Career Coach: Job search is a team sport

By Jeffrey Kudisch

Although much of your job search is done alone, evidence suggests that the chore can be easier when you do it as part of a team. As in sports, surrounding yourself with great people can enhance your ability to win. Likewise, in sales, a lot of people say the best hunting is done in packs.

In fact, professional outplacement and search firms such as Lee Hecht Harrison advocate building “job search work teams.” According to job-hunting expert, author and former Lee Hecht Harrison director Orville Pierson, such teams are not therapy or support groups. Rather, they represent a group of people committed to helping each other. This includes keeping members focused on key tasks, such as brainstorming, information sharing, networking, discussing common challenges and developing action items. In addition to helping job seekers strategize, teams also ensure that members stay focused and hold each other accountable for their job search goals.

Here at the Smith School of Business, we have helped students form job search teams and have seen them celebrate each other’s successes. We are finding the team approach is leading to more confidence among job seekers, better search strategies, increased networking, more collaboration and a lot more resilience. The team atmosphere is helping students uncover search tactics that they would have never thought of on their own. And the team helps keep everyone motivated, like having “workout buddies” helps with fitness goals.

Here are a few tips for building a winning job search team:

Try to assemble about five to eight people. If your team gets too big, you may find it challenging to keep up with everyone’s needs and progress.

Consider having a niche focus on the types of jobs members are seeking. Build your team by desired industry or job role, but be careful not to replicate one another’s career goals exactly. Doing so may end up cannibalizing each other’s opportunities.

Ensure a team composition where members’ skills and styles complement each other. Try to include someone who possesses effective networking and social media skills (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). Consider enlisting a couple of eternal optimists or cheerleaders who are encouraging and boost team spirit and emotional resilience, no matter how many job applications have been submitted. Make sure your team includes other similarly unemployed or job-seeking friends who can empathize with your situation and what you’re going through. You might also consider including an industry expert from the field with whom you can check in on occasion.

Find potential “teammates” at networking events, through professional associations, temp agencies or outplacement centers you are working with, or even at community events. You might connect with a friend or neighbor at your community block party who is also looking for a job and might be a good addition to your team.

Agree to meet regularly, at least once a week. This will allow your team members to report on their weekly progress and share ideas. Frequent meetings will also keep the momentum going.

Share roles and responsibilities. Ensure that you have a process in place to stay abreast of current events, industry developments, publications and relevant professional associations/meetings that might benefit team members.

Establish specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound goals for the week ahead. Craft goals regarding the number of letters/e-mails to be sent or phone calls to be made between meetings.

Participate and offer constructive feedback about plans and strategies. Engaged teams provide fellow team members with advice and candid but caring feedback on crafting effective cover letters and answers to practice interview questions. Feedback can also be shared regarding each member’s ability to convey his/her value proposition, or network with others.

Stay involved and reciprocate assistance, even after you land your job. Treat people with respect and agree to help all members gain closure on their job search. Remember that the professional relationships that you build may continue long after your job search ends.

Keep discussions confidential. The job search process creates anxiety and stress along the way. Discussions are sure to include disappointments and personal hardships. What’s shared among the team should stay with the team.

Having a great résuméand elevator pitch are necessary, but insufficient for successful job hunting. Job search is a team sport. Raise the level of your game by surrounding yourself with talented individuals.

Jeffrey Kudisch is managing director of the Office of Career Services at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and a faculty expert in leadership, negotiations and human capital management. He has a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology and he co-founded Personnel Assessment Systems, a human resource consulting firm specializing in executive assessment and leadership development.

Career Coach: Job search is a team sport