Start your engines ladies and gents, the experts tell us the job market is heating up. NC Employment Security Commission reports the state jobless rate was 9.7 percent in April, down from 11.1 percent a year ago. Businesses are coming out of survival mode and embracing their entrepreneurial outlook again.
If you are one of those terrific, hardworking, yet unemployed people there is no better time than now to be working your way into employer’s good graces. While businesses may not be hiring at this moment, they are beginning to show signs of moving in that direction. This past year required belt tightening and delaying non-required purchases. Now businesses are starting to think proactively with a sense of vision and purpose instead of reactively with a sense of doom and gloom.

Interestingly enough many workers have been doing the same, staying put until the market opens up, and this is where things get really exciting! If my friends are any indication (and believe me they are) many employees have been bidding their time until a new job that is more attractive to them comes open. They may want to do something totally different, desire a lifestyle change, or even have a boss whose leadership style they don’t care for. As new employment opportunities opens up, they are going to be leaving their positions and then, of course, their jobs will need to be filled. What does this mean? It means many employers do not even know they are going to be hiring someone new yet but now you do.

While all of these are invisible jobs since they technically don’t exist yet, they are still very real and that is why working your way into employer’s good graces. Being in someone’s good graces merely means that the person thinks highly of you; they respect you enough to hire you themselves or recommend you to a friend. Trust and respect are a form of social capital which can yield very high financial returns. Keep in mind trust and respect are earned. We all know someone whom we are not especially close to but would hire in a minute because we trust and respect that person. We all also know someone else whom we love and adore but would not hire in a million years because that person cannot manage his or her own life let alone a job.

Having hired others I can tell you the first thing all employers do when they have a new job is to go through their internal address book. If they don’t glean any leads then they begin asking their friends if they have any suggestions for someone who would be good to hire. I’ve even seen job opportunities posted on Facebook.

As a job seeker you want to be that person who is immediately considered for an opening or referred by a friend so you have to let people know you are looking for work.

Here is how you do that:

1. Define what you want. The worst thing a job seeker can do is have no ambition, no chutzpah, no fire in their belly. Even Snooki has fire and if Snooki has it, honey you do too. Example: What do I want? I want a job researching medicines that will help cure malaria and while I’m at it, I want to loose 25 pounds, win the lottery, and marry George Clooney. The truth is you can want anything but for our purposes at least just answer the part about your career ambitions.

2. Identify your network. It used to be thought that people where connected by seven degrees of separation or in overachiever’s like Kevin Bacon’s case, only six degrees were necessary. With technology that number is rapidly dwindling. Websites like linkedin and facebook allow you to see the bios of friends of friends. Research as far back as the 70’s has shown that one to two degrees of separation, the friend of a friend, or the so called ‘weak link’ is the most likely person to provide you with a viable job lead. So feel free to unleash your inner stalker and check out the publicly posted bios of your friend’s friends and no, you do not need to see a picture of their house or check their credit score.

3. Win friends and influence people. The official title is actually How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and it is definitely more important than any book you ever read in high school or college. Sorry Shakespeare. There is good reason it is one of the best selling books of all time – it teaches you to be nice, think of others first, and start great conversations – something school does not. Read it – practice it – live it and do not proceed to step 4 until you do.

4. Develop your personal pitch. While I know you are fabulous because I’m psychic, not everyone else does yet. You need to let people know you are super competent and looking for work but without being mistaken for an incoming missile because of your intensity. Avoid saying things like “My name is Kristin, I am fabulous, I once made millions of dollars but then the economy tanked and now I desperately looking for work because I’m broke. My car is about to be repossessed so I won’t be able to drive anywhere. Do you know anyone who will hire me pronto?” And instead go with something more delicate like “Hi, my name is Kristin, what is yours?” and let the conversation flow from there. You can work in phrases like “I’m in a career transition and keeping an eye out for opportunities in medical research. Tell me more about you…..” as the conversation emerges. No one needs to know your private struggles except your therapist.

5. Get Connected. Shockingly people won’t come looking to hire you; they are too busy working and therefore need for you to find them. Now that you are a social genius from reading How to Win Friends and Influence People (yes you must!) and have a personal pitch that you can work into a conversation get out there and strut your stuff. Ask your friend for an introduction to those people you’ve been silently stalking on-line. Go to meet and greets like the ones hosted by the Chapel Hill Chambers of Commerce monthly called Business Before or After Hours, attend church, go to the bar, take a quilting classes, start a book club, or my personal favorite – host a party! Basically you should go anywhere that reasonably intelligent people gather and be your awesome, confident self.

6. Persevere. Once people see how terrific you are they are going to want to hire you and if they don’t, someone else will. There is a job for everyone and all you need is one.

Here are some things you should not do to find a job:
1. play computer games
2. take up fly fishing
3. watch more than one hour of TV per day
4. research jobs on the computer for more than one hour per day (I promise those posted jobs are being filled by someone who is out there networking)
5. numb yourself with drugs and alcohol.
6. nothing

Networking is not about using people, it is about connecting with people. Remember that all sustainable relationships must be built on trust and great networkers are highly trusted because they demonstrate a high degree of personal integrity.

During this year we are going to be exploring various facets of personal integrity since it is the cornerstone to success, happiness, and fulfillment. To me integrity simply means the integration of character, passions, and actions all working together for a common purpose. Visually I think of a rope with many strands, the more strands, or aspects of yourself, working together, the stronger the rope. I know you have many assets and look forward to exploring those with you. Next month we will discover how to integrate our bodacious creativity in Ode to Joy!