Obstacles come, and obstacles go, but one thing remains the same: The road of life is never smooth for long. 

Much as we’d like a straight path from idea ▶to plan ▶ to action ▶ to result, it rarely seems to work out that way.

So we have a choice. We can bemoan all the little daily misfortunes that get in our way.

  • The recruiter who never got back to us.
  • The job listing for an entry level programmer that required 5 years of experience.
  • The online application that is asking for the exact same info we just submitted through our resume.

Or, we can just focus on the next action. 
 “You must build your life action by action, and be content if each one achieves it’s goal as far as possible-” Marcus Aurelius. 
Because no matter what life throws at us, if we step back and think clearly, there is always an obvious next step. It doesn’t have to be that hard.

Now, I don’t mean a final answer, or solution to the problem. I literally mean the next, small step in the process.

Just do that.

If we keep our focus on the very next step and simply doing that well- eventually, and perhaps without us even realizing it- we will reach our goal.

This is why having systems and habits is so important. If you are working a system the next step is always clear.

And the next step is all there ever is.

Want to know what the greatest gift in the world is?

Even if you can’t see it right now, you have it. 

Agency. The ability to act. 

You have it.

I have it. 

We all have it. 

But it gets even better because we do not just have the power to act, after all a rat has that, and last time I checked rats had not accomplished too many big life goals. (Unless you count the one from the Disney movie, Ratatouille? But I digress.)

You have something the 8.7 million other species on this planet don’t have.

The power to think, plan and then act. In all the world we alone are given this greatest of gifts. I might even go so far as to call it our duty and purpose as human beings. 

To act.

Acting with purpose to create the life we want is our raison d’etre. It’s literally what we are built for.

  > Don’t like your job? Act.
  > Sick of being out of shape? Act
  > Want to start a side hustle? Act.

When life gives you struggles don’t whine that the universe is against you. It’s not! It has given you the tools, you just need to use them. Get active in your own rescue. 

Break the problem down. Look into how others have tackled similar issues. Create a plan. Act. 

Need more convincing? I’ve hit this theme before.

READ: Career Building- 3 Reasons Small Steps Are Better.

Every single day take action that moves you closer to your goal. It doesn’t have to bear fruit today, next week or next month. But eventually over time, with consistent action we can and will succeed. Plant the seeds and then reap the harvest.

 After all,

“This is what we are here for.” -Seneca

Before we get started, if you are looking for a life hack or quick and easy fix, you can stop reading now.

There are proven strategies, but they are not a hack and they are not necessarily easy either. The 5 strategies just work. So if you are serious about your job search let’s get to it.

You must find a way to stand out in a crowded job search. If you’re not known for something, you won’t be known for anything.

Finding a job is a lot like dating — it’s about finding a match between two parties. And it’s not just about money, it’s also about helping the company meet a need.

Companies hire because of their needs.

You need to understand the emotional motivation behind the job opening. What problem is the company trying to solve? Then, position yourself to solve the problem.

The question you want to answer for the employer is “Why should I choose you instead of someone else?” Positioning is an important part of answering this question. You can’t be all things to all employers; you need to figure out what sets you apart.

What you don’t want to do is spin your wheels applying for dozens and dozens of jobs via job boards, and sending out resume after resume without a specific strategy behind them. There is a better way.

So what should you do? You should put the 5 secrets to landing an interview to work for you.

Let’s dive a little deeper into these 5 key strategies to help you take control of your job search:

Personal Branding

You need to create a personal brand that attracts the kind of employers you want to work with. Your personal brand plays a critical role in managing your career, much the same way a brand does for a business. Knowing what your unique brand is and how it helps you in your profession is critical to your career success.

Resume Targeting

Build a resume that sells you as a problem solver and gives you confidence in your job search (and gets through ATS). The people you are trying to influence with your resume are fundamentally no different from you. They want to be intrigued, better yet, they want to be inspired. When they have a position to fill they want to see applicants who jump off the page. 

Profile Design

Design a profile to get past LinkedIn’s algorithms and attract key decision-makers. Your profile is a marketing piece — not a biography. It’s not designed to outline your entire history. Instead, provide enough information to get people to connect with you. If your profile is like every other profile on LinkedIn, you won’t stand out, and you won’t be found as easily.

Networking

Increase your exposure to decision makers through targeted networking. Research consistently identifies networking as an important job search tool — anywhere from 40-80% of job placements are attributed to networking. Networking can also be a way to identify unadvertised job opportunities — accessing the “hidden job market.”

Hidden Job Market

Use proven job search strategies to tap into the hidden job market and lead to more interviews. The “hidden job market” is a phrase that describes job openings that are not publicly advertised. While not all of the jobs found through networking are accessing the hidden job market, almost all candidates who get interviews for unadvertised jobs do so through networking.

All of this is simple, but it’s not easy. You may want to consider help. When you make the decision to hire a professional, you’re not only investing your time and money, but you’re also entrusting them to articulate your personal brand and shape how you’ll position yourself in your job search. Personally, I take this responsibility very seriously, but not everyone does.

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Here’s 6 pitfalls to look out for when searching for a job search coach.

  1. They offer outdated advice. If they are talking about Objective statements, or 1-page resumes run, run far away.
  2. They don’t offer a specific outcome. It’s not about a resume, profile or brand alone. The point is landing an interview.
  3. They don’t used the tactics they teach. (If they only have 200 LinkedIn connections, steer clear.)
  4. They offer one and done service. Some people will take your info and write a resume, but they don’t allow for rewrites or tweaks and they provide no feedback or possibility of individual guidance.
  5. Some job seekers confuse being busy with being productive. They seek out advice, which is good. But they seek out all the advice, which is bad. Listening to too many gurus at once will leave you running in circles.
  6. Don’t choose based on the cheapest option. According to a recent study, recruiters value candidates with professionally written resumes to be worth up to 10% more and were more likely to secure interviews, land a new job sooner, and advance their career faster. Is this an investment? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Like most things, you get what you pay for.

Bottom line? Don’t go it alone. It doesn’t have to be me, but find an expert you can trust.

So now you have a choice to make. Are you going to keep doing what you have been doing and hope for the best, or are you ready to level up?

OK, if you made it this far you have earned your freebie. I am offering a free, 5-point, in depth review of your current resume to give you a sense of where you stand. Many professionals charge up to $300 for this type of review. This is a complimentary service I offer to people who are serious about their job search.

Email me your resume and I will focus on 5 key areas:

  1. Branding Statement
  2. Competencies
  3. Work History
  4. Education
  5. Overall Format

I’ll also include a sample of my work to give you a sense of what we could build if we decide we are a good fit to work together on this.

So who is this for?

  1. Do you have 5-10 years of experience and are looking to grow?
  2. Are you exceptional at what you do?
  3. Are you willing to invest in your career?

If you answered yes to these questions, then this is for you!

Here’s what others have said about working with me to level up their sear using the 5 key strategies. 

Email me your current resume today and take that first step.

The Hail Mary pass with only seconds left on the clock-

The game winning home run-

The product launch that goes viral-

These are the things we dream about. But note, none of these big, dramatic actions are possible without a lot of smaller steps over time.

When I first started my resume writing business I thought my shiny new website and a few Google ads would lead to an overflowing of clients. I thought that one big action would lead to success.

I was wrong.

Building a successful business meant a lot of small steps. (Learn social media, create consistent quality content, build a client list, engage, engage, engage, write quality resumes, ask for referrals.)

Needless to say the above list is not a description of overnight success; it is a recipe for slow and steady growth over time. The same will be true for you no matter what your career.

Building a career requires many small actions executed over time, not any one big action. Here are three reasons why.

1. Big plans without checkpoints are doomed to fail. 

It is good to have a dream and to keep your eye on the end goal. But if you don’t have small checkpoints along the way you won’t be able to measure progress or make course adjustments.

If you want to achieve your dream in a year, create monthly benchmarks. Have a five-year plan? Then use six month benchmarks.

2. Small successes feed big dreams. 

There as psychological benefits to each small success you make along the way. Think of the last time you were on a diet. If you wanted to lose 20 pounds in six months, you would weigh yourself each week and get pumped as the scale moved in the right direction.

If you only weighed yourself at the end of the six months you may not have had the will power to make it through. Stack the deck in your favor.

3. Small steps guarantee success.

Not every dream comes true. Some of your big goals will remain un-reached. However, if you plan and measure the small steps along the way then you are guaranteed to have at least a few small successes. These will then help you plan better for the next big goal.

Just keep moving forward.

So what is your big dream? How can you break it down to guarantee yourself success?

If your big dream is to land a new job and grow your career I recommend reading this first.

I remember once, back in the early 90’s, right after I got out of college, my future wife and I got to pre-screen a film. I forget how we ended up getting the invite but as movie buffs we felt pretty lucky to get the chance to see a film well before its release date, and tell the producers our opinions.

The film was The Crow and it starred Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son, who had tragically died during the filming, much as his father had 20 years earlier. It lent a certain weight to the whole experience.

To make a long story short, we loved the film, said so, and then watched two months later as the film became a hit. Alas, that was the end of our journey as gurus to the film industry.

The Crow is a very dark story, and fairly violent, but it had a hauntingly beautiful song that played a recurring role, titled ‘It can’t rain all the time.” It served as a reminder to one of the main characters that while things were pretty horrible now, that the sun would eventually come out and things would eventually improve.

It always reminded me of the quote, “This too shall pass.” It is a simple thought, that contains deep reservoirs of meaning and is something I actually bring to mind often.

  • When work is piling on and I can’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • When we suffer one home mini disaster after another.
  • When the kids seem to be double-teaming us parents and we’re down to our last frayed nerve.

It’s a useful reminder that no matter how tough life may seem at the moment, that the page will turn and a new season will come. When we are in the middle of a pandemic storm in our lives it is often hard to see that, so we need to be reminded. For me, that reminder comes from a now forgotten action movie’s title song. Maybe for you it is scripture or a saying of a favorite teacher.

Whatever it is, try to make it something you can look to when the going gets tough.

Jobseekers in particular need this kind of reassurance that the struggle they are going through will not last forever, that there is in fact light at the end of the tunnel. If you’re currently looking for that next step in your career and you are either enduring a dead end job, or are trying to make ends meet while unemployed, just remember it can’t rain all the time.

Eventually the sun will come out for you, too.

 
Ever since I was a kid I have had a fascination with George Washington. If I think back to childhood I think it all started with a humble plaque situated in the center of my home town announcing the passage of Henry Knox through town on his way to General Washington’s encampment. Or maybe it was the fact that the great man himself once spent a night here at one of our old inns. Living in Massachusetts, historical reference points to the Revolutionary War are not in short supply, and of course General Washington is always a highlight.
 
Regardless, my admiration for him has only grown the more I have aged and  read. Washington, A Life by Rod Chernow is probably my favorite biography, and in it he goes into quite a bit of detail into the events surrounding both his relinquishment of power at the end of the war and of his refusal to serve more than two terms as president. 
 
Of course Washington wasn’t the first leader to step away once the need for his leadership had abated. Washington himself was often called a modern-day Cincinatus by his peers. Cincinatus was a Roman statesman whose service as consul in 460 BC and dictator in 458 BC and 439 BC made him a model of civic virtue because he too gave up near-absolute authority with the end of each crisis. In fact he has often been cited as the prime example of outstanding leadership and service to the greater good.
 
This concept of leadership as stewardship, the idea that those in charge have a duty to serve those who follow, is the central premise of a new book by Simon Sinek,  Leaders Eat Last. Sinek makes a powerful case that the Jack Welch-style chasing of short term profits at the expense of long term stability does irreparable harm to those companies. Instead he claims that companies that offer their employees a degree of safety and a sense of purpose are the ones that will win out in the long run.
 
Sinek’s Premise

[W]hen a leader embraces their responsibility to care for people instead of caring for numbers, then people will follow, solve problems and see to it that that leader’s vision comes to life the right way, a stable way and not the expedient way.

Sinek structures his book using multiple anecdotes and examples from both the corporate world as well as the military, which seems to represent his ideal in terms of leadership structure. While this tactic does occasionally lead him down rabbit holes that serve to showcase his political leanings, it nonetheless proves an overall effective means to get his message across.

 
Sinek’s Proof
 
Many times throughout Leaders Eat Last Sinek contrasts the definition of managers with that of leaders. In his view our business schools are churning out effective managers, but not true leaders. Managers are concerned with numbers and markers, where as leaders are concerned with people.

According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2013 called “State of the American Workplace,” when our bosses completely ignore us, 40 percent of us actively disengage from our work. If our bosses criticize us on a regular basis, 22 percent of us actively disengage. Meaning, even if we’re getting criticized, we are actually more engaged simply because we feel that at least someone is acknowledging that we exist! And if our bosses recognize just one of our strengths and reward us for doing what we’re good at, only 1 percent of us actively disengage from the work we’re expected to do.

More:

It is not the demands of the job that cause the most stress, but the degree of control workers feel they have throughout their day. The studies also found that the effort required by a job is not in itself stressful, but rather the imbalance between the effort we give and the reward we feel. Put simply: less control, more stress.

Clearly, employees want a relationship with their leadership. Time and time again he gives proof showing that companies that buck the management trend, and instead trust employees and essentially provide them cover to experiment,succeed to a greater degree over the long term.

Sinek spends a lot of time on this idea of leaders as protectors, keeping their employees safe.

Truly human leadership protects an organization from the internal rivalries that can shatter a culture. When we have to protect ourselves from each other, the whole organization suffers. But when trust and cooperation thrive internally, we pull together and the organization grows stronger as a result.

More:

When the people have to manage dangers from inside the organization, the organization itself becomes less able to face the dangers from outside.

This of course makes complete sense and it is a wonder that more companies do not follow this model. When employees have to spend their entire careers watching their backs, hoping to make it through the next set of layoffs (that are only made to satisfy the short term needs of investors, not the long term health of the company) it is no wonder that toxic and unproductive work environments abound.

Finally, Sinek drives home the point that those who lead well, lead not for privilege, but to serve. He relates the story of an Under Secretary of Defense who spoke at a large conference and revealed that the previous year, when he was still an under secretary, he was flown to the conference in business class, escorted to his hotel room, and treated to a cup of coffee in a ceramic mug.  Now, as a civilian, he flew coach, drove himself , and poured himself coffee into a styrofoam cup.

‘It occurs to me,’ he continued, ‘the ceramic cup they gave me last year…it was never meant for me at all. It was meant for the position I held. I deserve a styrofoam cup. This is the most important lesson I can impart to all of you,’ he offered. ‘All the perks, all the benefits and advantages you may get for the rank or position you hold, they aren’t meant for you. They are meant for the role you fill. And when you leave your role, which you eventually will, they will give the ceramic cup to the person who replaces you. Because you only ever deserved a styrofoam cup.

This is a point in which both George Washington and the famed Cincinatus would wholeheartedly agree. If you are a CEO, mid-level manager, or a simple shift supervisor, you could do worse than incorporate some of the ethos of  Leaders Eat Last into your leadership style.
 
*****

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Part 2 of a 4 part series. Part 1 here.

So how do you tap into the hidden job market? By having the right key. Because opportunities are filled both through employee referrals and recruiting, you will want to cover both bases.

Accessing the hidden job market works best when you have a clear target in mind — either a specific job title or, even better, a specific list of companies you’d like to work for.

There are basically three ways, or keys, to access the hidden job market:

•     Connect with someone at the company through your network (either an employee who can refer you or a hiring manager or a recruiter who works for the company).

•     Contact the company directly about exploring unadvertised opportunities.

•     Be visible enough in your industry or field to be contacted by a prospective employer.

Here are some specific tips for jobseekers looking to tap into the hidden job market:

•     Let your network know you are looking for a new position. While this can be difficult if you are conducting a confidential job search, it’s important that the people you know think of you when an opening comes up.

•     Following the advice of author Harvey Mackey, “Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.” Having a large network of contacts pays off when it’s time to look for a new job — particularly when you want to tap into the hidden job market. Keep in touch with your former colleagues and bosses. Build your LinkedIn network by connecting with people in your field — but also by adding folks you know from everyday life — the other parents you sit with at your child’s karate dojo, the members of your recreational softball team, your neighbors, etc. All of these can potentially help you tap into the hidden job market.

•     Help others. “Give to get.” Zig Ziglar famously said, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” Keep your ears open about unadvertised openings and help connect those in your network to these opportunities. This type of assistance is often reciprocated. Cultivate relationships with peers in the industry. These connections at other companies can pay off.

•     If there is a particular employer you are interested in working for, consider approaching the company directly. When approaching a target employer directly, research the hiring manager and see if there is a mutual connection you can approach to make the introduction. Focus on expanding your network until you connect with someone who works there. Ask him or her to keep you in mind for unadvertised opportunities — or even pass along your resume right away, even if there isn’t currently an opening.

Part I of a 4-part series.

You may have heard the term “the hidden job market.” What is it, and how do jobseekers get access to it?

“Hidden job market” is a phrase that describes job openings that are not publicly advertised.

There are a variety of reasons why a company would not publicly post a job opening.

•     The cost of advertising an open position can be substantial.

•     They don’t want to be overwhelmed with applications.

•     A new role is being created and they are unsure of the qualifications of the ideal employee.

•     They are replacing an existing employee (who doesn’t know they are being replaced).

Most of these job opportunities are accessed through referrals from current employees of the company. It’s estimated that 60-80 percent of jobs are found through networking. While not all of the jobs found through networking are accessing the hidden job market (after all, your friends/family/acquaintance network can help you access interviews for advertised opportunities too), almost all candidates who get interviews for unadvertised jobs do so through networking.

Current employees can be an excellent source of candidates. Particularly if the company has a strong workplace culture, having existing employees identify prospective candidates can help ensure solid candidates are encouraged to apply. Some companies even reward employees — with cash or gift cards — for recommending a candidate who is eventually hired.

Employee referrals provide an advantage for the jobseeker too. Employee recommendations can carry great weight. Plus, there is less competition for job opportunities accessed through the hidden job market than for openly advertised opportunities.

Being referred by a current employee may also mean that your application is set apart from the typical internal processes that most jobseekers have to navigate — such as an applicant tracking system for online applications.

Recruiters are another source of unadvertised positions. An employer may choose to work with a recruiter to fill a job rather than advertise it publicly. The recruiter sources job candidates, screens prospective hires, and sends the hiring manager a handful of handpicked candidates. This saves the company time and money. In many cases, when working with a third-party recruiter, the company only pays the recruiter if a candidate is hired, and only if he or she stays for a specified period of time (say, six months).