Job Search Strategy

by Edward Henkler on April 23, 2013

Job search is often described as a roller coaster ride with long, uphill climbs, followed by terrifyingly fast and steep downturns.  When traditional search approaches haven’t worked, perhaps it’s time for a “blue ocean strategy”?  W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne have written a marvelous book, “Blue Ocean Strategy.”  Their book is not about job search but I think there’s a very logical connection.

Blue Ocean Strategy

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Most companies spend all of their time battling their competition, fighting to be first to market and battling to acquire new customer segments.  Tactical victories are possible but it is very tough to win all of the time.  Kim and Mauborgne suggest you should avoid the churn of the white water and instead head for the wide open blue waters.  My years in the Navy make this analogy especially appealing.  They consider blue water to be that space where no one is competing.  Innovation may play a role but it’s more about finding intermediate points.  A classic example is NetJets.  Until NetJets came along, frequent travelers could choose between commercial air travel and a corporate jet.  Afterwards, they could buy a portion of a jet, opening a whole new middle ground that fit many more budgets.

How does this apply to job search?  Perhaps you’ve been bidding on jobs, networking with employers, using direct mail campaigns, and all of the traditional approaches.  You’ve come close but they always choose someone else, select an internal resource, or choose no one.  I think it’s time to find a personal blue ocean.  Take an inventory of your skills and your passions.  Then, identify a market need which you can address, by reading the paper, business journals, and listening to colleagues.  The answers are out there and if you can find your niche, you no longer need to hope your resume is pulled from the stacks of hundreds.  This may be more effective if you brainstorm with a family member, friend, business colleague, or even a neutral party.

I’ll close with a recent observation, which I really like.  When you explain your clever new idea and everyone thinks it’s brilliant, you’re probably already too late.  When you explain your clever new idea and no one gets it….it might be ridiculous but maybe, just maybe, you have found the next big thing!  Good luck!


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill Mecaughey April 26, 2013 at 8:13 pm

I like the blue water analogy, as I find it quite easy and natural to think in traditional terms about job search alternatives. As Ed alludes, engaging a respected colleague or family member to help brainstorm ‘blue water’ options is recommended—since it is difficult to be objective and open-minded concerning one’s career possibilities.

Ed makes an astute observation about friends being known to embrace a ‘late to the party’ alternative, whereas less obvious ‘blue water’ pursuits often meet with head scratching. Good food for thought, Ed!


Edward Henkler April 26, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Thanks, Bill. It is probably obvious but the blue water analogy applies in many different settings. With some creative brainstorming, blue oceans exist for most businesses. Start by identifying your key business value differentiator – is it product quality, product price, or customer service? Try to focus on only one, then figure out where no competition exists – new customer segment, more product choice, or perhaps less choice with exceptional turnaround or service.


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