Never Apply Cold

The approach of applying for dozens or hundreds of jobs doesn’t work. Not sure it ever really did, but especially not now when it’s so easy for people to apply for jobs. It’s even more true for professional jobs. Every posted job gets literally hundreds of applicants, all of which promptly get ignored. Never apply cold.

A far, far, better approach, and the only one that really works for most available jobs, is using your network to get referrals. Hiring managers hire almost exclusively from trusted referrals and/or people they already know. In these cases, resumes become a formality, and often unnecessary. So, rather than applying for more and more jobs, you need to target a handful of specific companies and do (virtual) informational interviews that can transition into referrals.

Traditional networking is hard right now. However, you can still reach out to your existing network. Do informational interviews of literally everyone you know in the space. At the end, ask if they know anyone else you could interview and if they know anyone who needs the kind of help you can provide. If they do, ask for an introduction. This is how I’ve gotten every professional job in my career. (Well, except for one job I got by applying cold to a public job posting, but that was a terrible job that I left after less than three months. In retrospect, there were many reasons this employer hired people cold like that, and those reasons were precisely why the job was terrible.)

A second highly-effective job search method is to reach out to CEOs (or department heads, if you’re targeting bigger companies) directly with a list of issues or problems you think they have (specific to their company or department) and what you can do to solve them. These leaders may not officially have any active job postings, but they do have problems that need solved. If you come along with solid solutions, that’ll at least get you a call back. They’ll also know that you’re a proactive problem solver, not a mindless drone who needs to be told what to do. That’s a boss’s dream employee. This method is how my partner, Jenn, and some other friends got their current jobs. It’s not quite the same as networking, but it’s also more effective than applying cold.

A third highly effective job search method is to build your personal brand and platform. Create quality content and use social media. This method takes time. But if you are a good communicator, have knowledge of a topic relevant to your target industry, and have at least a little personality and enthusiasm, you can use all this to your advantage. Write blogs and magazine articles, tweet, post videos, speak at events and conferences. Use whatever methods and mediums you prefer, probably several in combination. As you grow your brand and platform, you’ll become a valuable and scarce commodity who will get approached with opportunity and after opportunity. Very soon, your biggest problem won’t be a lack of opportunities. Instead, you’ll have too many opportunities, and you’ll need to develop better ways to filter them so you can focus on only the best ones.

This content/brand/platform method takes time to build, but it’s powerful, and it creates an asset that can last a lifetime. Further, it will help you stand out from the masses when you do talk to future employers. Even if only two people read/view your stuff for now and one is your mom, quality content is rare. Your value will be immediately obvious to any potential employer. And trust me, they will look deeply at your platform if you have one. That second person who read your blog post will be the person who is considering hiring you.

Further, if you consistently create quality content for long enough, it will eventually spread. Your brand and platform will grow. This requires a lot of effort, but if you’re unemployed and in quarantine right now, then you’ve probably got plenty of time on your hands. This moment is an opportunity to invest in your platform. Use it.

So, in summary, target a handful of specific companies, use your network, do informational interviews, offer thoughtful solutions to specific problems, and create lots of quality content. That will get you a much better job much faster than the Sisyphean task of applying for endless, uninspiring, publicly available job postings.

If you’re searching for a job right now, don’t get discouraged. Great things are ahead for all of us, including you. I can see it clear as day. You’ve got this!