Some aspects of the search for jobs and assignments never change. Back in the 1970s, Richard Nelson Bolles published his breakthrough guide "What Color Is Your Parachute?" In it he explained that sending out unsolicited resumes, that is knocking on doors, is one of the most effective tactics to get work. In his recent book "Job-Hunting Online," he, along with co-author Mark Emery Bolles, says the same thing. These two experts attribute a 47% success rate to that approach.
There are a number of reasons for the effectiveness. To begin with, you are not competing with all the others chasing work. It's just your letter in front of the manager with decision-making power. When I recently answered an ad for a freelance ghostwriter, my application was one among 300. I got the assignment. The downside was that since the professional who had placed the ad received so many responses she tried to low-ball it. Had I simply contacted her blind, demonstrating an interest in her thinking and my passion to ghostwrite for her, the course of the relationship might have been different.
Another reason why unsolicited resume succeed is that they show initiative. You didn't wait around for a help-wanted to appear. You went after what you wanted. Also you took the effort to research to get the right name to contact. You might have done that through LinkedIn, the organization's website, networking, or calling and asking.
And, third, because you know about the organization you are approaching - versus a blind ad - you can open your letter from a position of strength. You state a positive about the organization which demonstrates you have been digging. In addition, you tailor the tone, word choice, and examples used to that specific culture. Your unsolicited resume to Google will be different from the one you send to IBM.
Back in the late 1970, I landed my first corporate job in executive communications at Chevron (then Gulf Oil) by following Bolles' advice. That more than doubled the compensation I was receiving at the University of Pittsburgh. A few months ago I tried that tactic again and landed a retainer assignment for ghostwriting and editing.
Answering ads, participating in communities on LinkedIn, blogging, publishing articles in brandname media, and doing favors for well-connected people all still need to be done. However, a well-put together letter emailed to a real name at an organization we know a lot about and show that can produce amazing outcomes more quickly than all the other methods combined.