Job Searching Is Selling

This is the first in a series of posts on managing a job search.

As technology professionals, we’re generally fortunate. It’s not hard to find jobs, and often the jobs come looking for you.

This is especially true if you have skills with cloud, artificial intelligence or big data / IoT, and if you live in or near a metropolitan area. For example, I receive a qualified inquiry — that is, a job lead that’s something in my skills set, and local to me — about a half-dozen times every week.

That’s mostly flattery, since I am happily employed. But about a year ago I was on the job hunt, and I developed a system for managing my job search that I’d like to share.

That system views job hunting as a sales process, in which your skills — soft and hard — are what’s for sale. And you go through the same basic steps in a job hunt as you do when you’re selling something.

Today, I want to review how the traditional sales pipeline works, and how it translates to a job hunt.

The Sales Process

A typical sales pipeline begins with leads, moves through qualification and the value proposition, through to negotiation, close and follow-on.

Depending on whom you ask, you’ll get different definitions of “the sales process.”

I like to view sales as a pipeline. That is, when we’re selling our services, we’re moving through a set of steps. Where one step ends and another begins isn’t ironclad. But we can generalize where a lead is in our sales process.

Keeping track of that is essential, and that’s the subject for a future post.

For now, let’s define the job hunt, or sales, pipeline as five steps:

Lead Generation: You have some means of discovering what opportunities are out there: LinkedIn, a job board, your social network. A good lead generation source is invaluable. Just ask Shelley Levene.

Warning: Video contains graphic language.

Lead Qualification: A lot of jobs are things you cannot, or will not, do. Of the remaining, some are bad, some are good, and some are great. The faster you can sort that out, the better.

Value Proposition: Once you’ve decided which job you want, you need to establish why you’re the best option. That means researching what the employer really wants and needs, and presenting yourself as that set of skills.

Negotiation: Trust me, no matter how good you are, you aren’t exactly what the employer had in mind. Ultimately, you are some sort of compromise; your job is to turn that compromise into an upgrade.

This is where the final decisions about pay and conditions are made. And, of course, whether or not you get the job.

Delivery and Follow-On: Once you have the job, you’re not done selling yourself. You should be positioning yourself, at the very least, as an essential part of the organization. Ideally, you are working toward promotion or an improved opportunity, either with that organization or elsewhere.

Throughout the course of this blog series, I am going to focus mostly on the first four items. I don’t want to be dismissive of the need for delivery and follow-on; quite the opposite. Your professional development is by far the most important aspect of finding and keeping jobs in the tech world.

It’s also an entire topic on its own, and that’s how I will be treating it.

Sales Is A Process, Not A Popularity Contest

In upcoming posts, I’ll examine the individual parts of each of these sales steps. I’ll also show you how to apply agile methodologies — namely, kanban — to managing your job search.

I’ll even walk you through the free, online tool I used to manage my last job search, and explain how it can help you run the sales process like a champ.

Remember: Finding a job is basically a sales activity. And yes, successful sales does require a little confidence and a solid base of soft skills. But it’s mostly about technique, and technique basically comes down to following a process.

Most important is devoting solid effort to things that are likely to pan out. That’s what I plan to talk to you about here: Finding the right job leads, working them properly, and turning one of them into a job.

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