Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.  —Calvin Coolidge

O ver the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many folks trying to position themselves for a new job: recent grads, people transitioning to new careers, those that have been laid-off etc. In some cases, I’ve been the adviser and in others, the prospective employer. As I consider some of my conversations over the years as well as recent discussions with job seekers, the “W.O.R.K.” acronym comes to mind.

W – Want It

Quite often, I hear job seekers express general desires when it comes to their search. This is completely understandable. In some cases, the person doesn’t want to limit their possibilities by being too specific. However, most examples I see are of people who aren’t really sure what they want. Some are looking for that first job, some just want something different than what they are currently doing, some are desperate for a pay-check and many are simply putting a line in the water and hoping they get a bite. In my experience, focused job searches are the most effective. Not sure of a specific position? Then pick an industry. Not sure of an industry that appeals to you, find a company. Not sure of a job, industry or company? Then pick some interesting people and approach them with purpose. The bottom line is that you have to want something prior to initiating anything.

O – Orchestrate Your Campaign

Once you identify what you want, then you need to plan your approach. I love the idea of “orchestrating your campaign”. This suggests organization with purpose – an end in mind. Start by putting your hit list together. If you have an industry in mind, put a list of target companies together and do your homework. The same goes if you are looking at companies within a specific geography. You need to know all you can about your targets, what they do and where they are located. What jobs are they advertising? Who do you know that works there? Who do you know that might know someone that works there? What areas within the company might be of interest? Ultimately, you want to find specific people to approach and plan how best to approach them. Yes, plan your approach. You need to answer the question: why would this person talk with me? Your best answer will normally be common ground – what common interests, connections, beliefs, causes etc. might be a good basis for establishing a connection. Your answer may simply be: I am the best (insert job description) job candidate in the world and this person needs me desperately. If so, great! Otherwise, find the common ground. Then determine how best to get to that person. You have to figure that it might take 8-10 attempts before they even notice you. When you are designing your campaign, find 8-10 unique ways to reach out to each target. Don’t plan for one letter and be done; anticipate that you will need a combination of letters, emails, phone calls, smoke signals, and any number of other antics before you get their attention. Build it into your plan.

R – Reach Out

You’ve determined what you want. You’ve identified some companies and individuals that might help you achieve your goals. Now, you have to act on it. At this point, it is easy to let doubt creep in. Resist it. Believe in the power of your plan. Just do it! Reach out to your connections. Have coffee with referrals (especially if you don’t think they can help you in any way!). More often than not, you will not get to the key person on a first pass. You will need to get introduced into that next conversation. Don’t just focus on people that are obviously associated with your objectives or direct hiring managers. Sometimes it is the most random conversation that opens all sorts of doors. Work your plan. Send letters. Read blog posts and offer comments. Follow up with email. Make some phone calls. Send out those smoke signals! Keep your message fresh and upbeat. For known connections, let them know how they might help – be specific. Or ask them for specific input: “How would you approach XYZ?” There are limitless options – you have to chase all of them until you reach your goal.

K – Keep Trying

Guess what? You will hit dead ends 5, 10, 15, 20 times. Keep trying. People will say: “We’re not hiring”. Ask someone else. People will say: “You’re not qualified”. It is your job to explain how you are qualified. They won’t listen? Find someone else. People will say: “We want someone part time.” Even if you need full time, why not give it a try? Hiring people is risky and expensive. What can you do to minimize their risk? The system is set up to find reasons not to talk to you, not to hire you, not to help you. Your challenge is to circumvent that system and show how you can provide value, make a difference and be a valuable asset to the organization. This also applies to the connections you make. What can you do to help them? Demonstrating the kind of person you are outside of a transaction is a very powerful indicator of what you will be like as an employee, partner etc.

Sound like a lot of W.O.R.K.? Yes it is! The good news is that you are fabulously qualified to help so many people and organizations that your success is a foregone conclusion. Now, get out there and show them!