Job Search Tool: E-Notes Revisited

Quite some time ago, I wrote about an emerging job search trend–using something called “e-notes.” At that time, it was a fairly new concept as a job search tool. However, since then it has gained significant momentum as an alternative to a traditional cover letter.

What an E-Note is and is Not

Let’s start with the “is not” part. An e-note is not an attachment to an email when you send your resume somewhere electronically. A cover letter is. An e-note goes in the body of your email message.

An e-note is designed to communicate the core message you need and want an employer to see, in a nutshell. While not as short as a Tweet, it usually holds about half the content of a traditional cover letter and takes about half the space to do it.

In other words, where you might have a one-page cover letter (hopefully not crammed TOO full), your e-note should be approximately 1/3 to 1/2 a page.

Should You Use E-Notes?

While they’re not for everyone all the time, you can use an e-note almost any time you are submitting your resume to a potential employer via email. If you do it right, your e-note has a better chance of being read by the recipient than a traditional cover letter in many cases.

Creating E-Notes: What You Should Know

E-notes have streamlined content, a relatively simple visual presentation, a to-the-point writing style (think few or no adjectives and adverbs), strategically selected information, and a focus on a specific topic with limited, relevant information.

Job Search E-Notes Tip: The subject line of your email message becomes critical in using e-notes as a job search tool. You need to concisely communicate a “message” in that space that will make your email stand out and motivate the recipient to open and read your attached resume.

E-notes can easily be customized to specific submission circumstances…and should be! There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” e-note. (Actually, there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” traditional cover letter, either, but that’s another matter.)

Do you need both an e-note and a traditional cover letter? Not for the same submission. However, if you want to physically mail a resume to someone, a cover letter is the way to go.

Need help incorporating e-notes into your job search tool kit? Creating e-notes is one of the services I offer–all you have to do is ask!


Selective Networking as a Job Search Tool

You’ve probably read one or more articles about how to “work a room” and talk to as many people as possible in a networking event when you’re conducting a job search. I know I’ve seen a lot of them published. However, maybe it’s not so much of a numbers game after all. At least, that’s the premise of a recent article by Eric Holtzclaw, “Why Networking Doesn’t Work.”

Selective Networking–What It Is and Is Not

Selective networking is my term for it. Here’s part of what Holtzclaw says about it:

“Remember six degrees of separation? With the introduction and widespread use of social media and other technologies, a study from 2012 shows that these days, it’s more like four degrees. The more people you know–really know–the more likely you are to make that important connection you need to take your career, company, or venture to the next level.”

According to Holtzclaw, self-described as an introvert, it’s important to start by considering what you might be able to do for the people you meet that would be valuable to them. He believes there’s no point to collecting business cards by the gross if it doesn’t produce any useful results or constantly increasing the number of your LinkedIn connections “unless you can establish a meaningful relationship with these new connections.”

Networking with Prospects & Non-Prospects

Often the advice will be to focus your attention on spending time with people who are clearly in a position to do something useful for you. However, besides sounding more than a little self-serving and self-obsessed, this approach could cause you to miss a good opportunity to connect indirectly with someone who could add value to your job search. As Holtzclaw puts it, “A non-prospect may be just as important to your future needs as a prospect because they may connect you with someone or something you need.”

The trick, probably, is to find out whether that possibility exists without spending an inordinate amount of time talking to people who don’t have the ability to offer value for your job search either directly or indirectly.

With regard to the quantity versus quality issue in networking, Holtzclaw believes that if he focuses on meeting and having “a meaningful conversation with only about five people at every event…or for each day of a conference,” he can line up sufficient new contacts to arrange for a day of meetings and “get to know each of them more deeply within a couple of weeks of the initial introduction.”

Follow-Up is Key to Networking Success

If you meet X number of people at a networking event and it’s a manageable number to get to know better, you still haven’t done all you need to do as a job seeker who’s serious about achieving a successful networking outcome. Holtzclaw cites Quinetha Frasier of First Born Group as firmly believing that if you don’t meet with someone within 10 days of the first contact, it wasn’t in the cards…not going to happen.

So you need to choose your number, network purposefully with those individuals and follow up to arrange a meeting in 10 days or less. Hopefully, that follow-up meeting will pave the way for a longer-term, mutually beneficial relationship that will show positive results for your job search.

LinkedIn Doesn’t Mean You’re Job Searching

Because I have frequently advocated using LinkedIn as part of your job search planning, you might be surprised at the heading of this post. After all, a robust online presence is essential to being found by potential employers, and LinkedIn is recognized as a key element of building and maintaining that robust presence. Right? Certainly, but that is not the whole story. LinkedIn does–or should–help you build and communicate your brand to employers; however, it also can–and often should–reflect the corporate brand of the companies you have worked for. So what possibilities does that open up?

Personal vs Corporate Brand on LinkedIn

One of my esteemed colleagues, Deb Dib, recently wrote an item in the Reach Branding newsletter (published by branding guru William Arruda) that brought out strongly what the relationship can be between your personal brand and your employer’s brand. In the short article, titled “Ditch. Dare. Do! for YOU,” she firmly maintains that “when you build your brand you are building your company. Your brand reinforces and enhances corporate brand attributes; it helps you make a mark on your organization, augment your company’s image and reputation, and increase your visibility and presence with all stakeholders (inside and outside the walls of your organization). In fact, if you’re not building your brand, you’re not doing your job!”

What does this mean to you and how you represent yourself on LinkedIn? If you’re conducting a highly confidential job search, you might focus on maintaining a more or less neutral tone in communicating your value to prospective employers, to avoid sending an overt message that says, “Hey, I’m job searching here, Mr. Current Employer.”

At the same time, you do want to get that message across somehow and don’t want to be so subtle about it that your target market doesn’t catch the message. One way to help do that is to match your personal value with what you have enabled your current employer to achieve through your contributions, in terms of presenting the company’s value and successes strongly to its target markets.

Here’s a quick example–something you might put under the brief introduction to your current position in the Experience section of your LinkedIn profile: “Planned and executed launch of new energy-saving product that enabled ABC Company to break into a competitive market and quickly increase its market share from 0% to 25%.”

You’ve given a nod to your company’s market success while also giving yourself credit for an outstanding accomplishment. Of course, you could do more than that. You could include some wording in the Summary section of your profile that references the company you currently work for and puts it in a nicely positive light. That might be of interest to people who are searching for companies that do what your employer does and does well.

The only important point to remember in that case is that you will need to change that section when you change employers, so it reflects your new employer and not the former one.

LinkedIn As an Ongoing Job Search Tool

Having said the above, I want to emphasize that LinkedIn’s value as an ongoing job search tool remains strong today, despite the many changes that have been initiated in recent months. It’s important that nearly every job seeker (active at the moment or not) makes sure he or she is well represented on LinkedIn. Your perceived value to employers must form a key element of that representation.

If you don’t already have a compelling, well-organized LinkedIn profile, you really should be giving serious attention to it. Whether you take care of it yourself, have a friend or colleague do it, or hire someone else to do it for you, you owe it to yourself to make it happen.

Blogging as a Job Search Tool

Chances are, you read (follow) one or more blogs on a fairly regular basis. However, do you publish your own blog in a field of professional interest–that is, on a topic related to an area in which you would like to work? Or are already working but want or need to make a change? If you are not publishing a blog, you might be missing out on a potentially powerful job search tool. Several reasons for doing that come to mind, and a few of them were underscored in a book I just finished reading: Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0. I will share snippets of the book’s points in the comments that follow.

Why Use Blogging as a Job Search Tool?

Offhand, I can think of at least 3 reasons to make blogging a part of your job search action plan:

  1. Establishing a strong online presence can play a key role in making you visible to companies who will be looking for people like you, and blogging is one relatively easy and cost-effective method for doing that.
  2. You can maintain a blog even after you land your next job and keep yourself top-of-mind with the kinds of people you want to stay in touch with, yet not send out a signal to your current (new) employer that says, “Hey, I’m job searching again.”
  3. If you link to your blog in a variety of places, you can easily increase your visibility and credibility with minimal additional effort. For example, link to and from your online resume, your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook page (if you have one for your professional side), and so on. Some of that can be done almost automatically (set up once and left to run each time you publish a blog post).

What Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters Says about Blogging

These are just a few of the gems contained in the book:

  • “If you have a blog, post on it frequently with your name and title. Add descriptors like your current projects, technical expertise, and examples of anything you have done that shows up in the public record….Be specific with your expertise.”
  • “If you don’t have a blog, offer to guest post at blogs that discuss your industry and your metro area.”
  • If you have your own web site (something the book highly recommends), “a blog is a powerful addition to your web site….Having your own blog gives you credibility and a forum to demonstrate your expertise. If you’re not an expert, you can become your industry’s oracle by linking to other bloggers, articles, news sources, and web sites. You build your credibility by highlighting what others are doing.”
  • “…your blog is a billboard on the Internet.” One way it can help you find a new job is by increasing your visibility with search engines, which according to the book “love blogs.”

When to Start Using Blogging as a Job Search Tool

If you haven’t already started, now would be a good time! It’s not that hard to do (as the saying goes, it’s not rocket science–unless you’re a rocket scientist), and the sooner you start, the sooner you can begin building a presence–gaining traction–in the area you want to be known for, work in, and so forth. It also doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, or even close to that. How many other job search aids can make that claim–potentially high value provided for relatively little effort and almost no money?

Performance Reviews–A Valuable Job Search Tool

If you receive periodic performance reviews from your current employer–or have received them in the past from former employers–are you using them as a job search tool? If not, you might be missing a good bet!

Of course, if all the reviews do is say you are “9 out of 10” or “4 out of 5” or something else equally vague, they might not be very useful. However, in the cases where your manager has actually provided thoughtful, pertinent feedback and comments on your performance, the review can serve as a potentially valuable job search tool.

Savvy job seekers know they cannot afford to overlook this tool if they want to conduct an effective job search and land a desirable position. I might have touched on this topic before, but as with many other things, it could stand repeating, especially if you’ve been overlooking the potential benefits of “mining” your reviews for useful information.

Value of Performance Reviews in a Job Search

Well-written (or even decently written) performance reviews offer several potential value points, including the following:

  • Independent third-party validation of your contributions and accomplishments, rather than you talking about yourself.
  • Reminders of value you contributed that you have since forgotten about or didn’t realize was especially important.
  • Alternative to letters of recommendation you can’t get for one reason or another, either because you’ve lost touch with the person or because the company prohibits them from writing such letters.

Suppose, for example, you made a herculean effort that was largely responsible for getting a critical project back on track, which ensured on-time completion. Saying that about yourself could sound immodest at best and much like arrogant bragging at worst. On the other hand, imagine the effect if your manager wrote in your review, “Jean dedicated a huge amount of time and energy to overcoming a tough problem and getting project XYZ back on schedule. That meant we were able to finish on time and satisfy a key customer.”

See the difference? You can share this comment in an interview or even perhaps quote it briefly in your resume or cover letter. It gives concreteness to your statements about the value you can bring to the prospective employer.

What Performance Reviews Can’t Do for Your Job Search

Realistically, you can’t share your all of your reviews (or even all of one review) with prospective employers. For one thing, it’s likely that some of the information would be considered company-confidential or proprietary. So you need to be selective and conservative in what you use and how you word it. You also can’t–or at least shouldn’t–embellish the details provided in the review. If, for example, your boss told you privately that you had outperformed everyone on the team but didn’t put a statement to that effect in your review, you have to let that one slide. Not only could it sound like bragging but also you can’t support it with proof.

What If You Don’t Have Performance Reviews?

Let’s assume you work for (or have worked for) unenlightened employers that don’t conduct any formal evaluation of their employees’ performance. However, you might have received–or have ways of documenting–written confirmation of something you’ve done that was valuable to the company. Maybe it was in the form of a memo or email, for instance. Keep a copy of that in your file (which should be retained at home, not solely in your work space). You never know when it might come in handy.

Also, keep at least a rough log of things you’ve accomplished that you believe were valuable; it’s useful as a memory jogger, if nothing else.

P.S. I’ve been absent from this blog recently because for two weeks I had to operate my business on a backup laptop computer after my PC “died.” I maintained a degree of functionality that way, but it’s not something I want to repeat any time soon! Fortunately, we had just done a complete backup of my files (I hope you do that for yourself, as well), so I didn’t lose key data, but it was still a productivity hit. I am delighted to be “PC-functional” again!

TagCrowd as a Job Search Tool

I recently learned of a new tool that could be useful to job seekers and wanted to pass the info along to you, in case you didn’t already know about it. The tool is called TagCrowd, and it’s currently free for personal use (I paid a modest $19 to use it as a business). Here’s a brief description from their web site: “a web application for visualizing word frequencies in any text by creating what is popularly known as a word cloud, text cloud or tag cloud….TagCrowd specializes in making word clouds easy to read, analyze and compare, for a variety of useful purposes.” Those purposes include speeches, resumes and website SEO analysis.

How does TagCrowd work?

You can copy and paste text, specify a web site URL or upload a file. You can make choices regarding several options, including how many words you want it to highlight, whether or not you want it to indicate the number of times a word was used, etc., and you can tell it to exclude certain words from consideration. So say, for example, you want to find out what employers are looking for (emphasizing) in their job postings; you can ask TagCrowd to go through the wording for you. Then you click “Visualize,” and TagCrowd does the rest. It provides some neat visual indicators, such as making words appear in larger and/or bolder print if they’re used more often. The idea is that you then make sure you include any of those often-used words in your resume that are a good fit with your experience.

Another possible use for the service is to check something you’ve written and see whether you’re over-using a particular word or words. I know I sometimes do that unintentionally (as opposed to deliberately using keywords to attract search attention, for instance), and this tool would help me avoid that problem. You might find it useful in that regard as well.

Any Problems with TagCrowd?

It’s early yet, but so far I’m not aware of any big drawbacks to using it. It seems to work fairly quickly, so unless you’re asking it to go through a succession of multi-page documents, you shouldn’t run into a problem. It does have some limits: plain text inserted must be 3MB max., and an uploaded file must be 5MB max. However, you could presumably do more than one request in a row and look at longer/larger items that way, if you have the time.

My next post is scheduled to touch on yet another job search tool, Resumeter(TM) by Preptel.