Don’t Wait, Initiate!

12/07/2019 by Alexandra Arrington

Invariably, I will have an initial meeting with a client and they will share some variation of “I have applied and applied for jobs, but I just haven’t heard anything back.” In my 12 years of career development work, when I hear that statement it’s a clarion call that the client is in dire need of job search strategy.

Let’s clarify a few things about the assumptions in that “…haven’t heard anything…” statement and then look at how to eliminate that phrase while job searching:

Assumption #1: I’m supposed to sit and wait after submitting a job application.

No. Think hide-and-go-seek (hint: you’re the seeker). People say “if I only knew then what I know now.” For this topic, anyone who has ever played hide-and-go-seek as a child, did know then what should be known and applied in present day. In this game, the objective is to find friends that have hidden and make them “it.” Job searching, much like being the seeker in hide-and-go-seek, is anything but a passive venture. Job seekers must constantly and actively be looking for the target, until it is acquired, and the means doing some research and follow-up once the job application is submitted.

Assumption #2: It’s the employer’s job to inform me about the hiring process.

No, again. The employer’s primary responsibility is not to make sure you have all the available information about the process. While it’s certainly good procedure and helpful for the process, the employer is not first and foremost looking to let applicants know what’s happening with the process for job openings. Their first and most pressing concern is hiring the ideal candidate for the role. It is more important to them in terms of communication and follow up when one is on the list of those being considered.

 Assumption #3: I’m the person they want to hire.

Maybe, but maybe not. There are any number of factors that go into how or why employers choose the individuals they hire for a position. Some of the factors are mysterious, others are purely based on facts, pressing employer needs or quality of the applicant pool. Applicants should focus on presenting their strengths, connection to the work, knowledge about the work, and suitability for the role. Definitely, give employers as many reasons to make them read, see and think that you are the person they want to hire, even if they don’t think that.

Now, that some assumptions that should be avoided have been clarified, let’s address some specifics around unspoken rules of engagement in a job search after submitting the job application to keep in the loop of what might be happening.

 1. Be the best you that you can be. “Be the change you want to see,” is a popular phrase This is the same concept, and should be a constant pursuit before, during and after applying for jobs. Because of the third assumption covered earlier, and there being factors outside of an applicant’s control about the employer’s choice, work often on growing skill levels, skill sets, education and experience.

 2. Stay on target. Be sure to research and apply for positions that are of interest, but also require the strengths, combination of skills, educational background, experience, work environment preference, values, etc for which you are best suited. You have to know what these things are in order to assess whether or how well the position suits. This may mean working with a career counselor and/or doing formal and informal self-assessment. In short, before even applying, do a thorough evaluation of how close a match to the preferred candidate for the role you are. That will mean meeting more than the minimum qualifications, and having some insider information about the specific needs of the role. Here’s where it’s necessary to have individuals in your network that can help you.

 3. Be in constant community. In networking versus being in community, the means can be the same, but the ends are definitely different. Networking has the connotation where other other people are sought out purely to help you meet a need. In contrast, when in community, there is authentic and genuine engagement of others, sharing of common interests, and occasions for mutual benefit. In community, the contact is continuous and welcomed, so when a desire to make a specific request for assistance comes about, it’s not burdensome (e.g. Hello, I am applying for a role at a company you’ve worked for, would you have 5-10 minutes to chat about your experience in the work environment?).

There are some very positive things that can be communicated to an employer when you do more than just hit ‘submit’ on the job application and see what may be in the cards. Taking initiative is a great leadership trait, and employers may appreciate your confidence and assertiveness in exercising it. Having community can help you gather useful information about who is conducting the hiring, at which point making a call or sending an email to briefly introduce yourself and further express your interest in the role sets you apart. There is a balance, though. Don’t want to pester employers, but it doesn’t usually hurt to ask, unless follow-up contact is expressly prohibited. Some postings do indicate that they will not accept any calls or emails about the role. In that case, take heed, and reach out to your community about gathering information in other ways. The main message here is there is due diligence to be done before applying, and after applying. In some instances you may not be able to get much more information, and you certainly won’t without trying. Most often there is something additional to be gathered after hitting ‘submit’ and a little bit of targeted effort and community will help applicants to learn what that is.