How Not to Be a Networking Leech: Tips for Seeking Professional Advice (Link to NYTimes article)

Credit Brenna Thummler

Good NYTimes article with reminders of the golden rules to make sure you’re networking like a grownup:


5 MORE Things You Can Do Today Instead of Combing Job Boards mascot
Sorry, Monster.

One Hundred Percent Juiced is still new to the blog scene, but out of the posts I’ve done so far, the one that has gotten best response by far is 5 Things You Can Do Today Instead of Combing Job Boards. It seems a lot of us job seekers want to be productive but have a feeling that job boards are not the best place to do that.

So, in response to popular demand, here are 5 more things to do instead of scrolling through job boards:

  1. Figure out the key characteristics of your ideal company. Big or small? What does that mean to you – number of employees, number of offices, annual billings, etc.? US based or international? Traditional or forward thinking? Large cap, mid cap, small cap or startup? What industry? Get specific and then make a list of these characteristics.
  1. Find three possible target companies and then evaluate them using the criteria you established in #1.
  1. For the one company that comes closest to matching your ideal characteristics, figure out who might be in a position to either hire you or someone who can influence those who are. Now play “3 Degrees of Separation” with this person (or these people). If you’re having trouble finding a bridge to them, try which claims to tell you “exactly how to get the best introduction to whoever you want to meet — a customer, employer or investor.” See how close you can get.
  1. Nerd out on all the news and information you can find about this ideal company. Try a Google News search, finance pages on Yahoo, the company’s corporate page, etc. Figure out their two or three biggest challenges, then determine where you can help.
  1. Write a letter to the best contact you were able to get within the company in #3, even if you don’t have a direct connection to them. Make this a letter that can pave your way into the company – try this.

With the two posts, that brings our total to 10 things we can do today instead of messing around with job boards. There’s more where these came from, and I’m always on the hunt for new, bigger and better ways to find the inside connections that we need.

Join the conversation! Please share what has, and has not, been working for you. Are you getting any responses from jobs listed on Indeed, LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, or a specialty board?

See what works for me as it happens. Enter your email address below to get automatic delivery of 100% Juiced!

Turn a LinkedIn Profile View Into a Job Lead

Who’s viewing your LinkedIn profile? And why?

I’m always looking for new ways to find leads for hidden jobs. Here’s one I tried this week in conjunction with my “pain” letters campaign.

I like to keep tabs on the last five people who have checked out my LinkedIn profile (Premium members get the last 90 days worth). It’s gratifying when someone takes a look after I’ve contacted them regarding a position, plus it’s nice just to know people are interested. But what I wasn’t paying attention to is that LinkedIn also tells you where they viewed you from, i.e. from the LinkedIn Mobile App or People You May Know, etc. This makes a difference because if they got to me via People You May Know, it’s less likely they have a position to fill. But via a Google or LinkedIn search? That’s a much more interesting situation.

If you follow this blog, you know that I’m on a mission to send letters to 10 potential employers every week. (In fact I’ve upped the ante and I’m now aiming for at least 20 people per week.) Up till now, I’ve sent them cold, addressing them to the person I would work for without having any “in” at the companies. But this week I’m trying something new.

Last month, two people from the same company viewed my profile. At the time, I was targeting another sector so the company was not on my radar. One month later, I’ve broadened my scope and now it is.

A quick Google search revealed they had been looking to hire someone with my type of experience. This company is huge, and I was too junior for the role, so I’m not surprised that they didn’t contact me. Still, there was something about my profile that piqued their interest. That’s all I needed to know.

My letter to this company went a little differently.

I cued up the same basic missive I’ve been sending cold, but altered the beginning to say that I saw they’d viewed my profile and then acknowledged that I’m too junior for the role they were looking to fill. Then I expressed my ongoing interest in what’s been going on at the company, listed what I see as their top three challenges and proceeded to list my strengths and experience and how they could contribute to achieving the company’s goals.

I’m dropping the letter in the mail tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes. If I hear anything back, I’ll report it here as an update. (Fingers crossed.)

See what works for me as it happens. Enter your email address below to get automatic delivery of 100% Juiced!

The 5 Components of a Good Job Search Pain Letter – UPDATED 10/1/15

(Updated 10/1/15 – See below)

Pain letters.

Vintage pain killer advertisement
In a pain letter, show how you can help kill a company’s pain.

Good name. They’re a pain to write.

But do they work?

I’m not sure, but I’m giving them a try. I was inspired to give it a go by a friend who has been trying to get placed on a board over the past five months. He sent out 500 letters over five months and has gotten a reply on 100 of those — a very healthy response rate, I think. If I end up with even a 10% response rate, I’ll be happy with that. Especially if it leads to my next job.

If you don’t know what a pain letter is, it’s a term Liz Ryan, a frequent contributor to Forbes, coined to describe a next-level cover letter. Instead of the traditional cover letter where you connect the dots of your career experience and express an interest in working for the company, the pain letter not only connects those dots, it goes further by mentioning the biggest issues the company is facing (and causing them “pain”) and then shows how you can help solve those problems.

It can be quite a bit of work to do the research needed to write a good pain letter. But the result does come across as far more knowledgeable, interested and qualified.

My process

I always start with the same basic letter as a template, then customize for the intended recipient.


I begin the letter by congratulating the recipient on a specific success they’ve experienced at the company. I can usually find something to compliment them on by looking at interviews with the person or stories about them in the press.


Pain measurement scale
Find the company’s most painful problems, then explain how you are uniquely qualified to help solve them.

Next, I list three or four specific issues that the company is battling. I gather these by Googling recent news stories about the company and their quarterly earnings and analyst presentations.


Then I go into a bulleted list of the experience I have that relates to solving those problems. I usually have about five bulleted items. These stay pretty much the same on all of my pain letters, though there are little tweaks here and there.


I conclude the letter with a paragraph about how much I’d like to join their team and tell them I’m looking forward to hearing from them.


Finally, I print it all out on nicer-than-usual paper and enclose a copy of my resume.

My goal is to send out letters to the CFOs of 50 companies that I’m interested in working for. I aim to send out two letters per day. After a week and a half I’m 11 letters into it. No responses so far, but it’s early days yet. Plus the first two weeks of September have been all about earning reports in most of the companies I’m targeting so I’m not sure anyone has had time to read their mail.

I’ll update this post when/if I get any responses. Fingers crossed!

Do you have a “pain letter” success story? Do they work? Or are they just another fruitless way for us to feel productive during our job search?

UPDATE 10/1/15: I got responses to THREE of my pain letters yesterday afternoon, all within an hour or so of each other. I wanted to hear back from just one of the companies I’d contacted to know all my letters weren’t being sent directly to the circular file. I’ve sent out 28 packages over the past two weeks (some have not even had time to arrive at their destinations), so my response rate at this point is just over 10%.

Of the three responses, one was an acknowledgment that they’d received the package and letting me know they have no openings for someone with my skill set at this time (respect!), the second was from the head of HR at a financial services company with a very recognizable name wanting to schedule an exploratory phone call. The third was from the head honcho of a hospitality giant, with an invitation to meet for coffee.

It’s so gratifying to get these responses. These two letters have done what they were intended to do: get my foot in the door. Now I’ve got to take these “ins” and turn them into opportunities.

So, to the job seekers out there — this approach does work. It is an investment of time and resources, but so worth it. These are companies I’ve targeted as being places I’d love to work, and now I have top quality inside contacts at two of them. Compare that to the likely response from applying to 28 jobs via job boards. Would I have even heard back from one, much less three? Probably not.

In preparation for these meetings and calls, I’ll be diving deep into the details of the two companies I’m going to speak with. I’ll figure out how, exactly, I might fit into their existing structure and where I can add the most value to help them address their most pressing issues. Hopefully I can convert one or more of these leads to job offers.

I’ll continue to post updates here about my experiences, good and bad, with my pain letter campaign.

Size Matters – How Does Your Desired Comp Package Measure Up?

The Creative Group's Secret Sauce 2016 Salary GuideIn interviews or calls with recruiters, do you know how to respond to the question “What is your salary expectation?” It’s a tricky question. Answer with a number that’s too high and you’ll price yourself out of the opportunity; too low and you’ll look under qualified or too junior for the role.

See how your answer measures up to these national salary surveys (US):

Finance, Office, Industrial and Transportation (requires sign up) (New York and San Francisco only)

Creative (go to pg. 12 for starting salaries, then to pg. 16 for adjustments by city) (requires sign up)

Engineering, Tech, Medical and Science (requires sign up)

Or use Adecco’s handy dandy salary calculator here:

Making it Through Hiring Dead Zones: 3 Strategies for Survival

Hike photo
Stepping away from the job search to recharge on a hike.

We’re well into the month of September and after a long, quiet August I was anticipating (and expecting) that people would be back in the office, returning to their routines, and that required decision makers would be back in place to get hiring activity back on track. I was hoping to start hearing the soft ping of inquiries and responses hitting my email inbox again. But instead, what am I hearing? Crickets.

As job seekers, we know August will be a tough month.

People up and down the decision making chain are out for a week here, two weeks there. Hiring activity slows down to a trickle. But with most school vacations over by Labor Day, those of us with kids tend to get back in the swing of things in early September. We keep our head down during the month of August, doing the best we can with a dwindling number of leads and responses, expecting that come September 1st, things will pick back up. But we forget not everyone lives by the school calendar.

The first two weeks of September are when empty nesters and people without kids get to take their summer breaks. Airfare and hotels are considerably cheaper; destinations are less crowded and virtually kid-free. I don’t blame them. Someday I’ll be an empty nester, blissfully vacationing in September, and I too will put all hiring decisions on hold. But for now, I’m getting to the bottom of my patience reserves.

The one month of slow activity that I expected is now extending halfway into September. OK, I’m getting my head around that. But how to deal with the lack of response, lack of new opportunities, lack of energy that defines job search in these stretches of slower activity? Even when we know we’re in a hiring dead zone, it’s hard not to let it get to us.

Here are a few strategies I use for the slow times. I’ll probably continue in this mode for the next week so, until everyone’s gotten their ya-yah’s out in the kid-free, bargain priced beach resorts, mountain getaways, and cosmopolitan cities of their dreams:

1) Respect the ebb and flow / reap and sow cycles. While it may be tempting to double down and hit job search efforts even harder, the ongoing lack of response can lead to burnout and depression. It’s like trying to get blood from the proverbial turnip; it ain’t gonna happen. The activity just isn’t there. Instead, this can be a great time to get things in order: revamp the resume, rethink the positioning statement, research companies we’d like to target, and identify the people in those companies that would likely be in the position to hire us. Plant seeds now with the understanding that they won’t bear fruit until later in the fall.

2) Commiserate. I have two good friends who are also in job seeking mode. We keep in touch about how things are going via a long email chain that we add to a few times every week. Comparing notes with them always reminds me that this is an interlude in hiring activity across the boards. It’s not just me. But I have to be reminded from time to time because it starts to feel personal.

3) Step away now and then. While hiring activity is low and the weather is still great, get away from the screens in your life. I reluctantly went on a hike yesterday and it was infinitely more productive than if I’d spent another day on my job search efforts. It was just a 5-mile hike about an hour away from my home, but it was like a mini vacation and now I’ll be ready to get back to the search on Monday with renewed focus.

Hopefully we’re on the brink of emerging from this hiring dead zone into the more fruitful fall months that should last until the week or two prior to the Thanksgiving holidays. Then the cycle will naturally swing back towards the time to refocus on ourselves, the time to sow more seeds with the hope of a rewarding harvest in the early new year.

Have you felt the drag in hiring activity this month? How do you deal with hiring dead zones?

Job Search from the Comfort Zone

My Job Search Constraint Model
Most of us choose to stay in our comfort zone while aiming to get a new job fast and in doing so sacrifice the quality of the job we accept.

The comfort zone. Makes me feel warm and fuzzy just typing the words. It’s where most of us dwell 24/7 and it can take a monumental event to get us out of it.

I keep thinking about a conversation I came across on reddit a couple of days ago, where a member, who we’ll call Person A, posted this question:

Is there a way to target small companies? Frankly I’m sick of searching for jobs via the web and coming across all these big companies and familiar names. I would much rather work at a smaller company than a big one that has “diversity” quotas and the “HR wall of china”.

Problem is even though small companies make up 90% of the engineering firms (in Germany for example), it is still impossible to find them on these job board sites. It is almost like big companies are spamming job boards just to drown out the competition from advertising. Solution?

There were a few short responses, but the one that stood out was this one from Person B:

I agree, “Job Board” style search is dead. Corporate sites are just big wastelands.

You need to use networking and LinkedIn.

Now, your question should have been “How do I target hiring decision makers at small companies?” Not the companies, the people. The good news, it’s simple to network with them. Just find out where they hang out, look on tech blogs for posts that individuals make. Go to startup mixers. Join an incubator in your community. If you see someone who writes a book or speaks at a conference that sounds like what you want, connect with them on LinkedIn. Send them a message; tell them that they did a good job. If you see something you like, write a blog post or article saying what you thought of it, link back to them, and praise them. Be genuine, people can sniff out ass-kissers, but compliments do go a long way.

Generally speaking people at smaller companies are far more approachable and receptive to meeting people. They don’t have that corporate aloofness.

Observe the golden social media rule of “give before you expect to get”. Don’t hit them up for a job. Do a favor for them first, endorse them, write a review of their book on Amazon, rate their company on Yelp, on Slideshare, share and promote their stuff on Twitter. When they see you doing this (and LinkedIn is awesome at this feedback loop), they will be way more interested in speaking with you. Keep going with that “give, give give” mentality. Eventually it will start coming back to you.

There’s a really great tool called “Autopilot for LinkedIn”, it’s great at helping you meet people.

To me, Person B’s answer seemed like it had some time and thought put into it. The advice is good, IMO, and in line with what I see from experts. But Person A replied:

Thanks for the post. I understand what you are saying, but a lot of the things just don’t feel right.

“it’s simple to network with them. Just find out where they hang out, look on tech blogs for posts that individuals make.”

Hang out in the offline world or online. It feels like 99% of those employers aren’t going to be hanging out in tech blogs and such. It would also seem like I’m orbiting them with the intent of getting a job rather than genuine interest.

“if you see someone who writes a book or speaks at a conference…”

Again, feels like disingenuous orbiting and extremely unlikely.

” If you see something you like, write a blog post or article saying what you thought of it, link back to them, and praise them.”

I’m not a blogger (don’t know how) and don’t want to start. Either way it feels like extreme ass kissing to me.

“Observe the golden social media rule of “give before you expect to get … rate their company on Yelp, on Slideshare, share and promote their stuff on Twitter.”

So I would rate their company disingenuously on yelp since I have never been a customer. Promote their stuff on twitter to my 0 followers.

I agree with the give before you expect to get but you can’t really give them anything of real substance, only ass-kissing. It also seems like you are asking for quite a time commitment, read his book? lol.

What I don’t understand is this feedback loop you talk about. Can they see if I’m promoting their stuff via twitter if twitter and LinkedIn accounts are linked?

So, essentially, Person A went through and made an excuse not to do any of Person B’s suggestions. Now, I do get some of the objections; if you’re not much of a writer, the curve will probably be pretty steep to write an article or blog post and then put it out there for the world to see. And if you don’t enjoy reading then maybe reading someone’s book or article is just going to be something on your To Do list that repeatedly gets put off. (Hmm, that excuse is actually a bit of a reach for me. But I love to read, so maybe.)

But to me, all of Person A’s objections boil down to the same thing: the suggestions fall outside of his or her comfort zone. And Person A’s response represents the attitude shared by of a lot of us.

It’s a powerful force, the comfort zone. It’s like a huge magnet that exerts a constant pull of each of us, keeping us in the same patterns. Doing the same things over and over even though we may want or expect different results.

So I made a comment (only a month late to the party):

Sorry, [Person A]—[Person B] is right. I understand that you feel distaste for doing the things suggested, but there are ways to do some of these that don’t come across as sycophantic. Instead of shooting down every suggestion, maybe you can think about each thing and how to do it with integrity within your personality and circumstances. For example, if you don’t want to blog about someone or blindly praise them just because they’re in a position to hire you, what if you made a comment on an article they’ve posted on LinkedIn? It doesn’t have to agree with them, it could even challenge them (respectfully, of course). The main thing is to engage and get on their radar.

No response from Person A (yet).

We all probably know a list of things we should be doing to make the connections we need to get the job we want, we just shy away from those that take us out of our comfort zones.

But maybe if we choose two or three things that we recoil from and rethink or reframe them to come closer to what we’re comfortable with, we can meet them halfway and start getting results that we haven’t previously.

Constraint Model

In my experience in graphic design there was the rule of two out of three: Fast-Good-Cheap. Of these three things, clients could only pick two. If they wanted a good design done quickly, it wouldn’t come cheap. If they wanted a good design at a low price, it couldn’t be fast. And if they wanted a low priced design done quickly, it probably wasn’t going to be much good. In my spouse’s background of business management, he knows it as the project management triangle or triple constraint model. Same concept, but the choices are Cost-Schedule-Scope.

So I started thinking about this two out of three rule as applied to job search. But instead of cost, I’ve used comfort.

My Job Search Constraint Model
Most of us choose to stay in our comfort zone while aiming to get a new job quickly, sacrificing the quality of the job we end up accepting.

Choose the two most important things to you in your job search. The overlap shows the probable downside of your choices. (If you can’t deal with that outcome, you might want to reassess your priorities.)

The star in the center represents that elusive combo of finding a great job quickly from your comfort zone. Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

My theory is that most of us choose to stay in our comfort zone while aiming to get a new job fast. So we tend to land in the “crappy job” overlap area and take a job that meets some of our criteria but maybe not enough to keep us happy in the long term. Looking back over the career decisions I’ve made, I know I’ve made some jobs “fit” just so I could justify taking them. Like the job that was a 7 minute walk from my house but was in such a state of turmoil that it was like walking into a Chuck E. Cheese every day.

What kind of monumental events get us out of our comfort zones? The one thing that leaps to mind is inability to pay the bills, especially things like mortgage, utilities and car payments. Once that account balance starts dwindling, we either step farther out of what we’re comfortable doing or we take any job just to have the paycheck coming in.

Where do you fall on my job search constraint model? Are you OK with the potential downside? Can you get yourself out of your comfort zone in order to get more of what you want from the other two constraints?

The 5 Levels of Business Attire

A good, basic guide from Business Insider. Maybe not so much for creative fields, but for the rest of us it’s a good place to start. Helpful pre-interview as well.

How to Dress for Work
The 5 Levels of Business Attire, according to Business Insider.

5 Things You Can Do Today Instead of Combing Job Boards

Job boards = downward spiral?
Job boards = downward spiral?

Step away from the job board. Seriously, I mean it.

The process usually goes something like this:

  1. Stalk the job boards.
  2. Apply online.
  3. Wait.
  4. Hear nothing back.
  5. Repeat.

This is systematic, self imposed, repeated rejection and aligns quite nicely with the definition of insanity. Or self-flagellation. No judgement; it’s what the majority of us default to when in job search mode.

“You’ve got to network,” we’re told, “put yourself out there!” But what does that even mean? Awkwardly rubbing elbows while sipping cheap chardonnay? Getting click-finger carpal tunnel syndrome by requesting LinkedIn connections ad nauseam? Or by magically becoming an uber-extrovert who has no qualms about asking anyone and everyone for a job? Ugh. Ouch. Blargh.

Job search is a soul sucking enterprise.

Well, it can be. I’ve been on both sides of this coin. Actually, 3 sides of this coin (?). I’ve been a job seeker (multiple times), I’ve been the one doing the hiring as executive management in recruitment firms (multiple times), and last but not least I’ve been a retained search recruiter (once, briefly). So I have some ideas for getting over, or at least around, job search hurdles and this blog is my place to share these ideas with other job seekers. Because I’ve had a 360° view of the process, I know that many aspects of the search are challenging. Not the least of which is the absence of guidance out there.

Don’t get me wrong – I know there’s no lack of advice out there. You can find How To’s scattered all over the interwebs. But take a step back from that and think about it: we never take a class called Job Search 101, never go through training or certification; we’re never shown how to search for a job. Some of us might get outplacement services when we’re “let go” but the useful bits of their assistance boil down to 1) moral support, 2) a place to go to get out of the house, and 3) free coffee. So, is there a better way? There’s got to be, we just need to rethink the whole process.

Combing job boards is really just a passive way to feel productive.

So here’s my first idea: Kill the job board (figuratively, natch). I mean it, eliminate this from your job search activities. A measly 15% of people are hired through job board ads. 15%! And think about how much of your job search time is spent on job boards. I bet it’s a lot more than 15%. Probably closer to 80 or 90%.

It’s not just you, most people spend the lion’s share of their job search time on job boards. I know I’ve spent countless hours scrolling through listing after listing. Why do we do this? It’s because combing job boards is something we can do without stepping out of our comfort zone. It’s a passive way to feel productive. But it’s really not productive at all and that time can be put to such better use, it’s just a matter of learning what to do and how to do it.

So how do the other 85% get hired what should we do instead?

Going cold turkey is extreme, so start by taking one block of time (1 to 2 hours a day) that you’d normally spend combing job boards and replacing it with something that supports the #1 way people are hired: personal referrals. And what do we do in order to increase the chances of getting personally referred to a job? We network.

Honest Networking © 2005 Doug Savage
Networking is awkward.

Easy to say but hard to know where to start. First, we need to redefine what networking is. Or simply define it. Most people think they know what networking is but if asked to say it out loud, find they’re not so sure. So how do you define networking? Does that sound like something you want to do every day till you find a job?

Here’s my definition: Networking is making repeated, direct contact with all sorts of people via email, social media, on the phone or in person. This includes former colleagues and bosses, subcontractors, suppliers, friends, acquaintances, neighbors, hiring managers, recruiters and industry experts. Just about anyone, really. You never know who’s going to be the key connection leading to your next job.

Here’s the thing, though. You need to be able to call on people in your network when it counts. That doesn’t mean you have to be best friends or in constant contact with them. What it means is that you know something about their interests and their professional life, that you are interested in how things are going for them, you keep in touch sporadically and help them out when you can. Even if you’re just sending a link to an article they’d be interested in or letting them know about an upcoming event in their area. People generally like to stay in touch unless you’re only contacting them when you need something from them. That’s when it gets *awkward*.

So here are some things you can do today that I guarantee will be more productive in the long run than doing the usual skim and click till your eyeballs are red:

  1. Reestablish 5 old connections or friendships. Rekindle your acquaintance by sending a friendly “How are you?” email. Don’t mention that you’re in job search mode. You can do that later (subtly!) when they respond and ask what you’re up to.
  2. Practice random acts of helpfulness (with no expectation of reciprocation). If you come across a good job lead that is not what you’re looking for, forward it to someone you know who might be a fit for the role. Or snail mail an interesting magazine feature that you know would interest a former colleague. (Is it just me or is snail mail starting to feel cool again?)
  3. Boost your LinkedIn numbers. Import your contacts from Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, etc. into your LinkedIn profile by going to Connections > Add Connections. Because these are people you know (or used to know), you’ll get lots of easy confirmations.
  4. Get on the radar of appropriate recruiters. Find recruiters for your region, industry or function by searching on Google and LinkedIn. Look at their profile to make sure they are the right ones for your field, then send them a connection request. Some recruiters aren’t into connecting with networkers, but lots are.
  5. Identify people in a position to hire you in 5 to 10 companies that you like. If you can find them on LinkedIn, send them connection requests. When an opportunity opens up in that company you’ll be one step ahead, ready to get your info to the people who can help your application stand out from the rest.

[UPDATE 10/2/15: Check out my follow up post: 5 MORE Things You Can Do Today Instead of Combing Job Boards]

This is just a handful of ideas, but they all fall under the umbrella of networking and there’s not a plastic cup of tepid chardonnay in sight. Have any to add? Do share.

The point is, people camp out on job boards as a way to feel like they’re getting something done without having to do things they’re uncomfortable with. But a lot of the distaste for networking probably comes from a limited view of what networking can be. If you consider all the different ways we have these days for staying in touch with one another, you’re bound to gravitate to some methods over others, so embrace those and make them a part of your strategy. And yes, there probably is a (small) place for job boards in your job search. But maybe not the prominent place they currently enjoy.

Try some of these fresh squeezed ideas to see if they work for you and move you closer to your next job. Good luck out there & let us know how it goes!