Men are often more willing to circumvent traditional job-search processes to secure their next role. Here are four ways women can do the same.
“Men apply to jobs they have six out of 10 qualifications for; women only when they meet 100 percent of the listed criteria.” This widely-quoted statistic attributed to Hewlett-Packard offers some insight into why women aren’t represented in the executive ranks of most organizations.
But career coach and recruitment consultant Erin Ewart tells me she frequently sees an even number of men and women who apply for roles they’re not completely qualified for. I’m also skeptical about research like this; it’s too easy to blame women for lacking confidence to apply for stretch roles. So what’s missing?
The discrepancy could be more likely due to an unwillingness among women to go outside the traditional hiring process to get a job, Ewart tells me. This includes networking and making contacts within organizations. “Men tend to be much more open to this and understand that it’s how the game is played. Women tend to worry that it seems pushy or that they are going to bother people by asking them for time or help.”
It’s why she started a small group coaching program, Job Search Bootcamp, which helps early- to mid-career women get more proactive in their job search and circumvent the known job search process.
Below, Ewart offers four tips for women looking for new ways to secure their next big role.
Tell a compelling story
The foundation of a successful job search is based on telling a compelling story about how your core strengths and accomplishments will help you excel in the new role or organization. First, invest time in identifying these and get comfortable with articulating them, Ewart advises. “You only have a limited number of opportunities to get on people’s radar, and you don’t want to waste those if you can’t yet articulate what you’re best at and how it’s relevant in the roles and industries you’re interested in.”
Women often struggle with telling a persuasive story about their track record, because they believe they’re bragging or taking too much credit for team accomplishments. To counter this, she recommends calling upon trusted friends and peers. “Sharing your accomplishment stories with others you know and trust and hearing their reactions can be a very powerful tool, as they will see your unique value in a way that you often can’t.”
Target organizations, not job openings
Successful job seekers today focus less on open roles, and more on a short list of targeted companies they would like to work for, Ewart tells me. They connect with those target organizations first to understand their current and future jobs. “There’s a stat out there that 80 percent of jobs are never posted. While I think that’s a little bit misleading, I believe that by the time a job is posted, there are already people who are known to the organization who are going to be considered,” she adds.
To break through this, she says women must proactively develop relationships with people in the organizations where they most want to work. “Using this approach can also help you identify ways to get your foot in the door with an organization — whether through project work, short-term contracts or volunteering — that can ultimately lead to a full-time gig.”
Be a strategic and persistent networker
Women must get more comfortable with networking — it’s the cornerstone of the job search today. Be strategic by using your target organization list to focus your networking. Always ask the people you meet for additional ideas on who else to connect with, Ewart says. “While this approach doesn’t have the same tangible feel as submitting applications online — which is why many job seekers avoid it — if you continue to fill your pipeline with a few new meetings each week, you’ll start to identify opportunities that you never would have found out about otherwise.”
While you must prepare for some inherent rejection in this approach, taking the risk and being consistent will yield results.
Keep to the 80/20 rule
A job search requires copious time and mental energy, so it’s critical to create a plan for how and when you’ll work on your job search, Ewart counsels. “Block out times when you will have energy and be consistently available. At least eight to 10 hours a week is a good rule of thumb for an active search,” she says. Be strategic with that time by using the 80/20 role: Spend 80 percent of your time on proactive strategies like identifying target organizations and attending networking events. Focus 20 percent on passive activities like searching online and applying to job postings.
She recommends setting weekly goals for what you want to achieve and monthly milestones for at least 90 days, to hold yourself accountable. And finally, find a buddy who is also job searching or join a job-search group you can check in with to keep you honest and provide support during the tough times.