Target companies, then network to land your dream job

Dear JT & Dale: I was unemployed for almost two years. My last employer decided they didn’t need a full-time help desk and fired us. I told myself that I deserved a well-deserved sabbatical. I got compensation. Now I’m writing a resume for a career pivot. Recruiters only want to stick you where they have openings or ghost you because you have standards. I’m just too old to start over at the entry level. I try to keep my hopes up, but I feel beaten down by the lies about salary, dead leads, and disrespectful interviews. Is my dream job there, or should I just settle down? —Ron

JT: You’re not alone! A lot of people think it should be easy to find a job right now because all you hear about in the news is that there’s a labor shortage. However, this shortage relates to the jobs that everyone left as part of the Great Resignation. Meanwhile, it’s actually the most competitive time in our history to look for work. More than 40 million people left their jobs in 2021. They are all vying for the same jobs, the ones they think are better.

VALLEY: Do you pay? There’s a general rule at work here: if a job is easy to get, you probably don’t want it. (The “probably” is for occasions when a big boss recognizes your work, perhaps as a former colleague or perhaps seeing you in action as a supplier or competitor and hires you.) top bosses of big companies aren’t posting jobs. No, people compete to work for them and all openings are filled by word of mouth.

JT: And that’s why my advice is to connect to 20 companies you would like to work for and network like crazy. There is a hidden job market that you access if you befriend people working in your target companies. It’s the best way to stand out from the competition!

VALLEY: One of the benefits of this strategy is that you position yourself to meet people who do the work, rather than recruiters. You mentioned that recruiters “only want to stick you where they have openings or ghost you because you have standards.” Hold on: that’s their job: fill in the openings in front of them and ignore everything else. Your background is in help desks, so maybe that skews your expectations, but remember that the recruiter isn’t there to help you, the candidate, but to help the hiring managers. So back to networking. When building your list of target companies, keep in mind that the economy is changing and you want to screen targets for future success. No need to get a new job only to have the company downsize later this year. (Most companies are LIFOs to reduce employees: last in, first out.) So do some background research on the industry and sector and, if it’s a public company, forecasts for income and profits. It’s hard for your career to thrive if the business isn’t.

Dear JT & Dale: When applying for a new position, what exactly does “resume” mean? Is it a resume and cover letter or a curriculum vitae? Also, is a three-page resume with white space too long? — Renee

JT: “Resume/CV” is simply their way of saying you can submit either a resume or CV. It’s said like this for international talent who has a resume versus US-based talent who has a resume. Three pages are enough if formatted with white space.

VALLEY: There was a time when a three-page resume would have been dismissed as a self-indulgent mistake. This dates back to the days when resumes were sifted through by HR who could only give each person a few seconds. In this situation, you didn’t want to clutter your resume, but rather narrow it down. Now, however, with much of the selection done by computer systems, the longer the resume, the more likely it is to find hits on the keywords. Ironically, in an age of Twitter, TikTok, and texting — the three Ts of thought compression — the resume is going the other way.

Jeanine “JT” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and founder of the leading career site Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators’ Lab and the author of an HR novel, “The Weary Optimist”. Please visit them at, where you can email questions, or write to them c/o King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2022 by King Features Syndicate, Inc .

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