In a letter or phone call, ask the person's advice about an issue of your choice. Most everyone will take the time to give you their perspective. After all, isn't being sought out for counsel a sign of competence in one's field? Your challenge is to turn the advice into an opportunity to speak with the contact again, or to obtain a referral.
Finally, if you feel uncomfortable with either of the above approaches, then display your knowledge of the industry. Make a remark about a recent development or advancement (say, a particularly productive new breed of Dorset you read about in the latest issue of Sheepf), and then follow by asking your contact what he or she thinks the implications will be. This, too, will get a conversation moving, display you in a positive light, and more than likely leave you on a first name basis with the contact.
It's worth repeating: people are the most important link in the process. Want ads, job listings, career fairs, mailings all can provide some exposure to the job market. But you will find that most opportunities arise once you have begun talking to the people who earn their own living in your chosen field.
Select one or more of the contact options outlined here; then go out and fill up your notebook. Try to identify the person in charge of professional hiring, but do so discreetly. Make a note of the full name, title, and company of each person who helps you. Be sure to enter, as well, any new information about the industry that you can use in your search. Once you've done that, you'll be ready for the next level of contact.
Thus far it may seem as though an assumption has been made about your schedule: that you have plenty of time to go around chatting with your contacts, peruse newspapers and magazines at your leisure, and attend every trade show or convention in the Western Hemisphere. Obviously, you don't.
In order to carry out an effective job search, you must be extremely well organized, especially if you're spending 35 40 hours (or more) each week at your current job. You must accept a simple fact: your free time must be put to good use if your job hunt is to end successfully.
Some pessimists might tell you that, if you are holding down a full time job, you don't have the time necessary to carry out a job search, and that anyone who wants to have a real chance at finding something worthwhile should quit his or her present job and devote all available time to the search. Whatever you do, don't be a pessimist and don't quit your job.
There are a great many reasons not to quit your job, but as far as your job search is concerned, one time tested reason towers above the rest. Employers don't trust the unemployed.
It's easy to understand why employers feel this way. There are simply too many variables in the equation once an employer determines that you don't just want a job, you need one. Even if you fit the job description perfectly, it will be difficult to convince the employer to give you a chance. This attitude may be unfair, but it's quite common.
Look at it from the employer's point of view. If you could choose from many candidates with identical, outstanding qualifications, would you choose someone currently on the unemployment line over someone with a steady job? Rightly or wrongly, unemployment indicates instability, disorganization, lack of motivation, and insecurity.
So keep your job! If for some reason you're identified as a victim of an upcoming company layoff, or are certain you're about to be fired, then think about quitting. (In the latter instance, it will probably look better on your resume.)Other than that, stick with it. Even if you are forced into some kind of involuntary exit from a full time job, think seriously about temporary employment if you don't find a new position within a month or so. You cannot afford to have large time gaps in your employment history.
How do you manage your time while on the job? First, outline how you presently spend your time. If you work from nine to five, how do you spend your mornings, midday breaks, and after work hours? When are you free during the day to pursue other activities?
Think creatively about all the time available to you during the day, as well as your personal and vacation days. Save those precious "excused absence" days for the really important meetings, and try to find time during your regular work day to make phone calls and meet with contacts.
Making the calls that accompany your job search may be a problem if you work for an organization that discourages personal calls. If this is the case, try to find a convenient, discreetly located phone booth that won't be exposed to a lot of background noise. Get a phone credit card so you won't be reduced to carrying your piggy bank in your briefcase, and jingling suspiciously whenever you enter or leave the office.
Many large companies will operate their switchboards before the standard business day begins at 9 a.m. for the sole purpose of accommodating the early rising executives.
Calling at the end of the day is also an option, but you may find that your contact is just running out the door, and is neither capable nor eager to talk about job opportunities with you.
The same strategy should apply to setting up meetings.