Don’t be shy. No, seriously, don’t be shy. You’ll never get a job you want that way. At least, that’s the way Lisa Hill sees it. The former corporate recruiter and now job coach says she has seen one character trait work more than any other when it comes to landing a job, and that’s confidence.
So again — don’t be shy. “And don’t worry about being a pest,” she says.
Hill, president and founder of Lisa Hill Associates in Millstone, will discuss strategies for getting the job you want on Tuesday, November 27, at 7 p.m. at the West Windsor Branch of the Mercer County Library. The event is free and walk-ins are welcome. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Hill was born in Belgium, the daughter of two parents who survived the Holocaust. Her father, an electrical engineer, was taken to a concentration camp.
“He survived,” Hill says, “because he was an electrician, he was mechanical. His trade saved him.”
Her mother, a fashion designer and one of 14 siblings born in France, was taken in by Catholic nuns during the Nazi occupation. As it turns out, the building the nuns were in was full of Nazis, but her mother’s blond hair and blue eyes kept the Germans’ suspicions at bay, Hill says. Her parents were actually boyfriend and girlfriend at the time the war pulled them apart. That they — and her mother’s 13 siblings — survived the war is something Hill says still stuns her.
“I’ve started writing a screenplay about it,” she says.
Post-war and post-Belgium the family moved to New York. Hill grew up mostly in Manhattan and then at the Jersey shore. After graduating from Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey), Hill found herself in HR and recruiting. In 2000 she started as an executive recruiter at United Staffing in New York. At the end of 2013 she went out on her own.
Unlike a lot of former corporate HR professionals-turned-job coaches, Hill was not downsized. She actually loved her work and says she found she was taking a deep personal stake in how well her clients were doing in their job searches.
“I did it mainly to help,” she says of going out on her own, where she thought she could get through to more people who didn’t have the luxury of getting to her New York City office. “Looking for a job is a job in itself. It can be degrading; it can lead to a loss of self-esteem. I thought this would be a way for me to give back.”
Hill is also the author of “Help! I Need a Job Now!,” published in April and available on Amazon.com for $12.95. For more information, visit Hill’s website at www.mustgetajob.com or e-mail email@example.com.
The economy. By all objective measures, the job market in 2018 has been reasonably healthy. Unemployment is low, even if wages are a little stagnant. But what of the idea that everyone who wants a job has or can get one?
“Boy, that is so not true,” Hill says. Plenty of people are working, yes, but plenty are not. And even those who are might not be in the best spot. A lot of the people stuck in jobs they don’t like are “people doing the right things,” she says. That is, they go to work, they do their jobs, and they hunt for something better. But they’re just not getting through. And those people who are having the biggest trouble getting past where they are, often turn out to be:
The shy. “I hate to say it, but if you’re quiet, unassuming, you’re just not going to get a job,” Hill says. “I work with a more direct approach.”
Hill’s direct approach is straight to the person doing the hiring. Say, for example, you wanted to work at a financial firm. Hill wouldn’t recommend calling the HR department, she would recommend calling the head of the department you want to work in — who will probably shuffle you to HR and tell you to send in your resume.
But you’re on their radar now, Hill says. And you should keep following up with that department head. Even if they’re not hiring, she says, staying in touch with the person running the department you want to be in with is a good base to work from.
She knows that that’s exactly counter to what a lot of people would tell you, especially the department manager who wouldn’t want to be pestered. Rest assured, Hill doesn’t advocate pummeling someone with phone calls every six hours, she just means take a shot. Call and see what’s up. Stay in touch via e-mail every so often. Just don’t give up, she says, because that’s how you lose out.
The search. The ideal place to start when looking for work, Hill says, is to know exactly what you would like to do. That’s not as easy as it sounds, but the better idea you have the more you can narrow down the places you would most like to work.
Hill recommends making a list of 10 companies you would want to work for, then checking the companies’ career pages. It’s not out of the question that one might be hiring. If so, scour the company website for contact names and then (unless you’re specifically told not to) reach out to the person in charge of the department.
“Tell them, ‘I’m really interested and I can be a real asset,’” she says
But if there’s nothing listed for you, Hill says she directs her clients to get a name and call someone anyway. Let them know who you are.
“You’ve got to be a little ballsy,” she says. The worst you’ll do is not get a job you don’t already have, but she says people are surprised how often an employer is willing to help someone get into a company when they show a lot of interest and initiative.
The cover letter. Resumes end up parsed and filtered and segregated in the void these days, at least where online submissions are concerned. But people still like to read a good cover letter.
“It can’t be generic,” Hill says. And that’s a surprisingly common problem she sees in cover letters (and resumes, for that matter) — a boilerplate communique that job hunters send to everyone. Here’s the thing: Employers can totally tell when you’re just mailing out the same thing to everybody.
The simple solution is to tailor the cover letter. This, Hill says, causes a lot of non-writers a lot of stress. They don’t like to write or can’t write well, so they send the same thing to a bunch of employers, but a simple alteration here and there can be enough.
The easiest trick, Hill says, is to copy the job description from an ad into your cover letter page and then clean up the language. It shows you were paying attention, and, if you qualify, it shows the employer that you’re exactly the person they’re looking for.
The other trick: Keep it short, Hill says. Don’t ramble on and on, just make your case and get out.
But follow up. Fortune, remember, favors the bold.
“The only people who succeed are the most persistent,” Hill says. “It’s okay to keep in touch. But most people don’t follow up.”