Find Your Dream Job, Episode 245:
Getting a Job During Tough Times, with Pattie Sinacole
Airdate: May 27, 2020
This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.
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We’re seeing record unemployment around the world because of the COVID-19 virus. But employers continue to hire, too.
Here to talk about how to get a job during these tough times is Pattie Sinacole.
She’s the Job Doc columnist for The Boston Globe and CEO and Founder of First Beacon Group, a human resource consulting company.
Pattie joins us today from Boston, Massachusetts.
Pattie, here’s where I want to start: with today’s double-digit unemployment caused by COVID-19, should you even bother to look for work?
First of all, thank you for having me. I’m happy to be talking to you and others about job hunting during this tremendously difficult time in our country. We’ve heard the word, “unprecedented,” I think more than any of us want, but it truly is an unprecedented time. But that does not mean that job hunting comes to a stall or a stop. Companies are still hiring, there are certain sectors that are hiring aggressively.
We have a lot of biotech and life sciences, as you would expect, in the Boston area. There’s a lot of biotech and life sciences companies looking for talent. We have some retailers, like Amazon has a presence in New England and other regions, and they’re hiring. So, there are companies that are hiring. We continue to search for our clients.
We had a couple of stalls on a couple of roles in early…I would say, early April, late March, but those roles have gone back to an active search. So, I think companies are trying to find their way but there are certainly roles out there and this is not the time to sit on the sidelines, if you’re looking for a job, for sure.
While you’re in New England, Pattie, and your practice serves employers across that region, the trends you mentioned, are you seeing those happen nationally as well, across the United States?
For sure, you know, definitely healthcare, biotech, whether it be the Atlanta region, whether it be Austin, Texas, whether it be the West Coast. I mean, there are a lot of technology companies, you think about, even Zoom. The technology that many of us are using for video conferencing.
Zoom and some of these video conferencing technologies are, you know, they’re looking for resources and help and new employees. And so we work primarily in the New England area for sure, but what I’ve heard from colleagues and some of our clients sprinkled across the US is that there are definitely sectors that are growing still.
Okay, so don’t wait, because some people might think, “Well, sure, Pattie, there are some opportunities out there, but it’s not going to really open up again until later in the year or maybe even next year, so why bother?”
Why bother is, if you sit on the sidelines, you’re missing opportunities. Jobs are being offered to candidates everyday, even during these tremendously difficult times, and there are some things that you can certainly do. Some of our face to face networking, of course, is probably not advised in this new world of social distancing but there’s absolutely some things that you can do and not sit on the sidelines.
Alright, well, let’s talk about that, and let’s talk about job searching during a period of double-digit unemployment. In a call before the interview, we talked about doing basic things you recommend, like paying attention to a LinkedIn page before you send out your first application. Why do you suggest that job seekers pay attention to those basics?
The instinct often is, “I’ve got to get off as many applications as I can.”
Right, and I would say that that strategy stems from anxiety rather than a strategic approach to your search. A LinkedIn profile is an investment in your career, now, ten years from now, fifteen years from now. A LinkedIn profile is huge. If you have a strong, robust LinkedIn profile, number one, you’re going to show up to recruiters. Definitely have a picture on there, have a good summary of who you are as a candidate, make sure that your LinkedIn profile has keywords embedded in your profile targeted to your desired next role, or your desired next industry.
If you weave words in there that come up and trigger a recruiter to stop at your page, that is really essential.
Do you find, Pattie, that most people aren’t doing these kinds of things? It seems basic, but is it common?
I would say that when we search for one of our…to recruit clients for one of our client’s jobs, for their open opportunities, what happens is we stumble across people who have invested, candidates who have invested a lot of time in their LinkedIn profile. And the best LinkedIn profiles, the ones with the photos, the ones with the recommendations, the folks that are really active on LinkedIn, those pop up first when we’re doing a search, yet they may not always be the best candidates. Sometimes we’ll find the candidate 10, 15 profiles down, but really, you want to make sure that you’re in that top 5 to 10, in terms of the profiles that we uncover when we’re doing a LinkedIn search.
What kind of response does a page get that hasn’t done the…or the applicant that hasn’t done the things that you recommend if they’re down to number 15, 20, maybe 25 in your ranking? Do they hear from recruiters like you at all?
Sometimes they do, but even worse, sometimes we hear from a candidate that comes to us and says, “I wonder why you didn’t find me?”
You know, they see something that we’ve posted or they see it at an alumni association posting or a professional association, and then we look at their LinkedIn profile and it’s what I call, sort of a thin or a lackluster profile. They have their name there, they might have their undergraduate institution, but there’s nothing really there. And they haven’t been active, they have very few connections, so what happens is, sometimes we never trip across those candidates.
Which is sad, because they might be the ideal candidate for an open position that we’re searching for.
What else should you do on LinkedIn besides follow the advice that you just offered about updating your profile?
Getting active on LinkedIn. You can join groups on LinkedIn, you can post things on LinkedIn, you can follow companies that are of interest to you, you can follow influencers, like Bill Gates, for example. You can even…you don’t have to come up with your own content; you can share content of other folks who you feel like are sharing valuable information about an industry, about a trend, about a business topic.
The more active you are, those active LinkedIn users really rise to the top. And I also recommend, I hold myself to this standard, I add 3 to 5 connections a week at a minimum. It’s something I’ve done for years. I probably have, I don’t know, close to 7,000 connections. And I also, on a regular basis, I’ll jump on LinkedIn and I’ll share what other recruiters might be hiring for because I do believe in karma, you know, it takes me 5 to 10 minutes.
I also encourage folks to follow me and connect with me because we do hear stories all the time where someone will say, “Hey, I’ve been in this role for 6 months and I should have told you but my brother actually shared something 3 months ago and I followed up on it and I’m sitting in this new role at this company.”
How is that kind of activity, posting on LinkedIn, connecting with others, sharing news through posts and articles, how is that going to help you get a job when the unemployment rate is certainly in the double digits, maybe as high as 15 or 20%?
For sure, well, the folks, the LinkedIn users that are more active certainly come to the top of our searches. And then oftentimes, we’ll reach out to the folks that are very active who we see posting. They might be posting about trends in biotech or leaders in life sciences. We’ll often call them when we have an open role in that industry, and say, “Hey John, who do you know in this industry that would be good for this role in Seattle.”
And so, if you’re sort of a presence on LinkedIn, you’re top of mind, people get used to seeing you and see you as a resource, and then you become in the know about a lot of companies that are hiring, which is, as you would expect, super valuable.
This is great. I want to take a quick break, Pattie, and when we come back I want to talk about job boards, because, as you know, especially during periods of high unemployment, people tend to turn to job boards and spend lots of time there, and I know you’ve got some strong opinions about that.
Stay with us. When we return, we’ll continue our conversation with Pattie Sinacole about how to get a job during tough times.
I’m glad Patti talked about the importance of updating your LinkedIn page before you apply for any job.
Candidates who don’t do this make the job search harder, longer, and more frustrating than necessary.
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Now, let’s get back to the show.
We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Pattie Sinacole.
She’s the Job Doc columnist for The Boston Globe and CEO and founder of First Beacon Group, a human resource consulting company in Boston.
Now, Pattie, before the break we were talking about getting a job during tough times and I want to get your thoughts about job boards. We run one here at Mac’s List, we’re very proud of the value it offers, and we’ll be the first to tell you you shouldn’t spend all of your time on job boards.
What are your thoughts about job boards?
I think job boards are one source. We post on job boards all the time, so I believe in job boards. I just think that you have to use your time wisely. When we talk to candidates, what they’ll often tell us is that they’re looking for a job, especially unemployed candidates, they’re looking for a job on a full-time basis. And we’ll say to them, “Okay, what did you do on Monday, and what did you do on Tuesday, and what did you do on Wednesday.” And they’ll talk about, essentially sitting behind their PC and scrolling through job boards, and you feel like you’re productive when you’re doing that, but you can’t spend all of your time on job boards.
Number 1, you want to make sure that…it’s easy to get sucked into job boards, just like anything, whether you’re shopping on Amazon or looking at a blog. It’s easy to spend more time on it and sort of get sucked into interesting content that might not be absolutely helpful to a search. And what we recommend is just logging your time. If job boards are something that you want to participate in, and they’re absolutely something that should be in your job hunting day, look at them from 9-10, but if you’re looking at them from 9-2, probably not the best use of your time.
Despite all these advances in technology, with job boards and even LinkedIn, what we find is that, often, the best source of job leads and new jobs is through your professional contacts. So, making sure that you’re picking up the phone and you’re calling someone that you used to work with at an old role, 5 years ago, or connecting with them on LinkedIn and saying, “Hey, I’d love to have a virtual cup of coffee with you next Tuesday.”
Making sure that you’re still really building and nurturing those professional relationships, rather than spending a full day on job boards.
Do you have a recommended ratio, Pattie, of how much time someone should spend on job boards versus networking and other activities?
I always say to, especially introverts, track your time because engineers love to sit behind a job board and then they realize, 30 hours later, they’ve been looking at all of these interesting job boards but they come away with about 3 leads. So, I always say, 75% networking and 25% job boards. Now, of course, networking is a bit of a challenge right now but you can still use technology. Whether it be a telephone or Zoom to network, for sure.
I want to talk about virtual networking, but I do want to touch on something that often happens during a recession, it’s the candidate who sends out large numbers of applications. What do you think about that strategy, Pattie?
Oftentimes, we get candidates that come to us through a friend, a neighbor, somebody they went to college with, and they say, “I have been pounding the pavement, I have been sending out more resumes.” And so I’ll say, “How many resumes have you sent out?” “I bet I’ve sent out over a thousand now.” And so I’ll often say, “How is that working for you?” And they’ll say, “I haven’t gotten one bite.”
If you’re sending out hundreds, maybe thousands of resumes and you’re not getting a response, I would say pause and think about where you’re spending your time. Because if you are plastering your resume on every job board, sending it out to every role that comes across your desk or comes across your computer, or that your neighbor or friend tells you about, that’s probably not the best use of your time, and it’s time to step back from that as a strategy and rethink how you’re spending your time.
You’re a recruiter, so you’re one of those people who get those resumes, why isn’t that a good strategy, Pattie? Because if you get one…if you have to send out a thousand resumes but you get one job offer, isn’t that effective?
Well, it can be effective but it’s probably not the best use of your time. What I would rather have someone do is, I would rather have someone spend a certain amount of time on LinkedIn, spend a certain amount of time on job boards, spending time reaching out to their alumni associations, their professional associations, and picking up the phone. It’s really easy to sit behind an email or a PC and fire off resume after resume. I think that the key to a very strong job search is trying to learn about jobs even before they’re posted.
It reduces your competition. If you can get a resume onto a hiring manager’s desk and they don’t have to post a job and then get, I mean, we have jobs posted now where we’re getting hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of resumes. Wouldn’t it be great if you were one of three that landed on that hiring manager’s desk, and that hiring manager said, “Hey HR, no need to post these jobs. I’ve got three great resumes right here.”
Okay, let’s talk about how to get into that back door, and you mentioned networking earlier and you referred to it a lot during our conversation. How do you recommend people network virtually? Because so much of hiring now is going to be happening virtually, even after the virus recedes, I think.
Yep, I agree with you. I think you want to make sure that you’re building your LinkedIn network. That’s an easy way to network right now. Going through the companies that you worked for maybe 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, who’s on LinkedIn? LinkedIn will even provide you with recommended contacts, so that makes it a little bit easier, saying, “ Hey Tom, we worked together 5 years ago at ABC Company. LinkedIn recommended that we connect. Here’s my request to connect. Also, I’m looking for a new opportunity in the Portland area. I’m relocating August 1. Would you be up for a virtual cup of coffee before August 1?”
That seems like a very low risk and easy kind of way to connect with someone. There are also all of these virtual opportunities to connect with folks through professional associations. If you’re a finance person, if you’re a marketing person, many professional associations are opening up their organizations to virtual networking.
Alumni groups, your undergrad or your graduate school. There are endless opportunities to network virtually and one of the benefits now, because although, yes, this virus has caused tremendous angst for job hunters and the employment market, you don’t have to typically get in your car. So, we’re not sitting in traffic, we’re not jumping on a plane, so some of these technologies have helped us in some ways as well.
When you’re reaching out to people, like that example that you gave of connecting with a former colleague via LinkedIn, and asking for, say, a virtual cup of coffee, what does success look like at the end of a conversation like that? Whether it’s a former colleague or a fellow graduate of a university or a member of a professional association. When you end that zoom call or that old-fashioned telephone call, what do you want to have at the end of that conversation?
I think if you’re a job hunter, you want to have them open to receiving a copy of your resume. You’re hoping that you’ve already connected on LinkedIn, that you’ve accepted their invite, and I think that it ends something like, “I’d love to send you a copy of my resume. If anything comes up at ABC company, I would love to hear about it. Is there anything else that you need from me that maybe I haven’t answered about my background?”
And also, start offering, if you can be helpful to them at all. So, maybe they have a child that’s looking at the university that you went to. “Hey if I can ever talk to Suzie about XYZ company or XYZ university, I’d be happy to jump on a call with her, if that would be helpful to you.”
Offering them that return favor, I think, often goes a long way.
What about online events? Particularly in recent weeks, there seems to be just an explosion of Zoom calls and webinars. How do you recommend a job seeker get the most out of those events?
I think that first, you have to start really simply. Make sure that you understand the technology that they’re using, make sure that you have a decent background for a Zoom call. If you’re going beyond audio and you’re using the video component, test out the connection, test out the camera height. Make sure that you have eliminated any background noise, whether it’s a barking dog or an HVAC issue in your office.
You want to get comfortable with that technology, maybe use it with your kid, your spouse, your aunt, your neighbor, but you want to make sure that how you present is as professional and polished as possible.
Is there a way…those are great tips too, for virtual interviews, job interviews, and informational interviews, but online events, like a webinar, are there ways to engage with the speakers or other participants, just as you might if it was an in-person event, so that you walk away with some sort of connection when the webinar ends?
I think most of the video conferencing technologies and the webinar technologies that I’ve been part of allow you to pose questions or to chat or to somehow engage with both the presenters and the audience. When we’ve run webinars, we ask people to participate in a poll. Engaging online is new for a lot of us, but I think that every time that you use the technology, you’re improving that skill, just like any skill, so I think that it’s important to start. You do your first webinar using Webex or Zoom, you want to start first with an easy audience, like your children, your spouse, your aunt, your neighbor, your friend, to see how it goes before you go live in front of a real audience.
Job hunting is always stressful but it’s especially stressful right now. What kind of self-care do you recommend for job seekers these days, Pattie?
I think, connecting with friends and family and professional colleagues that are going to be supportive. There are some folks that we have worked with throughout our careers, and you look back and you have a very positive recollection and I think that really nurturing those relationships is important, and I think that sometimes you need to get away from it too. I think some people do yoga, some people do meditation, some people walk their dog, when we see the sunshine, and I think sometimes you have to take that break, especially since so many of us are engaged in online and virtual networking.
It’s been a terrific conversation. Tell us, what’s next for you, Pattie?
Well, I will continue to build my business, and work with candidates and clients, and write our column for the Boston Globe. I post my blog every Monday; you can view that on boston.com. And then if people want to connect with me on LinkedIn, I’m very easy to find on LinkedIn. Folks can also visit our website, which is firstbeacongroup.com. And you know, I encourage folks to connect on LinkedIn because I do share lots of opportunities there.
Terrific, that’s a very generous offer.
Pattie, given all of these useful tips that you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing that you want a listener to remember about getting a job during tough times.
I think the best unemployment insurance is a strong and robust professional network. Despite lots of technology, whether it be LinkedIn or job boards or other online job-hunting tools, good, old-fashioned job networking and professional colleagues, friends, and family seemed to be, still, the best source of job leads for candidates.
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Next week, our guest expert will be Katie Augsburger. She’s the founding partner and employee experience strategist for Future Work Design.
Organizational culture ranks as a top concern for job seekers. Katie and I will talk about how you can find a company that puts employees first.
I hope you’ll join us. Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job.