How Much Job Search Advice is Truly Worth Anything?

Originally published to LinkedIn on September 08, 2016

...and who should you really be listening to?

If you are in the business of giving people job search advice: writing resumes, personal branding and marketing plans, networking ideas and so on, please read no further as I will likely offend you.

However, if you are one of the millions of professionals either unemployed, underemployed, or unhappy, unfulfilled and lacking motivation in your current role, read on.  Based on the majority of feedback I get from professionals like you who I speak with every day, both as an executive recruiter during the course of searches I am conducting, and those who I am coaching directly, it amazes me how much truly awful advice you are likely getting. Even worse, many of you pay several thousand dollars for it, and are often left still sitting on your couch wondering if you will ever end up in a job you truly want to be in, the proverbial dream job.

Granted, there is an enormous amount of free advice for the taking, whether it be on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, or a variety of other social media platforms, university and corporate websites, or simply the well-intentioned friend or colleague. Some of that free advice can be quite worthwhile. However, the majority of it is worthy of its “free” price tag, and you most certainly are getting what you pay for.

For those of you who have paid sums of money to professional resume writers (many of whom I can’t imagine deserve the title of professional), I shed a tear for you. Your resume should not be your first line of attack, but instead, a document that the hiring manager / key influencer requests after they have met with you, almost as a formality. If you are being coached properly, the majority of your job search should be focused on securing phone calls and informal meetings with these key influencers, which will lead you towards interviews and offers. We all know that even if you are armed with a supercharged resume, your chances of getting called in for an interview are quite small when you reply to ads via the corporate websites and job boards, especially in this market.

OK, resume writers, put down your pitchforks. I will grant you the fact that a supercharged resume that is a “greatest hits package” and not an “every album ever recorded” version is a good thing to have. Yes, there is great value in having a stellar resume that highlights what you bring to the table. But I do stand fast to my approach above…the vast majority of those who are landing their dream jobs are doing so by networking their way into the companies of their choice vs. submitting resumes and hoping for a miracle.

There are also individual coaches and outplacement firms that offer other services that in my opinion can be a misplaced investment. Some will put together beautiful, glossy, printed dossiers of your life history, accomplishments, work experience back to your burger-flipping days in high school, photos, and everything else short of your favorite meatloaf recipe. Do me a favor. Imagine yourself receiving such a portfolio / presentation. Would you really read through it? Will all that promotional material truly influence you enough to change your mind on interviewing that person?

Lastly, there are those services that promise to send your resume to hundreds of recruiters, or reply to numerous jobs on your behalf etc. Throwing spaghetti at the walls to see what sticks rarely works, and you’re still left with the messy wall. It will be painfully obvious to those you are sending to that you are using the scattershot approach, and they will dismiss you as someone willing to accept any role. A targeted approach, reaching out to those who can and will guide you towards that dream job is the way to go, and in my opinion the easiest way to do this is via LinkedIn, a job seeker’s low hanging fruit if given the proper guidance.

Where do you get such guidance? There are certainly several top-notch career coaches that can navigate the stormy waters of a job search with an admiral’s expertise. LinkedIn features many of them in a variety of ways, whether through individual articles, stellar profiles, testimonials, and appearances in some of the leading online publications. You deserve to be in the top 2% of job seekers out there, landing an offer you may not even think is possible today. Try reaching out to a career strategist / coach to get direct, no-nonsense, assertive advice that will pay for itself many times over throughout the course of your reinvigorated career.

P.S. If anyone tells you to “follow your passion” (including every commencement speaker in history), please ignore them. Completely. There is a method to finding out what your perfect workday will look like, and it certainly does not involve blindly following any passion of yours. Instead, find the guidance to your "dream" job by combining your lifelong accomplishments, a target list of decision-makers and key influencers to reach out to, and a compelling message.

If you find that this post delivered some great ideas, please share it with 3 of your connections, fellow group members, and on your other social media platforms. This is exactly how I pick up great tips and ideas from some of the other thought leaders here on LinkedIn, and I'd greatly appreciate any efforts you make to do the same.

mikah sellers