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Getting in front of people and networking

A leading national career expert recently doled out tips to more 100 people at Medaille College on how to successfully land a job.

Rick Sears, president and CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Career Masters International, spreading an “it’s not the economy, it’s you,” mantra, told attendees that jobs are plentiful, but people need the right job-searching techniques to find them.

Sears holds workshops at businesses and institutions around the country with the goal of demystifying the hiring process and arming job seekers with tools and techniques to improve their employability. He led two workshops at Medaille, and he shared some of his message afterward.

Emma Sapong: What’s a common mistake that many job seekers make?

Rick Sears: Unfortunately a very high percentage of the unemployed and people looking to make a change are simply using only one tool to find jobs, and that’s the job board. The negative about that is only 2 percent of people will get hired from the job board. It’s a very, very low percentage. We basically instruct on how to do it the right way. How to get in front of the right hiring authorities and just that entire process.

ES: So what is the right way?

RS: Well, that’s a loaded question that takes about three hours for me to discuss. The right way is really just getting out there. Eighty percent of jobs nowadays are obtained through networking, and networking can be anything from just sitting in a Starbucks talking to people, to actually reaching out, knocking on doors of companies.

The message we’re trying to get across is you can’t just sit at home in your jammies and work online trying to find a job. You truly have to get out. You have to talk to people. You have to find mentors. You have got to be moving. And if you’re not moving, you become stagnant and then you’re not going to get the job done.

ES: But is the problem with the job seeker or the job market?

RS: Well, there’s a whole bunch of things that could cause problems. A little bit about my background. I own one of the largest executive search firms in the nation. We’ve got offices everywhere, and on any given day, we’re talking to thousands of companies. And I’m telling you, all of them are hiring. They just might not know it, but they’re all always looking for better people. The problem is people aren’t getting in front of those decision makers.

Almost every company does use the job board, but people aren’t marketing themselves properly. What they have to understand is what that resume truly is. It’s a brochure of that person. People who are looking for jobs are products, and they have to be marketed properly. And if they don’t have a proper sales brochure, which is a resume, then nobody is going to get excited about the product.

ES: What role can social media play in the job-hunting process?

RS: First of all, everybody should be on LinkedIn. The advantage to LinkedIn is recruiters have access to that for free. We have to pay a lot of money to be on Career Builder and Monster, so LinkedIn is a vital tool. A lot of companies don’t necessarily post all their positions onto the job board. They may have them on their website on their Facebook page or their Twitter account. That’s how I would use social media. You need to paint a good picture. There are a lot of positive things you can do on social media, so if I use that as a reference check to look you up, I want to see, especially if you’re unemployed, that you are going out to association meetings and meeting with the local chamber of commerce.

ES: What if you don’t have a social media presence?

RS: Right now I don’t think that will hurt you, but I would say it’s getting to that point where it’s a little gray area. If I go online and do a Google search and I find nothing about you, that would tell me that you don’t even know how to turn on a computer. Everything is a case-by-case basis and everybody’s going to look at it a little differently, but it is getting to that gray area where if you’ve never commented on anything online and you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, I could discriminate against that.

ES: Has social media changed the hiring process?

RS: Social media is now the first step for reference check for a lot of companies, so when I go out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and I’m seeing people using profanity, seeing people put crazy-drunken block party pictures from last weekend, I will discriminate and anybody who says they don’t discriminate in hiring is lying. Not black-and-white discrimination anymore, of course. The fact we use social media as first line of a reference check, tells a very telling story of who that person truly is.

ES: When does an individual need a career coach?

RS: To be honest with you, it all depends. If you’re someone who has never had to go look for a job, you would need to go out and get some guidance. If you’ve been unemployed a couple of times and you’ve been through the process, you’ve probably got it figured out. Career coaches can be extremely expensive. I don’t really consider myself a career coach, per se. If somebody knows how to market themselves properly and they’ve got a good network, I don’t believe they need a career coach. But if they are starting to get into a six-month to a year gap where they don’t have employment, they better be talking to somebody.

There are one-stop agencies and other organizations in Buffalo where you can go get free support. If someone has been unemployed for six months, they need to go and get help because they’re doing something wrong, and they’re going to get behind the eight-ball. And then when you start to get into that one-year, two-year gap, you can really start to get into trouble. Getting back on the horse is difficult.

ES: For those already employed, any advice for career improvement?

RS: It’s always about building your achievements and accomplishments. Somebody who’s currently employed cannot get comfortable. They can’t be the status quo, They need to come in early. They need to leave late. They need to take on projects. They always need to be thinking about how they can build their career based on their experience now. They should be thinking what they can do above and beyond now that they can use on their resume to sell themselves later.

When someone gets in a position, they usually get comfortable. They do their 9-to-5, they go home and forget about work. That’s going to have to change if you really want to stay on the up and up. Companies aren’t going to layoff really, really good people. They are going to layoff the slackers first or the people that were hired last.