Getting the Job
The job seeking process can be both challenging and fulfilling. If you approach the job search as a “full-time job” you will find a sense of purpose and improved focus on the goals that will lead to your next official title.
As with any project, the best way to begin the process is to break the quest down into reasonably-sized tasks and milestones. Apply your project management skills to set best practices in motion and keep yourself on task. Get up at the same time every morning, get dressed, and give this project all of the optimism, enthusiasm, and confidence you would give a coveted assignment. If you are currently working full-time, you will need to be even more pro-active regarding your time management skills in order to maximize your effectiveness with the time that you are able to dedicated to your job search.
Solidify your true objective
Reflect on who you are, what you do best, and what you want to accomplish. It’s tempting to start applying for jobs in a scattershot manner and throw your resume at positions that are either a long shot or an undershot. This is a waste of time. Instead, use this opportunity to look within a bit, to contemplate on your career up to this point and be sure that you have your flight path lined up to land you in the spot you truly want to find yourself in next. If this exercise reveals a need for more education, more networking, or more skills, take decisive action to elevate yourself and position yourself most effectively. Once you are clear on your goal, begin visualizing yourself excelling in your new environment and it will only be a matter of time before your vision becomes your reality.
List the requirements for success
Your list might look something like this: an updated resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile; resume posted on job boards; references and/or letters of recommendation in place; an analysis of the current job market in your area; a list of possible workplaces within commuting distance; several recruiters to contact; list of contacts to network around; interviews; salary negotiations; formal job offers; and a signed offer letter.
Make a realistic plan
Convert your list of requirements into a timeline. List every task that needs to be completed at each milestone along the timeline. Break your tasks down into manageable pieces and start at the beginning. It can be a great help to hire a professional to work with you in refining and revising your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. You’ll end up with great results and can be confident that you are representing yourself as effectively as possible.
Get up every morning and check your list. Remember, you are a Job Seeker and you owe yourself the best effort you are capable of. You’ll thank yourself later.
Updating one’s resume consistently ranks right down there with root canals and tax audits as most people’s least favorite endeavor. It is, however, a document you must have. Not only that, it is a document that can potentially make or break your job search. Assuming you plan to respond to jobs you see posted on sites like Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, Indeed.com, or Dice.com, you must realize that your audience will be searching those sites using key words that are relevant to their interests. It’s very important to be sure your resume is sprinkled with the key words that will make you show up in the search results. Not only this, but when your resume is viewed, the reader will spend less than a minute scanning it to see if it matches their criteria. Again, it is vital that you make your resume highly readable and filled with the information that will gain attention.
Decide right now to be completely honest in your resume. This is the most important marketing device you have in a job search and you can’t afford to damage your reputation by exaggerating, fudging, or blatantly lying. Tell the truth and do it well. Use the space wisely. At the top, supply your contact information and a brief summary of who you are and what you do best as a professional. Below this, create a list of key words describing your core skills and competencies.
Your experience comes next. A chronology starting with your most recent job is the easiest for the reader to grasp. Rather than chaining together a long list of your job duties, quantify your accomplishments and display them with bullet points. Use action-oriented words (show, don’t tell) and any performance based, results oriented statistics (ex. Launched X project 30% ahead of schedule that generated a 17% increase in overall revenue). Avoid using words that are so general they lose their meaning (experience, dynamic, motivated, responsible, etc.).
Be sure to adjust your resume to the job description you want to target. Have a master resume that can be tailored to fit different positions. The same goes for your cover letter. Pay close attention to what the employer NEEDS. Use your resume to assure the employer that you are the best supplier to meet those needs.
Use your friends, family and colleagues to get a second opinion, try to view your resume from the perspective of the prospective employer and uncover all potential objections, concerns, questions will they could have. What areas will they make assumptions that may or may not be accurate? It is imperative that you address these on your resume – otherwise, you may never get that first interview to explain yourself and alleviate their concerns.
For example, it is necessary that you explain any gaps in employment. Why did you leave your last role? What did you do in the interim? What are you looking for now? Notate any positions that were contract or consulting roles. Be clear in your objective – if you have been in contract work but are now looking for a direct role, make the distinction. Also, make your location preferences apparent – ex. if you are in Missouri but are open to relocating the East Coast, tell us! Being transparent and filling in the gaps will improve your chances of interviewing because you will go in the ‘yes’ pile rather than the ‘I don’t know and I will probably never get to it’ pile.
Adequately preparing for a job interview is essential if you want it to run smoothly. Research the company and the position description and reach out to your network to see if anyone you know may have tips to share with you about the employer or its people. Study your resume and try to anticipate any questions that your work history may generate. When referring to your past experience, avoid speaking in “We” terms – ex. “We designed the latest model” – as it implies that someone else in your team was responsible for that task. Be clear about your role and what you contributed. Modesty can be to your detriment in an interview scenario (as can arrogance). If you have samples of your work, take them with you as visual aids to enhance what you have to say about yourself. Formulate intelligent questions to ask the interviewer; if possible, ask for details about the opportunity and the ideal person he or she seeks early in the conversation. Often, asking the right questions can contribute greatly to a successful interview and will provide you with vital information about the workplace and the job.
1. Be responsive, available and flexible regarding requested interview times - just letting a few days pass could mean you lose the opportunity to another candidate.
2. Practice and anticipate. Learn as much as you can about what the company needs and help the interviewer see how well you can meet that need.
3. Dress professionally.
4. Tell the truth.
5. Exhibit confidence, energy and enthusiasm about your career, the company and the opportunity, in addition to speaking clearly, slowly and directly.
6. Avoid negative words about your current or most recent employer.
7. Be sure your references and recommendations are ready to pass on.
8. Address your weaknesses from a constructive viewpoint.
9. Before the conversation ends, address any concerns that may have arisen for the interviewer.
10. Follow up with a thank you note.
Entering the negotiation process is encouraging, of course, but can also be quite unnerving. It’s one thing to haggle with a used car salesman – once you drive off the lot you will likely never see him again – but going back and forth over money with people you will have ongoing professional relationships with is quite another. The goal to keep in the forefront of your mind is to help make the negotiation a win-win for both parties. In order to achieve this, your expectations must be reasonable ones. Do your homework so that you know what a fair for the position should be. Your ability to close any salary gaps that may exist is the strongest when you are still employed. If you are not, then your leverage is minimized quite a bit. State your case clearly and politely and be prepared to quantify the extra value you believe you deserve. Avoid, at all costs, any type of dishonest manipulation. Assume it will backfire. If the process leaves you not knowing what to do, call upon a mentor for advice. Take your time with the decision, but stay in communication and diligently convey your appreciation. Don’t leave them with an open-ended time frame for providing an answer; commit to making a decision within a couple of days.
The Resignation, Counteroffers, and the Transition
Accepting an offer feels fantastic! Enjoy the moment. Savor the victory. However, don’t wait too long to address the next potentially awkward task – handing in your resignation. Procrastinating will only make it more difficult. Go ahead and get it over with. Write a letter that holds as much grace and good will as you can convey. This is no time for bitterness or backlash.
Should you receive a counteroffer that tempts you to stay, think very carefully before acting. Accepting a counteroffer would mean reneging on the commitment you made to the new employer. It would mean staying in a role you wanted to leave behind – most likely for reasons beyond compensation. Typically, individuals who accept a counteroffer are back in the market within 6 months because the core reason they wanted to move on is still present.
Preparing for your exit is a wonderful opportunity to close a door without leaving behind regret. After all, every person you know is a potentially valuable member of your network. Treating your co-workers respectfully and making an effort to ease the transition will be the last thing they remember about working with you. Offer to do all that you can to help find and train your replacement. Make lists of everything you do, the status of your projects, and your perspectives on your duties so that you can offer the next person sitting in the chair a context to work from when they make their entrance.