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March, 2003

Searching for your next employment opportunity can be painful--yet some joy and wonderful learning and growth can occur during this time. This article sets forth a few obstacles that job seekers are faced with during their search and some ways to break through these barriers.

The employment opportunity you are looking for is likely hidden, not advertised, and surfaces only as a result of your persistence, timing and ability to resolve issues that the company faces. Be highly proactive. Find the opportunity for

Holt Dunbar
Holt Dunbar, Candidate Solutions International
yourself--it is out there! Do what you can to separate yourself from the other candidates. Know your product (you) and how you can benefit the prospective employer better than anyone else. Have confidence, ask good questions, and provide short answers, all the while focusing on painting the picture for the employer as to why you are THE person for the position.

Your attitude toward your search can be a major plus OR a major obstacle. When searching for new employment, you are in a state of change. Change can be difficult, but also very positive. It is not unlike initiating and implementing the "pull" vs. "push" manufacturing environment method. To initiate "pull" in a strong "push" environment, participants must look positively at ideas for change, as well as to the coach who will help implement the process.

To gain the most from your new employment search, you must be willing to stretch toward a "can do / will do" action-oriented attitude. It is understandable, but, ultimately costly to entertain prolonged anger over being downsized, or to harbor blame, over slights--as is allowing yourself to give up. It also is detrimental to deny the circumstances surrounding your situation, and thus delay a proactive approach to finding a new employment opportunity. (You will find further information on Attitude at Click on the Resources button, then Attitude.)

Over the years, a general rule of thumb in a reasonable market has been that a job search takes one month for every $10,000 income. We are now in an unreasonably difficult job market in many areas--which certainly extends the "thumbnail" rule. If a person relies on unemployment income and/or a company severance and takes an extended time to gain the motivation to launch a search, he/she and all those around them suffer. The job seeker's self-esteem drops and confidence is shaken, which makes it hard to be "up and sharp" for the next interview. Couple with this the tendency, stemming from an almost panic-driven fearfulness, to be afraid to take the first real opportunity. Over the years, I have had a few clients pass up solid offers, and finally, after an extended period of time, settle for whatever they could find. In this market, candidates must be flexible, and quickly weigh a job opportunity to determine its overall benefits. If, clearly, it is not right, and you cannot see that it can be an appropriate stop-gap for now, then turn it down. Do not let pride cloud your decision to accept or not accept. There is hope!

Dealing with the "I'm too old" Thoughts
We who are "baby boomers," or "pre-boomers" can, due to circumstances, wind up in second place in a specific employment opportunity. In this scenario, it is easy to dwell on the "I'm too old" thoughts. This is detrimental to your purpose and goals. Being "older" can be a challenge, but you have met many challenges in the past and won. I encourage you to think in terms of the true advantages/benefits you can bring to the table. Be flexible and creative. Make a list of these advantages and benefits, and study it until it becomes a part of your thinking. Keep approaching companies and hiring authorities and discover their needs through great questions. Encourage them to be creative with you in envisioning the ways they can benefit from having your talents available to their company. If you act old, think old, and are disgruntled, or discontented, then yes, you are old. However, if you approach life and the work-seeking challenge with gusto, energy, and bravado, then you have dramatically improved your opportunities to find suitable employment.

A side note: Anything you can do to stay as healthy as possible, including exercise and diet certainly helps-not only your physical health, but your attitude, as well.

Using the telephone to set up network appointments or cold calling Hiring Authorities for setting up interview appointments can be overwhelmingly difficult. The telephone can seem to weigh 500 pounds, especially initially, before one becomes comfortable with this powerful process.

Before you leave your desk for the day, plan your next day of calls and contacts! Prior to the week's start, draft an overview of the week. Diligence with these seemingly minor points can pay off with astounding benefits.

In my experience, few people network nearly as well as they can. Planning your networking approach can be very helpful. Oftentimes, a candidate won't gain as much as possible from a networking opportunity because he/she is not well prepared and/or willing to be bold.

A career-seeking client struggled with the boldness aspect. Then, once he had a good handle on the benefits he could provide to any company, he began asking good questions early, and gained the information and contact names that reluctance had previously prevented him from acquiring. One idea that often worked for him was to call ahead to the person he wanted to network with. Once he was in the office with the network contact, he would first present a quick verbal presentation on the benefits he could bring to the table for any future employer. After talking a few minutes, he would ask if he/she would be willing to take a few minutes to go through their "contact list" for possible additional leads.

It is often quite surprising how many names are discovered in this process. The job seeker, depending on the relationship with the network contact, might ask if he/she would be willing to call certain people to open the door.

Create a 30 second "commercial" featuring you. Focus on the value you can provide to your next employer and indicate what you are looking for. Be prepared to give this commercial at any time to anyone. Practice saying it often enough so that it is very smooth, concise, and delivered in a friendly manner. Be sure to close by asking your "audience" who he/she knows who may be able to use your talents or may be able to direct you to others in the know. Be sure to write the information down and send a thank-you note (e-mail is ok) to the person who provides the helpful input.

Relying on letters, resume writing, the Internet job boards, want ads etc, is, unfortunately, often used to delude yourself that you are working hard on a job search. While all of these methods can be helpful, the most critical (and successful) approach is the direct approach to the hiring authority. Call and set up personal appointments, if this is geographically achievable. If not, work to attain a phone interview. Strive, on a daily basis, to personally find the hidden opportunity that you are well suited to fill.

One client, when I asked during our first coaching session what his reaction was to the statement that he would be making these types of cold calls, responded, "Like fingernails scraped on a chalkboard." I understood immediately what he meant. But a few weeks later, after teaching him how to prepare for and make these types of calls, he enthusiastically reported that he was excited about the successes he was having talking to Hiring Authorities and meeting with them in his local job search. Realizing that he was actually capable of doing what he initially wanted to reject, was, in his opinion, a great, welcome turnaround which gave him the confidence to proceed.

Yes, it can be done. There is hope!


Prepare for the Interview
Be prepared for the interview. Typically, company information is available on the Internet Make this part of your homework. Know the names of several executives/managers and know what their roles are.

Provide Examples of Successes
For some, it is far too easy to ramble during an interview. For others, revealing information about themselves proves difficult, at best. Both scenarios are harmful to a successful search. One tool that can help you to better know your product (you) and what you can "bring to the table," is to list your Quantifiable Successes and the benefit that each Success proves you can provide to any new employer. For example: You performed "X," which resulted in (measurable) success. This quickly demonstrates that you can also provide similar successes for the new employer.

This is a critical area as well, and includes good listening as well as providing concise answers. Being too talkative in an interview usually is regarded as a negative. Give short answers. If more information is desired, you will be asked for it. Alternatively, you can ask if your interviewer needs more information than you have provided.

Leading Questions
Ask strong, leading questions initially to learn the real needs of the position. Clear, relevant questioning is a remarkable sales tool. For example: When you are in an interview and are asked the dreaded "Tell me about yourself" question, you could just start talking and rambling, or, you could respond with this: "(Interviewer's name), there is a great deal I can tell you about myself; however, I want to be sure to cover what is important to you. Let me ask you this: In the past in this specific position, what really worked, and what did not?" Take good notes on the key phrases, words, hot buttons that your interviewer offers to create a valuable checklist. Ask additional, pertinent questions that will help you learn where the company is going, what the hopes are for the position, and what problems they face. Then, check off items from the list you previously made, and respond by painting the picture as to why you are the person for the position. Say something like, "(Interviewer), you mentioned that in the past you have had problems with "X"; I can help you with this because I previously had a similar situation come up, and resolved it by ___________________" (keep this short--two minutes or less). Be sure to cover the entire list.

Help the hiring authority attain save-the-day "hero" status by finding you, the perfect candidate!

Determining Company "Chemistry
To help determine how the company's "chemistry" fits with yours, and if it offers the best (or at least, comfortable) work environment for you, develop 10 questions that will reveal key information in these areas. For example:

  • Regarding Lean Manufacturing, tell me so far what has and what has not worked."
  • Where do you see your manufacturing processes 1, 2 and 3 years out?"
  • What are your manufacturing challenges today?"
  • Please tell me your management style."
  • What upsets you and what is your normal way to deal with it?"

Interview's End
At the end of the interview, close for the next step by asking a question similar to this: "(Hiring Authority), in your opinion am I qualified for this position?" Note: Whenever you ask a question, stop talking! Listen carefully to the answer, including what is not being said as well as what is being said. The silence of the pause after asking the question will cause the person to answer the question. (It is difficult to learn how to be of help if you are not listening for the need.)

To move or not to move? This can be complicated and initially a hard decision to make. Work it through early in the search. Determine your preferred lifestyle and work style. If possible, know where you (and your family) want to live, and then seek opportunities there. The candidates who have not thought through relocation and tell me that they will relocate anywhere, wind up, for example, frustrating themselves and the prospective company when the job offer requires a move to Tucson, Arizona, and they hate heat, or Barrow Alaska, and they can't abide isolation or bitter cold. Be sure to weigh how your relocation will affect your extended family, especially parents who are also Grandparents. Grandparents can thwart or make difficult your relocation plans if you have not laid out a potential relocation ahead of time.

If you are in the interview process with a company and agree to travel to look at an opportunity, there are only three valid reasons for turning down an offer. (Everything else--i.e., moving the kids from schools and friends, extended family, lifestyle, geography, climate etc., should be worked out ahead of time.):

  1. A major, unpredictable negative chemistry that occurs during the on-site visit.
  2. The area was not as represented (Caution-if you already know you won't move to an area, do not travel there!)
  3. The offer that is made is not within the guidelines previously set forth.

Recently, a client was so focused on his job search that he spent very little time talking with and seeing his family. He failed to communicate, forgot to take his wife out to lunch from time to time, the kids received little of his time, and, in a phrase, he forgot to build in fun along the way. I encouraged him to plan his job-seeking days and weeks, to work the plan hard to find a new job, but also, to build in time for his family and friends. Small successes in the search can be celebrated by family and friends along the way. This helps build self-worth and encourages greater efforts. Getting too focused at the exclusion of those who are significant in your life is a mistake and detrimental to your search.

Most individuals seeking new employment will find it helpful to have a mentor (experienced friend or professional coach) to "hold their feet to the fire" in a gentle, but direct way, providing good accountability which is very helpful in a proactive career/job search. Hiring a truly field-experienced Job Search Coach oftentimes is the surest, quickest way to find your next employment opportunity.

You can see more information on such subjects as: the interview, writing an effective resume, weighing a job opportunity and other topics at If you would like to jump start your search and talk about separating yourself from the employment-seeking pack, contact Holt Dunbar 1-888-860-1809 or

Holt Dunbar
Candidate Solutions International

Mr. Holt Dunbar, during his 14+ years of recruiting and coaching, has helped several thousand candidates be the best they can be in their employment seeking efforts. He listens to his clients, learns what they want to accomplish, and then coaches them to reach those goals. He also oversees a Revenue Increasing Division that helps small- to medium-sized companies effectively increase their sales.

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