Listener Survey Questions: Job Search Advice from the Mac’s List Team

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Find Your Dream Job, Bonus Episode 16:

Listener Survey Questions: Job Search Advice from the Mac’s List Team

Airdate: April 29, 2019

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, find 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 professionals find fulfilling careers.

To get your dream job you need clear goals, great skills, and a good network. You also have to know how to look for work.

Recently, we did a listener survey and heard from many listeners about what you like about the show and the topics you like to hear about.

You also shared with us some of your top job hunting questions. We thought we’d use this bonus episode today to answer those questions.

We picked out 5 and I’m joined here in the studio by our Mac’s List podcast producer, Jessica Black. Jessica, welcome back to the microphone.

Jessica Black:

Hi, Mac, it’s great to be here.

Mac Prichard:

It’s great to have you. For the benefit of listeners, Jessica’s here every week running the soundboard but she does a lot more than that. She keeps us on track, schedules interviews, and gives me very useful feedback about what I do behind the mic.

Today she’s going to go back to her old job, running the Mac’s List mailbag.

Jessica Black:

That’s right. In a sense, the electronic mailbag.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so we’ve got 5 questions from different listeners around the country. We’re going to spend about 2 minutes talking about them.

What’s the first item you’ve got?

Jessica Black:

We have a question from Laura Feller here in Portland. She asks, “I always hear “meet people in your industry.” Well, what if you don’t have a specific industry?”

Mac Prichard:

Well, two answers here, Jessica.

I think you may have an occupation that you’re involved in. Maybe it’s public relations, administrative assistant, maybe you’re an accountant and you’re not working, say, in the finance industry or government, or you’re interested in working in different sectors.

If you are committed to an occupation, find the professional association for that job and that’s where you can meet people who do the kind of work that you enjoy doing and it’ll be from different industries.

It may be that it’s the occupation that drives your job search. You want to be a CPA and you could work for a nonprofit, you could work in the shoe industry, but you want to be a CPA.

Second, if you do want to change industries and you don’t know where you want to go, that’s a challenge. I would encourage you, Laura, to think about investing some time in getting clear about your career goals.

You can do that either through books that will help you with self-assessment and goal setting.

You can also work with a career coach. There are private advisors out there. If you can get in touch with a career services office at a college or university you attended, they will often provide free services on career coaching for grads. Or you can get in touch with your state employment department.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, good answers.

I’d also say, just find events that you find interesting and you can also network, even if it’s not a specific industry-focused event. There’s no harm in that.

Mac Prichard:

Great suggestion.

What’s next in the mailbag?

Jessica Black:

We have…our next question is from Donna Andrews. She’s also here in Portland and she asks, “Is getting a certificate or an advanced degree at age 63 necessary to show I’m current and relevant? I see the value of going back to school to establish a network. But it’s a big time and financial commitment.“

Mac Prichard:

That’s a great question and I like the spirit that’s driving this which is, Donna’s interest in showing that she has current and relevant skills that are going to be useful to an employer.

I would say, Donna, it really depends on your career goals and what you want to do, and if you want to change sectors, you may have to invest in some training, including a certificate program.

But the best way to find out what kind of training is going to be of most interest to an employer is to go out and talk to those hiring managers in the places where you want to work.

Clearly, you’ve got to have a goal. You have to know where you want to go in the companies that interest you, but I’m assuming you’ve got that. So, I would encourage you to make a list of 3 to 5 hiring managers who are at the companies or nonprofits where you might want to work, ask them for a candid assessment of your skills and whether you’re presenting them as effectively as possible in your application materials and resume. Ask them for their advice about what gaps they see if they were reviewing your resume or your application and what advice they might have about how to fill those gaps.

It may be that it’s a certificate program, it might be a series of classes, it might be volunteer work, but the best way to find out is to go to the source itself. The people who make the hiring decisions.

Jessica Black:

Spot on.

Next question we have from Jessie in Early Branch, South Carolina. She says, “How do you move up within a company when you aren’t much of a ‘people person?’”

Mac Prichard:

I appreciate the question, Jessie and I’m wondering if…sometimes when I hear variations of this question, it’s from people who are shy or introverted and they recognize the importance of building relationships. They’re not quite sure how to do that in a professional setting.

Sometimes people I talk to think there’s only one model and that is the backslapper. The outgoing…

Jessica Black:

The gregarious, loud person.

Mac Prichard:

Extrovert, yeah. That is one approach but it’s not the only one out there. I see so many successful introverts and shy people in professional settings and here’s what I think they do well, Jessie, they play to their strengths. They know what they’re good at and they look for opportunities to do the things they both enjoy and are effective at.

Now, that might sound a little cryptic, so let’s give practical examples.

Let’s assume you’re in a medium to large-sized company and you know you’ve got to build relationships with people in a particular department or part of the organization where you want to move up. Look for events inside the company where you can connect to those people and play a role that you enjoy.

Maybe it’s some kind of networking event and you’re a shy person but you feel very comfortable checking people in at the registration desk. Maybe you know it’s important to build a relationship with a few key managers reach out to them one on one and invite them out to coffee.

I think most shy people, I certainly was shy in my teens and 20’s, I think they’re better in one on one settings. You don’t have to stand on a stage or tell jokes. Focus on what you’re good at and focus on building relationships.

We all build relationships through our lives and we all know how to do that and I would encourage you to focus on that.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, I think the value of those interpersonal conversations are really important. Even just letting your boss or supervisor know that you have an interest in taking on more responsibilities… that’s going to go a long way.

To Mac’s point, you can find areas where you are thriving and you don’t have to go outside of your personality or your own strengths to be able to do that.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. I like your suggestion to share with others, particularly decision makers, what it is you want to accomplish for the company, what your goals are, and why you think you can make that happen.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, absolutely.

Alright, next question, from Christy from Salt Lake City. She asks, “What is your advice for how to deal with the fear of your boss learning you’re looking for employment outside of the organization?”

Mac Prichard:

It’s a good question.

Sometimes people talk about stealth job searches; in other words, you’re ready to move and you don’t know how long it will take to find a position. You don’t want to jeopardize your current job and often there are just no hard feelings, you just recognize that it might take 3, 6, depending on where you are in your career, even 9 or 12 months to find your next gig.

I encourage you, if you are doing a stealth job search, don’t tell people in the office, including trusted peers that you’re doing this. There might be 1 or 2 exceptions but you’ve got to be discreet and so you should instead turn to mentors and former coworkers outside the organization and make sure that they understand that you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize your current job.

When you’re taking steps to increase your online presence, do it in a way that’s natural. You don’t want to go home one weekend and suddenly redo your entire LinkedIn page and the next weekend launch a portfolio page and then start blogging about your field once a week. Just take natural, incremental steps that will help you put your best foot forward online but not attract attention.

Don’t look for work during company time.

Jessica Black:

Exactly, that’s a huge one. That’s what I was going to say: do it on your own time and that will alleviate a lot of the fear of your boss finding out because you’re doing it on personal time.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, and everybody has some vacation time or paid time off and if you need to do job search work during the business day, take the occasional vacation day or personal time and plan for that and stack up your informational interviews or job interviews during those days.

What you want to avoid is the boss or peer discovering that you’ve been using company equipment and company time to update your resume, send out applications, or to do informational interviews because that will come back to get you and it will jeopardize your job, which is what you want to avoid.

Jessica Black:

And it will jeopardize the relationship that you have with your current employer.

Mac Prichard:

Good point.

Jessica Black:

That’s even more of a risk that you don’t want to take. Don’t burn any bridges. Do it in a, I think, to your point, just be natural about it but make sure to do it outside of company time.

Mac Prichard:

Good.

Jessica Black:

Alright, final question. This comes from Ruby LaBrusciano-Carris from Portland. She asks,“Follow-ups after the application submission: yay or nay?”

Mac Prichard:

A definite yay and there are a number of ways to do this. If you have established contacts inside the company, if it’s a place you know you want to work and so you’ve invested time before replying to a posting and building relationships inside that firm, you’ll have people on the inside who can tell you about the status of your application.

I think if you’re responding to a posting on a job board, it’s appropriate to call the HR department or send an email and if that information isn’t on the website or included in the application instructions, to ask about the timetable for a decision.

Smart employers pay attention to the application process and they keep applicants informed every step of the way.

You might get, in response to a submission, if you don’t have contacts inside the company, an email that gives deadlines for making decisions. That doesn’t often happen but if it does and you don’t hear back by a deadline mentioned in an email like that, you have the opportunity to follow up and just to ask what the new date might be.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, or if there are any updates that you should be aware of.

Mac Prichard:

Again, I think if you apply and you don’t hear in a week or two and there’s no timetable given to you in a posting, it is perfectly appropriate to contact the company by phone or email and ask when they might make a decision.

If you get somebody on the phone, I think you’re going to have more success. If you’re communicating by email, if you don’t hear back, I recommend people following the rule of 3 and just try 3 attempts and if it doesn’t work, let it go.

The benefit of doing the follow up is, you want to find out what the employer’s timeline and process is for making a decision and having that information lets you know, candidly, if they’re not particularly effective at communicating whether your candidacy is moving forward or not.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, I think that’s exactly right and just a conversational and gentle follow-up is never going to hurt. As long as you are respectful and do it in a timely fashion.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, well, terrific.

Well, thank you, all five of you for submitting your questions as part of our Podcast Listener Survey.

In the year ahead, as we get more questions from listeners, we will probably do more bonus episodes like this, won’t we, Jessica?

Jessica Black:

Yeah, I think so. I think it’s valuable to share what other job seekers are experiencing and I think it benefits everyone.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, and if you want more resources for improving your job search, check out the Mac’s List website. We offer hundreds of free articles, dozens of success stories, webinars, and podcast episodes all about the nuts and bolts of job hunting.

Go to macslist.org/learn

In the meantime, thank you for listening to today’s bonus episode of Find Your Dream Job.

Every year, the Find Your Dream Job team asks listeners for their feedback on the podcast format, length, and topics. We discovered that 18 percent of listeners are interested in exploring the topic of career change, and 15 percent are interested in discussing job search strategies. Thanks to everyone who participated in this year’s listener survey, your feedback goes a long way towards making the show better! We greatly appreciate your support.

We also received dozens of great questions from listeners about job hunting, networking, and career building. On today’s bonus episode, Mac and Jessica sit down to answer five tactical job search questions from listeners around the country. Listen in to find out how to move up in a company when you are not outgoing, and what’s the best practice for following up after submitting a job application.