Staying sane in your job search, Part 2

Good Monday morning, 

Last week, I shared the importance of qualifying jobs in your job search – confirming that the pay, position, title, and role are right for your career, your skills, and your bank account. 

At the beginning of your search, managing your pipeline is about collecting as many potentially good opportunities as you can.  At this point, you may not yet know what will be a good opportunity for you, or a bad job opportunity for you.  You haven’t had the time to explore the market in a while, you’re not certain about the overall demand for your role or specialties, and the prices that employers are willing to pay may still be opaque.

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But as you add leads to your pipeline, and qualify them, it’s helpful to have a concrete target for your process.

We’ve done a substantial amount of work at Ladders on optimizing the job search pipeline, and even written a paper on maximizing job search success with the Carlson School of Business. We’ve found that the best predictor of future success is having six — at least six — live opportunities at all times.

At the beginning of your search, this means pushing initial conversations to the interview stage.

Interviewing is your chance to be persuaded to take an interest in a role, and it is your chance to explain, rationally and persuasively, how your background meets their needs.  This mental model of a mutual exchange of information and probing questions is a more useful way to think about interviewing.

It’s counter-productive to think about interviews as the chance to “sell yourself.”  If interviews relied on sales skills for success, we’d never see the fifteen or so million professional hires per year we see in this country.  Most of us are not salespeople, and it creates needless anxiety to expect yourself to perform well at a skill you don’t have.

Interviews, then, aren’t so much about developing your non-existent sales skills, as they are about professionally reviewing the interviewer’s needs and your track record, background and capabilities, and exploring whether or not your capabilities and desires make it likely that you can succeed in the job.

Using interviews to qualify your leads, you can push the opportunities that make the most sense to you further along in your pipeline.

And what we’ve found is that the successful job search is the one that can keep six opportunities into the interviewing stages, and maintain the discipline to not let up on any of them, or future prospects either.  Keeping yourself focused, and preventing yourself from getting distracted by an overly rosy assessment of anyone job lead matter most.

It is easy to get distracted, as jobs at different stages of the process will be competing for your time and attention.  Some intriguing, but ultimately ill-suited, roles may devour a chunk of your interviewing week while other new job openings are just coming onto your radar screen.  You may find the exhaustion and burden of the job search causing you to lose motivation to pursue new job leads, particularly when successes seems so near. While juggling opportunities, it’s all too easy to focus on the shiny ball that demands your attention and drop the others.  

But this distraction is a mistake that hurts your chances of maximizing your career.

More bluntly, you may be tempted to drop everything as “The One” best opportunity approaches the offer stage.  You may rationalize that it’s OK to ease up on the work for all other opportunities as the end seems near. Do not fall into this trap.  As long as you are still on the search and haven’t signed a letter, you need to keep all of your opportunities moving forward.

Failures in the job search most often occur when a professional gets over-excited about an opportunity that has progressed so far that they stop following up on the others in their pipeline.  All the good signs are there, but there’s no offer and no confirmation by letter.

Until you are sitting in your seat on the first day at your new job, it is not a confirmed offer! And until you are shaking hands with your new boss at your new desk, you must keep your pipeline active.

Always keep six live opportunities in your pipeline and you’ll maximize the chances for your success.

I’m rooting for you,

Marc Cenedella, Founder