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Up-to-date advice and tips on conducting a job search were the subject of the CFA Society Chicago’s recent virtual presentation for members. Hosted by the Society’s Professional Development Advisory Group, this was the latest event specifically targeted at members in transition, or thinking of initiating a career move. The presenter was Abby Kohut, a former corporate recruiter now operating her own consulting firm.

Abby Kohut, known in the job search world as Absolutely Abby, held corporate recruiting positions in a variety of industries and is responsible for helping 10,000 people find new jobs over the past 25 years. Her website, AbsolutelyAbby.com, selected as one of the “Top 100 Websites for Your Career” by Forbes, teaches candidates secrets and the absolute truth about the job search process that other recruiters won’t acknowledge. Since 2012, Kohut has been on a mission to help one million job seekers, first by driving around the US in an RV to meet clients face to face, but more recently by virtual means. Kohut employs light hearted humor to help her job seekers understand what they need to learn.

The key to Kohut’s service is her job search resource guide which she makes available to the public on her website www.absolutelyabby.com. This contains 28 pages of lists of tips, suggestions, and advice related to job searching, as well as witticisms, catchy phrases, and commentary from a long list of experts and amateurs, both famous and unknown. It includes a wealth of links to websites and videos to help one navigate a successful career advancement. Although it provides help on conducting a search specifically within the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, all of her advice would apply equally well in a normal environment.

Kohut’s first piece of advice was to learn to separate things within one’s control from those that are not and to concentrate energy only on the former. As an example, she applied this rule to dealing with the pandemic restrictions. One cannot control the actions (or reactions) of others, whether or not they follow rules laid down by health experts, or how long the situation will last, so one should not waste energy on these. Rather, we can (and should) focus on maintaining a positive attitude, being kind and helpful to other people, and limiting our involvement with social media.
Kohut noted that despite the layoffs that are making headlines, there are open jobs available, although finding them may be more difficult than usual. She recommended using key phrases in on-line searches including:

  • “Currently hiring”
  • “Hiring now”
  •  “Filling immediately”
  •  “Immediate need”

These will narrow the search to open positions the firm intends to fill and avoid those that, while officially open, won’t be filled soon. (The quotation marks bracketing the phrases are important to get the meaning of the entire phrase incorporated into the search.)

The bulk of the presentation covered a quick run through some of the lists of recommendations and ideas that fill her resource guide. This includes:

  • Tips for maintaining consistency in a job search
  • Join online groups and network with people in several areas of the country.
  • Expand your local network and participate in online activities with them so they acquire an idea of what working with you would be like.
  • Set and achieve one goal each day (either related to or unrelated to your job search) so that you can feel the satisfaction of accomplishment. This can even be a step towards a large goal.
  • Use this time as an opportunity to learn new skills as there are so many free/low cost courses.
  • Make a list of 20 target companies and check these company websites every 1-2 days.
  • Reward yourself when you complete a project.
  • Treat your job search like a full-time job. Dress as you would for your normal job routine.
  • Schedule calendar time for follow up, applications and hopefully interviews.
  • Create daily and weekly to do lists.
  • Have a job search buddy and hold each other accountable to keep moving forward.
  • Do job search activities at a regular time, for example every day from 9-1 pm.
  • Stay on top of current events in your industry.

Networking Tips

  • Ask five people to connect with you on LinkedIn each day. Always include a personal note in your invitations.
  • Correspond regularly with your network by e-mail. Include an anecdote from the last time you met with the person.
  • Provide words of encouragement and support, and offer assistance to others.
  •  Ask for referrals to other well-connected people, even if enquiring about a job opening.
  • Ways to Pay it Forward (help others)
  • Read social media and look for people asking for help. Post positive, helpful, or humorous messages.
  • Connect people who can help each other.
  • Write recommendations on LinkedIn for people in your network.
  • Review resumes and hold mock interviews for your contacts.
  • Support your local entrepreneurs (coaches, consultants, photographers). They are hurting now and need referrals for current or FUTURE business.
  • Order take out from your local restaurants. Thank them for staying.
  • Reach out to one friend every day and ask how you can help them. Just the call might make their day.

In the Q&A session following her prepared comments Kohut provided some “meatier”, more targeted information than came across in her series of helpful lists. In response to a question about talking about salary over Zoom, she said it was appropriate, but only if the interviewer brought up the subject. She advised always responding with a wide range that covers your expectations, and avoiding saying you’re “negotiable” (a green light for the employer to start off very low).

As for how to address having interrupted a career for personal reasons (such as to help an aging or ill relative) Kohut said the response has to depend on the specifics of the situation, but one should always be truthful and emphasize that the need was resolved and you are fully committed to returning to work.

For post-interview notes, Kohut noted that before the pandemic, e-mail was beginning to become more acceptable in place of a handwritten note, but the pandemic has accelerated that change. E-mail is now accepted as the standard.
For 2020 graduates seeking their first career position Kohut had several suggestions:

  • Refresh your resume frequently.
  • Stress your technical skills to draw attention away from your lack of experience.
  • Create a video extolling your value.
  • Seek out LinkedIn referrals to hiring managers and internal recruiters.
  • Network, network, network.

Interested members should investigate Abby Kohut’s website for her full list of ideas and resources.