MAY 17, 2011


All of us have friends, family or co-workers who just seem unable to find that next position. Although The Alexander Group is not on that side of the placement business, we have counseled untold numbers of executives seeking positions. Here are six tips you can offer your friends that will make you seem like the guru of career counseling.

1. Re-evaluate your resume.

Ask friends, especially those who are in human resources or any type of writing field to critique your resume. It is very difficult to prepare your own resume. Remember that a resume should show how you made your company a better place. Hiring managers are interested in a resume that outlines not just responsibilities, but quantifiable achievements. If you have a broad background, you may need more than one resume depending on the position for which you are being considered

2. Get fit.

Once you get your resume into shape, it’s time to get yourself into shape. Use the extra time you always wished you’d had to get to the gym, the tennis court, the yoga studio, or just outside for a long walk. The benefits of a workout regimen while you are job searching are numerous. First of all, it can lend some structure to your day that you might be missing without a full time job. By marking it on the calendar, you’ll know you have something you can plan your day around. Secondly, getting those endorphins going will reduce your stress and provide a boost to your mood. Last but not least, the physical benefits of getting in shape will make you feel strong, confident, and increase your self-esteem during a challenging time. Working out and making sure you have a strong body is one thing you can control when other parts of your life are unpredictable.

Use LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is a tremendously important tool for many career-related purposes: getting new business, checking references, following particular companies, locating people from your past. Many believe that it is enough to be registered on LinkedIn. Not so. As we’ve written about before, anyone seeking a new position should have a picture, a fully completed profile and should be aggressively adding contacts.

We recommend spending a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour of each day reaching out to potential contacts such as search firm professionals, past and present business contacts, former managers, classmates, friends, etc. Additionally, add a couple of recommendations from past managers or co-workers and join academic and/or corporate alumni groups. Spend time examining the connections of your contacts. Do any of your current contacts have friends who could possibly help you? Use Google to find articles on how to use LinkedIn in your job search. If your job seeking friend cannot do all of the things mentioned above, then they are running a race blindfolded.

Understand what recruiters can and cannot do.

Most people misunderstand what recruiters and executive search professionals can and cannot do for them; this is especially the case for retained executive search firms. We often hear complaints from job seekers that Korn Ferry, Russell Reynolds—and any other retained firms you can name—refused to meet with them. But please understand that there is a distinction between recruiters and headhunters. Headhunters represent candidates. Recruiters represent the hiring organization and—in the case of a retained search firm—are retained to identify and recruit talent for a specific position. Given a choice between meeting the needs of an existing client, meeting with a prospective client, or advising a job seeker, most of the time, job seekers come last.

There is an exception to this rule: If you or your company had a relationship with a search firm before you were unemployed, then the above should not apply. Search firms are interested in relationships, and if you have given a search firm business, don’t hesitate to ask them for help reviewing your resume and introducing you to other partners in their firm. They owe you. And if a retained search firm has helped you, don’t thank them by referring all of your other out-of-work friends to them. Thank them by telling them that, once you get a new position, they will get your first search.

Be your own headhunter.

Encourage your friends to embrace introspection, research and responsibility. If you could design your own position, where and what would it look like? Can you think of specific companies that attract you? Do you know anyone at these companies? Some will say “I just want to get back to work again”. But, if you are not working, why not spend time thinking about and researching what type of company would be a fit for you. After all, who knows what makes you happier better than you? Job seekers must assume responsibility for their job search, at least in terms of being clear on what they want. Don’t assume a new position will fall into your lap. Do not be afraid to send your resume directly to the president or board member of the company. It may be better received coming from you rather than a recruiter.

Don’t get discouraged.

It is hard not to get discouraged, believe that your networking efforts are not working or, worse, take the rejection personally. As an old friend said to me, “There have never been two winters in a row.” Nothing lasts forever—including your current job (or unemployment) stress. Approach your search for a new position as a gardener approaches planting flowers. Not all flowers or leads may bloom. With bad weather conditions (i.e. the economy), maybe only one flower or lead will bloom. But, this should not stop you from continuing to plant the seeds or reaching out to new contacts because it only takes one for a new opportunity. The next contact you make may be the one.

Ask for help—both personally and professionally. Many find it hard to reach out and say “I’m struggling and feeling despondent.” They think it denotes weakness. Force yourself to reach out to friends for reinforcement and encouragement and vow to yourself that you will give the same support to others. You cannot get what you don’t give.

Article updated October 14, 2019.