There are many self-help books on job search strategy. The problem with most of them is that they describe a “one size fits all” approach. The real person is not taken into account, not only what he wants today, but more importantly, what he aspires to in the future. There are steps outlined that can help you get the next job, but no alternatives are given. What if you decide along the way that you want to explore a new career, are now open to relocation, or want to take courses to improve your skills? These books are not likely to try to stray from the path the author wants you to take.
It’s not easy to write a resume, but most people make the mistake of simply listing their jobs, duties, some accomplishments, education, and maybe some awards and/or associations they belong to. Your career summary or objectives section has maybe a line or two that sounds very boring and doesn’t explain to the reader what it is about. The point of the resume is to get you the interview, but like a bad book, if it doesn’t wow the reader at first, they won’t read the rest.
Spend time talking to others about how they perceive you. Also, go through your performance reviews and highlight what stands out and makes you different from others. Finally, visualize what would be the ideal job for you in terms of responsibilities, management skills, 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 check it again and make changes. One last point: DO NOT list 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 notice that he is 8 years old, he will be eliminated immediately. Your goal 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 and distinct format with a paragraph under each job explaining your daily duties. Bullets below describing your accomplishments. Education, associations, volunteering, etc. follows the same format as the professional experience section.
Many people do not like to network. Why? Because it has the word “work” on it. If you think of networking as personal growth (you learn from every person you meet), then it’s easier. The mistake people make is reaching a large enough group of people. Your personal network should include family, friends, former colleagues, former bosses, friends from college and high school, and anyone else who can serve as your advocate. Everyone should have your resume and have a clear understanding of what you want in your next position. Also, contact recruiters and the careers department at your university. Attend career transition groups and job fairs, and don’t just talk to company representatives. Instead, talk to others who are lining up 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 find out more about a particular company or field, and you can practice your interview skills.
Many job seekers think that if they read the job description and visit the hiring company’s website, they are prepared for the interview. WRONG! Much more preparation is needed. Review public documents like 10k’s and 10q’s. If it’s a product-oriented company, like consumer packaged goods, test the products. If it’s a service business, visit the store or call their customer service center and ask questions pretending you’re a customer.
Use LinkedIn in several ways. DO NOT just read the bios of the hiring manager and other interviewers, but read all the bios for a company if it is a smaller organization or at least read the bio of everyone in a particular department. Try to get a sense of the company’s culture: many people have been there for a long time, or they are all relatively new; all have an advanced degree or no degree at all; and/or the employees are all located in one location or are geographically dispersed. Try to find people who have connections to someone at that company and see if you can get them to introduce you so you can get an inside look at the positives and negatives of working there. The point is to get a feel for the culture because the position might be ideal, but if the culture isn’t right for you, you’re going to be miserable.
Interviewing is like dating. The goal of both is to gather information and then see if it’s the right match for you. The mistake many interviewees make is that they don’t ask enough questions or they ask basic questions without follow-up. 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 rather about the 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 do 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’re coming back 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 email multiple people. The point of this note is not just to thank the person for their time, but also to reiterate a point or two you made in the interview or something you may not have mentioned before but, on reflection, feel worth mentioning. Watch out for typos and don’t use casual language.
Do you know what you’re really worth? Many job seekers think they can get a 10-15% raise when they change companies and that’s it. NOT! When determining your next position, you must determine its market value. Job duties, the number of people you will be managing, location, travel, if any, and other factors must be taken into account when calculating your compensation range. Visit sites like salary.com and payscale.com for help.
There are other components of compensation besides base and bonuses: long-term incentives, commissions, benefits, vacations, car allowances, membership dues, educational expenses, etc. The key is to do your homework and practice the negotiation that most people don’t do. By being prepared, you have an answer when they make you an offer. Keep in mind that the company may not be able to offer you the salary you want, but then it’s up to you to negotiate other things, like more vacation time, flexible hours, or a quicker review cycle. Imagine a tennis match and you and the hiring manager are pushing the offer back and forth. Regardless of the outcome, express your appreciation for their efforts in negotiating with you.
Final and biggest mistake
You got a new job, congratulations! Now DO NOT stop working on your race strategy. Many stop doing anything because the new job is demanding, because of family problems or because they are simply exhausted and need a break.
Instead, you should continue to attend networking events and assist those who are now in the same shoes you were in a short time ago. Be sure to reach out and thank everyone who helped you. Send an email announcement to your network informing them of your new position and provide them with all your contact information. Update your LinkedIn profile. Continue to take calls from recruiters and try to provide them with a prospect, source, or industry information.
In other words, stay connected, continue to develop your career strategy, and know your value. Most jobs today are through referrals, so keep in touch with your advocates with a regular email update on what you’re up to and offer to help them too.
The job search is never easy. It takes as many hours to look for a job as to do the job. It can be hard to view it in a positive light, especially when there are money considerations involved, but if you view it more as a journey that includes interacting with new and interesting people along the way, you’ll make it easier and hopefully more rewarding.