Five Essential Steps to a Great Job

She just accepted a new job

There are five essential steps to a great job, provided one is willing to do some hard work; shortcuts reduce chances. The following tips are for those who want to stay in the same field. For those who want to change fields or who have no idea what they want to do in the future, there are other steps; and for those career changers, most of these steps are still applicable. The five steps are:

  • Self-appraisal
  • Development of marketing collateral
  • Identification of employment opportunities
  • Project management
  • Interview preparation

Self-appraisal

People who find themselves in transition and are ready to go back to work have a good opportunity to do a self-appraisal. The exercise will pivot the skills and personal attributes that they want to use and sell to a future employer. There are a number of such self-appraisal tests that have been around for a long time and have proved worthwhile—or example, Myers–Briggs, DiSC, Keirsey Temperament Sorter–II, Career Insights, and StrengthsFinder.

Development of marketing collateral

The first things every job seeker must have are an outstanding résumé and an exceptional LinkedIn profile. Notice that I said outstanding and not good or very good. The reason is that because of the vast supply of mostly mediocre résumés and profiles, only outstanding marketing collateral is competitive. My strongest opinion is to have these documents created professionally by a certified and recommended party. Why, you ask? (a) Because you are in fierce competition with others who are also very good at what they do. (b) Because writing a résumé and a LinkedIn profile is part of a profession that requires rigorous training, top skills, longtime experience, and full understanding of the requirements of applicant tracking systems—the software that most medium-size and large companies use to parse résumés. And (c) because poor marketing collateral generates no traction and wastes time. Once a résumé and LinkedIn profile have been done, they’ll still need periodic tweaking. Make sure they contain the right keywords. You can research keywords via Google AdWords and check out your competition’s keywords via LinkedIn.

Next, develop your value proposition by answering to the following four questions. What do you do? Who are your customers? What benefits do your customers perceive that you provide? What do you offer that is unique or that is the kind of service your customers can’t get anywhere else?

The next step is the development of your personal brand. Personal brand is the impression you make, what you are known for, and what people say about you. A brand is not a logo, a tagline, or a product; it’s a relationship. People tend to relate to others they know, trust, and like. Personal branding consists of perception, reputation, influence, and image. When creating your personal brand, you have to be able to answer the following three questions. Who are you? What do you do? and, Why does it matter? You should routinely Google yourself, set up Google Alerts with your name, and brand your e-mail signature.

Now’s the time to start your personal marketing. First, define your objective and goal. Consider the type of job, determine the title, and list what’s important based on your values, such as recognition, money, job security, promotion, belonging, purpose, and commitment. Next, identify a specific audience. For example, you should target companies, employers, industries, locations, commuting distance, home office, and title. At all times, you have to differentiate yourself by targeting your audience with your message. Determine the best venue. Periodically measure your results and make adjustments accordingly.

The last step is to advertise and promote yourself. Use social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. You have to relentlessly increase the number of connections on each social medium. To become visible, you have to participate in group discussions and answer questions. Such actions validate that you are an expert, and they differentiate you from the crowd. Make sure you have a professionally produced picture. Fill out your profiles on social media completely. LinkedIn makes it very easy to publish articles available to be read by a large audience. And last, participate in job search networking groups.

Identification of employment opportunities

Of course, that’s the ultimate goal, but where? There are several places. For example, a search on the LinkedIn tab called Jobs—by job title. Via an indeed.com search on title. Via SIC or NAICS code number (government industry classifications) on onetonline.org. Local libraries have various databases, but the most effective way is participation in various job search networking groups. Clearly, you must continually explore and research opportunities. A good source is by working with your local reference librarian. By participating in various LinkedIn groups, you can submit questions, and hopefully, people would be willing to help. Read job-search-relevant articles because they can provide clues. Focus on a dozen or so target companies, and follow their employment sections. Create a list of key people to contact primarily at your target companies.

Project management

Your job search could be protracted over several months. The amount of information available is quickly expanding to the point that a serious job seeker needs to start closely managing a job search project. At a minimum, a constantly updated spreadsheet will do. Some use a customer relationship management tool. A couple of the more popular ones are JibberJobber and CareerShift.

Interview preparation

This is an absolute must because in the end, there will be only one winner getting the job offer. Prepare for being asked Tell me about yourself.

Develop a minimum of 15 SARB or STAR or PAR or CAR answers. These are answers to interview questions in a format by which you start with the background situation, followed by the action you took, and ending with the result and the benefit to the employer. Best is to practice with someone who could guide and critique. An added value would be to record the practice session to see yourself in action. Research the company to the max. Appear extremely knowledgeable about the company you are interviewing with. Cultural fit with the organization is of utmost importance. And even though you cannot change the way they perceive you based on the impression you make, you can certainly influence that impression by showing them your interest in and deep knowledge about them. Thorough preparation can pay off very handsomely. But even that’s not the end. The company is in control of the process until they extend an offer, and at that point, control moves over to you. This is when you must continue learning about the company and its true culture, so that you can negotiate the compensation package. Most companies expect and are prepared to negotiate. Are you?

 

Employed but Frightened

How to secure your future ?

David, a recent client, is not looking for help to get a job. He has one—for the past 20 years. The job started way back then as a weeklong gig after he graduated from college but didn’t yet know what he wanted to do. David seemed—in the eyes of his supervisor, then a vice president and now the CEO—a promising young man who might have a future with the company. He was industrious, a hard worker, and good at winning over and maintaining the respect of coworkers.

Through the years, David kept being promoted when the opportunity was right. His growth on the job consisted not only of title changes but also changes in areas of responsibility, size of budgets he oversaw, and number of people reporting to him. And his remuneration changed accordingly. The big boss liked him and took him under his wing.

The company kept growing and after some more time, was employing 70 people and had annual sales of $60 million. At its start, the company culture had been typical of a small organization, but as the company grew, so changed its culture: politics and power games creeped in, replacing that small-company mentality, and corporate decisions gradually became made in direct relationship to the size of a general manager’s territory, number of employees in that division, and amount of contribution to the profit margin.

In the meantime, David got married to a professional woman who has not worked outside the home for the past five years while caring for their one daughter. The couple purchased a very nice house in a different state, away from the company’s headquarters, in the geographic area where his business is.

Over time, new and powerful and talented people joined the ever-growing company, and David was becoming scared about whether he’d be able to maintain his position in the long run. He assured me the ax is not over his head yet, but there are no long-term plans for his future, either. His long-term close relationship with the CEO has also loosened, and serious business problems keep him up at night. He’s mentioned that the paternalistic corporate culture has changed, that loyalty is no longer a core company belief, and that several of his old-time colleagues either have left or were replaced with younger, qualified, and talented people, most of whom have relevant master’s degrees.

David is smart and is aware that his long-term future is not secure. He has a family and heavy financial responsibility, and that’s where his vulnerability lies. So, what now?

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Once David recognized his situation, he called me, having found my contact details by way of a Google or LinkedIn search. During our initial phone conversation, he made it clear that he was not looking for interview preparation—which is 90% of the way I help clients—but needed someone who could help him create a long-term plan for mapping out his next 20 or more years of employment. He needs to take action in a certain direction that will enhance his value to his company—or even a different company—in his area of expertise. “I have no idea what my value is in the marketplace,” he said. Although he himself constantly interviews candidates for his division, he admitted to me that because this has been his only job, he’s never, ever himself had a job interview with a potential employer. And so, in that area he feels lost and without experience.

Is this you in the picture?

After spending two hours and 45 minutes together, we took the first step toward David’s goal. David realizes that one session will not be enough for him to get all his answers, but both of us felt very satisfied with the progress we made. In attempting to resolve David’s dilemma, we decided to explore both (1) opportunities for his further growth at his company and (2) opportunities elsewhere.

To begin with, I suggested he attend a certain Webinar.  Later he said that  this particular one-hour Webinar was very impressive, well documented, and logical.

As a second step, David must produce some marketing collateral. He needs both an outstanding résumé (an excellent one’s not good enough) and an equally outstanding LinkedIn profile. Neither production should be a do-it-yourself project. The creation of such material requires a professional who is deeply experienced, certified, and highly recommended by others. So, I gave David several names of such people who specialize in his industry. Once that’s done, David and I will meet again to talk about how to work with recruiters, where to find and explore opportunities, how to penetrate the hidden job market, how to be effective at networking, how to communicate both verbally and in writing, and, last, how to win an interview, get a job offer, and negotiate the salary.

How to tell what your own value is in the marketplace? No, it’s not what you think your value is. It’s what a bona fide employer is willing to pay. And it doesn’t stop there: both the employer and the job candidate have to think about employment several years ahead. Employment is an investment by both parties. And it better be a good one.

Mature, in-transition, and the next steps

Is this you in the picture?

Even though the economy has improved lately, there’s still a large contingency of people who after long and successful careers find themselves not only blocked but also bewildered about their professional future because of their age. This is a serious problem because these people still need to provide for their families, and many are by no means ready to retire—either mentally or physically. The pressure on this sector of people continues to mount, and they know that initiating their Social Security benefits too soon would put them at a long-term disadvantage. Many do not have employer pensions, and those who have retirement funds such as 401(k) plans should not start distributions too soon because of penalties for doing so. The last resort is in the form of tapping personal savings—if any exist at all.

What might be some reasons?

Of course, each person’s case is individual, but the long-term unemployed must face reality. If the marketplace was unable to absorb them in a reasonable time, it means either they don’t have the skills required to compete with others vying for the same position or they’re deemed not a good fit for subjective reasons such as age, appearance, or image. Another possibility might be that they simply don’t know how to market themselves as well as others do. Perhaps there’s also a level of rigidity about adapting to the current marketplace, or difficulty in accepting having to learn new job-related skills, or refusing a significantly lower benefit package, or reluctance to move to a different geographic job market. In many cases, the last is not an option for, say, family reasons.

What are some solutions?

Start with a self-evaluation to identify strengths as well as weaknesses. If you don’t trust your own judgment, then look for professionals who can provide help in doing it.

Next, evaluate opportunities where you can use your skills and experience and market yourself to employers that can use your talent and are willing to pay for it. If you don’t know how to find such employers, then seek advice from career coaches who specialize in identifying such opportunities for job seekers. Yes, there are people who specialize in that aspect of career coaching.

Then, once you’ve identified those potential employers, you’ll need an outstanding résumé and a strong and complete LinkedIn profile. Short of these, you will not be found by recruiters and employers. Yes, you guessed it: there are experts who write résumés and develop LinkedIn profiles for job seekers. Once those things have been done and are in place, your phone might start ringing because recruiters are busy finding candidates for the jobs they need to fill.

The last step involves learning how to present yourself in an interview. Yes, I know, you think that step can be skipped, because after all, you’re good at it—right?—and the proof of that is that in the past, you’ve gotten jobs based on your interviewing skills. I suggest, however, that you reevaluate that conclusion because in today’s job market—and especially for anyone who’s experiencing a huge gap in employment—good interviewing skills are of utmost importance.

What I have described here is a journey with a specific process. Job search takes endurance, determination, and follow-through. At times you’ll feel very uncomfortable and totally rejected. But every occurrence of such feelings serves to take you one step closer to an offer. Many people who followed this exact journey were successful. Can you add yourself to the statistics? Do you have the desire and the will to make the trek? This is the test. Bon voyage and best of luck as you embark to navigate your way to a landing at a pleasant and professionally profitable port.