The 2-Hour Job Search

Tess graduation 2013-0015

Well, after a year of ‘retirement,’ I am in the market for work, looking for ways to finance my MBA.

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My career advisor at University of Oregon suggested that I read The 2-Hour Job Search by Steve Dalton to maximize my efforts. Here are my thoughts.

First, let’s start with the Amazon summary,

The 2-Hour Job Search shows job-seekers how to work smarter (and faster) to secure first interviews. Through a prescriptive approach, Dalton explains how to wade through the Internet’s sea of information and create a job-search system that relies on mainstream technology such as Excel, Google, LinkedIn, and alumni databases to create a list of target employers, contact them, and then secure an interview—with only two hours of effort. Avoiding vague tips like “leverage your contacts,” Dalton tells job-hunters exactly what to do and how to do it. This empowering book focuses on the critical middle phase of the job search and helps readers bring organization to what is all too often an ineffectual and frustrating process.

So it sounds like we are going to get pretty solid advice from this Senior Career Consultant and Associate Director of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business about how to land an interview. I’ll come back to this point later.

But first, here are a couple of Dalton’s topics that I liked best:

Motivation

Connections can get you in the door, but passion and follow-through are what get you the job.

It is no secret on FromBrownEyes that I am all about career passion. I mean, I quit a job I wasn’t passionate about to take a year off and discover what I am passionate about. So, needless to say, I was pretty excited when I got to Dalton’s chapter on motivation.

According to Dalton, motivation is “the most important criterion we sort our list (of potential future employers) by once it is completed,” and I have to say, I totally agree. Having lived it once, I know the importance of doing work that appeals to you.

But career passion can be elusive and we don’t all have the option to take a year off to find it. Dalton offers another solution: grab a business or world-events magazine and start flipping through it. Search for headlines that peak your interest, but don’t actually read the articles.

Simply flag them and keep looking. After you’ve found a few that have caught your eye, determine what those articles have in common. Once you’ve done that, you may well be on the way to figuring out what you want to do with your life.

I think this is a really simple technique that might reveal a lot to our unsuspecting selves. Another option is to use the app KnackUp. Here, you play three games that assess your abilities, or knacks. Based on your traits, the app suggests possible careers. This app can give you a starting place to search, introduce some new career options, or reinforce the career path you are already on. Here are my results:

The number of flames signal by best knacks and the app also suggests what career paths are best for me. I must admit, I was pretty excited to see Entrepreneur on the list (I am about to start my MBA with a specialization in Innovation and Entrepreneurship), and Consultant (my current career aspiration is to start a career consulting agency and I already work for a career-oriented online publication, Career Contessa). Seeing Research Director made sense, being that I grew up believing that I would become a medical researcher and have already dedicated a year of my life in a research lab studying Parkinson’s Disease. Now though, if I were to pursue a career in research, I believe it would be more in the realm of sociology. Physician, Physician’s Assistant, and Fashion Designer were all very surprising recommendations, but that is the beauty of the app. Give it a try and let us know how spot-on (or off) your results were.

Resume

We all know that having an updated resume full of impactful words is key to landing a great job. But a piece of advice that really stood out to me was: “Don’t include skills necessary for a job you don’t want.”

For example, I have four years of retail management experience, but if I list that as one of five skills on my resume, I am attracting all of the wrong people (aka, retailers). Instead, highlight the skills that will help you transition into your next career. “Retail management experience leading a team of 230 employees to achieve sales goals of $43M per year” now becomes “effective communicator to a team of 230 employees” and “ability to balance priorities to achieve sales goals of $43M per year.” I am still using the same skill set, but highlighting the skills instead of my previous position title. This will help me search for the job I want instead of the job I had.

Strengths

When you are updating your resume, you are going to want to list some skill sets. Strengths can be hard to assess, but are key when applying for jobs. Your employer will want to know what your self-assessed strengths (and opportunities) are. Here are some ways Dalton gets the reader thinking about this:

  • What have been your proudest moments in your life professionally up to this point?

  • Why were they so, and what unique skill or blend of skills was required to pull it off?

  • If your life depended on naming a skill at which you think you’re in the top 1% of the world, what would it be?

I have to say, I love the final question. Immediately after reading that sentence I asked myself, my mom, and my best friend. I personally would say “counseling.” I believe that I give sound advice and I genuinely enjoy helping others. I think my mom’s answer was perfect for her though, in “making people happy.”

Networking

Having spoken recently about treating my network bench right, this section really stood out to me. Dalton makes it clear in his book that the best way to land the right job is by having a contact on the inside. Whether it is someone to interview prep with, someone who can point you in the right direction, or someone that can bump your name to the top of the interview list, networking is key.

So how do you get a contact on the inside? Well, Dalton suggests at first checking out your LinkedIn, college alumni databases, and even Facebook. Maybe you have a friend of a friend that can make the connection for you? Find those connections and then reach out and get talking. The key is to respond quickly to an offer of help and follow up.

All the hard work you put in during the outreach process can be squandered very quickly if you don’t respond right away to the people who are trying to help you. Don’t fixate on those who haven’t responded yet…spend your time on those who are most likely to help you find jobs.

Whether it is an old employer, a friend who works at the company you are trying to get hired at, or a college alumni, keeping your network strong is going to play a huge role in landing that job.

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Informational Interviews

I have written about my MBA interview experience before (read how I prepped here), so I was curious to see how my prep differed from Dalton’s.

He recommended prepping specifically for the Big Three questions:

  1. Tell me about yourself (also knows as “Walk me through your resume”).

  2. Why do you want to work for our organization?

  3. Why do you want to work in this industry (say, energy)/function (say, marketing)?

In line with my advice, Dalton recommends answering the first question in about two minutes. He recommends using this framework,

First, I pursued hypothesis A. What I liked about that decision was B. What I wanted to change was C, leading me to pursue new hypothesis D.

Using this outline will keep your self-summary logical, chronological, and fast moving. Don’t be afraid to mention “any particularly unique or important hobbies or community involvements” to help build rapport with your interviewer.

While answering the second and third questions, Dalton suggests using the “assertion-proof-tieback” method. Here, you make an assertion, give proof of your statement, and then tie it back to the position you are hoping to land.

Here is an example of this process:

I have been fascinated by new technologies ever since I was a child. I read Slash and Boing Boing daily to keep up-to-date on the industry, even after all these years the industry still fascinates me. My passion for the industry and my constant consumption of news about it from a variety of sources gives me confidence I can quickly gain expertise on any product I might manage in the future

The informational interview is such a key aspect of the job hunt. Between narrowing your potential career paths (insider knowledge is a good way to find out if the actual job actually matches the description on the posting), building a network of people who will think of you when your perfect position does open, and prepping for the formal interview, this really is the key part of the process. Being that it is so important, it is also the hardest part of the job search process to secure and perfect. I believe this book is worth reading for its informational interviewing tips alone.

Sunk Costs

First of all, what is a sunk cost? Well, a sunk cost is an expense (not just money, but also time and effort) that cannot be recovered. In his book, Dalton is talking about the sunk costs in job searches. His example would be applying to a job you do not actually want, especially when passions have been disregarded. He writes,

In the job search, without a prioritized target list, you can start unintentionally prioritizing poor targets at the expense of richer ones…Let’s say you just applied to Company X, which you find underwhelming as an employer, but perhaps your friend knew the hiring manager there or you saw a job posting online and just got inspired in that moment to “make it happen.” At this point, your future decision making is susceptible to corruption by sunk costs.

Well, I am sure we all can identify with sunk costs in one way or another. Dalton goes on to provide another example,

In Vegas, they call this “throwing good money after bad,” or investing more money into an already bad investment. Guilt, rather than rational thought, is driving one’s actions in this case. The right approach – both in Vegas and in the job search after pursuing a mediocre employer – is to walk away.

This reminded me a lot of buyer’s remorse. In my purging and minimalism posts, I have talked extensively about the guilt I feel about not wearing expensive items I purchased. Well, as Dalton would say, those Vera Wang flats and BCBG cape are sunk costs and it is time to move on.

This section stood out to me because Dalton was using it to demonstrate the importance of prioritizing aspect of the job search. His LAMP method (he wrote a whole book about what LAMP is, and describing it here would put me way over my word count) is all about efficiently finding the right company and the right job posting. So if the goal is to find the right job in two hours, then the goal is to avoid sunk costs.

Honestly, this book isn’t aptly named, because no job search takes only 2-hours. From start to finish, this process will still take about four months (remember, this book is about landing the right job, not just any job), more if you lack insider contacts or career focus. I would highly recommend this book to any one looking to change career paths. As a whole, it is a great resource for people looking to break into a new industry or for those unsure about the next career step. For people who are already on their chosen career path but are looking to promote within, they can pick and chose the segments of this book that apply to themselves. Just don’t let the title deceive you – your job search will not be over in 2-hours. In fact, you won’t even be able to finish the book in two hours!

-TM

If your life depended on naming a skill at which you think you’re in the top 1% of the world, what would it be? Let us know below.

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