Three Strategic Communications Job Search Tools

Mike Kohler

Mike Kohler, Online Faculty

Today’s job searching, especially for communications professionals, demands guerrilla self-marketing strategies.

Online applications? The infamous Black Hole. Politely following HR protocols? Just begging for the notoriously impolite late-Friday rejection email.

As a way around the traditional, and mostly ineffective, career search norms, consider an arsenal of tools beyond the spray-and-pray methods of the past. Three favorites are:

  • An impressive knowledge base (thank you, Purdue Online Masters of Communication!)
  • A compelling pitch
  • Uncommon boldness to get in front of a hiring manager

1. An Impressive Knowledge Base

The first may sound like a “well, duh” variable, but as the job market shifts toward skills-based vs. credentials-based hiring, it isn’t a safe assumption that an HR screener or even the hiring manager will understand what value a particular degree brings with it. In fact, without an explicit expression of your value, their assumptions may even be negative.

Therefore, as preachy as it sounds, your best bet during your strategic communications education is to identify and track instances in which you’re able to connect the theoretical to the practical, i.e. the “book learning” to the real-world applications.

2. A Compelling Pitch

Armed with knowledge, it’s time for you to develop a persuasive pitch.

Oren Klaff’s Pitch Anything is a surprising source. A capital investment high roller, Klaff recommends a model that should be ideal for those in the professional storytelling business. Don’t be fooled by the “salesy” book title or the fact that it’s geared toward salespeople. Let’s face it – we’re all in sales, but especially in job search mode.

According to Klaff, leading with an appeal to emotion is the quickest route to success. Contrary to what you might guess, high-level decision-makers are bored to tears by pitches that lead with stats and spreadsheets. An emotional trigger, on the other hand, gets to the point more quickly by illustrating how a product or service (yes, that’s you!) delivers value.

3. Uncommon Boldness to Get In Front of a Hiring Manager

But your perfect pitch isn’t worth much if you’re not getting the chance to deliver it, which is why it makes good business sense to use unconventional methods to get an audience with decision-makers in the organizations you’ve targeted.

In the case of positions that are posted, completing the online application is standard procedure, but it’s the basic ante. Even the hiring manager will ask if that base has been touched – so touch it.

After that, sidestep HR and explore every avenue. If you’re not sure who the hiring manager is, not a problem.

People in high places can tell you. Hint: It’s not the HR Department.

Gatekeepers don’t have glossy titles but they do have a lot of knowledge and willingness to help, depending on how you approach them. Receptionists, by the nature of their careers, have a lot of information to share, and it is always worth politely inquiring with them first about reaching decision-makers in the department you’re targeting.

They’re busy people, so they’re interested in expedient traffic management, not idle chit-chat or long, involved conversations. And they absolutely know the difference between polite and patronizing.

Use LinkedIn to effectively name-drop. Even if you don’t know people personally, once you know their names and titles, use them to creatively work your way toward the target – “It was suggested to me that Jane Smith may be the hiring manager. Am I correct about that?”

In some instances, you may even be put through directly to the hiring manager, but even if it’s an additional gatekeeper, you’re getting closer!

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Mike Kohler is a member of the online faculty of Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 10 courses (20 months) and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.

*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.