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Mary Elizabeth Bradford. Strategies for a 21st Century Job Search

Components of a Successful 21st Century Job Search from The Career Artisan

Mary Elizabeth Bradford, The Career Artisan, TotalPicture Radio Interview
Mary Elizabeth Bradford

"Most of what you have been told about job searching IS misleading, skewed, or just plain wrong."

Are you sending out resumes but not hearing anything back? Perhaps you are having trouble getting anyone to follow up with you after the first interview, have been told you are overqualified, don't have enough experience, or are worried about age discrimination?

Maybe you are wondering why it is so difficult to get a recruiter's attention or worried that there are not enough jobs and way too much competition. If your only source of job leads is job boards, you are right about the 'too much competition' thing.

Are you are frustrated because you have been in a long job search, sent out hundreds of resumes, applied to hundreds of job postings, with NO RESPONSE,  and worry that your length of unemployment has becme a red flag to potential employers . . . or maybe you long to change industries but don't know how or don't believe it is possible in today's job market.

According to Mary Elizabeth Bradford, our guest in this Career Strategy Channel Podcast on TotalPicture Radio, "most of what you have been told about job searching IS misleading, skewed, or just plain wrong." in this podcast, based on her popular Career Artisan e-book series, Peter Clayton, Producer/Host of TPR and Mary Elizabeth will help you take control of your job search. Mary Elizabeth will share with you concepts and strategies that have proven to be evergreen. and is intended to expand your mind regarding job search myths and truths and how you can control your job search now through the rest of your career!

Mary Elizabeth Bradford TotalPicture Radio Transcript

Are you frustrated because you've been in a long job search, sent out hundreds of résumés, applied to hundreds of job postings with absolutely no response and worry that the length of your unemployment has become a red flag to potential employers? Or maybe your goal is to change industries and reinvent yourself but really don't know how or don't believe it's really possible considering today's job market?

Welcome to a Special Career Strategy Channel Podcast on TotalPicture Radio. This is Peter Clayton. Joining us today is the career artisan Mary Elizabeth Bradford, an internationally certified master career director and advanced résumé writer. She's here to help all of you perplexed, exasperated and probably demoralized jobseekers.

Over the last few of years, Mary Elizabeth has published a terrific series of ebooks The titles include: • The 21st Century Resume Guide For The Perplexed (With Online Resume Templates)
• The Hidden Job Market - Proven Strategies, Done-For-You Letters & Phone Scripts
• The Career Artisan Series - Interview Follow Up Guide For The Perplexed (With Custom Letter Templates)
• The 21st Century Job Search Guide For The Perplexed. Breakthrough Strategies, Secrets & Free Resources
• Phone Networking Secrets Revealed Guide For The Perplexed. Take the Fear Out of Cold Calling When Networking & Looking for a Job (With Phone Scripts)

You can find all of Mary Elizabeth's books on You'll find resource links on her feature page here on as well as her web site, Additionally, she's really priced this series very aggressively. You can buy one of her ebooks for less than a latte at Starbucks.

Mary Elizabeth, welcome back to TotalPicture Radio.

Mary Elizabeth: Hi Peter. Thank you so much for having me back on. I really appreciate it, and hello everybody out there.

Peter: Let's dive right in here. Like I said in the intro, Mary Elizabeth, there are an awful lot of very frustrated jobseekers out there. How can you help them and give them some immediate advice here?

Mary Elizabeth: I think I should probably explain a little bit why I feel compelled to share this with everybody. My background of experience is in Nashville, I had my own recruiting firm for eight years. I was also in the music industry as a song plugger, which helped me as a résumé writer because writing country songs is tough. But anyway after that, I became a very high level job search coach with a big outplacement agency out of Boston and I took 600 or 700 jobseekers, executives from all over the world through their whole entire job search, and in that I became a certified résumé writer. I opened up my most recent company at helping jobseekers on the jobseeker side now.

I wrote this series of ebooks because my combination of experience really enabled my value proposition to the average jobseeker to be let me just pull back the curtain here and show you what's really working.

Probably, you've seen this too Peter, where a lot of recruiters are saying the same thing - Dave Perry, John Lucht, anyone that used to be a recruiter is saying "Look guys, here's what really works. Here's what's really happening, the mechanics behind the scenes and here's some marketing strategies that you can use as a work around to make things happen for yourself."

I would say my average conversation with an individual that calls me on a daily basis is they've been sending out résumés, they're really qualified, they haven't heard anything back. Maybe they're working, maybe they're not but they're frustrated none the less, and that they're wondering what's wrong and they're calling me for a résumé.

Usually the problem is threefold, and the problem usually stems from that their marketing strategies are not effective because what do people do? They go out there on job boards. They talk to recruiters. They think networking is going and asking their friends if they know of any companies who's hiring, and we all know how well that works, right? So by the time they've run around this ring a couple of times they're freaked out, they're frustrated. They say "I'd never had to look for a job before. What in the world's going on?"

Really and truly, the problems are if you upgrade your marketing collateral and your résumé, that's definitely going to help but you've got to know the marketing strategies that are working today.

Let's just say you're about $100,000 to $250,000 a year job - and this is true for everybody but just this case in point - about 80% of those positions are not going to be advertised. There's 300,000 to 400,000 of those six figure positions filled every month in the United States; 80% of them are filled. They're gone before they ever hit a job board or they're ever in a recruiter's hands, and so you've got 95% of the jobseekers going after 15% or so of those jobs.

Your salary goes higher, that number of hidden jobs also increases. Your salary is a little lower, the amount of hidden jobs decreases slightly, but the majority of jobs are still hidden and the job board mechanism is broken. You can't blame the companies for having keyword scanning software and a huge HR department that has to handle this massive just increase of résumés, hundreds and thousands sometimes of résumés for a single position. They have to have some way to cut through that, to narrow it down. And so unfortunately for the jobseeker, that becomes a really mechanical process where if you don't have the right keywords, even if you're qualified, the chances are you're going to get screened out because ROI truly on their job board submission is less than 1%. So easily I could send out a hundred résumés for positions I was qualified for and if I heard back from one or two, I'd be doing about average.

Peter: To your point Mary Elizabeth, if you're in a job search right now and all you are doing is surfing job boards or responding to alerts that you've set up on Indeed or Simply Hired, you really are doing a disservice to yourself because as Mary Elizabeth said, all of these companies are using applicant tracking systems. You don't know what the keywords are that they've inputted. You don't even know if these are currently open jobs or they've just posted this out there and they really have an internal candidate that they have in-house that they want to fill the job but because of EEOC and just other requirements they post this job. All the career coaches talk about the hidden job market. Explain to us exactly what you mean by that and how you're able to help people through your ebooks and your coaching unlock that hidden job market that exists.

Mary Elizabeth: Absolutely. Many people will say the hidden job market is recruiters, it's networking; that's how you tap into it. My definition of the hidden job market based on my background of experience is learning how to go direct. Hidden jobs, meaning jobs that are available in companies for qualified people that don't have to be posted.

Now because there are so many jobs in the hidden job market, it makes sense for today's jobseeker to learn on a big scale, on a small scale, but in some capacity how to reverse engineer their job search so that they're going after what they want instead of waiting like a passive receiver for the jobs to come to them and responding. It really so very rarely works. So really the hidden job market, the definition of that is positions that are in companies that you gain interviews for because you went direct to the key decision maker in those companies.

Now it is easier to get your foot in the door in small or midsize companies, but I've also have had these techniques of going direct work really well in large companies too, and that the individual, whether it's a jobseeker that's working with another company or somebody like me, a small business owner, we really have the same job, and the jobs is that we are entrepreneurial in our approach. We have to take an initiative and a leadership position in our job search and we have to go after what it is that we want.

So we have to figure out what it is that we want, figure out what our branding message is; a brand simply means when you think about your brand whether we like that terminology or not (I happen not to), but our branding is the promise of an experience that people are going to have with us and we can convey that promise subtly in our résumé. I convey it subtly in my website. I want people to feel when they come to my website 'I found someone that knows what they're talking about that I can trust, that it has certifications, and oh thank God.'

I really do attribute the wonderful kinds of clients I get over and over again to that website attract certain people, and it's fascinating how it's all about perception and people's perception of us. What perception do you want people to have of you? We have to think about ourselves like entrepreneurs, like leaders and who are we, what's our value proposition, what's our branding statement, what do we have to offer a company and how do we communicate that we can make or save them money and you have to be able to do that because if you're going to tap into the hidden job market, you're going to have to express your value. You invest in marketing yourself just like you invest in college. You learn how to tap the hidden job market and that pays off for you in dollars.

So that's why this is exciting and that's why it's very cool to learn how to do this and because of the nature of the job boards and the stuff going on these days, everybody that has a job really it's incumbent upon them to learn how to do this, to learn what's working in today's job market for yourself, for your family. It's a necessity. It's a very dynamic changing situation right now.

Peter: When do you recommend someone hire a professional résumé service such as yourself, and how do they go about finding the right fit for them?

Mary Elizabeth: Most definitely when you are looking to change industries, when you are looking to uplevel your title, these are all great times. I've had senior vice presidents that call me and they say "I make $175,000 a year..." and they send me this résumé that looks like something they hung on to from college, because they've never had to send a résumé out before. They have this horrible looking document and of course what's the perception... I mean we're all good at what we do, but we're also responsible for translating that message in a way. It's kind of like we wouldn't go to a job interview in our pajamas; why would we send a résumé that looks like something we did 20 years ago.

I think most definitely those are the times you really, really need to look at investing in a writer and not just any writer, award winning writers, certified writers, writers that have their résumés in a lot of books. The certifications I like are from Creative Directors International because they are the gold standard in our industry. Go to Career Directors International and look up award winning writers, look up the certified writers, and that's your insurance policy that you're going to get somebody good.

To your question just to finish my answer; anybody that has a job is going to benefit from having your résumé professionally rewritten because the amount of money you put in if you haven't rewritten well and focused on what you want, you're probably going to get your money back tenfold.

It just works anecdotally over and over and over again throughout the years. It's just proven to work. Sometimes though, we can't afford it. We're not in a place where we can do that. That's why I wrote my book, The 21st Century Résumé. It's a step by step guide to how to market yourself in your résumé, and then I've written 12 or 13 or 14 résumé templates and I put them on a password protected website so when people get the ebook, once they read it, then you have this nice template so visually you can create something that looks really nice than just a plain old Word document. The book has gotten some really good reviews since I put it on Amazon last year. It's been typically in the top 10, top 20 of the best sellers under résumés and how many people it's been able to help really.

Peter: Let's get into some of the nuts and bolts and frustrations that so many people have, Mary Elizabeth. Let's pretend that I've done a great job of putting a marketing plan together for myself. I have great materials. I'm all set to go. The only problem I'm having is I can't get through the gatekeeper, all I get are voicemails. I can't get anybody on the phone. What are some strategies for getting through gatekeepers in companies, getting them to respond to your voicemails?

Mary Elizabeth: There's lots of subtle things that people can do. The truth of the matter is it's uncomfortable to be on Skype webinars. It's uncomfortable to be on television. It's uncomfortable to pick up the phone for the first time and ask for money for your local telethon you're doing. We all have to push ourselves out of our comfort zone and also not wait until it's perfect. You want to create the forward motion. When I am coaching my clients, I like to create systems that are simple and easy and turnkey because you don't want to be flustered about how to do this and how to do that. It should be really simple. You should be able to master it pretty quickly.

So when it comes to phone calls, I've created in my follow up ebook and my phone networking secrets ebook, just really short scripts how to network without asking for a job, how to follow up, how to get passed the gatekeeper. I really learned all of these things from being a recruiter, because as a recruiter I got hung up on more times than I guarantee any of you jobseekers are ever going to have that experience that I lived through for seven years.

The gatekeeper, I think the first thing to remember is when you're following up, when you're sending your résumé and following up with a phone call, when you're following up after an interview, try to be really shortsighted. Try not to think that you are canvassing for a job. What you're trying to do at that moment is probably more along the lines of you just sent them a really nice follow up thank you letter or a really nice résumé and now you want to leave a really professional voicemail.

So every time they see something from you, every time they hear your voice they're thinking "What a great person. We have to hire this person." If you think about it any other way "I'm so desperate, I've been looking for six months. No one wants to hire..." or "this jerk hasn't been calling me back. What the heck is his problem?" People are busy, and you can't take any of it personally, even though it's really hard not to but you have to understand marketing. Marketing is like that.

Marketing is primarily rejection and you've really just got to flow through it with the focus that all I'm looking for right now are the one or two yesses that I need to keep myself moving forward. I'm not going to worry about the rest. It has nothing to do probably with your capabilities and your skills. It has a lot to do with timing. You generally are not going to benefit by telling them that you're calling because you're following up on your résumé, you're looking for a job, you're doing some networking - all of those are huge red flags, and I guarantee you no gatekeeper that wants to keep her job is going to let you through to her boss after you tell her that.

It's so interesting because as a solopreneur, I have had to call famous people. I have had to call people that you'd say 'You talk to him? You talk to her?' We all have to put forth a little effort, figure out how to reach out and communicate. We all love to text and email and things but sometimes, actually I find most times, a phone call or an old fashioned letter it's a high touch method and your competition is going to be reticent to do that, and that's going to be your secret weapon.

Peter: In my opinion, the telephone is still the best sales tool ever invented and it still exists and it certainly... I mean to your point Mary Elizabeth, I get so many emails. Sometimes they just kind of go by and you forget. You go "Oh that's really interesting. I'll have to get back to that person." And you never do. It's always easier to send an email because it's frictionless. There's no risk in sending someone an email that they delete it or whatever, so what? Picking up the telephone and calling somebody you don't know, there's a little bit of a risk in that.

Mary Elizabeth: Right. Again, I think that a great tip when you're embarking on this, and everyone really is responsible for learning how to make these basic phone calls, these basic networking strategies, but think of it this way. Think really shortsighted. Your job is to connect your awesome marketing collateral to a really nice sounding person to your voice, to someone that just really sounds put together, happy and someone that can handle pressure.

It's amazing being on the inside and going through so many job searches with so many executives over the years, the stuff that I've seen I could write 10 more books. I've had people that were fired that got... just this one woman I'm thinking of, she got a $60,000 a year raise at a class A company after being fired after she was caught in political crossfire. It's so normal for us to think "Well shoot, I've been fired. No one's going to want me." That is so not true. What's important is that you understand who you are, what you're going after, how to translate that on paper, how to communicate it.

Peter: One last question for you Mary Elizabeth, bringing up mistakes that people often make, so where do you see jobseekers go wrong and what are some of the most common mistakes you see them make?

Mary Elizabeth: That's a huge question.

Peter: We can go on for another hour.

Mary Elizabeth: Oh my gosh, there's a long list of mistakes. There's lots of places we could go wrong. Thinking that there's something wrong with you is the first one. What everybody's problem is 95% of the time is the way they're marketing themselves. So if you're feeling a little down about things, please cheer up. There's light.

I wrote these books, like you said, I priced them almost free. They're $2.99 and $3.99, not because it's $3 worth of content; it's actually probably $300 worth of content. It's 16 years of my life and secrets that I've learned revealed not in theory, but really content like a guide book. Here you do this, this, this and this and here's your phone script and here's your résumé template and you do A, B, C, D, E... these are all the thorny topics that are so difficult for even other résumé writers oftentimes to know about and to help their clients with because you have had to have gone through the job search with a whole bunch of different people in order to understand what the solutions are, what the answers are.

There's three things that people can use to be really successful in their job search. There's focus of direction. Have a good focus of direction. Don't think now I have to take whatever comes along, but what do I want to do. What kind of money do I want to make? What am I good at? What am I doing when I'm loving my work? That's what I want to do. When I wake up in the morning, do I want to work out of my home office part time? Do I want to be a consultant? Do I want to travel? Do I want to work in a rural setting? Do I want to work in a high rise downtown? Do I want to move out of the state?

People call me sometimes specifically. They say "I want to move from California to Illinois and I want to change industries. Can you help me do that?" Yes. Yes, I can help you do that because if you have a focus and you know what you want, that's your bull's eye. We could hit a bull's eye but we can't hit 'I'll take anything that comes along. I want a generalized résumé. I'm looking at different things and I'm open.' All of these are red flag words to me. Don't be open. Be closed. Be really, really focused on what you want. 'I want to make between this and this...'

And then, of course, you have to build your case why you can, but you'd be surprised; if it's generally what you love then you're already naturally good at it, and you've probably gotten some experience that's going to support that transition. So just hire a good résumé writer to help you recreate your marketing collateral so it's compelling.

A good focus of direction, really, really clear on the industries and positions you want and write it all out on paper. When you write them down, you'd be amazed just that exercise how it can help you. Then get your marketing collateral together - your résumé, your what I call a value proposition, which is the new cover letter because it's short and it actually gets read. Get your LinkedIn profile. A lot going on with LinkedIn right now, it has a lot to do with keyword optimization and you want all the right keywords in there, you want continuity between your LinkedIn profile and your résumé. You want to join all the groups that have to do with what you're into or what you want to be into. So get that marketing collateral together.

A lot of my clients, I even give them website in their and that's a good tip, by the way. If you have good marketing collateral that can work wonders, amazing. I've had people come to me that had been searching for a year; we redo do their résumé {snap finger} Boom! Right out of the box. Now they're getting interviews. Now they're saying "This is what I was hoping for," and things start to normalize.

Then you want to work on getting the right job search strategies. I really am a big advocate for the hidden job market, any type of direct mail campaign. It's very easy to find key contacts, go to Google Maps, type in your zip code and type in your industry and watch what happens. It'll blow your mind.

It's easy. There's no excuse for not just going getting reaching out directly. Learn how to network without asking for a job. That's a really, really big one. Ask for information. Ask for informational interviews. Again in my book The Hidden Job Market and Interview Follow Up I actually touch on informational interviews and how do them and how to ask for them because you don't want to be asking people "Do you know anyone who's hiring?" "Hey, here's my résumé. Do you think you could pass it on if you hear or see of anything?"

Don't put your résumé as the responsibility of your friends and your neighbors and your family there. It's going to upset them. They're going to be slightly taken aback even though they're going to want to help. It's just not a good way to approach people. Approach them in a way that's a little bit more controlled where you say "I have two industries I'm looking at, and here are some examples of some companies in those industries. Do you know anyone I might connect with that I could sit down and maybe just garner their expertise and not ask for a job."

I think one of the biggest mistakes that people make when they're job searching is they're job searching. When you're networking, you should not be looking for a job. Even mentally, you've got to get rid of that idea that you're somehow being sneaky. "I really want a job but I'm just asking him if he knows..." "if they ask me for my résumé, I'm going to pull it out and I'm going to give it to them." None of that.

You really have to treat it very organically, authentically. "I don't have my résumé; I'm just here for your mentoring and for your support." Things will unfold as they are they supposed to.

If I called you up Peter and I said "Peter, I'm looking to get into radio. I've been told I have a face for radio. Do you think that you can help me? Maybe I could get a little bit of mentoring, some pointers from you, some techniques. So and so said you were the best and you've got this awesome business. I know you're busy but gosh, if I could just maybe even call you and ask you a question maybe for five minutes, just three of four questions I would really, really be so grateful." Would it be hard to say no to that?

Peter: Absolutely, and I would be delighted to help someone who approached me in that way.

Mary Elizabeth: Exactly yeah. Be thinking in more of a shortsighted way when you are looking to grow things organically. Really approach people in the spirit of 'I'm looking for your advice, your expertise, your mentoring.' If you are doing any type of networking or informational interviews, jobs should be the last thing out of your mouth. If they want to hire you they will tell you. "Guess what? After talking with you, I feel like you might be a fit here. Did you bring a résumé?" No you did not. No, because you're not here to do the bait and switch on them. You're there to garner their expertise. So now you're going to send them your résumé. You won't lose out. You'll look more genuine. You'll look like someone they want to hire.

Peter: That's some really great advice. Mary Elizabeth, it's really been great to have you back here on TotalPicture Radio. We should do this more often. Is there anything you'd like to leave our listeners with?

Mary Elizabeth: I would say that if you invest a few dollars and an hour of your time in reading my books, you're going to learn things that can add tens of thousands of dollars to your income and improve the quality of your career and that's no joke. Learn them, learn the strategies, understand what's working, don't be jealous of other people that look like they're getting ahead of you or they're getting promotions when you're not or they're getting job offers and you're not.

Find out what's working for them, do a little bit of homework, invest a few dollars, put some skin in the game. You'll be amazed on what you can get back out of this.

It's the same with me; I hire business coaches sometimes to the tune of hundreds and hundreds of dollars an hour and believe me, it pays off thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars because I'm not smart enough to figure it out all by myself nor do I want to take the time it would take me to try to unravel all the mysteries of... I don't know... internet marketing and all of the things that I have to contend with in my business.

So as a jobseeker, you're no different. We're all trying to do the same thing in rising to the fullness of our potential and being the best that we can be, having a good career, taking care of our families. Let me help you or let somebody like me help you and invest in yourself. Do a little bit of studying and I promise you, it's going to pay off tenfold for you.

Peter: Mary Elizabeth, again thanks so much for joining me on TotalPicture Radio.

Mary Elizabeth: Thank you, Peter. It was a pleasure. Thank you everybody.

Mary Elizabeth Bradford is the author of The Career Artisan Series ebooks that you can easily find on and just in case you're wondering, you don't need a Kindle or any special device to download and read an ebook. Any computer with a free Adobe Reader program will work just great. Additionally, you'll discover a lot of timely and free information and articles on her website Follow her on Twitter @careerartisan and you'll find this interview in the Career Strategy Channel of TotalPicture Radio. That's, where we encourage you to post comments and questions regarding our discussion today and remember, you can follow me, Peter Clayton, and TotalPicture on Twitter. Join our TotalPicture Radio group on Facebook and connect with me on LinkedIn. I'm happy to accept invitations from TPR listeners. You can subscribe to TotalPicture Radio on iTunes and Stitcher Radio.

Mary Elizabeth is the author of The Career Artisan Series e-books and the publisher of the popular bimonthly e-zine, The Career Insider. Her articles, e-zine, and e-books have motivated and inspired readers in numerous print and online publications, including multiple law and business journals, including multiple articles in The Wall Street Journal and Business Week. She regularly leads coaching programs and teleseminars, lighting the way for job seekers who want simple yet powerful systems for reaching their job search goals. Mary Elizabeth is a member of the highly esteemed Career Directors International (CDI) and has served on multiple CDI committees throughout the years. She obtained her certification as an Internationally Advanced Resume Writer and Master Career Director through CDI in 2005.

The books in her e-book series include:

  • The 21st Century Resume Guide For The Perplexed (With Online Resume Templates)
  • The Hidden Job Market - Proven Strategies, Done-For-You Letters & Phone Scripts
  • The Career Artisan Series - Interview Follow Up Guide For The Perplexed (With Custom Letter Templates)
  • The 21st Century Job Search Guide For The Perplexed. Breakthrough Strategies, Secrets & Free Resources
  • Phone Networking Secrets Revealed Guide For The Perplexed. Take the Fear Out of Cold Calling When Networking & Looking for a Job (With Phone Scripts)
Peter Clayton

About Peter Clayton

Peter Clayton, Producer/Host, is an award-winning producer/director of radio, television, documentary, video, interactive and Web-based media who has created breakthrough media for a wide array of Fortune 100 clients.


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