Looking for your next marketing gig? Chances are that dream job isn’t going to be found via a help wanted listing. Instead it will be via how well you’re connected to the hidden job market and be top of mind when a hiring manager asks her network if they know someone who would be a good fit.
We recently interviewed Mac Prichard, founder and publisher of Mac’s List, for the Rethink Marketing podcast where he talked about the hidden job market and what marketer’s can be doing to land their next great gig, as well as what employers can be doing to hire the perfect candidate.
Mac is also the author of “Land Your Dream Job Anywhere” and host of the weekly career advice podcast Find Your Dream Job. Act-On’s Helen Veyna, Content Marketing Specialist, joined us in the interview.
This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.
Helen: It was really interesting that you mentioned the language in the job descriptions just because I was recently hired at Act-On three months ago. And during job search, there was a lot of that. I just refused to apply to certain jobs because it just didn’t … The job description didn’t feel right and I’m pretty sure that I was qualified, now looking back. But it’s very interesting. So what do you think that … How do you think companies can maybe have that self-reflection and change that language? What kind of resources, what kind of change should they apply within?
Mac: Well, a couple of basic principles that can help listeners and any company, when they’re sitting down to write that posting, it does have to be in plain language. And often, professional language takes over and people think it has to sound important or it has to be written to please a senior manager or meet some internal need. And you really need to step back. And I know this is marketing 101 and very basic for your listeners. But think about who you hope will respond and what is gonna motivate them.
I think another tip that is important for people who are putting together job postings to remember is to include salary ranges. There’s research that shows that you’re gonna get many more applications if you include a salary range. And I know employers struggle with this. We hear from many managers, “Well I can’t do that because we’re a large organization. If I publish the salary range for this position, there are similar jobs inside the company and people are gonna find out in that group what each other makes.”
I think in the long run, it’s in the company’s interest to be transparent about salaries. But again, if your goal is to get a good number of applications, listing a salary range is a great way to do that. It also saves you time in the long run too as a manager because think about it. If you put a position out there and it doesn’t have a salary range, you’re gonna hear from people who are very under qualified and you are gonna hear from people who are over qualified. But you still have to look at those resumes, you still have to send out responses. And you may even invite some of them in for interviews and discover farther along in the process that you either can afford this person or they really don’t have the skills and experiences that you hoped they would. When you put a price tag on a position, it brings a lot of clarity to the hiring process and makes everybody’s job easier.
Helen: I agree. And I wanted to go back to this idea of the hidden job market and networking. I know I’m not originally from Portland and one of the things that I realized here is that networking is very important. That word of mouth is very important. So do you think this idea only applies to Portland or does it apply nationally as well?
Mac: I think it applies in every market, Helen. I do think it’s more important here in Portland than it might be in other cities because there’s more competition here. You might have seen this recently. Portland popped up on a list of, I think we’re number six now of the number of people with BA degrees among American cities. Also in the top 10 are places like Washington DC, New York, San Francisco. That’s extraordinary because I think we have more than 50% of our residents have BAs and statewide it’s about 30%. So we’re importing a lot of well educated professionals who want to be here because of the quality of life. And again, because so many positions aren’t advertised and the competition is above average here, networking becomes much more important.
Nathan: I have a couple of follow ups on the networking question. It seems that if you’re looking for a job now, you may not have the time to do that networking find that hidden job. It seems like that’s more of a longer play. I don’t know if that’s true or not where you have the time and luxury to build those relationships at all these different companies. Then you’re top of mind when they do get that email from their HR department. Whereas if you’re looking for a job now, you gotta pay your rent or your mortgage, you’re like, “I’m gonna pound out applications after applications.” The second part is … And so maybe we can answer that question first. And then the follow up question you can start thinking about is I’m just … What if you are terrible at networking? It’s surprising as a host of a podcast, I’m an introvert. I hate networking events. And I just want to be there for about 10 seconds and leave. So any advice to how to build these relationships?
Mac: Networking is important and it’s a skill, like any skill you can master it. Whatever your personality style. Even if you’re an introvert. So let’s talk about the amount of time networking takes. Back to your point. Well, I’ve got a job, I’ve got a family. I don’t have time to go to the airport Holiday Inn and pass out 50 business cards because I’ve got little league tonight or I’ve got to finish that project for my boss. Networking really can take a number of different forms, Nathan. One is volunteering. And this can look like serving on a committee for the professional association for your occupation in your industry. And that could be going to a meeting once a month or once a quarter. Maybe going to the annual conference in your industry. It can also mean being of service to others. And I think we all get these requests for informational interviews. I certainly get more than most I know because of the work I do at Mac’s List. But even before I got into this world, I would hear from other professionals occasionally. And making time to talk to others. That’s a form of networking. It’s a form of service. And it creates good will. And when you’re helpful to others.
I think another way you can network is by sharing your expertise and just doing simple things like posting an article once a week on Linkedin about some development in your industry. Maybe you’re already writing. And I know our audience is made up of marketers who write all the time. Maybe you’re already writing a blog for your company. Sharing that on your personal social accounts, your Twitter, and Linkedin is a way of demonstrating your expertise but also, again, being of service to others. Good networkers ask for help, but they also give. It’s not just about taking.
Now, let’s talk about introverts and networking. I mean, there are some practical tips I can share about what you can do if you’re an introvert. And I have to admit, in my teens and twenties, I was a very shy guy. I dreaded going to events. Now I go to networking events for fun. But I’m a weirdo. But if you’re introverted, that’s just a way people get energy. So ways I see introverts network is they put themselves in situations where they’re comfortable. So maybe they like taking pictures. Photography is a hobby. They volunteer to take the photos at a conference or the monthly lunch program for their professional group. Maybe they like detail in organizations so they volunteer to run the registration desk at the monthly lunch. And that gives them a chance to meet everyone in a situation where they’re comfortable. Whatever the introvert’s strengths, find a way to play to them in your industry and you’ll not only meet people, you’ll show people what you can do. And that will help you create new relationships and demonstrate your expertise.
Helen: I guess going off of that, once our job applicants do find these job opportunities, how … I mean, aside from the networking, how should they go about being considered a strong applicant? I mean especially when we’re in a job market where there are these resumes and it’s kind of hard to stand out? How can they do that?
Mac: I think it starts with the basics and the people who I see have the most successful job searches, the ones who find jobs they love and they really excel in know what they want to do. They’re clear about their goals. They don’t use phrases like I’m open to anything or I’m not opposed to that. They’re very specific. They say I’m looking for an opportunity as a chief marketing officer for a company of this size. Or I’m exploring these two or three opportunities. And when they do that, it makes their search so much easier because as they’re preparing their … It helps them get clear about where the opportunities are because they’re very specific. And then when they’re applying for those opportunities, whether it’s through the front door by responding to a posting or through the back door by having conversations with people who are considering filling those positions, they’re able to bring a clarity to their resume, and their cover letter, and their interviews that people who are keeping all their options open just don’t have.
And I say that with kindness because I’ve certainly struggled with setting my own job search goals at different points in my career. But if you get the basics right, you know what you want, then it becomes easier to identify the companies that offer those opportunities. And it brings a focus to your networking and your job hunting that you don’t have when you’re keeping all your options open. Because chances are, once you know where you want to go, the universe of companies and organizations that offer those opportunities is pretty well defined. You’re probably only talking about reaching out to 50, 100 people. And then as all of us who are mid-career or further along in our careers know, you keep running across the same people again and again if you stay in an industry. So know where you want to go, know what you have to offer. And that’ll make preparing your resumes, your cover letters, and your interviews … Getting ready for your interviews, rather, so much easier. And the people who spend that time in the up front work as well as prepare for interviews have so much more success. And they have shorter searches. And in the long run, they require a lot less effort.
Nathan: Do you think … It sounds to me like there should be this opportunity you mentioned it earlier in the interview that people are just in jobs for a shorter and shorter period of time nowadays than 10 years or 30 years ago. That I just got hired at a company, Marketing Firm 101, and I should start now thinking about my next job at Marketing Firm XYZ maybe two years from now or three years from now and start building those relationships with that company, with the small group of companies where I want to be a senior director. For Nate Isaacs, I’m a senior content strategist. My next title I want to go after is a director level title. And I should just start looking for those marketing companies that are gonna have a marketing director and start building those relationships or … And that might be something I’m planning to do this three years from now. I could start writing Linkedin Pulse posts. I can start holding one day conferences about marketing director leadership or whatever. I can start working my way back. Franklin Covey’s begin with the end in mind type of stuff.
Mac: I’m a big fan of reverse mapping. And I think if you know where you want to be, it makes it a lot easier to get there. And I recognize, particularly for people at the start of their careers who are three, five years out of college, when they look ahead for the next 35 or 40 years that they’re gonna be in the workplace, I think it would … No one expects them to know where they want to be at year 25 or 30. But I think everybody should have a general idea of where they want to be in the next five or 10 years. And it really helps to have specific positions in mind. Because when you know that, a couple things happen. You have the opportunity to find people who have those jobs and say to that person, “What is this like? What does it take to get here? What kinds of experiences, skills, certifications should I acquire over the next three, five, 10 years in order to get to this spot?”
Mac: And we can learn so much from others. And this comes back to networking again. My experience has been people are very generous and we’re generally wired to want to help others. And I can count on one hand the number of people and I’ve spoken to thousands over the years who’ve said no when I’ve asked for help. But you’ve gotta be specific when you make the request. So if you ask somebody just for coffee or say you just want to pick their brain, if you’re not more specific than that, you’re probably not gonna get a lot out of that conversation. So Nathan, to your point, yes, you need to know where you want to be in the next five or 10 years. I think it’s always useful to talk to people who have those positions, ask them how they got there, and then work back from those opportunities and think about how you spend your time and how you can get the skills you need to have those positions yourself one day.
Helen: On that note, because our show is very geared towards marketers, I just want to know, do you have any insights specifically for people working in the marketing field about searching for a job or just networking or doing a better job because marketers could always use a refresher in marketing themselves?
Mac: I think marketers start with a big advantage in a job search because they’ve got the communication skills that can be so helpful in both sharing their expertise and being of service to others. They know how to write, they know how to make presentations, they know how to build relationships. When I see marketers struggle, Helen, it’s because they haven’t put those skills in the context of a job search. And again, how we spend our time is so important and because marketers … Many marketers like people in other occupations may not look for work frequently. They come to it only every five, 10, 15 years. They think that the way to do it is to look at job boards. And they spend … There’s a danger there if you’re spending 80, 90, 100% of your time on job boards, you’re missing out on the best positions. So I would … My advice to marketers would be just get good at job hunting as a skill and then play to your natural advantages and your strengths. And put your communication skills to good use in both sharing your expertise and being of service to others.
Nathan: And with that in mind, on the opposite end, any advice to marketing companies that are hiring marketers? What should they be thinking about as they either write those job descriptions or just set out a path on what they’re gonna be hiring for the next year or two?
Mac: I think for small companies and even medium sized ones that may not have full time HR staff or even just part-time people, they need to invest in helping their staff learn how to get good at hiring, just as people who are thinking about their careers need to get good at job hunting as a skill. So you’re not gonna get the best results if you turn to people who got hired to do other things to write your job descriptions and manage a hiring process if you don’t give them training in how to do that. So I would encourage particularly small companies, before they post their next announcement, invest some time in helping people learn how to not only write good job postings, but how to get out of their existing networks, and candidly, their bubbles. And reach out to new communities, particularly diverse communities. You can learn how to do that, but it does take an investment in time and in educating your staff and how to do it well.
Nathan: Mac, I really appreciate your time today. I was just wondering how do I learn more about you, Mac’s List, and the Find Your Dream Job podcast?
Mac: You can visit our website macslist.org. And we publish, as I said, about 500 jobs there every month as well as many articles about how to look for work. We have a section for employers too, Nathan, that provides a lot of advice about how to do effective job postings and how to improve recruitment. Every quarter we do a live webinar about how to tap the hidden job market. And I do take questions from people and people can sign up for that by visiting macslist.org/rethinkmarketing. And to catch the podcast, we publish every Wednesday. Find Your Dream Job. Visit us on iTunes or go to the Mac’s List website, macslist.org/podcast.