I was brand-new to job search consulting when Richard became my client. Richard had been a client of the previous consultant for over three months, a long time, given the excellent job market at the time.

Richard was very overweight, which would have been fine IF he carried himself well and projected a high level of energy. Richard did neither of these. His posture was poor and he seemed to shuffle rather than walk through the office. I was concerned about how prospective employers would perceive him.

And he wouldn't leave the office. Richard would come in at 7:30am and spend the entire day on the computer. He would rarely leave the technology center. A real problem in 1996. Sure, there were some job postings on “listserves” and “bulletin boards” (I think they were called).

But an online job search twenty years ago was not the introvert’s dream it is today.

Successful clients got out of the office, did lunch, met supporters and new contacts for coffee, and attended professional organization meetings and career fairs. 

He wore a suit every day in anticipation of the interview we were sure would never come.

Although Richard was shy, he was well liked in the office.  Because he was a technology whiz and always available, he often helped fellow clients use the computers. But he would sit silently in lead exchange meetings and was uncomfortable and inarticulate in practice interviews. 

From our conversations, I realized that Richard was highly skilled in accounting software that was becoming popular in the manufacturing industry. He wanted a job implementing that software.

So we formulated a research and communication plan. Richard, because of his technical skills, used our online job search tools to develop a solid list of software users and distributors. And we developed introductory emails highlighting his skill and experience in software implementations and maintenance.

Richard sent one email to companies he had identified as current software users.  He sent a variation of that email to distributors asking for recommendations to new clients and prospective buyers.

While Richard responded to inquiries during the week, I developed a plan to make Richard interview-ready. With him in mind, I negotiated a deal with the fitness center next door to offer our clients a free one-month program.  I found myself rehearsing the following Monday morning on my way to the office, how I would talk frankly with Richard.  My plan was to to advise him to start an exercise program and adapt his demeanor to project more energy and engagement. He was a sweet guy and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I was not looking forward to the conversation.

It was my job, however, to ensure that he present his best self in what I hoped would be a coming round of interviews.     

I was surprised that Richard was not at his usual computer when I arrived and ducked my head in the technology center. But i was thrilled when, an hour later, the receptionist buzzed me to say that Richard had a job. A job? She must mean an interview, right?

“No,” she said, “He got a job. Starts next week.” Richard had gotten a job between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.

I had only a few minutes to debrief with Richard. Turns out, that’s all it took for his new employer to make a decision. He received the offer after a 30-minute interview. They had a problem – how to successfully implement new software. Richard had the expertise to solve their problem.    

Would my efforts to help Richard present a sharper presence to prospective employers have been wasted? Absolutely not.

Fortunately, it turned out that Richard’s new employer was wise enough to overlook superficial attributes and focus on Richard’s strengths.

Were our joint efforts to position Richard as a solution to an employer’s problem critical to his success? Absolutely. 

Companies have problems.  Successful job search candidates have solutions.

What I hope you learned
When you have clearly identified what you offer, you can identify who is likely to need what you offer. In doing so, you may be able to overcome typical job search challenges and reduce the time to receive an offer.

What to do
1.  Develop your Job Search Datasheet to identify what you are selling.
2.  Clearly articulate what you offer a prospective employer in your resume, cover
     letter, and oral and written communications
3.  Identify the problem you are a solution to.
4.  Build your Target Company List to create a list of companies who might have that problem. 

Please share this post with someone who is looking to find their ideal job!



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