Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Six Ways to Get Ready to Get Ready to Get a Job!
Recently, I had lunch with a former client. We talked about the job market and shared some thoughts about our expectations for a fairly robust hiring climate in 2011. Corporate America is hiring faster than anytime over the last 9 quarters and U.S. job satisfaction is at an abysmal 22-year low, with a 2010 Conference Board study showing that only 45% of workers are satisfied with their current employment. Some say that more than 80% of us intend to seek a new role this year alone. Wow - this sounds to me like a potentially Perfect Storm for job seekers who may be entering a very competitive and active hiring market, especially if you are in the latter stages of your career, where competition is always the most fierce. Don’t get discouraged; there are great opportunities available at every level as companies innovate, expand, and add new revenue streams, new products and new divisions. But, you need a very well thought-out plan to master your job search, so if you’re thinking of getting out there, or if you are unemployed and actively looking, it’s time to get ready to get ready to land THE job you want!
Don’t get me wrong, many people today are unemployed and may not have the luxury of time. And the reality is that depending on your education, experience, chosen field, geography, and other factors, some of you will have the ability to be more particular than others in identifying your next opportunity. But, if you are one of the many of us who are either employed or comfortably unemployed and starting to consider a job search in the near future, take a deep breath, step back for a moment, and give this momentous step its full due. Here are some important steps to take BEFORE you really dive into a job hunt to chart your course, prime the pump, build your brand, and enhance your employability. All of these tips will be personally and professionally enriching for you even if you stay in your current job by the way – good stuff, huh?
1. Take time for some healthy introspection. You don’t need to get all new age on this one or invest in a new yoga mat, but DO meditate or at least ponder on this a bit before you start actively putting yourself out there. Where are you today? Have you thought about what your next job will really look like? What do you want to be when you grow up? What things are you just NOT willing to do again? What job would be an extraordinary role in which you could truly thrive? What 2 or 3 things are truly important to you? Lofty stuff - I know! Trust me, walking through these questions and others in advance of launching a full scale attack on the 21st century job safari will serve you well. It will save you time in the long run, keep you focused on the prize, and help potential employers both find you and more quickly determine that you are the right candidate for their opening. For most of us, if you are unhappy in a job today, going somewhere else to do the same thing within a similar culture for 15% more compensation or a 15 minute shorter commute, will NOT make you happier in the long run. Keep a journal or at least take notes throughout this process and then use the final product to define the parameters and the possibilities for this search.
2. Create your sales pitch. I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably write a future blog post that really digs deep into this issue, because I believe there are few things more important than being able to state with absolute clarity who you are, what you love to do, and what you bring to the party. Call this the 30-second elevator speech or personal branding message, but you should definitely have one and it should be unique, compelling, and truly reflective of who you are as an individual. Use your notes from the introspection process to help build this pitch, keep it concise, and be confident. Its okay to have a couple of slightly tweaked versions of this for different audiences, but there should definitely be unifying elements that reflect the truth of you and what you’re all about. Where would you use this? Once you start really thinking of your elevator pitch as part of your “brand”, you’ll find ways to use it all the time. When you meet someone new through friends or at a social engagement and they ask, “what do you do?”, rather than saying, “I work at Accenture” or “I’m not working currently”, use your pitch! At a networking function when you meet someone, use your pitch! When you go for an informational interview or connect with a recruiter, use your pitch! When you reconnect with people from your past and they ask, “what have you been up to?”, use your pitch. If you are on Facebook or Twitter, what do you write in the “About Me” section of your profile? Use your pitch. You get the idea, right?
3. Get Authentic. Now that you know what you want from a career move, and know how to say it in a great sound byte, it’s time to soften the beaches in the marketplace. You may not yet be ready to tell the world you’re actively looking, but this is the time to ensure that peoples’ perception of you jibes with your desired image. If somebody asked a former co-worker or boss about you today, what would they hear? If someone met you today for the first time, what would their first impression be? If someone Googled you, what would they read? All of these possibilities are near certainties once you start an active job search, so why not prepare for them now? Reconnect with former colleagues and managers/mentors to catch up, try your elevator pitch on for size, and learn what your connections are up to. Start to line up professional references and ensure the folks you’ll use know the specifics of how you wish to be perceived. Take a hard look at what others in your life think of you, and if appropriate, invest in some image updates. There are some great tools available to see how others feel about you in a safe and confidential way. Here’s a link to one that I really like: http://www.reachcc.com/360, but there are several out there. Go ahead – take the plunge! I promise you’ll gain valuable insight that will guide you in deciding where you may need to “re-brand”. Use this opportunity to evaluate your physical presence too. Look at yourself in the mirror tomorrow morning before you head out. Does what you see reflect the role you want? You definitely want to start presenting yourself with the image of someone who already belongs in your next starring role. Could your professional wardrobe or style use some tweaking? I’m not suggesting that you try to become George Clooney, or Heidi Klum, or even the next contestant on Ambush Makeover, but the harsh reality is that we live in a society that judges us (at least on first impression) by our looks, so be sure your look is consistent with what you want to represent.
4. Get “Googly”. I’ve shared in prior posts the importance of building your online reputation and tapping into your network to create your brand. Here are some specific tactics to try to enhance your online image. Google yourself! Like what you see? If not, you can change it by becoming active on at least one professional social network, writing a regular blog which shows your expertise or passion in a key area, or even frequently commenting on others’ posts in the blogosphere. If you are on Linked In, be sure to create a public profile with an URL shortened to just your name. Better yet, go ahead and lay out the $12 to buy your own name as a domain and create a quick multi-media site with your resume, links to any appropriate social network pages, a headshot, and other relevant professional data. Linked In also has a great new tool called In Maps, which allows you to create a graphic depiction of your network and see quickly where you may be light in valuable connections. Maybe you have 200 folks in your network, but only 3 from Grad School. Really? You probably know more people than that from all those late night study groups. Use the tool to help you see where you could add some depth. Check it out: http://inmaps.linkedinlabs.com/. Attend a few networking functions in your chosen field. Many of these publish attendee lists to the web and you’ll start to see yourself online as a mover and a shaker; others will see that too. I bet you’ll also meet some interesting people, and maybe even learn something new, or have fun! How bad could that be? Update all your online profile pics with recent, flattering, and professionally appropriate headshots so that you’re presenting a consistent image. This is NOT the time you want your Girls Gone Wild shot, or your prize-winning Borat Halloween costume out there for public consumption, at least not as the first thing people see when they look you up!
5. Create a Compelling Resume. Check out my former post on Powering Up your resume for the 21st Century here: http://wotherspoonswords.blogspot.com/2011/02/power-up-your-resume.html. There are tons of other resume-writing resources and advice blogs on the web you can browse too. Just be sure you are armed with a really good resume before you launch your job search. Surely, you’ll adapt it to individual roles as they come along, but start with a great CV that includes your professional objective, skills, experience, and accomplishments in clear, concise language that accurately reflects all that you have to offer. As I’ve suggested before, it’s also a really good idea to establish at least one strong personal relationship with a recruiter who focuses in your field/industry. If you have not yet done this, now is a great time to start! If you have forged a rapport with one, share your resume and ask for their genuine feedback. Really good recruiters can be an excellent resource for you as you move through your career path, and resume advice is one of the many ways they’re typically happy to assist you, especially if you can refer another candidate to them, or offer to review the resume over a nice latte or a cold beer.
6. Have some fun! Enjoy yourself as you go through this process. Take your career and your pending job search seriously, but don’t ever take yourself too seriously! Re-engage with people you genuinely like. Make connections and attend events that you’re truly interested in. Don’t be afraid to let some of your quirks and personality come through. At the end of the day, people help, hire, and hang out with other people they like. Period. Skills matter, image matters, experience matters, but more often than not, your wit, compassion, positive attitude, and personality will matter just as much….so let those qualities shine through too! Most of us can smell a fake a mile away, so be authentically you; you’ll be more relaxed and way more inviting. You probably don’t want a job where you cannot be yourself and laugh a little anyway, right?
Now, get to work and tackle the 21st century job market! Define yourself, Be yourself, and Enjoy yourself!