It was a late evening in 2001 — in the small Indian town of Kozhikode — when my friend's father, Professor Salahudheen shared this advice, "Son, job hunting is a different art. It's nothing like scoring marks in university. It demands specific skills and you need to develop these skills to win the game."
As a fresh graduate in engineering, I was on my way to Bangalore, which was fast becoming the Silicon Valley of India, to look for a job. The Indian job market was growing significantly because of an influx of positions in the technology sector. The challenge was to find the best opportunity first. During my job search, I worked to make connections at every job fair I attended. I joined online groups and mailing lists, and expanded my skill set to suit market expectations. My strategy worked well, and I eventually found a position at Tata Consultancy Services, a leading multinational information technology firm.
Now in 2012, almost ten years later, I have started a new job in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. My job-search strategy was vastly different this time around not only because of the rise of social media, but also because of our current economic climate. That said, the words of Professor Salahudheen still remained true, "Job hunting demands specific skills, and you need to develop these skills to win the game."
I started my job search by making a list of the industries I wanted to get into and the companies I wanted to work for. I then used LinkedIn to search for individuals who were currently working in these industries or for these companies. I looked through their skill sets to make sure they aligned with my own — and figured out where I needed improvement. I then adjusted my resume to highlight my key skills (and used hard numbers whenever possible to showcase my achievements).
I also set up a personal job-search feed, which delivered positions to my inbox automatically. When a promising opportunity landed in my inbox, I used LinkedIn to learn more about the position. I not only researched the company, but also looked to see if I had any shared connections to any of the company's employees.
I then worked to transfer my virtual connections into the real world — ideally, at a conference or networking event. Many LinkedIn groups, like The Enterprise Architecture Network and the Project Management Institute (PMI), organize networking events for their members.
Twitter also proved to be very useful. By following HR managers, placement agencies, industry news, and region-specific groups such as @psp_jobs, @middleeastjob, and @reeduae, I was able to find listings as soon as they were available, which gave me a head start when applying.
To prepare for interviews, I recorded a thirty-second clip of myself, describing my skills, my potential, and my experience. I repeatedly practiced it aloud so that when recruiters called, it was ready and well versed.
By following the steps above, I was able to find my new position at Pink Elephant, an IT service management company. A few weeks ago, I was walking through the corridors of my office building and the security guard from another company approached me and asked whether my firm was hiring. He desperately wanted to change jobs. I shared my job-search experience with him, and he's now started to get calls from potential employers. The steps that worked for me have now worked for him as well.
What have been your experiences trying to find a job recently? What's different than when you've searched for a job in the past? What challenges are you facing? Please share your experiences in the comments.
This post is part of the special series The New Rules for Getting a Job.
This blog first appeared on Harvard Business Review on 04/17/2012.
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