Time for a Career Change

Do you feel like you have been just marking time in your career?  Are you considering making a change?  Maybe you graduated a few years ago when the economy was lousy and you took whatever job you could get but, you are still there.  Maybe you have been bored for a while in your current position but were afraid to make a change during unstable economic times.  Maybe you are just hesitant to make a change.  If that dream is still there in the back of your mind, how do you determine if it is time to pursue that true passion for a career of choice?

  • Reality Check – Do some research to determine what skills, experience, certifications, would be required to make the desired career change a reality.  Evaluate your skills and experience and focus on transferrable skills for the new position.  If necessary, define a plan to gain the required skills or experience.
  • Assess the Financial Impact – Does your dream career pay what you have come to expect or would you have to take a cut? How much of a cut can you afford to make to pursue your dream?  Know that your bottom line requirement is to address your financial obligations and assess whether this new career option could cover your basic needs.  Would you be willing to pursue supplemental income options to pursue this dream?
  • Network, Network, Network – Identify contacts working in your dream field and conduct informational interviews. Meet people who have the job you desire and learn from them.  Attend relevant professional association meetings and activities.  Put yourself in situations to meet people in your desired field.
  • Define and Implement a Plan – Define a target list of companies and networking contacts within those companies. Implement a plan of regular networking outreach and information interviews.  Monitor your progress.  Keep track of what you have learned.
  • Stay Passionate – If this is what you really want to do, stay committed.  Don’t be discouraged because it takes time and effort to make a change.  Stay the course and celebrate your progress along the way.
  • Creative Options – If following your dream is not feasible at this stage of life, find creative options. Can you do volunteer work in a field you are passionate about?  Could you work part-time in an industry that excites you?  Be creative and explore other opportunities to use the skills and passions you possess.

Remember, to make the dream a reality, you have to take action.  Start planning today so you make your career dream into your career reality.

Critical Skills for Success                                               

On Friday, we held our final Career Management class of this academic year and our focus was on preparing students for success on their upcoming corporate residency assignments.  Based on feedback from current and past residency employers, the key skills for success include the following:

  • Ability to Communicate – To succeed in most jobs the employee must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.  You can be very smart, you can have great ideas but if you can’t communicate you risk being passed over for the next exciting project. Professional, business communication skills are still the expectation.  Employers expect employees to write a clear, concise email or executive summary.  Grammar, punctuation and spelling do matter.  Employers expect attention to detail in all your communications.
  • Work Effectively on a Team – The ability to effectively work as part of a team is critical to success in most organizations.   That means sometimes being a leader, sometimes being a good follower, monitoring the progress, meeting deadlines and working with others across the organization to achieve a common goal.  Employers want employees who can effectively work as part of a team, not as a lone contributor.
  • Ability and Willingness to Learn – The world is changing, business is changing and the pace of change continues to accelerate.  To succeed in most organizations you need to have a passion for learning and the ability to continue to grow and stretch your skills to adapt to the changing needs of the organization.  Little demand for dinosaurs these days.
  • Ability to Influence, Persuade and Negotiate  – There are few jobs you can do in a vacuum.  In most roles you need other people to do things so you can do your job.  There are steps in the process before your area of responsibility and often steps after you do your part.  Usually you do not have authority over those people.  You need to have the skill to develop mutually beneficial relationships in the organization so you can influence and persuade people to do what you need them to do in turn ensuring you are delivering what they need.  You need to be able to negotiate win-win solutions to serve the best interests of the company and the individuals involved. There is no room for the “blame game.”
  • Ability to Analyze the Data – With increased computer skills, many employees can build spreadsheets and manipulate the data in various ways.  What elevates an employee above the crowd is the ability to analyze the data.  Don’t just total the columns, calculate an average and sort the data.  What story does the data tell?  What questions does it raise?  Are there different ways to interpret the data?  Instead of handing your boss a spreadsheet, give them a business summary and highlight the key areas for attention.  Suggest possible next steps.  Using the data to manage business decisions is a critical differentiator. These days there are times when there is too much data and knowing what is important and relevant data is a key skill.

 

These skills alone may not put you on a direct track to the corner office but employees with these skills will definitely be more successful in their careers.

Avoiding Job Search Burnout

Looking for a job can be hard work and it often takes longer that most job seekers expect.  To achieve success, you must be careful to avoid job search burnout which can quickly derail your process.

What are the consequences of job search burnout and how can you overcome them?

  • Failure to sell yourself – In the job search process, you are the product and you are the expert on that product. If you become discouraged and disheartened in your search, that shows to perspective employers as lack of confidence and enthusiasm.  The very people you are trying to impress are seeing less than the best you.  This causes lost opportunities which leads for further frustration and disappointment.  For every interaction with a potential employer, focus and block out everything else.   This is the best use of your time at the moment.  Focus on being the best you can be demonstrating how your skills transfer to the job, your knowledge of the company and your passion for the opportunity.
  • Careless Errors – You are growing weary of the process so you start taking short cuts to save time and aggravation. You start cutting and pasting from prior cover letters.  Stop!  If it isn’t worth the time to craft a targeted, customized cover letter, don’t bother to apply.  Seeing another company name in your cover letter is an immediate trip to the no pile.  Most employers will eliminate candidates due to errors in their cover letters and resumes.  Attention to detail matters.  Demonstrate your attention to detail, don’t just talk about it.  Proofread your cover letters and resume every time you use it.  Consider enlisting a job search buddy to keep each other’s spirits up and to proofread materials for each other for a fresh set of eyes.  You must put your best foot forward.
  • Defaulting to Technology – You are getting tired of the process so you decide to take a short cut.  You spend hours behind your computer applying to jobs you find in online job boards.  You significantly increase the number of applications you submit each week but no interview requests are forth coming.  Must be they aren’t real jobs.  Short cutting the process doesn’t work.  Hiring managers will receive hundreds of applications online and will likely never even look at many of them.  They will start with the short pile of resumes referred by trusted friends and colleagues.  Networking is the number one source of hires.  Eliminating the networking reduces your chances of landing the job you want to a needle in the haystack.  Keep networking, it will make a difference.  Track your activity.  Build you network in your target companies.  Reward yourself when you achieve your target for the week.  Enjoy the journey, you will meet interesting people and learn a lot in the process if you keep an open mind.

Finding a new job is hard work.  Stay focused on your goal and execute the process flawlessly to increase  your likelihood of success.

Conducting an Organized Job Search

Being organized in your job search is critical to success.  You need to manage and track your activity in order to maximize your connections and your results.

Target List

  • The machine gun approach to a job search where you apply for anything and everything is not likely to lead to success.
  • Critical first step if identifying and prioritizing a target list.  Identify the companies you are most interested in working for and prioritize them based on their history of posting positions which interest you and the availability of alumni connections or other connections within the company. Prioritize you list by where you are most likely to have success.

Networking

  • Networking is critical to success so start networking with alums and other connections in your target companies.
  • Use Linked In and your alumni database to identify contacts within your target companies.
  • Schedule information interviews with contacts in your target companies so you can learn more about the culture, the hiring process and the skills critical for success.

Track Your Activity

  • Maintain a spreadsheet of your target list with a tab for each target company.  Keep track by company of all networking connections and meetings and note what you’ve learned about the organization.  Add to the tab any jobs you apply for at that company and when.  Keeps all your activity in one place.
  • Should be leveraging networking connections to get your resume into the hands of the hiring managers instead of hoping they find you in the huge pile of online applications.  Having your connections in one place makes it easy to identify the contact to send your resume.
  • Initially you may think it is easy to remember your connections but as your volume increases it becomes critical to have a tracking system in place to support your efforts.

Say Thank You

  • One of the best ways to differentiate yourself from a crowded field of candidates is to send a thank you note. Be sure to send a handwritten, customized thank you note within 24 hours of the interview.  Send a unique note to everyone you met at the interview.
  • Be sure to track your follow up on your spreadsheet as well.

 

 

Taking an organized approach to your job search will increase your likelihood of success.

Critical Skills for Success – Communications Skills

Employers continue to tell us how critical communications skills are to success on the job.  Communications skills often differentiate employees for more responsibility and advancement in their careers.  To enhance your career success, what should you consider?

Oral Communications

  • You must be able to present your data and/or recommendations to your peers, managers and senior management in a professional manner. You need to be well prepared and very professional.  “Um”, “ah”, and “like” repeatedly in a presentation undermine your professional credibility.
  • Think about your casual communications. Be sure you are not using inappropriate language in the workplace.  Avoid the fillers even in your casual conversations.
  • If the company offers presentation skills training, take advantage of it. There is always room to improve.
  • Seek opportunities to practice and request feedback. Volunteer to present the results for the group.  Always ask for feedback on how to improve going forward.
  • Consider joining a local Toastmasters Club to increase your opportunities for feedback and practice.
  • Watch how the successful leaders of the company present and learn from them.

Written Communications

  • Your written communications leave a lasting record of your communications skills. Always proofread your written communications.  Grammar and spelling matter.
  • More is often not better. Hone your skills in crafting a concise executive summary with additional reference materials where needed.
  • Your professionalism will be evaluated based on your written communications we well.

Electronic Communications

  • Keep you emails short and to the point, if the reader must scroll through multiple screens they will likely lose interest.
  • Grammar and spelling still matter. You need to put your best foot forward in every communication.  Always proofread before sending.
  • Don’t copy more people than necessary and avoid reply all.
  • Always stop to think about what would happen if that email was shown to your boss or the local newspaper. Don’t put it in writing if you have concerns.  Never hit send when you are angry, cool off and consider your response.

Adapting to the Company Style

  • Pay attention to the preferred communication style within your company and your team and adapt to those norms. If the company does everything in a PowerPoint summary that’s what you need to do.

 

Honing your communications skills will enhance your performance at work and will increase your growth opportunities.

Critical Skills for Success -Sales Skills

Regardless of the role you have or the industry in which you work, sales skills are critical for success.  This often catches students off guard because they are certain they do not want to work in sales.  I was with a group of employers yesterday and the reinforced the critical nature of sales skills for success in business.

Why does a job seeker or a current employee need to be concerned with their sales skills if they are not working in sales?

Selling Yourself

  • During your job search you need to continually sell yourself to perspective employers. You need to demonstrate your passion for the work and the company while demonstrating the value of your knowledge and experience.  If you can’t sell yourself effectively you will likely not land that job.
  • Your sales tools include your resume, customized cover letters, thank you notes as well as interviews by phone, Skype or in person. Every interaction is an opportunity to sell.

Selling Your Ideas

  • Regardless of your role in the organization there will be opportunities where you need to sell your ideas to others – whether it is your manager, senior management, other cross functional teams, etc. Your ability to present a concise business case for your recommendations will be a differentiator in your career.
  • Whether you are advocating for a change in process, a new system, additional resources, etc. being able to clearly and effectively present the issues and the proposed solution are critical skills for success.

Influencing and Persuading Others to do what is Needed

  • To succeed in today’s complex, fast-paced business environment, you need to be able to work cross functionally. In order to do that effectively, you must be able to influence and persuade others.   You will often not have authority over the people who need to provide you the data or the resources but you need to convince them to do what is needed.
  • Your ability to persuade and influence others across the organization will be critical to your success in the organization. It is easier to get results if you have authority over all steps in the process but to truly succeed you need to sell the value to others outside your authority.

Networking

  • Networking is not limited to your job search. It is a critical component of your success within the organization.  You need to understand how things are done, who has the information or resources you need, what other projects are competing with yours, etc.  Building a strong network within the organization can make you more successful in your current role and help propel your advancement.

Do not shy away from sales skills.  These are critical life skills that can positively impact your career.

Why Do Great Candidates Get Rejected?

Has this ever happened to you?  You see the perfect job description posted online at one of your top target companies.  Finally, you think, the perfect job.  You attach your perfect resume – no typos, no grammatical errors, filled with key transferrable skills and quantified accomplishments.  You write a flawless customized cover letter linking their specific needs to your relevant skills and experience.  You answer all the questions on the online application and submit.  With fingers crossed, the waiting begins.

 

Then one of two things happen – either you receive an automated, impersonal email indicating you will not be considered for the position, or, even worse, you hear nothing at all.  How can this be?  You are perfect for this job.

 

Unfortunately, this happens more frequently than most job seekers realize.  In spite of your perfect resume, flawless cover letter and highly relevant experience and skills, the hiring manager never sees your application.  How can this happen?

 

Hiring managers are overwhelmed.  In addition to their full time mob, they are short-handed and trying to get all the work covered.  They now have to find time to go through the tedious hiring process.  It is not unusual to received hundreds of online applications.  What hiring manager has time to review all those applications?  They don’t.

 

You have missed the most critical step in your job search process.  Networking.  You need to build a network of key contacts at your target companies.  Use them to learn about the company and hiring process.  When you see a position at their company ask them to forward your resume to the hiring manager.  Suddenly your resume is in the short pile of recommended candidates.  Rather than tackle the mountain of online applications, the hiring manager starts with the pile of referred candidates and hopes to find what they need from those candidates.  The manager may never even look at your resume if you are only in the online application pile.  You are the needle in the haystack.  Do managers sometimes miss well qualified candidates?  Absolutely but they are prioritizing how they spend their time and focus on the referrals.  You must be effectively networking through your target list to ensure that you can end up in the right pile.

 

Without networking the chances of the hiring manager seeing your perfect resume, cover letter and experience are slim.  Increase your likelihood of success by networking.