The Fundamentals of Finding a Job in Any Economy
by Kenneth G. Roberts, Principal
Interior Talent, Inc., Industry Partner of ASID
It can be challenging to find a job when the economy is thriving, but in a down market it seems quite impossible to get noticed by companies who aren’t actively looking. A recession takes its toll on all sectors, in particular, the design community. But don’t be discouraged by the dip in the market. Now is a perfect opportunity to show a firm your resiliency, enhance your skill-set and prove your qualifications, when firms are relying on a smaller team who are among the best of the best.
So how do you begin the job hunt?
Educate yourself. This is a perfect time to take additional classes or CEUs, or go after an accreditation, such as the NCIDQ or LEED AP. Become an expert. Subscribe to every industry newsletter, find out about new projects, what firms are going to benefit from the stimulus package, what market segments are still experiencing growth, so you can target your job search accordingly. Get yourself connected! If you haven’t already, join online networks such as Linkedin.com, Facebook.com, Fastpitch.com, Ryze.com and, of course, ASID.org. Make the Internet work for you and become an expert in your field. It’s a common misconception that one is already an authority of their business because they work or study it, but the truth is there is no limit to the knowledge one gains in the field. Every day there are new innovations in the industry, and it’s imperative to constantly keep up with these changing trends.
Your network is your best arsenal, but it’s only as strong as you choose to utilize it. Make a list of representatives, owners, managers, etc. and make it your duty to contact at least 10 people every day. Put yourself out there and let them know not only what you have to offer, but why you are a missing asset of their team. Until you find one, networking should be your job. At least 60 percent of positions are landed through networking. Contacts should be friends, family, school colleagues, coworkers, vendors and local industry leaders. Developing relationships with new acquaintances is also essential to expanding your connections.
Flexibility is a trait that will take you far in any market. But in a down market you have to be open to doing things a little differently. For example, maybe your full-time job search will start with short-term freelance work. Many firms are nervous to commit to full-time employees with financing difficult to obtain and projects being put on hold—getting your foot in the door with freelance work is an excellent way to prove yourself. Also, be open to positions that are outside of your previous work experience. Typically, sales and business development positions stay in demand, so consider A&D product sales.
Always Be Ready
Remember, everywhere you go—dinner with friends, social meetings or networking events—is an opportunity to meet someone who could be a lead to a potential job. Stanley Milgram’s psychological small world study suggests that every one is connected through “six degrees of separation”; meaning, the new acquaintance you befriended knows through five other colleagues the manager reviewing the resume you just submitted. What can we learn from this? Always be approachable! Keep up with appearances, have plenty of business cards on hand, and be personable with everyone. Keep in mind, “our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.”
Leave a Lasting Impression
How companies judge your character is often times not from how well you market yourself, but how others do. Make sure you have a reliable list of references from your network that will be willing to “assess your success.” In addition, sealing the deal with a final strike will help you stand out in a crowd. Follow up any meeting with a thank you card. Handwritten notes are just not as prominent as they once were. Make this work to your advantage and take the time to write a note. Thank them for their time, remind them of your pursuits, and mention a personal anecdote. This adds something special that makes them remember you and will be greatly appreciated.
Networking and creating your own job campaign will make you a unique candidate in any firms’ eyes. For more information on perfecting your portfolio, creating your own brand, and what do on the big day of the interview, be sure to sign up for Kenneth G. Roberts’ webinar Tools, Tips, and Tactics: Finding a Job in a Tough Market at www.interiortalent.com.