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Landing a Job: What if Networking Doesn't Work?

By Marty Nemko

Alas, landing a job is more of a pain than ever. Sure, it's easier today to find on-target ads with sites like,, etc.

That very ease, however, means that good job openings attract hordes of applicants. But even I couldn't believe it when I heard that when the Tacoma Water District advertised a $17.76-per-hour meter reader job, 1,600 people applied.

Tough times require tough job-search strategies.

  • Walk in. If someone called you and said, "I have a baby here. Will you take it?" you'd probably say no, but if you opened your door and found a baby on your doorstep, you'd probably call the police or hospital so the baby can be helped. Similarly, if you show up on the doorstep of a couple dozen potential employers, at least one is likely to help you.
  • In responding to want ads, use a two-column cover letter. On the left side, list the major requirements listed in the ad and on the right side, how you meet the requirement. If you don't meet nearly all the requirements, don't bother answering the ad. If the boss wanted to hire an underqualified person, he would have hired his cousin Gomer.
  • Make them an offer they can't refuse: Offer to work for a week for free. If they like you, they agree to hire you. Or offer to work on 100% commission. Take charge of part of the interview. This is risky; assess the vibe in the room before trying it, but especially if it seems like the employer is looking for a take-charge person, ask, for example, if you might go to the whiteboard to describe how you'd proceed if hired.
  • Send more than a thank-you note. For example, you might include an outline of what you'd do if hired. I recall a candidate for a sales job who sent a list of 50 prospects at government agencies he'd pitch if hired. He was hired immediately.
  • Have someone call on your behalf. Ask your most eloquent advocate to call (leaving voicemail is okay) the hiring manager and say something like, "I hear Joe Jones is applying for the job as project manager. I want to let you know that I know him well and think he'd be a magnificent hire." (insert basis for that assertion.)
  • Develop a ten-second description of what you're looking for. No need to be super-specific if your career goal isn't. This is specific enough: "I'm looking for an office job in which people skills are key." Add to that an explanation of why if you're good, you're looking for a job--for example, "My employer loved me but I had to move because my wife just got transferred here."
  • Spread the word. Ask everyone who likes you for job leads. Puhleeze don't be embarrassed to ask. You're not asking for a handout; you're looking to give your time in exchange for fair compensation. Besides, in today's economy, nearly everyone will be looking for work at one time or another. And a high percentage of good jobs are filled not through want ads but through a referral.
  • Write a White Paper: That's a fancy term for a two-to-five-page term paper that would impress your target employer. For example, if you want to market fuel cells, write a paper called, "The Seven Keys to Successfully Marketing Fuel Cells." Just as you would in writing a term paper, get your not-obvious nuggets from journals, magazines, etc., which can usually be found easily using Google. Send your White Paper to target employers and post it on your site or blog.
  • Use the call-email-call-call strategy. Make a list of at least 25 (100 is better) target employers, whether or not they're advertising a job. Find the name of a person at each place of employment with the power to hire you. Don't know how to do that? Ask a major library's business reference librarian. Spend just a few minutes on Google learning about each employer.
Call your target employers after hours. (Call your least important ones first, so you get some practice before calling your top choices.) Leave your ten-second pitch plus a sentence or two more that would intrigue that employer--for example, "I just completed an internship and the employer said he'd love to hire me but there just were no openings." Add a sentence on why you'd like to work for that employer. Conclude by saying you'll be emailing your resume, cover letter, white paper, portfolio, proposal for something good their business can do, whatever. Email those as soon as you get off the phone.

If you haven't heard from them in a week, call (again, leaving voicemail if necessary) saying, "I'm Joe Blow, the aspiring (insert job target). Not having heard from you, I assume you're not interested but I know how things can fall between the cracks so I'm taking the liberty of calling to follow up. If you think it's worthwhile for us to get together, even if only to offer some advice on where I should turn, I'd welcome hearing from you. My number is (say your phone number twice.)"

If the person doesn't call, a week later, call one more time "Hi, this is Joe Blow again. I'm reluctant to make this call because I don't want to be a pest but I'm intrigued by the thought of working for you because (insert good reason), so I figured I'd take one more shot--perhaps you'll appreciate my persistence. So if you think it's worth our talking, even if just to offer some advice as to where I should turn, I'd welcome hearing from you. My phone number is (say your phone number twice.) And I promise, if I don't hear from you, you won't hear from me again!

Important: You must force yourself to not take rejections personally. Sure, try to see if you can make your pitches better but treat each rejection no more personally than if you pulled a library book off the shelf and decided it wasn't right. Another metaphor: Imagine I had a stack of index cards and on one, I wrote the word "job." I spread the cards out face-down on the table and said, "If you find the card with the word 'job,' you get a job." Even if you had to go through all 100 cards, wouldn't you do so without feeling rejected? You must make that your mindset when trying to land a job. A rejection or being ignored should generate no more emotion than when you've turned over a blank index card.
  • If someone else got hired, call the hiring manager. Say something like, "Of course, I was disappointed I didn't get the position. I'm confident I could have done a great job for you, but I'm not calling to ask you to reconsider, only that if for some reason the person you hired doesn't work out or another position comes open for which I might be well suited, I'd like to hear from you. I enjoyed meeting you and would welcome working for you."
You can integrate all this into what I call The One-Week Job Search:

Monday: Use ResumeMaker to create a resume and cover letter. Craft that ten-second pitch. Have an answer ready for the question you're most afraid they'll ask, for example, "Why have you been unemployed for five years?"

Tuesday: Identify 25 to 100 target employers, using the business reference librarian, if needed. Spending no more than five minutes on each employer, use the employer's site and a Google search to come up with one or two reasons why you'd like to work for that employer. Try to get the name of the person with the power to hire you, not Human Resources, which doesn't have hiring power.

Wednesday: Contact the 25 to 100 people in your personal and professional network who most like you and are most likely to have a job lead for you. Please remember that even someone you wouldn't think would have a connection for you and whom you haven't spoken with in years could give you a lead. That includes even LinkedIn and Facebook connections. Decide, for each person, whether it's wiser to email, phone, or meet with them.

When you contact them, show or email them your target list of employers and resume, give your ten-second pitch, and ask if they know someone you should talk with. If they have a connection with one of your target employers, ask if they'd be willing to set up a three-way meeting or phone call of introduction. Whether they do or not, ask if they'd keep their ears open for you.

Thursday: Use the call-email-call-call method to contact your target employers, where appropriate, invoking your contact's name. Or, where appropriate, walk in.

Friday: Answer ads for openly advertised jobs. Find them on your target employer websites, job ad sites such as,,, and, for federal jobs, Use the two-column cover letter.

Do that and, in less than a week, you'll have done all that may be necessary to land a job. If within a week, you haven't heard from a contact, use the follow-up procedure listed in the call-email-call-call method above.

There's no guarantee but the One-Week Job Search maximizes the chances of your landing a job well before you burn out on your job search.

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