Staying sane in your job search

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How do you squeeze the most dollars and the best outcome out of the limited amount of time you have for your job search?  If you’ve worked with sales, marketing or recruiting, you’re familiar with the concept of the pipeline — the heap of opportunities or leads that you march through a process of assessment and persuasion in the hopes of creating new customers.  Your job search, too, is a pipeline of opportunities that you’ll apply, assess, interview and qualify.

Our goal is to have you receive, in the current hot economy, four to five offers at roughly the same time.  In a downturn, we’d settle for two, or even one, but so long as the party’s going, let’s have a ball and go for more.


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In order to generate four to five offers, you’ll need to interview for 15 well-suited roles.  Which means reviewing or qualifying 30 to 40, which means applying or pitching yourself to upwards of one hundred opportunities over the next six months.  While that might sound daunting, it comes down to six applications per week over four months. It’s a feasible accomplishment.

Occasionally, we will come across professionals who start out with an absolutely unsustainable pace of applying to fifty to one hundred jobs per week.  This level of application and over-focus on the beginning of the pipeline is not effective, it’s not a pace you can maintain, and it’s not emotionally rewarding.

To generate six applications, pitches or connections per week, you’ll review a couple dozen opportunities that are in the ballpark each week of your search.  What counts as a lead?

  • Reviewing relevant, targeted job postings — something we’ve been doing for members at Ladders for over fifteen years.  
  • In-person or phone conversations with your network about open roles at their firm.  
  • Targeted reviews of companies in your industry.  
  • Responding to relevant recruiter outreach. 

Each of these counts as generating leads for your job search.

The initial pitch or application is as simple as “tell me about what types of roles you might be looking to add at your company in my area”, requesting an introduction to a hiring manager at a company, taking a call with a recruiter, or applying for a job and doing the initial follow up. 

Qualifying a role is one of the most essential tasks of the job search.  Qualifying means applying appropriate scrutiny to each role to determine whether or not it is truly worth the investment of time and effort to continue with the process for that particular role.  You should ask if the role is right for you, the compensation is right, and the career step is right:

  • Ask for the three most important factors for success in the role.  As we discuss in Ladders 2019 Interviews Guide, this should form the core of your interview strategy.
  • Confirm that compensation and other arrangements (full-time or contractor, on-premise or remote, lots of travel or none) match your lifestyle and economic goals.
  • Does this role move your career forward?  In the way, you’d anticipated or desired? To the extent, it varies a little bit or a lot from what you’d envisioned, is that variance an acceptable trade-off for you?

The amount of time you spend on each opportunity increases as you proceed through the pipeline, so qualifying an opportunity upfront means saving dozens of wasted hours later on.

Inevitably, our ego and the nice feeling of being wanted sometimes persuade us to continue with an opportunity that just isn’t right but that feels great — the recruiter is amiable and flattering, the brand name is big and impressive, the work provokes your curiosity — but you know in your heart of hearts that it’s not the right job for you.  The earlier you can catch yourself and prevent yourself from allotting time to fruitless searches the better.

Next week, I’ll cover the right number of opportunities to keep in your pipeline at any one time.  Have a great week in your search!

I’m rooting for you,

Marc Cenedella, Founder