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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the November 6, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Turning the Job Hunt on Its Head

One of the reasons that a job hunt is so difficult

is that the applicant is putting himself on the line. Each resume

that receives no response at all and each interview that leads to

no second interview is just so personal, such a rejection. The job

hunter most often feels like a supplicant, and each time he is turned

away his ego suffers a little more.

In a new book, Niels Nielsen has turned the self-image of the

typical job hunter upside down. The job hunter is not a supplicant,

offering himself up to the indifferent gods who guard company gates.

No, he is an entrepreneur looking for one really good customer. He

is the CEO of a company, and he is that company’s product.

Nielsen knows a lot about the job hunting process. The principal in

Princeton Management Consultants, a human resources consulting firm,

he is also the founder of Jobseekers, a support, networking, and information

group for people looking for employment. Jobseekers, which charges

no admission, meets on Tuesdays at Trinity Church on Mercer Street

in Princeton. Call 609-924-2277.

Nielsen’s new book is Princeton Management Consultants Guide to Your

New Job. Published by John Wiley & Sons, it is available now on

and will be in bookstores on Friday, November 8.

More than half of the book consists of actual cover letters and resumes

— with names and contact information altered — prepared "for

and with clients over the past 20 years." He has chosen cover

letters and resumes — key marketing tools for the job hunter —

for a number of job responsibilities and industry niches, including

marketing, finance, customer service, sales, and operations, and for

a variety of job levels — from CEO to administrative assistant.

The book offers advice not only on searching for a job, but also on

weighing the pros and cons of changing careers, starting a business,

and negotiating a favorable employment agreement.

No matter what the topic, this job seekers guide approaches it as

a business would. Chapter headings include Business Operations, Business

Plan, Product Plan, Marketing Plan, Advertising Plan, Pricing, and

Customer Management. This approach is refreshing, removing the vulnerable

— often-downsized — individual from center stage and replacing

him with a company, an enterprise in search of the perfect customer.

Here is an excerpt:

As a job seeker, you are now running a start-up business to

sell your services. Granted, you are only looking for one customer

— an employer — but in every other respect, you are in business

for yourself.

This means you have to set up operations exactly the same way you

would if you were going to be in business permanently, even though

it is only a matter of time until you return to the world of employment.

You may already be in this situation if you were telecommuting, employed

by a virtual corporation, working out of your home because you were

in sales or otherwise traveling extensively, or taking a lot of work

home from the office.

Set Up Shop. Job getting is a full-time occupation. You

need the facilities to pursue it effectively. Unless your former employer

is paying for outplacement counseling services that include use of

a time-shared office or you have the resources to rent space commercially,

you have to set up an office in your home.

The most important thing if you have a home office is to be professional.

Children, pets, or household noises distract you from devoting yourself

to your search. They reveal to anyone you contact by phone that you

are not fully engaged in your job hunt. So do whatever it takes to

set aside space that lets you function efficiently.

Much of the equipment you need relates to computer and connectivity

capabilities. Do your research thoroughly before you buy anything

or sign up for any services. The wrong choices can be a serious impediment

to your work and a drain on your finances.

Most likely you already have a computer at home but you need unimpeded

access to it during your working hours. If you have to, buy a computer

for yourself. They are so inexpensive that you ought to make that

investment. Purchase the very bottom of the line because you need

only minimum power and capacity to run the software and store the

data that relate to your search.

You will need a filing cabinet to store all the files you will create

in the course of your search. You may have copies of files from your

former jobs that you had a legitimate right to take with you that

also need to be stored.

You may be able to create your stationery yourself on your word processor,

but make sure its appearance helps you create the professional image

that you need to convey to the recipient. Use high-quality 25 percent

rag content bond paper, preferably in a businesslike color. Include

your address, telephone and fax numbers, and e-mail address on the

letterhead. Otherwise, get letterhead and envelopes designed and printed

at a print shop so that they look professional.

Get a business card designed and printed that is consistent with your

stationery in style, font, and color. Computer designed and printed

cards and stationery rarely look professional.

Get Organized. The job hunting process is built around

creating a list of contacts, making contact with them, keeping track

of what you have done, and scheduling what you have to do. It also

involves sending letters, resumes, and e-mails and keeping track of

contacts and appointments.

You can do this manually using an appointment calendar, a Rolodex,

an index card box, a business card folder, an accordion file, a looseleaf

book, and a file drawer with hanging files. These no-tech methods

work very well and there is a very low cost and a fast installation

and learning curve.

However, there are many powerful software packages that can automate

these processes. Be aware, though, that installation can be complicated

and there is a fairly steep learning curve for them.

You will be using the World Wide Web extensively for your job hunt.

Therefore, you need to get a high-quality, reliable Internet service

provider. Use a screen name that identifies you in a professional


You may decide to create a website. AOL and MSN provide do-it-yourself

capability. If you want something more sophisticated, shop for available

Web design and hosting services in your area.

You need uninterrupted access to your telephone for voice, fax, and

Internet. If this is not possible on your family line, consider adding

one or more phone lines for the duration of your job search.

Get a separate voice mailbox or answering machine for your home office.

Carefully write a script for your outgoing message that is friendly

and businesslike. Personal or cute messages do not fit the business

image you need to convey.

Make a Financial Plan. It will cost you money to hunt

for a job. You may have to dip into your savings or borrow money if

your severance pay and unemployment benefits run out. So budget for

these costs rather than have them surprise you.

Set up a budget to finance your job search. Don’t do things yourself

that others can do better for you at lower pay rates than you can

eventually earn. You need to save your time to do those things you

alone can do to conduct the job search.

Revise your personal budget to reflect the loss of income and the

costs of your job hunt. Do zero-based budgeting and take immediate

steps to cut unnecessary spending.

Stay Motivated and Disciplined. One of the biggest challenges

you will face working in your home office will be self-discipline.

There are innumerable distractions: refrigerator, family members,

pets, errands, and chores. Conversely, lonesomeness can be a burden

that can compound the depression you may be experiencing from losing

your job.

When you went to work at your former employer’s location, your work

habits and routines were mostly set by other people. Now you have

to be totally self-directed. Experiment to find out what your best

rhythm is and establish the pattern that suits you. Then stick with


Plan. Prepare a daily, weekly, and monthly to-do list.

At the end of every work day, plan what you are going to do the next

day, preferably in the sequence and time that you will do each item.

Use your pocket or desk calendar, your computer calendar, or PDA to

do this. That way, you can start working on your job search immediately

instead of spending a good part of the morning deciding what to do.

Many things will be repetitive: researching, phoning, and sending

out cover letters and resumes. Do them according to a set schedule.

Others will be mandatory, such as going to networking or interviewing

appointments. Allow for flexibility in your routine for those events.

Build in Leisure. Looking for work is a full-time job.

It is every bit as demanding as a paid job. Therefore, it also requires

leisure and recreation, otherwise you may burn out. To the extent

your budget allows it, keep doing the things that give you pleasure.

Besides, your family deserves your attention too, especially because

they are under the stress of you being out of work.

On the other hand, avoid overdoing it. Many people who are out of

work rejoice that they now have time to spend with their partner and

children. However, the downside is that you may disrupt their routines.

And you will presumably be reverting to much the same work pattern

when you resume working for an employer, which means that they again

have to adjust.

Set Up a Board of Advisors. It can be difficult to adjust

to being a solo operator, especially if you have been working in an

organization where you had a boss, colleagues, perhaps subordinates,

and experts from other departments and from outside the company to

draw on for direction and help. Therefore, create substitutes. Set

up a "Board of Advisors." Make alliances with people who can

advise and encourage you while you are out of work. Ask them to meet

on a regular basis to review your plans and progress. Offer to reciprocate

by telling them what you have discovered during your networking and

research that will benefit them in their jobs and careers.

Bottom Line: Stay Focused. I have a sign on my desk that

reads: HOW WILL THIS MAKE MONEY? I recommend it to you as a great

way to focus your job hunt and avoid wasting time.

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