June 18, 2018

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How Pen and Paper Can Work Magic in Your Job Search

What separates successful job seekers from those who struggle to get hired?

Two things: clarity and motivation.

You must be clear about the job you seek, the results you’ve produced before, and the employers you want to work for.

And you need motivation to persist through long hours of research, networking, false hopes, and follow-up that may lie between you and your next job.

Want to know an easy, effective way to get clearer and more motivated in your job search?

It's as easy as taking pen to paper.

In fact, that's what it is: taking pen to paper.

Why does this help?

Writing forces you to clarify your thinking -- it’s impossible to be muddle-headed on paper (members of Congress notwithstanding).

Also, writing demystifies worries that may have nagged you for weeks. A problem defined is a problem half-solved, which frees up psychic energy and motivates you to act.

But why write with pen and paper?

After doing it every day for more than 30 years, I’ve found that physically moving a writing instrument -- as opposed to typing -- has three benefits, which can help you find a job faster:

  1. Clarify your goals

    Writing about any concept will crystallize it. But, because writing by hand is often slower than typing, it can force you to be more deliberate in your choice of words, which can improve clarity.

    Tip: Write your job search goal by hand at least once a day, and read it out loud (to further clarify and reinforce it).

    Example goal: It’s October 31. I’m an IT manager earning $75,000 salary, at a high-tech business with 50-100 employees, within 20 miles of my home.

  2. Produce insights

    As a child, you probably played connect-the-dots, drawing lines from dot to dot until a picture appeared on the page, almost as if by magic.

    The following exercise can produce “magical” insights in your job search.

    a. Write down the names of your favorite 5 supervisors, on a sheet of paper. Now, find at least one trait they share that lets you connect two or more names by lines.

    Examples: Where did they go to school? Do they golf? Do they live within 50 miles of you? Are they over 40?

    b. Once you find one or more commonalities between past supervisors, use that data to find more people like them. In fact, names may pop into your head as you write.

    Here are people you can play “connect the traits” with, to find more like them:

    * 5 favorite clients/customers

    * 5 people with the best jobs

    * 5 good companies that are hiring

  3. Reveal connections

    For this final exercise, divide a sheet of paper into two columns. In the right column, draw 10 circles. In each, write the name of a company you want to work for. These are your Top 10 Employers.

    In the left column, draw 10 circles. In each, write the names of 10 friends or acquaintances who know the most other people in your town or industry. These are your Top 10 Contacts.

    Now, make connections between your Contacts and Employers.

    Do this by drawing lines from Contacts to Employers. You can make more than one connection from each Contact -- in fact, some may have lines to 2, 3, 5 or more Employers.

    Call your 10 Contacts and ask for names of people at Employers where they have connections. You will call those new people later to demonstrate your knowledge of their company, needs, and opportunities, and ask for information that can lead to a business meeting. (Never ask for an “informational interview,” which is just a plea for a job.)

    Also, drawing this on paper will reveal companies where you have no contact. So ask your Top 10 Contacts, “Hey, I don’t know if you know anyone at Company X, Y, or Z, but who would you call if you were in my shoes?”

    Finally, you may come up with names of more potential employers as you write. That’s because you’ve probably never seen all these company names on one sheet of paper, where they can prompt your mind for ideas.

There’s something powerful about your hand moving a pen on paper. It's a motor skill that fuels creativity more than typing alone.

Try these exercises today, to put more clarity and motivation into your job search tomorrow.

- Kevin Donlin

Kevin Donlin is contributing co-author of "Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0." Since 1996, he has provided job-search help to more than 20,000 people. For a free glimpse, visit Guerrilla Job Search System DVD.

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