Month: June 2014

The Number One Way to Jump Start Your Job Search

You’ve had it!  Your boss  hijacked the last two team meetings you assembled, or you’re stuck beneath the glass ceiling with no hope of a  promotion.  Whatever your reasons, you’ve decided to commit to finding a new job.   The next step, you decide, is to update your resume. That’s an option, except . . .

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© Depositphotos.com/agcuesta1

Don’t do it!  At least not quite yet. Resist that urge to focus on skills and accomplishments, and look inward, instead.  The best thing you can do to jump start your job search is to clarify your personal brand first.

The Kelley School of Business so understands the necessity of personal branding that it’s a required class for freshmen. Personal branding requires you to convey the following:  Who you are, what you can uniquely offer and how you provide value.  If you succeed in addressing the who, the what and the how in a way that fits an employer’s needs,  you’ll get hired. Therefore, I suggest developing these three aspects of your personal brand before launching a job search campaign.

1) Craft your “elevator pitch:”

I like this formula for nailing down your elevator pitch:

 verb + your target audience + your unique value + result

Think of your elevator pitch as the beating heart of your professional mission.  It should pack a wallop; it should make people curious to hear more about you; it should be delivered with confidence.  For me, when I’m helping a client with her pitch and it gives me goosebumps, I know we’re onto something!  Here is a sampling of elevator pitches I really like:

  • “I help business owners and entrepreneurs achieve their personal and business goals faster”  (Brian Tracy, LinkedIn)
  • “I help academics with limited practical business knowledge to take their research and get it applied in the private sector” (Andrew Neitlich)
  • “I facilitate growth and healing by making a safe space for people to sing, express, and create.” (Laura Sandage, LinkedIn)

2) What 4 or 5 things can you do remarkably well, that you enjoy doing?

It’s easy to take for granted the things you do well or easily.  Consider this though: Glossing over your unique strengths can stall your career development.  Thriving in your career requires a healthy self-awareness of your strengths.  It’s vital that you can articulate them so decision makers and hiring authorities can see how you fill the gap on their team.

Once you’ve identified 4 or 5 skills, organize them into “Show, don’t tell” stories:  Rather than describe yourself as an organized team-player, describe how you implemented an online tracking program for your team that created so much efficiency you all completed the project a week ahead of schedule.  Here is a formula for compelling stories that demonstrate your value:

Task + Action + Result

When considering the result, consider what positive, quantifiable impact you had. Was there a profit or cost-savings? Were others’ jobs simplified? Were you recognized for what you did? What problems did you solve?

Then, take these stories and practice them. Be concise.  Record them. Listen back. Make adjustments. Each story should have energy and describe your unique talents.

3) What aspects of you absolutely need expression in your next job?

Your job satisfaction depends on a fit between who you are–your work values–and what you do daily.  You may not love every aspect of your next job, but be sure to consider what aspects of you–what you value most–must be expressed in your next job. Another way to discern this is to note what’s missing in your current job.

Is creativity vital to your happiness at work? Getting the chance to mentor others?  Employee development? Make decisions without someone checking over your shoulder? A supportive boss? Be very clear about all the “must haves” at your next job, so that you know what to look for next time, and what opportunities you will rule out.

Logging the time in to gain self-awareness about your branding will energize every  phase of your job search. Because you know who you are, and understand your value and impact, it will give you confidence, clarity and purpose.

Making Friends With the World

If you are a job seeker, the fastest way to land a job is to make friends with the world. Now before you dismiss this as some trendy, superficial activity akin to planking, consider these compelling facts (from Orville Pierson’s excellent The Unwritten Rules of the Highly Effective Job Search):

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© Depositphotos.com /file404

  • 25% of jobs are filled from a Candidate Pool. In this scenario, a hiring manager finds herself without an Analyst. She asks HR to fill the position by searching job boards. Hundreds of applicants apply, and the top six with the best resumes are selected from an unknown pool.
  • 5% of jobs are a Created Position. Here, the job is created for a specific person’s unique skills, or because she can solve a problem hitherto unnoticed, and she rose from the ashes to solve it.
  • 70% of jobs are filled with a Known Candidate. Here, the candidate was known by a referrer or company employee  prior to the job opening (via networking, LinkedIn, or informational interviews, to name a few).  When the opening came along, the referrer pulled out her Ace—the Known Candidate.

When I shared these statistics with a client today, the light bulb lit up over his head.  “So what you’re saying is, all these resumes I’m sending out are a waste of time.”

“Well, the odds are lower that you’ll be considered,” I said, “particularly before hiring authorities know you. Not always though. For 25% it’s not a waste.”

“Yeah, well I like 70% success over 25%,” he said. And for the first time, I saw him puff up like a cat ready to pounce on a squirrel.

Most job seekers I know who first launch their job search make the same misstep: They dust off their resume and work at creating that razzle-dazzle resume–all so they can become one of hundreds in a Candidate Pool.  Based on the statistics above, it’s better to pick up the phone instead.  It’s better to target companies where you’d love to work, to introduce yourself to people who work there, and arrange informal interviews.  (Don’t worry. This is much easier than it sounds–even for introverts. I have ways).

Why network rather than submit your resume? It’s more efficient.  As Pierson notes, it’s to your advantage to meet with people before a job is available.  That’s the “making friends with the world part.” And by making friends, I really mean it. When you meet new people, find that common ground. Really listen to what they like about their jobs, or find out what challenges they face at their jobs. What are they needing right now? Are they trying to connect with someone, and need an introduction? Be a friend.

Then, when a job does come available, they will think of you.

The benefits of making friends with the world far outlast the job you will land as a result of this practice.  The fact is, no job is permanent. By continuing to make friends and strong allies in your network long after you land the job, here’s the best news of all:  When it is time to find a new opportunity, it will be much easier next time. All you’ll have to do  is pick up the  phone.

 

Keep Pressing Buttons

© Depositphotos.com/iamnao

Yesterday, while out for a walk with my son Luc, a Computer Engineering sophomore,  I shared my struggles learning WordPress. A linear thinker, Luc unravels technology challenges in the time it takes him to raise a curious eyebrow.  He said  “Mom.  I keep pressing buttons, then do research, press more buttons, until I solve the problem.”  The line struck me like a thunderbolt.  Here’s what I love about his approach, and how it applies to your job search:

1) Take baby steps ’til you figure it out. It’s tempting isn’t it, when faced with a challenge to say, “I don’t know what to do,” and then give up. Or else to say to yourself, “I’ve tried figuring it out, and it didn’t work the last time.”  Luc’s approach? Experiment. Fail. Experiment. Fail. Experiment. Succeed. You know the famous Edison quote: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Every successful job search requires pursuing 10,000 ways that won’t work. If you stay committed to providing value to your connections, you will eventually have an impact on a hiring authority, either directly or indirectly.

2) He has no judgment about the time it takes to figure out a solution. In my last job as the software trainer for our company, it took me months to understand the technology enough to teach it to others. My boss had faith in me though. I was frustrated with the time it took to understand its nuances, but Dave kept saying, “It takes as long as it takes. The harder you are on yourself, the longer it will take you. So ease up.”

For a job seeker this means eliminating the judgment when you fail to receive a job offer after an interview. It means moving right along when someone you call for an informational interview says, “You are not a priority.” (Yes. I actually had that happen a few weeks ago). It means continuing to reach out, make friends, introduce yourself, and as Seth Godin says, “Be remarkable . . . and touch people in a way they aren’t expecting.”

Finding a job that you love, that fits your best strengths, takes time and persistence. To put it in perspective: It just takes one offer. Millions have found jobs before you, and if you keep pressing buttons, so will you.

 

Celebrating Mistakes in Your Job Search

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© Depositphotos.com/coolfonk

As I grow my business, I keep making mistakes.  I spend too much time trying to expand my network, and not enough time blogging, and crafting my presentations.  When I caught this imbalance, I regrouped, and gently pulled myself back into balance.

As a job seeker, mistakes are invaluable.  Instead of  browbeating yourself when you blow an interview–as in wow, I was way too long winded during that interview. What was I thinking??,  you can roll up your sleeves and fix the problem. I tell my clients, “Call me when you make a mistake, so we can make a toast to celebrate it. That mistake you made just shaved a day–a week,  a month, off of your job search.”

Why?  Because mistakes are valuable information.  If you don’t make them, if you don’t risk–you actually prolong your job search. During my last job search 7 years ago, I made one big mistake during the first three months of my search, and it cost me that job. I also only had one interview in those three months.  At the time, I was in the dark about how to land interviews.  When I finally got serious about my job search, I made lots of mistakes, but I also tripled the number of interviews each week. I knew I was doing something right.

Part of how I coach clients is to help them become mistake-friendly.  I encourage you to welcome them into your home like an uninvited guest, and receive the gifts they offer.