talents. He needs to ask himself:  What kinds of organizations are struggling with the problems he solves?

If, for example, he makes operations more efficient, what companies in his area
have been having trouble manufacturing their products? Or getting services delivered on time? Or dealing with flaws?

Those are the organizations who can use Chris. He’ll find them by reading local business journals. Or talking to friends and asking about the kinds of problems their organizations are having being efficient.

Prescription 3:

Once Chris identifies potential companies who could potentially use his help, he can reaching out to specific people at specific companies to talk and share how he can help them.

He can find those people on LinkedIn, through a simple search, based on title (like Operations Director or COO) and location (within say 35 to 50 miles of Chris’ home zip code).

Then, he can reach out and say that he’s interested in talking to each of these people about their operations, and offer to share some novel guidance how to help. That gets him in the door.

He can have some questions prepared (like “Tell me about your biggest operations challenges,” or “What struggles do you wish you could eliminate or reduce?” )

Then, he listens, and keeps asking questions, until he has some ideas. He can share those ideas, and build rapport with the person. This flips the tables. Chris interviews others, rather than being interviewed. And he just may uncover an issue that has his name all over it…that turns into a job.

It’s a gutsier strategy than applying for jobs online, that’s for sure. But it’s also so much more effective for making connections, building confidence, and learning what issues companies are facing. It gets Chris out of the house and into the offices of people who can hire him.

What if you’re searching for a job, and you want to send a letter like Chris Job Seeker did? 

Look, I understand how tough it can be to search for a job.

You’re navigating the unknown, waiting and wondering when you’ll land somewhere.

But please, if you’re looking for a new role, don’t send a message like Chris JobSeeker’s.

Be more targeted. Be more personal. Be more likely to land a role you truly desire.
If you’re struggling in your job search, not getting the results you’d like, I’d love to help you develop a much more strategic and personalized approach.

Apply for a complimentary career consultation, and tell me what’s happening in your job search, so I can give you a fresh prescription for a job search strategy that will work for you.

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