There’s no question that the multitude of career sites, social media networks and online communities has made cultivating job leads a whole lot easier. Or has it? While Internet-based job seeking definitely offers candidates expansive volumes of possibilities, it presents an incredible challenge: Which ads should you respond to? And what’s the secret of keeping track of all of those leads?
Emily King, president of King Street Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in assisting veterans in their transition to professional civilian life, counsels against spending too much time filling out too many online applications - a recipe, she points out, for setting yourself up for repeated rejection. “Every day, I hear from people who are frustrated and puzzled by their military job search as to why they’ve applied for hundreds of positions online and haven’t received a single reply,” she recounts. “You’re not going to - that’s not where you should be spending your time.” These systems are often automated, she points out, and frequently programmed to zero in on applications containing certain key words, which eliminates a considerable portion of applicants right away. “Part of getting organized is understanding how to use your time effectively, and trying to figure out how to follow up on an automated system isn’t, in my opinion, very effective.”
King favors good, old-fashioned networking, both face-to-face as well as online, via social networking sites such as LinkedIn. However, she warns, simply posting a profile on LinkedIn or even Facebook won’t garner many results; you must remain in regular contact with the members of your existing network in order to generate leads through personal (or, in this case, virtual) recommendations and introductions. “Do your research online and find out who’s hiring, what kind of positions they’re hiring for, and what you’re interested in at this specific organization,” she instructs. Once you have this information, log in to LinkedIn and search the company’s name. King underlines that you may be surprised to learn that you are already ‘connected’ with the organization, either through your own network, or the network of someone you know.
“If you can get one step closer, through networking, to a person rather than an automated system, that will be a much better use of your time,” King emphasizes. “The military job search situation being what it is, I can empathize with the desire to follow up with every possible lead whether it’s a fit or not. It’s just that it doesn’t work.”
To keep track of your progress - and to avoid letting any hot opportunities fall through the cracks - King suggests inputting contact information and progress updates into some kind of document (she recommends Microsoft Excel). “It’s a worthwhile activity to enter data in there and keep it current, including information such as who the referral came from, what your relationship to that person is, and what your relationship to the person who gave you the referral is,” she says. She adds that candidates should also keep tabs on everything that happened between themselves and that contact, even if you simply left them a phone message.
Documenting your job search is extremely important because good follow-up is what, more often than not, gets you the job. “Follow-up is crucial, and it’s something that all too many candidates don’t do well, or don’t do at all,” says Bob Deissig, co-founder of the Tip of the Arrow Foundation, a volunteer organization that assists veterans with transitioning back into the civilian workforce. “It’s as if they say to themselves, “’I’ll send a resume out and if I don’t hear back, it means that they’re not interested - so why bother?’”
Like King, Deissig believes that networking is a good way to acquire job leads as part of the military job search. “Job candidates need to become good at networking,” he says. “Some are very good at it, and for others it’s more difficult.” One of the Foundation’s biggest messages, he relays, is that you must take an extremely active role in your own job search, even if someone is helping you along the way. “You can’t be complacent, and you can’t just send out resumes and sit back, because nothing will happen. You have to be aggressive, you have to follow up and you must talk to people - it works.”