Being in between jobs for an extended period of time can be frustrating, financially painful and confusing.
You can lose perspective. You are so busy “doing" that you forget to analyze results and, as necessary, make adjustments.
So, how do you measure the success of of your search? A few things that strike me based on my own search process history as well as discussions with fellow job seekers along the way:
1. Do you have an actionable strategy?
In my opinion, job search success comes when hard work and preparation meet up with good timing. If you are without a strategy, you will likely be “finding acorns" by accident and in ways that deliver a result but not a good one. My advice? Set specific goals for the week that include phone calls, networking events, networking calls or coffees, etc and then rate yourself at the end of each week.
2. Are you taking smart action, each and every day, to move your search process forward?
While it is true that you can't search for a job 12 hours a day and 7 days a week, you need to be proactive. If you find yourself sitting in front of your computer waiting for e-mail alerts to arrive or scanning and re-scanning job search sites with different keywords, you are not working smart.
3. Are you getting your phone calls returned?
This is a highly measurable and important metric. The reality of this metric is important though. In my experience, a really good result is 3-4 people out of 10. A pretty good batting average in baseball, but a very frustrating result if you act diligently, put out a bunch of well thought out communications and get very little back to show for it. This includes calls into recruiters, networked hiring managers, employed people who work at a target company. If you are getting no calls back - NONE - you are either reaching too high (wrong level in a company) or too far (reaching out to people that are too distant from you relationally). If you are getting 2/10 that's not bad, but ask yourself why those two called back and see if you can, on your next round of calls, target folks that may have a better reason/motivation to help you out.
4. Are you getting recruiter calls?
Here I am not talking about while you are working - those are easy to get (everyone likes to call people who are employed, right?). I'm talking about calls specifically seeking your interest in an open search while you are unemployed. So, if you are getting these calls, what does it mean? It means a couple of things. First, people are networking for you and sharing your name with recruiters. They do this because they are aware of your availability, but more importantly, they are willing to share your name because they believe in you. Your recruiter calls are a measuring tool not only of a successful search effort but also a measurement of how well you have nurtured and respected your network.
5. Are you someone people seem to want to talk with?
If you go to a typical networking event where everyone gives their elevator speech*, there is always a period of informal networking at the end. Pay attention and you'll notice 7-8 smalls groups of 2-3 people forming. At the center of each group is one of four people. They are: the event organizer, the speaker, an employed networker who decided to show up and the 4 or 5 people who had really interesting things to say in their elevator speech. They delivered it well, displayed a confidence and made eye contact with everyone in the room as they spoke. How was your speech? Would you have approached yourself after your speech? Without a dynamic elevator speech, you will join the rest of the crowd waiting in line to network with one of the four folks mentioned above (a hard start to separate yourself).
*(an elevator speech is a 30-60 second presentation that includes a summary of your work experience, your target industry, target geography, target position, target companies and, hopefully a few memorable anecdotes about your successes - be memorable! It also never hurts to offer a few job leads to the group as it makes you valuable to others).
6. Are you getting phone interviews?
Phone interviews are a measurement of your resume's ability to quickly and substantially communicate your credibility and fit with the company's published job description. If you are getting no phone interviews, it is likely you are either applying for the wrong jobs (you are over or under qualified) or your resume is not strong enough at creating an impression. Also, a poor record on getting phone interviews can also be a reflection of an over-written, “trying too hard" cover letter. Get too cute with your cover letter and you can stand out in a negative, immature or unprofessional way - landing your resume/cover combo in the trash.
So, pay attention to the results you are getting and how people react to you. Are they introducing you to others or finding a convenient reason to move on ("Hey the buffet looks good, nice meeting you")? How do your results compare to other job seekers in your network. If everyone else is interviewing and you are busy filling out your Linkedin profile to get to 100%, you have work to do!
Take the time once a week to stop “doing", review your results and plan for adjustments to get back on target.
Tim Tyrell-Smith is a veteran consumer packaged goods marketing executive with a passion for ideas and strategy. He writes the blog Spin Strategy™ - Tools for Intelligent Job Search, a new efficiency-based job search strategy and tool set that is based on the concept of “plate-spinning". It helps place the right efforts against the right resources to maximize the return in job search. He created Spin Strategy in 2007 after coming out of his own job search experience with a desire to share his new found methodology with anyone needing support in finding that next great role.
You can view Tim's blog at http://quixoting.typepad.com/spin_strategy