Running a “Questionable” Job Search: Part 1

I’ll admit it.  I’m not very mechanically-oriented and my few attempts to study computer programming were a dismal failure.  But if I had the means to invent a job-seeking robot, I’d probably program it to spend 24 hours a day chasing leads, contacting organizations, and boldly asking “do you know of any jobs I could fill?” to every person it encountered.

Real people, however, can’t be expected to demonstrate this type of fearless, laser-like discipline.  Unless you’ve got the world’s most hardcore sales personality, it’s likely going to be unproductive to try and focus your entire job search effort around “chasing leads” and contacting companies, cold, asking for interviews.  Most people would get burnt out on the process within days and/or be reduced to a quivering emotional puddle based on the amount of rejection that would likely result.

What’s more, as a great many succcessful job hunters have figured out over the years, the best way to turn up quality job leads isn’t always a straight line.  You can’t always go for the throat and hit people up directly for leads.  It’s statistically unlikely that the average person will happen to know about an immediate opportunity that fits you, after all, and all you’ll end up doing is shutting down the conversation in a hurry by leading with such a blunt yes/no inquiry.

So what’s the alternative?  To me, an effective employment search should not be focused entirely on pursuing job leads, in a pure sense, but also needs to be constructed around the notion of gathering data, conducting research, and seeking out answers to a series of relevant questions and knowledge gaps.  By asking the right questions, and researching them via both primary (web) and secondary (personal networking) channels, you’ll propel yourself into all kinds of situations where job opportunities — especially unpublished ones — are likely to materialize.

Think you don’t have any questions in need of answering?  That’s pretty unlikely.  It’s hard to even fathom a job hunter who isn’t wondering about at least a FEW things in terms of the market today, their professional field, or the ins-and-outs of the job search process itself.  You’ve just got to let your curiosity get the best of you.  For example, I routinely run across people seeking advice around questions like: What are the keys to writing a good cover letter today?  Will an MBA improve my chances of getting hired?  How do I combat perceptions that I’m overqualified?  How do I figure out which companies offer work/life balance?  Or what groups around town would be the best ones to network in if you’re a sales, accounting, engineering, or project management professional?

All of these examples — and countless others like them — are perfectly valid questions that a resourceful individual can get answered if they focus their efforts.  And the benefits of incorporating these kinds of questions into a job search effort can be:

1. They provide a concrete, short-term “deliverable” to focus your efforts around, each day
2. They lead you into fascinating conversations with exactly the right types of people
3. They provide a compelling reason for the people above to refer you to OTHER relevant folks
4. They lead you to appropriate books, blogs, websites, and professional groups related to your field
5. They give you a sense of ongoing achievement and progress that’s often missing in a job search
6. They make you look smart, resourceful, informed, and plugged in to appropriate people
7. The answers they elicit might inspire you or put your mind at ease about things worrying you
8. They help you compile useful data that might be of recipocal value on the networking circuit
9. They reduce perceptions that you’re a “victim” who isn’t taking proactive action to help yourself
10. They will force you to sharpen your networking and research skills, both vital in today’s world

For these reasons (and plenty of others I could gin up) I’m a huge proponent of the question-based job search approach — and again, believe it’s a lot easier for the average unemployed professional to wrap their brain around “going out to gather information” each day, versus endlessly “chasing leads” in a self-promoting manner that might not be comfortable for most folks.

So if you’re in transition, yourself, give some thought to the types of questions it might make sense for you to focus on getting answered in the near future.  What job search issue(s) do you have lingering confusion around?  What areas in your field or industry do you need to brush up on?  What information are you missing to improve your effectiveness or make better decisions from a career standpoint?  And who would be the right people, groups, or organizations to approach in order to get some great feedback on these questions?

Heck, one group of musicians even asked a simple question not that long ago, which you’ll find here, that generated a bazillion hits on YouTube and propelled them to global stardom… 🙂

3 Responses to “Running a “Questionable” Job Search: Part 1”

  1. (repost of comment I received via e-mail)


    First, thanks for all the great articles, ideas and encouragement you have put into your blogs in the years I have been enjoying them!

    One thought for the most recent blog “Running a ‘Questionable’ Job Search” is to add the component of finding a way to be helpful to each person you meet with as a means of ‘being of value’ to self and others while searching for employment. For me, it is the absence of being of value to others that is more draining and debilitating than is the absence of employment or a paycheck. I find the question, “Is there a way I can be helpful to you, or someone you are trying to support in a job search?” offered at the end of the information/networking interview usually gets us where we need to be, and leaves my networking partner with my (interest in) being helpful to others as the last thing about me they remember.

    My first contract training was over 20 years ago for an outplacement firm that I continue to support with Job Search workshop delivery when the need arises, so I hope my thanks and appreciation for the “rightness” of your blog advice holds the merit intended and deserved.

  2. Love the list of questions Matt – curiosity is a lost art and instigating conversations based on questions like this is a journey towards self realization and gaining wisdom. Thank you yet again for pointing out the obvious unobvious!

  3. Loved this Matt!!!! So insightful and great reminders. I’ve coached for 10+ years, yet I don’t have all the answers when it comes to thinking about my own professional next steps. So great to have you share your insight and inspiration to help me focus in!

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