There are many self help books about job search strategy. The issue with most of them is that they describe “a one size fits all” approach. There is no consideration given to the real person – not only what they want today but more importantly what they aspire to in the future. There are steps outlined that can assist in getting that next job but no alternatives given. What happens if along the way you decide you want to explore a new career, you are now open to relocation, or you want to take courses to improve your skills? These books probably do not address going off the path the author wants you to take.
It is not easy to write a resume but most people make the mistake of just listing their jobs, the duties, some accomplishments, education, and maybe some awards and/or associations they belong to. Their career summary or objective section has maybe one or two lines that sound very boring and do not explain to the reader what you are all about. The point of the resume is to get you the interview but like a bad book if you don’t wow the reader at the beginning they will not read the rest.
Spend time talking to others about how they perceive you. In addition, review your performance reviews and highlight what stands out and makes you different from others. Lastly visualize what the ideal job would be for you in terms of responsibilities, management capability, visibility in the company, and interaction with others including vendors and customers. Now write your career summary. Take a walk or leave it overnight and then review it again and make edits. One final point – do NOT state the number of years of experience you have in your career summary. If a junior recruiter has a job that requires 5-7 years of experience and you note that you have 8 years you will get knocked out immediately. Your objective is to have a compelling summary that gets the reader excited to read more and learn about you.
The rest of your resume should follow a clear, distinct format with a paragraph under each job explaining your daily duties. Bullets under that describe your accomplishments. Education, associations, volunteer work, etc. follow the same format as the professional experience section.
Many people do not like to network. Why? Because it has the word “work” in it. If you think of networking instead as personal growth (you learn from each person you meet) then it is easier. The mistake people make is they do reach out to a broad enough group of people. Your personal network should include family, friends, former colleagues, former bosses, college and high school friends, and anyone else who can serve as an advocate for you. They should all have your resume and have a clear understanding of what you want in your next role. In addition, contact recruiters and your college career counseling department. Attend career transition groups and job fairs and do not just talk to company representatives. Instead talk to others that are standing in line with you, etc.
Identify new contacts through LinkedIn (see Mistake #3). If someone is helpful, offer to buy them a cup of coffee. This is probably your best investment because you can ask questions to learn more about a particular company or field and you can practice your interviewing skills.
Many job seekers think that if they read the position description and visit the hiring company’s website they are prepared for their interview. WRONG! A lot more preparation needs to take place. Review public documents like 10k’s and 10q’s. If it is a product oriented company like consumer packaged goods, try the product(s). If it is a service company, visit the store or call their customer service center and ask questions pretending you are a customer.
Use LinkedIn in several ways. Do NOT only read the bios of the hiring manager and other interviewers, Instead read all the bios in a company if it is a smaller organization or at least read everyone’s bio in a particular department. Try to get a feel for the culture of the company – many people have been there a long time or everyone is relatively new; everyone has an advanced degree or no degree; and/or the employees are all located in one place or are geographically dispersed. Try to find people who have connections to someone in that company and see if you can have them introduce you so you can get an insider’s view of the positives and negatives of working there. The point is to get a feel for the culture because the position may be ideal but if the culture is not a good fit for you, you will be miserable.
Interviewing is like dating. The point of both is to gather information and then see if it is the right match for you. The mistake many interviewees make is that they do not ask enough questions or they ask basic questions with no follow up ones. As an executive recruiter, I am rarely asked about the hiring manager in terms of his or her personality, work style, and progression within the company. These are key elements because studies indicate that job satisfaction is not always about the money but more about their supervisor and future opportunities.
I suggest to my coaching clients that they try to follow the 50-50 rule. Let the interviewer ask 50% of the questions and you ask 50%. If the interviewer/hiring manager asks all the questions that could raise a red flag. It is also important to pay close attention to body language and tone of voice.
Even if you know you are going to return for a second or third round of interviews, send thank you notes after the first meeting to each person. Email is acceptable but do NOT send one email to several people. The point of this note is not only to thank the person for their time but also to reiterate a point or two that you made in the interview or something you may have failed to mention before but upon reflection feel it is worth mentioning. Watch out for typos and do not use casual language.
Do you know what you are really worth? Many job seekers think that they may get a 10-15% raise when they switch companies and that is about it. NO! When determining your next position, you need to determine your market value. Job duties, number of people you will be managing, location, travel if any, and other factors need to be considered when you figure your compensation range. Visit sites like salary.com and payscale.com to assist you.
There are other components of compensation besides base and bonus(es) – long term incentive, commissions, benefits, vacation, car allowances, membership fees, educational expenses, etc. The key is to do your homework and to practice negotiating which most people do not do. By being prepared, you have a response when they make an offer. Keep in mind that the company may not be able to offer you the salary you want but then it is up to you to negotiate other things like more vacation time or flextime or a quicker review cycle. Envision a tennis match and you and the hiring manager are lobbying the offer back and forth. Regardless of the outcome, express your appreciation of their efforts to negotiate with you.
Final and Biggest Mistake
You landed a new job – congratulations! Now do NOT stop working on your career strategy. Many stop doing anything because the new job is demanding, family issues, or they are just exhausted and need a break.
Instead you should continue to attend networking events and assist those that are now in the same shoes you were in just a short time ago. Make sure that you contact and thank everyone who assisted you. Email an announcement to your network letting them know of your new position and provide them with all your contact information. Update your LinkedIn profile. Continue to take recruiter calls and try to provide them with a prospect, a source, or industry information.
In other words, stay connected, continue to develop your career strategy, and know your worth. Most jobs today are through referrals so keep in touch with your advocates with an email periodically updating on what you are up to and offer to assist them as well.
A job search is never easy. It takes as many hours to search for a job as it does to do the job. It may be difficult to view it in a positive light especially when there are money considerations involved but if you see it as more of a journey which includes interacting with new and interesting people along the way, it will make it easier and hopefully more rewarding.