Job-Seeking Step 4: Finding Leads

Back To Main
Step 3: Crafting Your Image

You need networking

You can’t easily find a job alone

  • 85% of available positions are unlisted
  • Employers fill 80% of jobs through referrals
  • You must send about 500 unsolicited resumés to get one interview

Surround yourself with positive and encouraging people

  • Associate with them at least once a week to re-energize yourself for the job search
  • Quality friends give realistic and actionable constructive criticism

Ignore people who don’t prioritize your best interests

Find a mentor

  • Mentors are essential to both growth and job security
  • The more influential your mentor, the more chances you’ll be successful

Connect with people in your desired industry

  • Verify advice from others on whether they’re experts in their profession

Prepare to sacrifice

Your weaknesses are the most significant hurdle to the job search

  • You must overcome or conceal your weaknesses, which requires self-awareness
  • Negative people demotivate everyone else, so learn to be positive

Social anxiety is typical, but you must move out of your comfort zone to land a job

Work at your job search every single day

Research your desired industry when you’re not looking for jobs

  • Look in public libraries
  • Read occupational handbooks
  • Read any related business or industry magazines
    • Spending money on a trade magazine is always worth it

Keep your leads organized

  • Name, address, contact information
  • Networking source and priority
  • Primary goals for that contact
  • Secondary objectives for that contact
  • Dates, activity, and results of calls
  • Status: Completed, Call Back, Will Call, Followup Date

Get credentialed when you’re not job hunting

  • Many credentials and courses are free or affordable

Brainstorm creative new ways in your free time to promote yourself

  • Devote most of your energy to nontraditional networking methods
  • Find projects that would impress a prospective employer
  • Work on a hobby which showcases your talent
  • Submit articles to an industry publication

Networking is leaving a good impression with the right people, not meeting as many people as possible

Indicate you’re looking for a job in five emails to friends in other walks of life

  • Send it to each of them personally and individually without BCC or a group message
  • Share some specifics of what you’re looking for
  • Ask for any advice, thoughts or people that you may want to connect with
  • Listen to their input, tweak the email, and send it to five more friends

Focus on your first impression

The business world runs on first impressions

  • Even when you’re not job-seeking or at work, always maintain your public image

Speak briefly and to-the-point when meeting new people

  • Introduce yourself by asking a third person to introduce you
  • Asking for a connection too soon sounds desperate
  • Since everyone loves giving advice, ask for it when the situation permits

Practice original introductions for when others ask what you do

“I am trying to learn (item) so that I can rethink (industry)”

  • You can then learn about changes in either of your industries
  • If they ask more about your industry, share how your non-linear career path prepared you for your work

“I work in (space/area/industry) doing (career goal)”

  • You’re letting them know that you provide meaning and have a higher purpose
  • There are many ways to frame it
    • “I help people build their companies” (Operations work)
    • “I help people get their jobs” (Human Resources)
    • “I work on the business side” (Sales or Leadership)
    • “I work on the creative side” (Graphic Design or Strategy)

“I’m discovering where to go from (current position), but we’ll see since I have time to figure it out”

  • You’re preparing yourself to discuss the future of your work
  • Show your passion by sharing about a project which excites you
  • Before you finish, ask “what do you think your next career move may be?” to remind them of the general non-linearity of careers

“I am learning about (topic) right now, which is very exciting. What learning edge does your work let you experience?”

  • Share this if you’re excited about what you’re learning to let them ask in more detail

“I am working to being (job) so that I can (greater purpose)”

  • Say this when you know what you want to do to show you are working steadfastly toward a grand goal in mind

Cultures and expectations vary by region and company

  • Some areas post more jobs on online job boards while others have almost nothing relevant
  • Some attitudes are less formal and more friendly while others are severe
  • Essential concepts in one culture aren’t as significant in others
  • Communicate any difference in transportation or propriety

Look everywhere for connections

A. Ask people you know for word-of-mouth referrals

  • Family and friends
  • Teachers and professors
  • Neighbors
  • Ex-colleagues
  • Acquaintances

B. Network with strangers

Keep at least a dozen copies of your resumé and many business cards

Be careful with business cards

  • Business cards are often a useless formality, so only give them when the other person asks
  • As you meet people and connect with them, add their phone numbers to your contacts list and make the connection by emailing them immediately
  • Focus more on getting business cards than giving them

Routinely connect through LinkedIn and other social networks

Look for in-person venues where you can promote yourself

  • Industry-specific or general business networking events
  • Job fairs
  • Company information sessions and site visits
  • Educational events and lectures
  • Trade shows and professional conferences
  • Join a professional association and visit their meetings
  • Your college’s career services, alumni association or club event

Network through third parties

  • Employment agencies and contract/temporary firms
  • Industry-specific recruiters or headhunters
  • City chamber of commerce
  • Government employment offices

Networking is the combination of curiosity and contribution

  • Visit many events, since you can’t predict what will happen at one
  • Be prepared to give to others
    • Find unconventional ways to help anyone anytime
    • Help five people by sending them something noteworthy, an article or a job posting
  • Strive for an excellent reputation with everyone you meet
    • Always follow up all contacts, including ones that may lead nowhere

Be prepared to work for free

  • Volunteer through offering on a job board or with a service like Catchafire
  • Sometimes you can job shadow to understand the role you’re looking into
  • Many internships or volunteer opportunities lead to jobs, so boldly ask
  • Opportunities to work for free as chances to learn, so have a strategy to leave a volunteer position gracefully

C. Look at job boards only after you’ve exhausted your networking opportunities

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are designed to disqualify you when you post your profile online and pick an applicant within 200 seconds

  1. 200+ applicants will post their information
  2. The ATS will throw out 100 applicants immediately
  3. 80 applicants are thrown out from the recruiter’s search keywords
  4. The hiring manager will physically review twenty applicants
  5. 3-6 receive a phone screening
  6. 2-4 will land an interview

Since companies only fill 3% of jobs through online job boards, spend your least effort on them

  • Observe the frequency of jobs posted on sites like Indeed, Monster, ZipRecruiter or Hired before taking time to post your resumé
  • Message company and hiring agency recruiters through LinkedIn
  • Connect with temporary agencies to build miscellaneous work experience, but expect them to abuse your desire to work
  • Follow companies that interest you on LinkedIn
  • Some industries still use newspaper advertisements

Without an unbelievable level of expertise in your desired industry, you will need to apply to specific employers

  • Always add a personal touch to make your application stand out, even on employers’ job portals through their websites
  • Limit yourself to 8-10 positions in a week to focus exclusively on them
  • Observe keywords which distinguish your particular job mix

Make a list of target employers to focus in on

No matter how many other interviews you have, you must focus solely on the organization you’re applying to

Track each employer separately with spreadsheets

  • Move each employer forward on your project with each meeting
  • Record notes from each engagement and consider your next steps

The right kind of internet research makes learning about companies seamless

Choose five companies in your desired industry which grab your attention

Make a list of twenty influential people in that company

  1. Find out how accessible those people are and how or if you can contact them
  2. If you can, connect with them via email with the following
    • Your respect for them
    • Why you think their career path is interesting
    • Request for half an hour of their time to meet in person and receive advice
    • Share how you’re at an exciting crossroads and want their advice
      1. Something tangible
      2. Something philosophical
      3. One other question you’re currently wrestling with
    • Don’t expect anything from them
    • Create at least three specific questions for the meeting that answer all your issues
    • Ask them and closely listen when you meet with them
  3. Learn which organizations they run and consider working for them

You’re likely to be ignored by the influencers you contact, but you can win them over

  1. Remember an idea they said in passing and how you decisively responded to it, then send them a thank you note
  2. Send a followup email about a small commitment in response to their suggestion like connecting with someone else
  3. Send another followup email about how you followed through on that commitment and wanted to both update them and receive advice on what you should do next

Research before making any deeper connections with the company


  • Mission statement
  • Values and beliefs that guide the company
  • How the team bonds and has fun
  • The benefits of being a part of the organization
  • Common characteristics of employees who work there
  • Names of key personnel
  • Their web presence and LinkedIn savviness


  • Company’s primary products and services
  • Size of the company regarding sales, employment, and locations
  • Number of employees in it
    • A larger company is ideal at the beginning of your career because it gives many more networking opportunities
    • Generally, smaller companies give less pay and more responsibilities
    • In a smaller company you’ll work more closely with others, so consider your likeability and social skills
  • Company strengths
  • Company’s achievements

Business environment

  • Major competitors
  • View of the company by clients, suppliers, and competition
  • Latest news reports about or related to the company
  • Company management style
  • Company’s involvement in the community

The job itself

  • Details of the position
  • Skills and personality traits you can identify with
  • The appropriate salary range for the job and whether it can support your lifestyle
  • A title isn’t as marketable later as skills you learned
  • The people you’ll likely report to

In summary, be able to answer

  • What the organization does
  • What and who they exist for
  • The distinguishing characteristics of the company
  • How they’re different from the competition
  • The job you’d be performing

A good employer looks for specific attributes

  • Character – honest and demonstrates integrity
  • Competence – can read a situation and act appropriately
  • Chemistry – personality fits well with others in the organization

Make a goal to acquaint yourself with at least five people who work at your desired company

Connecting with employees increases the chances of getting a good referral

Make sure one of your connections is the hiring manager for your desired position

Find your hiring manager’s name with the Advanced Search function on LinkedIn

  • Enter the job title of the manager of your desired position with the company’s name
  • The easiest way to connect to someone is through other related people
    • Finding mutual friends is easy on social networks
  • Finding a third-degree connection is usually time-consuming and straightforward
    1. Look at everyone you know connected to your desired work
    2. Look at everyone your desired connection knows
    3. Connect through another person those two mutually know

If you’re savvy enough, you could try targeting individual people in companies with social media advertising

Try volunteering for your potential employer to show your competence

  1. Figure out what you want to do for the company you want to work for
    • Design or research something the company will receive from you for free
  2. Start your work for them before you talk to them or apply
  3. Send an email to a high-rank employee like the CEO or VP about what you’ve done when you’re applying
  4. Follow it up every few weeks until they respond

Mind your cover letter

A hiring manager will throw away a stock resumé and a copy-pasted cover letter in three seconds

  • Some hiring managers sift through hundreds of applications a day, so spend an extra hour or two of devoted effort

Send in a personalized cover letter instead of a generic copy-pasted one

  • Make each letter a separate personable communication tailored to your desired job

Write directly, to-the-point, and polite

  • Be honest and authentic with the reader, since writing shows authenticity clearly
  • Focus a cover letter to 2-3 short paragraphs
  • Only express interests which apply to the company

Use the following cover letter format

A. Start with a strong opening

  • A strong opening shows motivation and resourcefulness
  • Instead of “Dear Sir or Madam”, call the company to learn the hiring manager’s name, correct spelling, and job title if it’s not apparent
  • Begin the letter with a compliment toward the company or its services
    • Discuss the product in the beginning and express what it will do for you
  • Show personality with an appropriate quotation

B. Indicate why you are writing and provide examples from your resumé about how the job will fit you

C. Mention the name of someone you already know who works for the company

  • Most employers like to hire referrals from existing employees

D. Creatively tell them how you will positively impact the company

  • Use the basic sales technique of creating a need and then filling it
    • Ask a question about the company and answer it with what you can do
    • A recent cover letter trend addresses the employer’s pain followed by sharing how you can resolve that pain
  • Flatter the company a little
    • Brag about the company with a specific detail you researched
    • Show your value to the company with past information
  • Talk about how you are capable
    • Prove three ways that you have a real skill by showcasing your experience
    • Prove your alignment with the company’s mission in three ways, which takes work
      • Talk to an expert, read a book or attend a talk about recent industry news
      • Create a research paper or infographic about the industry
      • Attend several highly specific industry events, focusing on pioneers speaking at them
      • Volunteer at a not-for-profit connected to the industry
      • Give five things in the next few months you can improve in the industry according to the company’s mission statement
    • Say how you were going to change the industry yourself but can create a more profound impact with the company
    • Address any apparent concerns in a positive light like gaps in employment or terminations

E. Restate your interest in the position and how you feel about it

F. Close by explicitly indicating your followup plan

  • Request to talk, get advice, and learn about how you can work together
  • Give them a time and date you’ll try to call them
  • Indicate why you are making the call (to discuss the opportunity and fit for the position in more detail)

G. Thank the employer for their time and consideration

Avoid anything that may inspire the hiring manager to throw out your cover letter

  • Making demands or requests
  • Bragging about yourself with vagueness, hyperbole or too heavily
  • Spelling or punctuation errors

Avoid sending your letter and resumé to the wrong place

  • The CEO of a company larger than 60 people has no time to read a resumé
  • Generic hiring portals process resumés through an ATS
  • Send your resumé directly to the hiring manager
  • The cover letter should be pasted into the body of the email instead of as a separate attachment, so abide by email etiquette

Save a copy of the job description at the time you apply for it in case it’s removed

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is

Many scams and pyramid schemes appeal to unemployed and desperate people

  • Scam ads often show hyper-inflated salaries or odd hourly wages
  • Scams usually ask you to send money or personal information before proceeding

A great-looking job can often be embellished or hide the nature of the work environment

A job which repeatedly appears on job boards usually comes from difficulty in finding a legitimate and consistent worker willing to perform the job

Next: Step 5: Interviewing