I get a lot of requests from job-seekers. This is my standard advice.
I applaud you for reaching out. I'm not in St Louis any longer, and don't have any positions to offer you, but there are several things I can think of.
1) Recruiting. Staffing isn't hard to learn. If you're good at it, you can make six figures by your third year. All it really takes is the ability to get on the phone, ask questions of people, and keep getting on the phone. There is a ton of information online about being a good recruiter, and the dirty little secret of getting hired is all you have to do is pick up the phone and start calling around.
The hardest thing to hire is someone who wants to work. Calling the 100 plus staffing firms in St Louis and telling them you'd like to start as an entry level recruiter is a guaranteed way to get a job. Your salary will be less than $30,000 to start, but if you can work hard, it will quickly jump to 50,000 then to 75,000, then to 100,000.
Owners and managers want to hear that you will use the phone. If you call them, ask them to hire you, and tell them you're going to call all 100 staffing firms until you get an answer, and when you've made 100 calls, you're going to call back with what you learned, someone will hire you.
Recruiting also fits your career goals of helping people, and I can guarantee you that personal likability is the second most important skillset. The first being the phone.
Don't send resumes. Yours won't get you hired. Instead say, my resume won't get me the job - the only thing that will is that I'm calling you while other candidates are pressing send.
Seriously - it's a killer argument.
The other suggestion is to start a small business marketing to restaurants and small stores. Go knock on doors and tell them you do their social media for $500 a month. Read all you can, copy from other cities, and keep getting new clients. 6 clients is $36,000 a year, and that isn't that much work. You could focus on places that have bands, but I'd do anyone who advertises in the yellow pages or through direct mail.
Instead make a list of things you might want to do. List 5. Then start calling everyone you know and ask them if they know someone who does one of those jobs. Ask for the phone number, and ask your friend to call that person and tell them you're calling with questions.
What do you like about the job?
How did you start?
What would you do differently if you were starting today?
What would I read (website or books) to learn more?
Who else should I speak with to learn more?
Don't ask for a job. Ask for information. Someone will ask if they can help get you a job. When you get an interview, tell the recruiter/manager/HR person what you did to get the interview.
Someone will hire you.
I've given this advice to hundreds of people in the last two decades. Six have listened. All six got great jobs. The rest still call me back and ask what they can do.
The best time to get money from a bank is when you don't need it. If you have cash and collateral, getting a loan is pretty straightforward, because there isn't much risk for the bank.
The same is true of how a candidate uses a headhunter. Far too many jobseekers assume their first contact with a headhunter or recruiter is when they've exhausted their job-seeking efforts and are unemployed. Talk about losing your leverage!
Imagine this conversation. A recruiter interviews you and submits you to a manager, and the manager calls to talk about the candidate.
Manager: I see you submitted this guy named Joe for the job. He has the right resume, but what can oyou tell me about him. Recruiter: Well, I met him for the first time this morning. We talked about 30 minutes last night, and then he agreed to come in so I could submit him. He lost his job three months ago, and his wife is starting to make his life miserable about his job hunt. His mother-in-law is sending clippings from the newspaper, and his severance runs out next month. So he looked me up on Monster.com, sent his resume to me, and I was the first recruiter to call him, which is lucky, because two others called about the same job, but only after I met him.
Manager: Excellent paper shuffling. You've sure earned your fee!
Far more of the employment world works just like this then we'd care to admit. The conversation above is subtext, but it's recognizable to every recruiter out there, both outside and inside.
And it gets worse when you realize that at least Joe was responding to a job posting. If he had called in randomly, what are the chances a job that fit him would be on the desk of the recruiter he called?
So don't be the candidate calling headhunters expecting them to work for you to get a job. You may get interviewed, yo umay get placed in a database, and even given some advice, but even that is a luxury most recruiters can't afford.
So how do you do it?
1) When employed, make it a habit to take calls from headhunters. Not every one, and not when you're busy, but if you have time, take the call or respond to the email (prioritize the calls, because they actually matter). High-level executives know that taking headhunter calls throughout their careers keeps them top of mind should something come up. They build relationships over years with all the recruiters that call for that time when they do need a position. That should be you.
This isn't a long, involved call. It is enough to be polite, tell them you're not hiring or not looking right now, but speak to the headhunter for a moment or two to assess how good they are. If you're impressed, take their info down and tell them to call you once every year or two.It takes only a few minutes a year, and yet it pays dividends when the time comes to look. It also helps you identify what a good headhunter does, instead of trying to learn when you most need one.
LEARN TO ASK QUESTIONS:
Understand what you're doing. You're building relationships with someone that has regular knowledge of the hiring market. Rather than allow yourself to be questioned as to what you do, learn to flip the script and get them to open up. Good recruiters spend a lot of time listening. Getting the chance to speak is rare, so we're likely to not be prepared when you ask us about salaries in the market. In fact, I'd go so far as to say once you build a rolodex of recruiters, to be proactive in calling them and tapping their brain for knowledge to help you. Some will be put off that you're using them for knowledge, but that's a sign of their lack of savvy. Short, pleasant conversations create a business relationship that you both can tap in the future. Isn't that the point of networking?
Does It Work? A friend of mine is a national president for an international firm, and he has been speaking with headhunters for years, discussing positions that were always one step above his current level. He has interviewed a few times over the years, but has been in the same firm over 12 years. Recently, he interviewed for a CEO position brought to him by a recruiter who first called him seven years ago, looking to make a placement. Simply by staying in touch, he was submitted and was one of the top two candidates for a position (in the end, he turned it down, but he now know he is CEO material).
Think about that for a moment. He didn't work with the recruiter, but was polite and told him to stay in touch. When the CEO position came, who do you think the recruiter called first?
If I ran my own recruiting firm, all of my recruiters would be required to memorize the speech Marsellus Wallace gives to Butch (Bruce Willis) in Pulp Fiction.
The day of the offer, you might feel a slight sting. That's pride messing with you. To heck with pride! Pride only hurts ... it never helps. You fight through that stuff 'cause a year from now, when you kickin' it in the Caribbean, you gonna say to yourself, my recruiter was right."
I'm not saying it would be legal, or even advisable, but it sure would be a lot of fun to see the reaction you would get.
And if any of my candidates ever backed out of an offer, you know what speech they would get.
An interviewer and a candidate are in a room, conducting an interview for a software programmer.
In front of the candidate is a question about a complex coding problem. The interviewer asks the candidate a series of generic questions and then tells him it's time for the technical part of the interview, and motions to the question.
The candidate begins, but quickly finds themselves stumped. Maybe the room is too hot. Maybe he's nervous, but he's drawing a blank.
Here's what should happen.
Candidate: I'm a little lost on this. Let me ask you, what would you do?
Interviewer: Actually, this test is designed to find out what you would do.
Candidate: This is what I'd do. When I'm stumped, I reach out to other people to see if they have ideas.
Interviewer: I'm afraid I can't help you.
Candidate: Can I use my phone? Or my tablet?
Interviewer: This is a mental test.
Candidate: Yes, but my mental model includes reaching out to trusted sources and looking for information online quickly, in order to fill in gaps and check my work.
Interviewer: That's a bit unorthodox.
Candidate: For an interview maybe, but not for actual work. Do you ask your programmers to solve problems with pencil and paper in a small, hot room under a deadline? Or do you sit them at a desk with a phone, a computer, and access to other smart people? One of those ways is a test on how well you test. The other is a test of how you successfuly do your job as a developer.
I just completed a search, and was chronicling my feelings during the process, both for blog fodder and as a quality control piece.
The Best Part: Interviews in progress
Some people may prefer when the candidate accepts the offer, when they start, or for third parties, when the check comes, but I prefer the interview stage. After they're scheduled, and while they're going on, there is so much hope expressed on all sides. From the recruiters to the candidates to the managers to other people in your life, everyone is expressing well wishes. It's a very optimistic time.
The Worst Part: 2 minutes after the Interviews end
Once interviews have been conducted, your part as the recruiter is set. All the prep work and the pre-closing is done, and now it's just a matter of crossing your fingers and hoping everyone lives up to their side in the bargain. Will you get feeback? Will the candidates change their minds? Will they accept the offer? Ask for more money? Will the clients sit on the feedback for days, weeks, or a month?
There's no way to know, and doubt begins to gnaw on you. Did you do your best? Should you keep looking for more candidates? If so, what was it about your candidates that didn't work out?
Did anyone lie? Are educational or credit references or drug tests going to trip you up? Just as interviews are optimistic, the post-interview is full of doubts. And there's nothing you can do.
You just have to sit and wait, and trust your work. When it's done, even if you do get the placement, you've got to tell some people no, and then move on. The closeness you generate with candidates begins to fade, both in successful placements and in those who don't get the job. You promise to stay in touch, but you have another forty calls to make.
Social CRM and Social Recruiting are incredible tools for finding candidates and sales prospects. The amount of data online is so vast, a skilled researcher can find information that is helpful in just about any business capacity.
But what is the line on that?
On the coasts, the personal and the professional often blend. 20-somethings utilize Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare services to connect with each other and do business, and the line between their social lives and their office lives is often blurred. That's not quite the case everywhere, but if you're searching for information on a candidate, you're going to run into their personal information, including photos, comments, and their connections.
A smart researcher ignores most of this, skimming past irrelevant information like ads on a page, but there are many recruiters who enjoy the voyeresque power of looking into people's lives. I know this because some of them admit it.
There are rules, of course. Government rules and corporate rules that are supposed to screen out the bad practices, but those are more about lawsuits than what is right or wrong. You can't legislate right or wrong.
In all cases, the best advice is to use your head. If you're a manager, hire people with maturity (don't be fooled by their age), and provide oversight (not micromanagement). We're on the cusp of seeing a lot of lawsuits and news stories about the danger of social recruiting, as the poor economy tends to lead to more people frustrated with the hiring process.
Just keep your wits about you and don't feed the monster. The benefits outweigh the risks if you have the right employees. If you have the wrong ones, no rules will matter.
If you haven't done it, you've been a victim of it. A well-meaning acquaintance calls and says they're looking for work, and thought to maybe sit down and have a coffee.
As a recruiter, I get this a lot, at least until I started making it clear how much I detested the practice.
The major problem with get a coffee, grab a lunch is the object of your affection doesn't need you to buy them a coffee or a lunch, and if they take it, they're taking advantage of someone who may need that money (someone looking for a job). Worse yet, a coffee is a major inconvenience in time, adding in travel time and mental focus, that at best, yields a good feeling for helping someone out with feel good advice.
Except, they don't want advice. They want a job. If you told them you don't want to meet with them, but you'll take their resume to a hiring manager in need, they'd be a lot happier. The coffee is just a way to make it feel good, kinda like taking a Craigslist hooker out to a nice meal before heading to a hotel room. You may fool yourself into thinking it's a date, but that's just social niceties.
And those are the ones you can empathize with. The worst are the ones who are just looking to appear busy. I say the worst because I've been that guy. I scheduled a meeting with a guy, to grab a coffee, way back in 2002. He was a small business owner, and I was a staffing salesperson. After an hour of me talking about ideas, he stops me, looks right in my eyes, and asks me what he was doing there.
I was wasting his time. I was using him as a sounding board without any benefit to him. He politely waited, and then called me out on it.
Since then, I've tried to never do that to someone else, but I've had it done to me dozens of times. I can't complain, but I do instruct. And that instruction usually is to get to the point, and to do a lot of prep work if you're going to ask someone to meet you.
When you're looking for work, you need to be respectful of the time you're asking of those who are employed, not because they're more important, but because you want something from them. What you really want, is them to break out of their comfort zone, and actively work with you to get you work. You want to impress them, help them, and persuade them that it's worth their time to do more than mouth platitudes or forward a resume.
Showing up at a coffee isn't enough. Offering to "help" them or "network" with them isn't enough. And God help you if you haven't prepared for resume, practiced your elevator speech, or don't bother to show up early.
1) Don't Ask For A Meeting Without Telling Them Why. Tell them you're looking for work, you recognize it's always a drag to have to meet someone like this, but you've got a series of questions that you hope will make the time interesting, and worth their while. Set the time in a way that is convenient to them. Stop talking. Listen to them. Don't cut them off. You're asking for them to help you. Don't make that painful.
2) Make the meeting about them. Ask them how they got their current job, what they think of their industry. Ask them about promotion, hiring, the market, and what their biggest problems are. You do these things to learn, to get better at learning, and to take the knowledge you're given and apply it to interviews. This information makes you useful to the person you're meeting (giving them introspection), and it makes you interesting in your next interview.
3) Keep it short. Tell them 30 minutes, and at 20 minutes, remind them the 30 minutes is almost up, and you want to be respectful of their time.
4) Be prepared. At some point, they're going to ask you what they can do for you. Be as specific as possible, down to giving then names and companies you'd like them to make introductions for you. They can say yes or no, but if you ask them, you take away the vagueness, and show how committed you are. You're proving to them that if they do recommend you, you'll make them look good. Have your resume ready, but don't force it on them. Have a meeting agenda listing what you'd like to accomplish. That is what being prepared looks like, and it gives confidence to those wanting to help you.
Don't ask them to help you. Tell them what you'd like them to do to help you, and make sure they understand "no" and "I don't know" are acceptable answers. Your golden moment is to get them to pick up a phone and call someone to refer you. Not an email. Not a vague promise. A specific call to tell someone to interview you.