I need a new job! But how do I go about it?

Whether you have left your job or are in a job you no longer enjoy, for most people finding the next opportunity can be a daunting task. What do you do? Who do you speak to? Where do you go from here?

The fact is that finding a new job can be (and if you’re currently not employed, it should be) the equivalent amount of work of a permanent position!

Assuming your CV and references are tip top, I would suggest the following steps will get you where you want to be 90% of the time:

1. The old fashioned way: Search for suitable vacancies and apply – nowadays it may seem the equivalent of buying a lottery ticket, in that you can expect a very low success rate. However, you need to be in it to win it – just do not spend too much time on this route.

2. Network: You need to network with all your acquaintances and the people you have worked with in the past, and those they can introduce you to. Make sure you have a 5 minute ‘elevator speech’ and you can explain what an opportunity needs to have for it to be of interest to you. The more specific you are, the more likely a successful outcome. ‘I’m looking for a challenge’ does not fall into that category, however ‘I’m looking for a senior finance position within a private equity owned retail organisation’, is getting close to how specific you ought to be. Btw, networking means that you stay in contact with people – one cup of coffee or a chance meeting is not going to wash it. You need to stay in the forefront of their minds. This doesn’t mean that you have to phone them every week but you do need to be visible (see point 3 below).

3. Build your profile: Whilst on the subject, make sure you build up a profile on LinkedIn, join Groups, post articles, comment on other people’s articles, expand your network of contacts, etc. Make sure that these contributions can all be viewed in a positive light, rather than coming across as annoying. For example, some people post 10 articles, one after the other. This will absolutely get you noticed, however personally, I think it just annoys the recipients.

4. Recruiters and headhunters: Spend time researching which recruiters or headhunters you want to touch base with, ask people you are close to in your network for recommendations. Make sure that the person or recruitment company operates at the level that matches your next job – there is no point in talking to Office Angels if your next job is a CEO position at a FTSE100 company! Certainly speak to as many recruitment companies you want, however please make sure that they do not release your details / CV to any third party (including their clients) without your prior permission. You need to be in control of where your details are sent to and you need to decide which person or recruitment company is best placed to represent you to a certain prospective employer. Would you rather deal with the headhunter who has a close personal relationship with the CEO or the recruiter who deals with the Talent Manager? Of course you are hoping to be contacted if / when the recruiter works on an assignment that may be of interest to you, of course in this situation you have a much better chance – 20% if there are 4 people on the short list plus an internal candidate … So not quite a lottery ticket, more like a Bingo card …

5. Research: Finally, the activity that you should spend at least 50% of your job search time on is the activity that puts you in the driver’s seat and that will give you an element of control. Make a list of companies that you are interested in for whatever reason, be it perceived company culture (who doesn’t fancy working for Richard Branson?), product (Ferrari here we come), location (fancy a 5 min commute?), expansion plans, international reach, etc, etc. Then do your research on each of these businesses: what tricks are they missing, what are they not doing that you can deliver, what ideas can you bring to the table? In other words why should they be interested in you? You will probably find that once your research is complete, at least 50% of the companies have fallen off your target list as there is no compelling and urgent reason that they should hire you tomorrow. However, it has left you with a shorter and targeted list of companies. Now you need to decide who is the best individual for you to meet in each of these businesses – is it the CEO or one of the functional Directors? Unless you’re aiming for an HR position, I wouldn’t recommend you meet with the HRD – I know many and there are few and far between, who do not just fill a vacancy but look at the individual and consider an ‘investment hire’ for future opportunity. Once you have a list of the decision makers you want to meet, you need to engage your network in order to find the person that has the strongest relationship with each of these DMs – I’d rather have an introduction to a CEO through his golf buddy than through someone making a cold call.

6. Get introduced: If you feel that no one in your network has a strong enough relationship to make a particular introduction then find a headhunter who has. The quickest way of establishing which headhunter a company uses is to phone them and ask. To ask HR which executive search firm they would recommend ‘because you admire the type of talent they manage to attract’, ought to get you a straight answer if you are phoning from a company in the same (retail?) sector. After all, a search firm cannot poach from their clients, so the more companies use ‘your’ particular search firm the fewer of your staff will be poached. Once you know which firm they use, ask which consultant they recommend in particular. Your next step is to phone the individual and say something like ‘I’m just about to phone your client company and speak with the CEO, because I have experience of resolving a particular problem they don’t seem to be able to solve, however it struck me that you may want to make the introduction?’. Believe me, if there is a potential fee involved, the consultant will want to meet you and will want to make the intro. It is then up to you to sell your skills, experience, background and cultural fit in order to be considered for a role now or to be put on the substitute bench for when a suitable vacancy arises.

All easier said than done, or so it seems … Of course there are many nuances and little tricks to improve the level of success you’ll enjoy – too many to blog about. Give me a call and I will help you. Good luck!

Follow @maartenjonckers on twitter for links to more articles on the subject and retail related chat