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Being Where You Can't Be... and Selling When You're Not There

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Isn't it too bad that you can't be everywhere at once, and find out about every major career opportunity that might interest you?

Wouldn't it be great to have your own equivalent of a spy-in-the-sky satellite that could survey a forty-mile radius of your house...or the entire USA...or the identify all the situations you'd like to know about, whether current openings, soon-to-be openings, or searches underway at recruiting firms?

Then you'd be sure not to miss any situation that could foster your career.

Of course there's always the likelihood that you'll learn of career-enhancing job possibilities through personal contacts and networking...talking to old business friends and associates, meeting lots of new people, and picking the brains of everyone you reach.

Unfortunately, although face-to-face communication is the most powerful form of contact, your time is limited. No matter how diligent you are, you simply can't be everywhere at once. You'll make your networking contacts one at a time, maybe two or three a day, a dozen or so a week. That's not exactly a speed-of-light satellite reconnaissance. And it's likely to miss most of the jobs available "out there somewhere," which your contacts don't happen to know about.

You've also clearly seen that retainer executive recruiting firms aren't going to show you everything they know of. They'll reveal only one job at a time, and probably no more than two or three per year.

In fact, there are only two ways by which you can even attempt to find out about all the available or soon-to-be-available jobs that may be the right "next step" for you. Those ways were numbers 4 and 5 on our list of five main methods:

  1. Personal Contacts… getting in touch with people you already know.
  2. Networking... getting in touch with a series of people others refer you to.
  3. Executive Recruiters... dealing with the various species of "headhunters."
  4. Direct Mail... letting the Postal Service take your message more places than you can visit and phone.
  5. The Internet... taking advantage of modem technology in job-hunting and career management.
What do 4 and 5 have in common? They're ways to get yourself known to far more people than you'll ever be able to meet face to face.

One Message. Two Different Distribution Methods

Your message, obviously, is:

"Here I am. And here's what I can do."

To find out about all the jobs that might interest you, you'd have to get that message to (1) every employer currently needing to hire someone exactly like you, and (2) every recruiter now being paid to search for such a person.

Up until several years ago there was only one way to simultaneously reach such a vast number of employers and search firms that statistical odds would guarantee you'd surely hit a few who were actually seeking you when your message arrived.

Direct Mail was the only way to dispatch your message to more people than you could meet face-to-face through networking. Indeed, it still is the only way to make a dignified and appropriate-rather than an obnoxious and self- defeating-overture to a CEO or to the head of a division or a department who might right now want to hire someone exactly like you as a subordinate.

The Internet, however, is now an alternative way to reach many other recipients. E-mail is lightning-fast It's also convenient and appropriate in many situations. It defeats "snail mail" in every speed contest, and it also has an appealing informality and even intimacy that can sometimes be very desirable. But it is absolutely not the way to send an unsolicited self-introduction and an accompanying resume to any never-heard-of-you senior executive you're hoping to impress favorably.

First of all, you probably can't get his or her personal e-mail address. But even if you had it, would you use it?

Ask yourself: Are you pleased when unexpected e-mails are spammed into your list of incoming messages? Do you read those e-mails? Are you grateful that someone has sent them your way? Does your assistant open them, glance at their content and appearance, and select a rare few that might actually be of interest to you?

You answers: No, No, No and No. Of course. So don't even dream that someone at the right level to hire you as a subordinate is going to react any more eagerly to your spammed e-mail than you would if you received something similar from someone else.

Forget the Internet-method #5-for what it can't do. It's quite wonderful in what it can do, and we'll explore all of its exciting possibilities. But first let's examine Direct Mail-method #4-which

(1) succeeds where the Internet fails and

(2) is the fine art of mass communication on which all skillful use of the Internet is based.

Clearly, barging onto the incoming e-mail list of a person you might want to work for is far too pushy and obnoxious to do you any good at all. If someone invites you to send a resume by email, that's a wonderfully fast and efficient way to transmit your information. But when you merely invite yourself to do the same thing, it's about the dumbest move you could possibly make. Either you get deleted and not remembered at all...or you get noticed as impolite and obnoxious and you're shunned when you later arrive in a more polite and appropriate fashion. lose. lose.

However, there's nothing impolite or too pushy about sending an elegant and persuasive letter to someone you don't know and want to reach with a message that might be of interest. That's been a common and effective practice for at least two hundred years. Indeed one of the most prized possessions of a friend of mine is a letter handwritten by Abraham Lincoln, who is graciously responding-albeit in the negative-to a person he's obviously never heard of, who wrote to the President about wanting to become his personal assistant.

But isn't direct mail a weak method?

Many people think direct mail is a weak technique, particularly for a job search. I've had lots of senior executives...even top marketing executives (who should know better)...say to me:

"John, I don't believe in direct mail. It's not effective. Nearly all the letters you send are either thrown away or relegated to the Personnel Department for a polite 'no-thank-you.' Therefore, you just don't get anywhere with a direct mail campaign. It doesn't have the punch that personal contact does."
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