Nick KossovanJob seekers fall into two categories:

  • Reactive
  • Proactive

Reactive: Gets rejected and gives up on the company.

Proactive: Gets rejected, thanks the person who rejected them and continues to build a relationship with the company.

Reactive job seekers look for a job passively, applying only to jobs they believe they have a chance of getting. They’re reacting (applying) to positions posted on job boards and company websites. Unfortunately, applying to a job posting is hoping a stranger will choose you over hundreds, if not thousands, of other equally qualified candidates, which is equivalent to playing the lottery.

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Reactive job seekers are lazily looking for a job, which is why they clash with the employer’s hiring process, blame it for not accommodating them, and conveniently ignore the fact employers own their hiring process, not job seekers. Therefore, reactive job seekers tend to have a longer job search and settle for whatever job they get “that’ll do.”

Reactive: Applies for jobs and waits for (hoping) responses.

Proactive: Connects with employers.

In contrast, proactive job seekers take control of their job search; they adopt the mindset of a hunter. They hunt for opportunities before the opportunity appears on a job board or the company website, becomes public knowledge and attracts candidates they’ll have to compete with. They accomplished this by networking with hiring decision-makers, thus gaining access to the hidden job market, which I’m sure you’re aware of.

Often, jobs in hidden markets result in you being the only applicant considered, or maybe one of five. Compare those odds to being one of 500 candidates an online job posting will attract. Successful job searching involves focusing on activities that increase your chances of getting a “Yes!”

Proactive job seekers land the coveted jobs – the jobs you wish you could get – that align with their career goals and meet all their needs and wants.

Reactive: Criticizes the hiring process for not giving them a “fair” chance. (Believes they’re owed a job.)

Proactive: Acknowledges that the employer’s hiring process is what it is and thinks of ways to stand out.

The difference between reactive and proactive job seekers has nothing to do with degrees, skills, or experience. The difference is their mindset. Proactive job seekers base their expectations on reality; reactive job seekers on how they wish the world would be. Choosing your mindset is entirely up to you.

I assume you’d choose the mindset of a proactive job seeker.

Reactive: When told they lack experience, complain they can’t get it without being hired.

Proactive: Rather than expecting others to give them experience, they create their own.

Here are a few ways proactive job seekers hunt for employment opportunities before they become public knowledge:

  • They reach out to companies they want to work for. On LinkedIn, connect with current employees and decision-makers. Ask your network (Proactive job seekers understand that constantly networking is crucial.) if they know anyone at your target company and ask for an introduction.
  • They ask for information. People love to talk about themselves, especially their successes, so get over being afraid to ask someone in a position you aim to one day be in for career advice. Ask them how they became successful in their role, how they got where they are, and what advice they’d give someone aspiring to be in their shoes. Besides talking about themselves, people love to give advice. (Guilty as charged.) The things you’ll learn if you just ask will surprise you. If you’ve convinced yourself you’re an “introvert” and asking the questions mentioned above over the phone or coffee makes your heart race, then ask them if you can email them three questions.

TIP: Always take career advice from someone who’s been in the trenches – who’s been there, done that. (I love career war stories.)

  • They create a targeted direct-mail campaign. Create a list of all the companies you’re interested in working for in your area. Research the decision maker(s) in each company. (HINT: This isn’t the HR Manager.) Then email them a value proposition letter selling the decision maker why you’d be a valuable asset to their company and attach your resume. Use your past achievements to emphasize value. Make it easy for employers to envision what tangible results they’ll get by hiring you.

Reactive: Sends 10 networking emails, doesn’t hear back, says networking doesn’t work.

Proactive: Sends 10 networking emails, doesn’t hear back, follows up (calls) and sends 10 more.

Proactive job seekers are proactive in finding their next employment opportunity instead of waiting for opportunities to present themselves. Besides being more empowering and less frustrating, it also results in more interviews and offers in less time.

Lastly, people adopt a proactive mindset because they believe in themselves.

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job.

For interview requests, click here.


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