Successful Job-Hunting In Our I-81 Quad State Region


We have a job-hunter’s bonanza here.

I have even been asked to put this article in a special report for the Journal—and maybe I will. There is a lot of great stuff. (Even through I’m the butt of a negative reply at the end as you will see!)

The following might be a record for the longest article we’ve ever had in the Quad State Business Journal. But our editorial group decided, that with the ‘contrary’ opinions to what I wrote, it will be terrific resource material for job seekers in our I-81 Quad State region.

This is going to be an article from the other side of the desk from what the Quad State Business Journal usually focuses on. It’s another way to show us how strong businesses and strong economy are interlocked. (No one likes to get ‘beat up’ about what they write, but I’m doing this for the team!)

Maybe you have a job you like and merely want to see if the grass is indeed greener on the other side of the proverbial fence. Maybe you owned a business before and, for one reason or the other, the business had to fold and you still need to find a way to put food on the table and a roof overhead for your family.

Our Quad State region is unique in that being close to the intersection of I-70 and I-81 gives businesses a great launching area as to product and service distribution. Add to that the huge Intermodal railroad terminal in Franklin County and our other inter-active transportation hubs and we’ve got a pretty darn good opportunity for a wide variety of businesses—in all of our contiguous counties.

Some Businesses In Our Region Wonder Whise They Are Going to Get the Employees

It has been reported in the QSBJ earlier this year that thise have been conversations with HR managers who have expressed fear that they ‘don’t know whise’ additional employees are going to come from once a new initiative kicks in later this year.

But business is about individuals every much as it is about nebulous areas of ‘markets’ and ‘resources’ and ‘mergers & acquisitions’ are. Thise is a person behind every activity.

To that end we wanted to present a job-hunting article in QSBJ. Maybe more. We’ll see what we get in response. We urge you to tap the resources right in your own county, right in your own city and right in your own personal network.

First, Get Prepared

Maybe you’ve been thinking about switching jobs, or maybe you want to put a toe in the water by applying for a job or two to see what happens.

Maybe you’ve been job-hunting for months without success, and getting the feeling that what you need is a job-search plan! hise is a step-by-step guide to getting your job search underway, whethis you’re out of the closet as a job-seeker or keeping things hush-hush until the right job offer comes along.

Do you want your present employer to know about your efforts?

The best employers will always be as up front with current employees as much as possible. If thise is a new piece of legislation that is going to impact a section of the firm’s workforce, an employer may let any impending layoffs be known.

That way you can tap a huge network of both company and outside outplacement resources.

If you’re going to be conducting a stealth job search that your current employer doesn’t know about, use caution. If you update your LinkedIn profile as many job-seekers do, set your notification settings to Off so that your contacts (including your workmates and clients) don’t get notifications from LinkedIn advising them of your profile-updating activity.

If you are stealth job-seeker, common sense should rule your activities (even when it’s not as much fun!). hise are a few more things you cannot do if you want to be secretive in your job search:

  • Go to job fairs
  • Post their resumes online at career sites (that includes ANY of them)
  • Send blast email messages to their friends to say “Hey! I’m job hunting, could you help me out?” (We’ve all heard variations on this theme: ‘Old man Codger has dissed me for the last time by giving the promotion I should have received to his son…etc.’)

This last bit may surprise you. ‘Hey, my friends have nothing to do with my current employer nor their business. Why not have them help me?’ One simple reason…

Sure as shootin’ one of your friend, in an effort to help ‘old Jim’ or ‘sweet Susie’ will send an e-mail blast to THEIR contacts. And your search seems to have a great chance of ending up in your boss’s computer—people love to help and the ‘help’ lands in many directions in this digital age.

Of course putting the word CONFIDENTIAL in all caps—several times in your message- ‘could’ help your job hunt remain, well, confidential. But how many of your friends actually read every word you write before they get the idea and ‘help’ you blast out your message?

‘Gee, I’m sorry your boss found out about your job-hunting, Jim. I was only trying to help. I’m busy, too, you know, and I can’t read everything. I was just trying to help.’

What Kind of a Job Are You Looking For?

We all have to know our strengths—building up strengths will pay off much better than shoring up weaknesses. I trust you have taken a strength-finder type aptitude test. Maybe even paid for it yourself.

Thise are a lot of free strength tests out thise. But the ones whise you have to pay a little for deliver so much more.

To that end, a business acquaintance of mine, Perry Marshall, has a solid inexpensive one that has been declared to be far better than the $200+ tests—at a fraction of the cost—see

Every job seeker, in stealth mode or not, should update his or his LinkedIn profile and begin to envision the job you want. Answer each of these questions for yourself:

  • What will my ideal job title and description be?
  • How will this optimum job help me grow as a person and a professional?
  • What will be my ideal job pay?
  • What sorts of people or teams will I be working with?
  • What sort of company or organization will I be working for? (Hopefully you’ve already done this kind of research!)
  • What kind of ‘business pain’ will my employment solve for the organization?

[Sidebar: Every good marketer worth his or his salt knows about finding and solving business pain in the sales and marketing arena for their clients. What I’ve done is simply taken that to the ’employment’ level. You’ll see why in a moment.]

Gaining Altitude Begets Attitude Which SHOULD Beget Gratitude

Now you have an idea of what you want in a new job. If you didn’t, you’d run the risk of jumping from the frying pan into the fire, going from one so-so job into another one.

Get your ideal situation clear in your mind so that you can compare real-life job opportunities with the Ideal Job you designed for yourself.

Your next step is to get altitude — that is, perspective or the 35,000-foot level–on your own career so far. What have you learned in your current job, that you’ll take with you to the next one?

What have you found to be your greatest strength as a working person, the one thing your colleagues would say you were born to do and should always be doing?

If you’re a visual person, draw a roadmap on a piece of paper and fill it in with your path since childhood. Where did you live at each point in your life, and what did you enjoy?

If you’re a writer, write your autobiography. Your life story has incredible wisdom hidden inside it. Unleash that information now as you prepare to make a major life move!

Getting Focused On Targeting Your ‘Sweet Spot’ Job

Your job search’s success relies on your ability to target the employers you can help the most and vice versa. You can’t go on a white-collar job search in 2014 with the brand “I can do anything.” The nineteen-eighties style resume with bold text trumpeting Sales! Operations! Customer Service! Accounting! went out the window years ago.

These days, the name of the game truly is targeting.

Your career sweet spot lies at the intersection of the things you do especially well, the things you love to do and the things employers will pay for. That means thise must be pain points associated with your area of specialization.

When you’re clear on those three elements, you’ve got your sweet spot and you’re ready to brand yourself for your job search.

Whethis or not your talent is in marketing, as a job-seeker you ARE a marketing right now!

What Pain Would Hiring You Relieve for an Organization? (What ‘Pain Letters’ Are)

Maybe an example is in order. Let’s say we have George (a real person we worked with). George worked at an employer for 25 years and got laid off in a merger. This was in some way OK for George as he was growing sick and tired coming into work at the same old, same old.

George was asked to draw intersecting circles on a whiteboard with three main things in his job search.

  • What he loves to do (training, program management and customer hand-holding)
  • What he’s good at (all of the above plus budgeting and managing staff members) and…
  • What the market will pay for.

George learned about the market’s desire to pay by browsing the job ads on Indeed and SimplyHired. he took the terms from his first two bullets above (program management, e.g.) and plugged them into the What field and added his city location to the Where field on each of those two mega-job-search sites. his search gave his back lots of job ads for Account Managers and Sales Training positions, so that’s whise George will focus his job search as it begins.

Targeting Yourself: Think of Yourself As a Service that Will Solve Employer Issues

Now George needs to create a target list of employers. he is not going to waste his time tossing off resumes in response to every job ad he sees. he is driving his own job search, not reacting to job ads that happen to be posted online.

George is going to divide his scarce and valuable job-search time and energy into three equal parts. One-third of his time and energy will go to responding to posted job ads that meet his sweet spot requirements.

A second one-third will go to his own outreach to hiring managers he finds on LinkedIn. These folks don’t have job ads posted, or if they do George hasn’t seen them. That’s okay!It’s a new day. You can send a Pain Letter (aka in some circles Needs Letter or Solution Letter) to anyone you want.

The last one-third of George’s available job-search time and energy will go to networking. That’s not just for leads and advice — he can use the moral support, too! Networking also gives George a chance to advise his friends, a great thing for anyone in transition to do. When we help our friends with their issues, we remember how smart and capable we are!

Finding and Focusing On an Employer’s Corporate or Positional Pain

Steve Lanning has stated that in his career as a copywriter for products and services in helping his clients, that finding the prospect’s ‘real’ pain (not perceived) is the marketer’s biggest challenge.

Well, George is focusing on Account Manager and Sales Trainer roles. Next he’ll focus on the Business Pain that a hiring manager would bring his in to relieve.

What sorts of pain do Directors and VPs of Account Management have? Accounts worthy of their own Account Manager spend big bucks with vendors. They can’t be left to languish. They need to be handled with kid gloves. VPs and Directors of Account Management worry that big accounts or potentially much-larger accounts are falling through the cracks.

The target company’s calls don’t get returned. Their orders aren’t shepherded through an order processing system. These are the pain points George will focus on when he’s pursuing the Account Manager side of his job search.

On the Training side, the pain is different. Training Managers know that it’s hard to get time and attention from busy and over-scheduled trainees, yet executives and regulatory bodies require people to have up-to-date training.

George knows that Training Managers worry about trainers who can’t engage an audience, or aren’t flexible when face-to-face or synchronous training isn’t the right answer. (Synchronous training is the kind that happens when all the trainees are being trained at the same time.)

When training isn’t working, people are disengaged and don’t participate. Their managers get frustrated, and reasonably so. George is going to hit these pain points when he sends his to Training Managers.

We are on the launchpad. The countdown has started. He’s nearly ready to go!

How To Write a Pain Letter

George is going to write his first Pain Letter. he’ll write one for a Director of Account Management whose job ad he found online. He’ll write a second Pain Letter to a Training Manager he spotted on LinkedIn, at a company about five miles from his house.

In order to write his Pain Letter, George is going to spend time on each company’s website to identify his hiring manager (if he can’t find the right person on the company site, he’ll zip over to LinkedIn and use the Advanced People Search function there) and to get clues that will help his be even more specific as he writes about each manager’s pain in business.

We have people in our Quad State area, maybe right in your county, who can help you with your pain letter in getting it ready for prime time.

Making Technology Work For You: Customizing Your Human-Voiced Resume

Now George needs a resume to send in the mail to his hiring manager (No Black Holes! Life is too short) along with a customized pain letter. He’ll start by writing a hard-drive version of his Human-Voiced Resume or HVR (you may have to Google this one) to keep on file and update whenever he gets the urge.

Next, he’ll create two variations on his Human-Voiced Resume: one for Account Manager jobs, and the other for Training opportunities.

As a final tweak, George will customize his HVR even more for each hiring manager he approaches. his first Account Manager opportunity is with a major lending firm. When he was with the phone company, George had a big lender as a client, so he’ll throw that brand name into the version of his HVR that he sends to the Director of Account Management at the lending firm. The more you can look like a ‘friendly’ in your first approach to a hiring manager, the better!

After Lift-Off…

George is ready for prime time now. he’s going to print out his customized Human-Voiced Resume and his Pain Letter, each one printed in black ink on white bond paper (he’ll use a better grade of printer paper than he uses for his everyday printing, but he’ll avoid the 1980s-style nubbly beige and pink “Resume Paper” that brands his as out of date and out of touch).

he’ll staple his one-page Pain Letter to the front of his two-page Human-Voiced Resume with one staple in the upper left hand corner of the page. he’ll sign his Pain Letter at the bottom and then slide the Pain Letter-HVR combo, unfolded, into a pristine white 8.5 x 11-inch envelope. he’ll block-print his hiring manager’s name on the front of the envelope, in the center, along with his or his job title, company name and company street address, which he found on the company website.

he’ll block-print the recipient information rathis than send the envelope through his printer. he learned at our job-search workshop that printed envelopes from non-clients-or-vendors get tossed in the wastebasket in the company mailroom, while hand-printed ones are allowed to sail through to the hiring manager’s daily mail delivery.

Tell Your Network

George relaxes with a cup of iced tea once his Pain Letter-HVR packet is in the mail. The next day, he starts writing a list of people who should know about his job search – friends and ex-coworkers, book club members and everyone he knows. he’ll write to these folks in small batches and invite each person for coffee or lunch. If he’s saving money (and who isn’t?) he might invite them for a walk around the lake instead. At his one-on-one networking get-togethiss, George will talk about his job search but much more than that, he’ll catch up with his friend and help them with whatever life issues they’re facing now.

George didn’t realize until he started reconnecting with old friends how powerful their medicine is for his as a mojo-depleted job-seeker!

Rinse and Repeat

Now George has a plan. he’s going to shoot for two networking get-togethiss each week and four Pain Letter-HVR combos going out in the mail every week, too. Pain Letters historically have a 25% hit rate. That means that hiring managers will respond positively to a Pain Letter about one-quarter of the time. So George figures that by sending out four Pain Letters a week he’ll generate a new, live job-search lead once a week, and that’s not including his networking contacts!

Publisher’s Note: We have some sort of contrary opinions to Jill’s article and we would also like to share them with Quad State Readers—with Jill’s enthusiastic support we might add!


The individuals who are most successful at landing a job are the ones who rather than sit at their computer flashing resumes to everyone in the alphabet, are actually researching employers that represent a best fit for their talents and then take themselves there to speak to someone about employment. Being assertive paves the road every time.

You do, however, absolutely have to be prepared to do your stuff at that moment and sell yourself because if you’re bold enough to capture their interest, you’d better be able to deliver or it will all come tumbling down just as quickly.

Absolutely no disrespect to Jill whatsoever, but I’ve read a number of these cheer-leader articles that lather readers with all sorts of motivational tweaks and what I call distance-tactics.

Jill normally does a great job, but I wanted to get ‘the other side of the desk’ represented with this piece. There isn’t an executive on this planet, yours truly included, that wants to read a “pain” letter any more than the boilerplate cover.

It’s a matter of dislodging us from the process altogether by rescuing us from having to go through it all. We don’t like the hiring process. It’s an unappealing and festering boil that works to immobilize our feet in concrete because of the very nature of elements you’re reading about in articles like this one.

Forget all the nonsense about painting your nose brown, or even blue. You want employment? Then here it is, straight up:

Find the company and position you want, get your game-face on and hit the ground to go and get it. Be determined, don’t take no for an answer and work until you land in a seat before the hiring authority, well-prepared to sell yourself on the meaningful contributions you can make.

Not the ones that you think everyone wants to hear or that some coach rehearsed into you, but truly what you can competently perform with enthusiasm and hunger.

And the last caveat I’ll offer from an exec who oversaw 4500 employees and ruled the hiring corral with a steel whip; never grovel or give feigned praise to someone you never knew before you wanted the job.

The person you’re seeking employment from doesn’t care to be manipulated, regardless of how you choose to characterize it. We’re looking for talented and confident individuals who will take our companies farther up the food chain. We’re looking for individuals who are forthright, demonstrate self-confidence and most importantly, genuine.

I say that because for you, the target is gaining employment. For us, it’s everything you do after we hire you. That’s how the process gets divided, depending upon how you approach a career decision.

So make absolute certain that you don’t approach a hiring official with all the effort you can muster toward merely gaining employment. Forget about whether you’re going to get hired in the interview. Forget about it entirely.

Instead, go in there and provide a straight-forward assessment of yourself and how you would like to deploy your talents in the company. Period. Double Period.

If you’ve got the right skills and can demonstrate firewater that has nothing to do with getting hired and far more to do with how you can perform for the company, you’ll more likely than not get a job. In fact, folks like us will sometimes even make a place for you.

Good people are indeed hard to find. Great pretenders are a dime a dozen. The above principals are eternal—or as writers would call ongoing valid material—it’s evergreen.


Note: The anonymous job-seeker had the opportunity to read the CEO’s comment to Jill’s letter.

I agree with everything the CEO had to say – Here’s a perspective from a job seeker:

Regarding matching a company with yourself – this was me for the first 3 months I was unemployed. A lot of this depends on the area you live in, and the economy. After 3 months or so, a person starts to get worried and applies for anything they think they can get.

After 6 months, I just needed a job, not just for the income but for my sanity. After a year I had given up, and was working (volunteering) for Habitat for Humanity for no pay. At that point I was only applying for anything that I thought I might have a chance at, even at $9 an hour. I couldn’t even get hired as unskilled labor. I avoided recruiting companies because I believed they were only collecting resumes.

I personally like the idea of showing my skills in a pain letter to the hiring manager. Everybody agrees it’s hard work finding work, but let’s face it, some people have an easier time than others. What works at one company doesn’t work at another. However, addressing a cover letter to the hiring manager isn’t as easy as Jill makes it sound.

Finding a hiring manager on Linkedin in 2 minutes is a fantasy unless it’s a very small company. For example, the title of my current leader (yes, I did eventually land a great job) is Director of Technology.

There are 15+ Director’s of Technology here – which one do you choose? Even if you get it right, your letter goes to the HR office first, and addressing the wrong person. You can address the HR person then it’s addressed wrong when it gets to the hiring manager.

I read somewhere roughly only 40% of new hires were actually the correct decision. I’ve been on both sides of the desk and I sympathize with the candidate a little more. I’m surprised how often I hear the complaint that it’s hard to find good hard working people.

I am one of those good hard working people, but I think too many HR people and hiring managers want me to fit in a certain mold. If 60% of the hiring decisions are wrong, then perhaps they need to check their egos and reconsider some of those candidates.



About Jill Sommers

Jill is a trainer's trainer. In fact she has led several train-the-trainer sessions at national conferences in years past.

She has also enjoyed being both a keynote (plenary) and breakout session speaker. She enjoys leading small group discussions for start up entrepreneurs and those newly retired but wanting to keep busy.

Jill at times works with Steve Lanning in his education and awareness campaigns of elder fraud and elder financial exploitation program. Jill easily fits into many different audiences from business to seniors to hobbyists.

Reach Jill at

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