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10 min read

The job seekers' mini-guide everyone needs to read


1.4 million over 55’s in the UK have chosen not to return to the workplace since the pandemic, unsurprisingly prompting a productivity challenge. The Great Resignation, or ‘The Great Reshuffle’ as LinkedIn cites it, is more than a curiosity - it’s a biting reality.

Meanwhile, tech companies have realized that their over-inflated valuations in recent times are the latest self-induced bubble to burst. Some have lost 75% of their value. So who pays the real price for this harsh reality check? The C-suite? No. The shareholders? Some. The employees? You bet.

Regardless of the unique circumstances of recent times, history, unfortunately, repeats itself when companies get it wrong, and it’s the employees with the boots on the ground that feel the seismic impact of the mistakes of others. Your CEO is ‘very sorry’ but where does that leave you?

I’ve felt this pain myself over the years, with roles being ‘put at risk’ and two redundancies within the past five years.

But, I am so glad it happened!

What? Harvey, get a grip mate.

You heard me, I am glad.

Why am I jumping over fields of daffodils to tell you about this?

It took some time and some pain, but it really helped me work out and work through what it was that I really wanted. I knew something was ‘up’ for years as I gradually became professionally unfulfilled working in multinationals. Financial constraints, life choices, or just plain old fear stopped me from taking control of my own career and being at the mercy of the decisions of others.

As you stare at the letter or email that states, ‘your role is at risk’ or some variation of the same, I want to offer you not just my empathy, after all, I’ve been there more than once. I want to offer you some practical reassuring steps you can take. Steps that can help you get on the path to what’s really next.

In this article, I'll outline:

You aren’t really prepared for what’s next

I’m guessing what’s next for you has already happened. Only, you were not expecting it, nor were you ready for it.

A wise and philosophical former manager of mine used to give me insight into c-level discussions. He used to say “I include myself in this Harvey, but always be ready for what’s next.”

It’s fair to say that when ‘what’s next came’ (redundancy), I wasn't as ready as I could've been because I didn't pivot. I didn't think more laterally about what I wanted to do; I defaulted to doing the same thing: get another job. But we all know that doing the same thing yields the same results.

What if I wanted to step off the hamster wheel of corporate life?

At this particular point, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do was any different from what I already knew. That is to maintain the status quo.

You are the product

Another wise manager once advised me to understand what my value was in the market before deciding anything. Given that this is central to how you position anything, we can concur that you're the product, and you need to know how to position yourself in the market you want to enter.

When mentoring, I often advise those looking for career guidance to think of themselves as the product they're working on.

Do the same work on yourself that you would for your latest product or service, and only through this process will you understand your value and know how to position yourself to the (job) market you're targeting. Get your positioning templates and frameworks out and put yourself through them.

Pssst. We have some particularly useful positioning templates within our Pro membership

You need to play the numbers game

You need to learn it and play it relentlessly. If you apply for only one job and you don't get it, you can’t be disappointed as the odds aren't in your favor, even if the market is.

Despite some markets having a rich number of vacancies, the amount of people applying is wild. We’re talking four figures in some cases! The chances of your application getting lost in the noise or to the applicant tracking software are quite high.

From my own experience and learning from others in similar circumstances, the application-to-offer funnel is a lesson in harsh reality you need to learn.

Pre-COVID, the UK Department of Work and Pensions (🇺🇸 Department of Labor) told me that only 5% of job applications result in a first interview. That means 95% of applicants aren’t even considered as someone the hiring company wishes to meet with. When you dwindle on from that 5% who do make it, this funnels down to a very select few who make it to the 2nd or 3rd interview.

Just think of the meager odds. You're barely feeding on scraps here.

From my own and my peer analysis, I found that you have a one in 100 chance of getting the job you applied for. Let’s run the maths:

I applied for 125 jobs, of which around 32% came from recruiters who approached me. In total, 35% of applications secured a first interview which is around 43 interviews. Of those 43 interviews, 50% of the time, I got a second interview.

By the time I got down to the 3rd round of various interviews, this left around five viable job opportunities in the process before I was eventually offered a job. This means that despite a 35% ‘hit rate’ at the top of the funnel far exceeding the average, the conversion rate at the bottom of the funnel resulted in a less than 1% average. However, this can change completely if you diversify and apply the power of your network.

Is the job market friend or foe? The answer may surprise you

Friend. Despite all the doom and gloom of the tech world getting a bloody nose, the market facts are simple; there are more jobs available than candidates! True for product marketing to the power of x2-x3, and true for many other functions too.

It’s driving salaries up and enriching offers for those well-positioned to take advantage. Not only is it a good time to pivot if you want to, but it’s also a very good time to move to a better version of the status quo.

But the key is to be a well-positioned thoroughbred in your field. Despite the glut of open roles, no one is accepting average; these days, rockstar status is table stakes.

There’s only one person who will suffer from your terrible LinkedIn profile - you

In the past twenty years, I’ve had five jobs. Two of the five gigs I applied for and three of the five sought me out. Ignoring the network effect and personal brand-building capability of networks such as LinkedIn is to effectively say to the market, ‘I don’t care’ and ‘I’m not worth it’.

LinkedIn is very 'top-of-funnel' for every job seeker and a platform for business engagement for everyone else.

So, why is it that most LinkedIn profiles are terrible? Your profile and activity on LinkedIn are more important than your CV at this stage. There, I said it. It’s more important than your CV. Recruiters with a LinkedIn Recruiter account can search and compare with ease (I’ve had one, I know) and are more likely to approach you than entertain your application.

I hear it often. ‘Harvey. I am going to make a website for myself with my portfolio to show the world how shiny and fantastic I am’. I gave everyone the same advice; don’t waste your time or money.

I make no apologies if I’m squeezing your creative juices for the simple fact that no one is looking for you. The fish all get caught on LinkedIn, and the oceans of LinkedIn are your opportunity to shine within the networks that care.

It might be that your profile right now is not so great, and you're in a job. What happens when a trigger such as redundancy happens? Or you wake up one day massively unfulfilled, you have to start over, and it takes time, the time you already wasted on ‘my name.com’.

There are so many ways you can raise your profile within networks that care. It can take a little time, but it shouldn't cost you money. Here at PMA towers, we encourage those in the product marketing community to contribute via article writing, event talks, or even becoming Ambassadors or Experts in Residence. We provide the platform and the audience. If you want to create and contribute, you can start here.

We have meet-ups online and in person around the world, too, most recently in the UK, Australia, the US, and Africa! Join our free Slack and engage with 30,000 like-minded product marketers.

Don't ignore the power of the network. It's the roadmap to your next opportunity.

Your CV needs to be a missile, ready to penetrate

If a rockstar profile on LinkedIn is top-of-funnel, then your CV/resume serves the consideration stage. Once a recruiter has hit you up on LinkedIn, they will ask you for your CV/Resume. This is the asset that gets circulated inside the company.

It has to say, ‘this is the candidate you have been looking for’ as if Yoda himself put a Jedi mind trick across the whole organization you're trying to join.

However, as a hiring manager of more years than I am willing to admit, I'm still shocked at how terrible most CVs are.

There are two key considerations you need to take:

  1. Design and formatting.
  2. The key content.

What you don’t know is that your CV is an X-wing missile to penetrate the Death Star applicant tracking software (ATS), and if it’s not formatted for the purpose, the ATS will act like the Death Star’s reflection shield and blow you up!

Case in point, if you have fabulous key points to make contained within a border, the ATS will see an empty space, and you don’t move through the funnel; your CV will have a terminal meeting with Darth Vader.

For the key content, now you know your own positioning, you should focus on keywords (the ATS will reward you), a snappy synopsis of your career across no more than 2 pages, and use numbers to cite your achievements.

HR and hiring managers luuuurve numbers as it grounds discussions around your achievements. Yet, 95% of the CVs I see have zero numbers.

If Yoda was writing your CV, he’d tell you that “There is no try; there is only do”. You need to do it.

If you need help, Matt Shrewbridge is a rockstar CV writer who I’ve worked with in the recent past.

If CVs open doors, side hustles blow them right off

Having a side hustle is a good diversification strategy, especially in the current climate. Volunteer, create a podcast, vlog, or blog for yourself or others in your chosen field. Do pro-bono work. Any of these things will serve to enhance your CV.

The beauty of side hustles, in general, is endless. Firstly, they can create some excellent transferable skills to slide you into a different career path, which following the aftermath of COVID-19, could make all the difference.

Plus, you might be getting paid to do something you enjoy on top of your regular income. It could even be that you’re able to turn that side hustle into full-time work. It also signals to an employer that you're engaged in what is, hopefully, central to the positioning you have chosen for yourself.

Likewise, if you’re a marketer, create engaging, relevant content and market yourself. During these trying times, content online is being consumed at a breakneck pace, so there is a real demand for it. If you're not sure how to go about this, there is plenty of free content to absorb on the likes of LinkedIn Learning or YouTube to sharpen your skills.

Remember that the power of your network and your personal impact is your net worth in this context. If your CV is a door opener, this will blow that door right off its hinges. So as tough as it is and no matter how many knock-backs you face, keep the productivity levels up, and eventually, that work will have an impact.

Help is at hand. You just need to know where to look

Most of us aren't experts at applying or interviewing for a job. Why should we be? We want to be good at being at work! Inevitably though, these challenging times come around for all of us so let’s review some of the available resources.

Suzy Welsh rocks it on MSNBC with her Get To Work series. Suzy founded the Jack Welch Management Institute, ranked as one of the top online MBA programs in the world by Princeton Review and CEO Magazine, and has great advice for anyone looking for work. Check out the whole series of free videos here.

Adding to the guidance of Suzy Welsh, when it comes to nailing that interview,  I wrote an article called How to Ace A Job Interview last year that’s grounded in my own experience of dozens and dozens of interviews. It’s practical, actionable advice that I have relentlessly field-tested myself. And delivers results.

If you need even more help, PMA Hired is a very affordable program and a lifelong career companion. Whether you're looking to transition into the industry or make the jump to VP of PMM, it's got everything you need to create the successful, fulfilling product marketing career you deserve. Or you can visit our free jobs board or register for our PMA Recruit service.

Your five-step plan

So there you have it, challenges afoot but nothing insurmountable. There are five key steps:

  1. Consider yourself a product and market yourself as you would the widget you were responsible for in your last job.
  2. Take your LinkedIn profile and your CV seriously. These are your assets for the ‘funnel’.
  3. Getting a new job is your new job (for now), so plan relentlessly, know your numbers and execute flawlessly.
  4. Ask for help.
  5. Build, grow and enrich your network to deliver value to them.

Despite the positive overtones I’m playing, it’s very hard being out of work. Hard on you, hard on your loved ones, and sometimes, hard on your finances. It’s too easy to get into a negative spiral.

After all, rejection is not easy to take, but, unfortunately, it’s a part of life. And the last thing anyone needs after an unprecedented two-year lockdown is to lose their job. In some cases, again.

I am appealing to the sense of goodwill of everyone in the business community. I’ve seen the power of networks at play, the generosity of others, and happy career-search endings.

But only you can make it happen. If you take and follow through on 50% of the lived-in advice in this article, you’ve moved forward further than you know.

It’s hard. It’s not your fault. You're not alone, and you can and should ask for help. Most of all, please remember to be kind to yourself and look after your health.

Stay safe. Be kind to one another.


Written by:

Harvey Lee

Harvey Lee

With over 25 years in senior Product Marketing roles for companies such as Virgin, Microsoft, Kaspersky and Seiko Epson, I help businesses of all sizes find the true value of their product or service.

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The job seekers' mini-guide everyone needs to read