Counseling to Find a Good Job

What I'd actually do if I needed to land a good job.

Posted Jun 13, 2017

Pexels, Public Domain
Source: Pexels, Public Domain

Sometimes the advice we give isn't what we ourselves would do. For example, we might ask a client to do more than we ourselves would be willing to do.

So, as a long-time career counselor,  I thought it might be helpful if I described what I'd actually do if I had to look for a job.

I would define my job target as narrowly as possible without being so narrow that very few such jobs exist. So my job target would be narrower than "career and personal coach." I'd think about the types of clients and problems that I've been particularly successful with and have enjoyed. That would be highly accomplished people who would like to discuss hard work problems or improve skills in one-on-one communication. public-speaking, or stress- or anger-management.

Having identified my target work, it's easier to create a resume, elevator pitch, and to prepare for interviews. I'd want those to consistently provide evidence that I am good at the aforementioned.

My resume would not recount everything I've done. It would focus on the things that would impress my target employer for the aforementioned kind of work. I'd avoid self-aggrandizing adjectives in favor of concrete examples of my successes, for example, few-sentence PAR stories in which I describe the client's Problem, the impressive way I Approached the problem, and the positive Result. As appropriate, I'd reiterate those in my pitches to my network and in job interviews.

I'd also assemble collateral material as evidence of competence to do my target work, for example, the link to my Yelp reviews or a sheaf of thank-you letters from clients. For nearly all jobs, candidates should do that. For example, people in helping professions might, with client permission, include bits of video from sessions. If the client wishes, editing software can fuzz faces and alter voices.

I would post the resume and collateral on LinkedIn and on niche sites for career and personal coaches and set up alerts to be notified when appropriate jobs are posted. I'd answer appropriate ads and in my cover letter, explain, point-by-point, how I well meet the opening's major requirements. I'd also acknowledge at least one weakness to filter out the wrong jobs as well as to enhance my credibility. For example, I work better one-on-one or in giving talks than in leading group counseling sessions.  I would, of course, include the collateral material.

But once a job is posted, I'd likely be competing with a zillion applicants and that the job may be wired for someone other than me. So I'd put most of my job search effort not in answering ads but in getting conversations with the people with the power to hire me for my target job even if they don't have an appropriate job opening.

To that end, I'd email the 10 or 20 people who like me best (whether they work there or not—people know people) a list of the 10 organizations I'd most want to work for. I'd tell them the kind of work I'd most like to do, and ask if they know someone there with whom they'd set up a three-way meeting of introduction, forward my resume, or allow me to say they referred me.

In interviews, I would, without being bombastic, err on the side of assertiveness. I might, for example, offer to demonstrate how I might go about figuring out  what's really at the root of a client's problem. Of course, in some interviews, I might not be allowed to do that. Increasingly, affirmative-action or other considerations require that each candidate be interviewed in precisely the same way.

Instead of the standard thank-you note, I'd write what I call an "influencing letter." For example,

Dear X,

I appreciated our interview because you deeply probed what I did with individual clients. I felt that helped you get to really know how I work.

I also was impressed with your company's willingness to provide career coaches not just to weak employees but to strong ones.

I did have an opportunity to reflect on your question about dealing with suspected drug abuse. It would seem that (I'd insert a more thoughtful answer than the one I gave in the interview.)

In sum, I remain quite interested in the position and look forward to hearing from you.


I'd try to cram as much job searching as possible into a week or two so I can get my job search over with and maximize my chances of getting multiple job offers at the same time so I can pick the better one and use the other job offer as a negotiating lever.

Speaking of negotiation, I negotiate only moderately. I'd likely counter the first offer, both on salary plus one or two other items. For example, I'd value telecommuting for part of the week and would like to have a seat at the table at some meetings of the organization's top-level employees.  But I'd be inclined to accept the employer's counter to my counter. Anything additional I'd get from additional negotiation probably wouldn't be important enough to compensate for the possibility the offer will be pulled, any ill-will or too-high expectations, or that my high compensation would hurt me if they were deciding where to make cuts.

So, that's what I'd do to try to land a good job. Alas, it's ever harder to find good work. I hope this helps you to do so.

I did a video version of this article with a different job target: a job as writer and speaker. It's on YouTube. HERE is the link.

The 2nd edition of The Best of Marty Nemko is available. You can reach him at