A simple job hunting method

I'm often asked this loaded question by many graduates and younger Designers looking to land their first job in the industry.

The question:

"How do I go about finding a job in the industry?" 

It's loaded, its complicated and for someone about to being a career, it's fucking scary.

In this short and sweet post, I'll outline a simple job hunting method I've used with every person I've mentored in my career and have also used it myself when I was job hunting.

Firstly, where do you start when you haven't any idea where to start? Then, what do you do when you are faced with rejection after rejection?

Fair enough. It's a difficult road to travel.

Not knowing an industry and the people that make it up is common. I've written at length about the nativity and disconnection I felt when I was first starting out.

Looking into the abyss is frightful. Why not mitigate that fear by removing the emotion from the endeavour of job hunting?

Facing rejection is another reason we fear job hunting simply because probability dictates that we'll receive a polite rejection letter more often than we would receive the letter that offers us a job.

When I was job hunting, I found that the more active I was, the more prospects I reached out to, the less fearful I was of rejection. In a way, by having many options, they all simply became a number or name on my spreadsheet. 

Yes, there were organisations that I aspired to work with and they would usually find themselves at the top of my list. A list that was both short and limiting in its probability of success - mainly due to the fact that the majority of job hunters had the same names on their own short but aspirational lists.

I also realised, after five redundancies and many rejections, that the chances that these organisations were going to be ready to hire me, at the very same moment in time that I was ready to be hired, were very small, if not, non-existent.

These simple insights lead me to putting together a simple, but effective job-hunting method. The insights were:

  • I needed to contact at least 10 new people each day to maximise my efforts
  • I had to move on from each one quickly, and not over think each application
  • I needed to design a workflow that was deliberate and methodical
  • If I was to land a job, I needed to keep busy, bumming on the beach was just too much fun and far too easy

So I made a spreadsheet and I got started.

The method I followed was broken up into the following steps:

  • Hunt and gather
  • Validate
  • Contact
  • Follow up

I broke up my day into these four chunks, allocating at least 90 minutes to each. Sometimes when I found my flow, I'd spend a day on each step. Monday would be my hunt and gather day, Tuesday my validation day, and so on.

I used a simple spreadsheet to capture everything. You can access a copy of it at the end of this article.

Hunting and gathering was simply about capturing the name and URL of the business I was going to apply to and the names of key people I was going to reach out to (yes, more than one name). That's it, nothing more.

Once I had this information for one prospect, I'd move to the next one. 

I aimed for 20 per day.

Validating was about going back to the new prospects I hunted and gathered, and validating the information for each one.

I'd check for correct contact details for the key people or the business in general and a list of other bits of useful information:

  • Three key projects on their website (when the prospect was an agency)
  • Something interesting I had in common with their business (shared values/beliefs/ethos)
  • A recent bit of news about the business
  • Was there someone I knew that worked there?
  • Did they have positions advertised on their website?

This was enough to validate the choice I made when I hunted and gathered them in my first sprint of activity. If I learned something about this prospect that I didn't like (ie. they weren't into Crossfit or hated Tool) I'd delete them off my list.

It's always better to end a relationship early and nip these things in the bud.

After validation, I then went into contact mode. I'd start at the top of the list and send the first contact email which went something like this:

"Hi Jim,
I wanted to send a quick note to say hello.
I'm a [insert job title] with [x] years experience in [discipline].
I understand you're not hiring at the moment, but I'd value greatly a few minutes of your time to learn more about the work you do and any career advice you might offer me.
Are you up for a coffee over the next week or so?
I'll look forward to hearing from you."

The email was always short, it was about them, not me and it didn't waffle on. I never asked for a job.

Once I hit send, I moved to the next person and sent the next email, repeating until I got to the end of the list after which I'd move to the next stage.

When my list got to quit a large size I'd find myself spending a full day or more simply spending these first contact emails until I got to the end of it.

You're probably thinking how many names I had on my list and how many you should have.

There is no right or wrong number here, the rule of thumb is, the more names you have, the greater your chances of success. If you're diligent and driven, you'll be able to manage a list of 50 -100 names or more with ease.

Once I completed sending my first email, I then worked through the list and followed up to those contacts that I emailed last week.

I felt one week was enough time to allow even those people who only check email every day or two enough time to respond. 

The reality is that the people you are contacting are busy. They also receive prospecting emails like the one above, every single day. Currently, at Tank I'll receive an email requesting a job interview or if we have vacancies multiple times a week. At last glance, it would be upwards of 25 per week which isn't much for a smaller business like ours, but when we were much larger and more active in the industry, I'd personally receive upwards of 50 per week.

So, if they're busy, and they're inundated, send it and move on. Follow up with a courtesy email a week or so later. Something short and to the point:

"Hi Jim,
I'm just following up my email from last week regarding catching up for a coffee - I'd really value your advice on building a caterer in design.
I hope you're well and enjoying the day today."

That was the gist of my follow up email and I left it at that. I never called simply because I asked myself if I'd like to receive cold calls and the answer was always, and still is, a resounding no.

Every time I heard from someone, whether it was positive, negative or neutral, I left a note in the relevant space in my spreadsheet.

If I met with someone, I updated that note with the information they gave me and I kept in touch with them.

Did it work for me?

Yes it did.

A Simple Job Hunting Method

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