This article by Michael Pollock first appeared in Cynopsis Classified Advantage.
Once you are clear in your own mind on the value you offer a potential employer, there are three main keys to focus on as you look for a job: research, connect and summarize.
Research: Start by identifying at least 10 companies that look as if they need exactly that thing that you are good at: businesses that operate in your niche and surely need the skills and experience that only you offer. The more specific your value statement, the narrower and more productive will be your list of target companies. Learn as much as you can about these businesses. As you dive into this research, you will be led to other companies and you will relegate some to the back burner. Become clearer about the work you want to do, and keep this goal in mind to help you prioritize.
Connect: Use your search engines and LinkedIn and exploit all your networks to get introduced to people who work in the companies on your target list. Volunteer for work in the field so you can get experience and build your network. Ask the people you meet how they do their work, what they need, what keeps them up at night, where they are headed, and you will start to figure out where you can fit in. Keep in touch with everyone not in an annoying “What have you done for me recently” sort of way, but in a helpful “Here is what I have been doing and learned that might interest you” sort of way.
Summarize: As you meet new contacts, listen to yourself. You will find yourself telling them who you are, and as you do so you’ll be summarizing your value concisely and effectively: “Here is what I can do and here are three reasons why I am the best person to do it.” See how it sounds. Do they engage with it and want to know more? Was it in fact concise and effective? Try out new versions. Make it better and stronger. Use it in your cover letters and resume.
That summary of your value is what people will remember about you. It focuses on what value you provide and not on the tiresome fact that you need a job. They will then tell their relevant colleagues that they should see you because you are precisely who they are searching for. Your story could start going viral!
These steps bear very much in mind that statistics tell us you are vastly more likely to get a job from a personal connection than not. And that many jobs are not advertised publicly.
So the three keys to remember: research, connect and summarize.