This is a story about Lena - and many thousands of people like her
Over at CNN Money I read about Lena Rouse of Columbus, Ohio, who was unemployed all year last year, and still can't find a job, despite her qualifications. The article points out Lena's positive attitude and motivation to regain her place in the workforce - and her understandable frustration. My guess is that after such incredible coverage she will get some fabulous phone calls. At least I hope so. After all, you can't pay for that type of publicity.
In the meantime, I decided to Sherlock Holmes her to see if there might be something else going on when I noticed some red flags in the article, like:
"Hiring managers tell me I'm overqualified."
She sent out hundreds of job applications, and even told recruiters she would be willing to work for less than her previous salary.
"I've heard from recruiters at larger companies, and they will absolutely tell you they don't like to hire long-term unemployed people, they think our skills are less sharp.""
I don't think there's anything wrong with Lena, who seems to be a very viable candidate - she is educated, seems quite professional and has had a lot of good experience in her 22 year career in financial services. So what's going on, why is she having such difficulty getting a job in her field?
How Lena can improve her job search strategy
Admittedly, I don't know Lena except via the article and her LinkedIn profile. Nonetheless, just scanning the article and her LinkedIn profile (since that's all I have to go by) I identified several areas for improvement in her personal branding and job search strategies, with LinkedIn as the hub for activity. I hope she reads this - and that these suggestions help you too, whether or not you are a job seeker. I consider these points to all be of equal importance, they are not ranked.
1 - Sending out a flood of resumes rarely works - In fact, it will have the negative effect of making you feel like you sent out hundreds and no one will hire you, there must be something wrong with you, it wastes time you could be using to do something more constructive, etc. You'll end up hearing you are 'overqualified' as Lena states she has heard, if you are using the piata method - swinging in the air.
2 - Don't be confusing, be consistent. Lena claims she is unemployed and employers do not want to hire the long-term unemployed. Yet, it looks like she is employed on her LinkedIn profile, so why is she getting that type of feedback (or imagining it) and why isn't she sticking with that story (makes me doubt it is true)? It lists current employment as Consultant - Business Analysis, Titan Management Advisers, LLC, January 2013 Present (1 year 1 month) Greater Chicago Area - Work Remotely. Either she hasn't updated her profile or she isn't being consistent with her resume content and or in her interviews. That looks suspect. CNN Money used her LinkedIn headshot in the article about her, I'm kind of surprised @AnnalynKurtz didn't point these things out. If you have been unemployed more than a couple of months go out and find a volunteer opportunity to use your skills and experience. Volunteer experience counts.
3- Use the summary of your LinkedIn profile to talk about your current and future goals - not just literally as a summary. You miss an important opportunity above the fold to tell your story, talk about what you want, and make it clear that you are actively seeking employment. You can be human, have personality, reach through the monitor and intrigue the reader - or, be cold and clinical, technical and starchy, all in the summary. Lena's summary reflects the later.
4- Don't beg and don't discuss salary up front. Don't make the mistake of vomiting up front that you used to make a huge amount of money but you have been unemployed for so long you will take anything. I get the idea from the article that this is what Lena does. You can tell a recruiter your salary requirement is flexible, based on the company's budget, pay scale, and accountabilities of the position. Make it known that more important is working for a company that offers a rewarding experience with a competitive total compensation package, and that conversation can be had much later in the candidate selection courting process.
5 - Apply through the front door and network through the back door. Follow companies on LinkedIn that you want to work for. Get their updates, comment on their activity. Get noticed. Connect with managers and HR in those companies. Ask for information, tell them how interested you are in their opportunities. Build rapport, get from conversation online to having coffee offline.
6 - Network, network, network, on and offline. Lena only has 92 connections on LinkedIn. Join 50 groups. Lena belongs to 11 - a few job network, alumni association, staffing agencies, etc. LinkedIn lists 327 groups located in Columbus, Ohio, where Lena lives. I recommend she join the Chamber of Commerce and area networking groups. The likelihood several of them have meetups is high. Remember, employee referral is the number one source of hire, answering job ads is not.
7 - Give endorsements for people you esteem that you have worked with. Lena has onesie endorsements for several skills. Manage the skills you want endorsements for and delete the ones people write in for you that you don't really care to highlight. Keep the list of your core competencies to the ones you want prospective employers to notice. When you endorse people they get a notification and are more likely to endorse you. I wasn't a fan of endorsements when they first rolled out, but I am now.
8 - Write LinkedIn recommendations for people you worked with and you are likely to receive reciprocity (I find for every three you write you'll get at least one back). Good recommendations can only help you. When a recruiter views your profile and sees solid recommendations from co-workers it could be that extra edge that results in a phone call. When there are no recommendations at all for a person with a 22 year career, it really stands out. Unfortunately for Lena, she doesn't have any.
9 - Put your title in the 'headline' field (under your name) -People tend to clickety, click, click, click. What they see when they pull your profile up makes them decide if they stay or click on.. So, in Lena's case, perhaps Business Systems Analyst (a title she has on several past jobs) would be a better title than what she currently has under her name.
10 - Read and implement The 10 Step Strategic Job Search Plan that has helped scores of job seekers successfully get and stay on track in their job search, with satisfaction as the end result. No gimmick here, it's free and one of my contributions to helping people serious about their job search.
Best wishes for success in 2014 to Lena and all job seekers, especially those whose long-term unemployment compensation benefit has ended. The job search isn't about luck, it's about strategy, preparation and experience, meeting opportunity. If you have a question about your job search strategy please post it in the comments.