As part of my executive search practice I am sometimes referred candidates early in their careers who could use a bit of mentoring and guidance concerning their job search activities. It is often a challenge to attempt to recall what it was like to be a 20-something young person, as I strive to alter the guidance I provide vs. that which I might offer to a senior executive far along in their career.
A client recently referred me just such a candidate – a young woman who had lived in Phoenix once before, and had just relocated back to town. She had a common objective: to find an entry level marketing or sales department-related position with a dynamic growing company. A couple of weeks into the search she was finding it slow going, perhaps because of the economy, perhaps because the competition is tight for these jobs, or perhaps because she was doing something wrong – or not doing enough of the right things in the first place.
As I attempted to determine what might be the right solution to accelerating the pace of her job search, I discovered a dream on her part to pursue a career related to the music, clubbing, clothing, or entertainment industries, along with a reasonable amount of experience in those areas. We decided to tackle the intellectual challenge of mapping to her objective the job search processes which I know and promote to my executive clients.
We started with a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats):
- Strengths: Good presence, entrepreneurial and self directed, good communication skills, wide ranging work experience including admin, teaching, marketing, on top of experience working freelance in music and at fashion events.
- Weaknesses: No four year degree, no solid theme to the work history.
- Opportunities: The industries she is interested in are growing and underdeveloped locally and regionally, presenting lots of ground floor opportunity.
- Threats: New to the area with few personal contacts, arriving at the start of summer, local real estate downturn has cast a slight pall over the general job market.
This is a classic challenging situation in the sense of needing to generate momentum from a cold start, with no network, in a slow season, during a slowing economy. The good news is that great ‘opportune moments’ often look just like this, hence there could definitely be a pony under there somewhere!
The solution has several pieces to it:
The target market and list of companies must be large enough that the candidate can generate lots of activity without running out of people and companies to contact. Second, she must expect that this will require a long term effort that will extend past the first job gotten, hence she needs a back-up plan (a less than perfect job that is a good steppingstone nonetheless). In addition, she will need a ‘story’ about her own independent shingle or company through which she can freelance on the side.
In effect, she is actually conducting a search at three levels all at once: (1) looking for the ideal job in the targeted market, (2) looking at backup jobs, and finally, (3) pitching her ‘after hours’ or ‘until I get a full time job’ story (which in this candidate’s case will involve promoting or staffing events, promoting musical acts, etc.).
Next, a very compelling set of collateral materials is needed, both to add to the great impression she will be trying to make, as well as to make it very easy for one individual to pass along information about her to others (personal viral marketing). The more exciting and unique the collateral material is that is created, the more it will be passed along.
The last key ingredients are opportunities (jobs), and sources of opportunities (companies and people), and a plan for pursuing them.
For Plan A, which would be aimed at landing the ideal targeted job (in this case aligned around the clubbing, and related lifestyle and consumer markets), I would see targeting companies and opportunities in the following categories:
- Print publishing
- Music industry
- Film industry
- Event production & management
- Club, bar, restaurant industry
- Tattoo retailing
- Professional athletics (teams & venues)
- Luxury retailing
The reason for selecting this specific set of industries involves a fit between the priorities and hot buttons in those businesses with the candidate’s strengths around representing products and brands in-person, her personal style and confidence, and comfort level around the customer demographic pretty common to each.
On the ‘Plan B’ side, I would target more traditional jobs in administration and reception, or supporting marketing and sales somehow, with a name recognizable company locally which will at least add to the general credibility of the resume, as well as potentially leading to good contacts through co-workers.
Personal Entrepreneurial Venture
For this candidate especially, because her goal is to eventually have her own independent business, now is the time to fully launch and promote an independent ‘shingle’, with a business card and blog if possible, which will act as her personal ‘brand platform’, used to enhance her appeal on all fronts. The premise and story should line up as being anything freelance, independent, or part time which is similar to the full time jobs being pursued, in some way.
The items which one needs to develop range from fairly minor, like your email signature, to more substantial, like a video bio, and in the aggregate are aimed and presenting a sense of being someone who has covered every base intelligently, and without overdoing it. In this case certain items (ex., photo) are recommended specifically because of the target markets in this scenario.
- Professional voicemail recording
- AZ US Mail address and phone number
- Email signature
- Traditional resume in PDF
- Creative resume in PDF
- Online resume
- Video resume or bio
- LinkedIn profile
- Facebook profile
- MySpace page