The Evolution of a Job Search Writer
Rupert French is the principal consultant at The Job Winners, with more than 20 years of experience in career development. He is currently writing his fourth book on effective job search strategy, scheduled to be released this year. He aims to provide down-to-earth, workable strategies for managing psychological stresses of job search and maintaining essential confidence an positive self-image. Rupert was a 2020 recipient of the CDAA Awards for Excellence in Practice for the TAS Division.
If you had asked me 40 years ago what I thought I might be doing when I’m in my eighties, I certainly would not have answered ‘writing about job search’.
So how did this happen? The answer is that I was gently pushed in this direction by what was happening in the community. 1981 saw the beginning of serious youth unemployment. I was teaching at a small district high school in Tasmania and a group of us felt concerned about the high proportion of school leavers who were destined for the dole. We got together to establish a Community Youth Support Scheme project, one that was very work-oriented. We had a workshop where participants made dog kennels and step-ladders and other items for sale and a work pool allowing young people to go and mow lawns or tidy gardens. The principle was to maintain confidence, motivation and a work ethic – and it worked!
Then, some 10 years later, I left teaching, took a bit of further study and launched my practice with the main aim of helping disadvantaged job seekers. In 1993, I took accreditation training for two well known career planning tools, discovered the CDAA (then AACC) and joined. I was now supposedly a professional career practitioner – but I was well aware of my lack of knowledge. I knew that the need was huge and that, locally, there was no one else who could meet that need. I had to learn and I had to learn fast!
The encouragement and support I received from members of the CDAA/AACC was, and has continued to be, invaluable. Without that support, none of this would have happened. Being so aware of the importance of the Association’s role in assisting members, especially new members, to build their competence and confidence, I have tried to repay my debt by working for a strong, statewide Division in Tasmania and I think I’ve been on the Division Committee almost every year since about 1995. It’s an organisation well worth supporting.
Developing my Approach
Through the 1990s, I worked on improving my job search methodology. I read books by Howard Figler, William Bridges and sports psychologist Peter McLaughlin and colleagues. These writings helped me realise that it’s the confidence of the job seeker, the attitude and ability to take control of the job search process, which are the main predicators of success.
I must have made progress and built a bit of a name for myself because, now based in Hobart, I was asked by Employment National to design and run ‘Job Club’ style training sessions for large groups of disadvantaged job seekers. By chance my groups were mostly male and mostly over 45.
Forced to structure my approach, to write it out and present it in a way that was engaging to this cohort was challenging. However, it provided the impetus and the launching pad for my job search methodology.
The motivational importance of having an end-goal in sight, the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, meant starting with individual career planning sessions. Through encouraging collaboration, and through helping the participants take control of their own job search campaigns by being proactive, using enterprise and accessing the hidden job market, I was able to help them maintain a high level of confidence and motivation. And they got jobs! No, not all of them but a sufficient number to win the Manager’s warm approval.
So, while my approach isn’t entirely conventional, it gets results and that is the important thing.
Characteristics of Effective Job Search
Job search, like everything else, is continually evolving. Keeping up to date requires quite a lot of reading. It’s impossible to list all my readings but two, Guerrilla Marketing for Job Seekers 2.0 and Alison Doyle’s The Balance Careers website, stand out as recent influencers.
My firm belief remains that the main factors for job search success are developing and demonstrating confidence and the right attitude. These are what persuade employers to hire, much more so than just a good résumé and polished interview performance.
Conventional job search can engender a passive and almost submissive approach. This is demoralising for the job seeker and saps confidence. Even the term ‘submit’ implies subservience. As a result, I encourage job seekers to take full control of their job search campaign by working as if they were self-employed and seeking ‘clients’. This allows them to use initiative, to be proactive, to look for jobs which have not yet been advertised – in much the same way that small businesses reach out to prospective customers without waiting for those customers to advertise their needs.
Successful small businesses identify a market niche. I encourage job seekers to do the same, to decide exactly what sort of job they want and the organisations they would like to work for – and to choose just two possible openings to work on at a time.
It’s usually the applicant who puts in the best overall application – résumé, interview, research and networking – who wins the job. Concentrating on just two applications gives applicants more time to do a really good job rather than their working on several applications at the same time. Researching the organisation’s needs, working out how best to help them meet those needs and developing a value proposition, that is the way to grab the employer’s interest.
The Value Proposition, Calls to Action and Other New Trends
In the past, I often referred to a job application as being a business proposal but a better term which I came across recently is value proposition. This refers to the value the applicant wants to bring to the employer organisation. The value proposition should radiate from every facet of the job search. Obviously from the résumé and written application and from interview performance but also from every contact with people from the organisation, network interviews, emails, phone calls. The value proposition should be firmly based on thorough research of the organisation’s needs and the applicant’s confidence and desire to meet those needs.
Calls to action can be really effective providing there is a consistent value proposition to encourage employers to take the required action. Yet to many job seekers calls to action are seen as being a bit too pushy. They are still approaching the job search as mendicants rather than problem solvers. This is something I want to combat. Applying for a job should be seen as offering a win-win solution, a partnership working to achieve shared objectives.
This is where career planning becomes so important: focus on just the one or two occupations which will bring the greatest satisfaction. These are the ones which will engender motivation and a cheerful, can-do attitude, the attributes which do so much to persuade the employer to hire.
And Now I’m a Writer!
It’s an approach to job search which works and I would like to share it, to help others take advantage of it. I’m getting older. I no longer see many clients but I can try to spread the word through my writing. Some CDAA members may have seen a few of my articles on LinkedIn Pulse and a revised edition of my book How to Get A Good Job After 50 is due to hit the bookshelves in about three months’ time.
The book takes a holistic approach to job search and, as far as possible, covers all angles affecting the job seeker. This approach allows the integration of confidence and attitude development into every facet of the job search, into résumés, interviews, research and networking – even into how to show the right attitude when being interviewed by a robot!
Into the Future
The publisher asked me to write a book addressing the needs of the over-50s which is what I have done. However, I believe there is an even greater need. This is to support young job seekers. Research has shown that those who don’t gain satisfying employment reasonably soon after finishing their education become psychologically ‘scarred’. This research has found that they are significantly more likely to suffer future unemployment and are far less likely to achieve their full potential.
Because youth unemployment and under-employment affect such a high proportion of young people, I see this as a serious threat to Australia’s future productivity and social cohesion. I would love to collaborate with an organisation to develop a multi-media program to help counter this situation.