If your goal is to get a new job this year, here are seven things you need to do to prepare yourself for your job search.
1. Update your résumé. While ideally your résumé is customized for a specific job, having an up-to-date résumé targeted for a specific “type” of position is the next best thing. So if you’ve taken on additional responsibilities in your current job, or you’ve changed your job target, or you’ve added new training or educational credentials, now is the time to talk with your résumé writer about updating your résumé. (And if you don’t have a résumé at all, now is definitely the time to put one together! A professional résumé writer can help!)
2. Develop — or update — your LinkedIn profile. A LinkedIn profile doesn’t replace the résumé…it complements it. Someone looking for a candidate with your skills and experience might conduct a search on LinkedIn and find your profile. Or, someone in your network might be interested in recommending you, and forward your LinkedIn profile URL. So make sure you have a LinkedIn profile — and make sure that it’s updated. (Yes, this is something your résumé writer can help you with.)
3. Know what you’re worth: conduct salary research. One of the most often-cited reasons to consider a job search is to increase your salary. But how do you know what you’re worth? There is more salary research data available than ever before. Websites like Glassdoor.com and Salary.com can help you see how your current salary and benefits package stacks up.
4. Build your network. It’s estimated that 70-80% of jobs are found through networking. Networking effectiveness is not just about quality — although that’s important. It’s also about quantity. It’s not just about who you know. It’s about who your contacts know. Many times, it’s the friend-of-a-friend who can help you land your dream job. Grow your network both professionally and personally. You never know who will be the one to introduce you to your next job opportunity.
5. Manage your online reputation. More and more hiring managers are checking you out online before they interview you. What will they find when they type your name into Google? How about if they check out your Twitter profile? Or find you on Facebook? Now is the time to conduct a social media assessment and clean up your online profiles.
6. Define your ideal job. “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” That line, from Alice in Wonderland, is important to remember in your job search. If you don’t know what your dream job looks like, how will you know how to find it? What job title and responsibilities are you interested in? Do you want to work independently, as part of a team, or both? Do you like short-term projects or long-term projects? Who would you report to? Who would report to you? Answering these questions can help you define your ideal position.
7. Create a target list of companies you’d like to work for. Like your ideal job, you probably have a preference for the type of organization you want as your employer. Things to consider include: company size, industry, culture, location, and structure (public, private, family-owned, franchise, nonprofit, etc.). Once you’ve made your list, look for companies that fit your criteria.
Are you one of those people who talk when they are nervous? It’s pretty easy to do — and very damaging to your career if you don’t learn how to control it. That old adage about having two ears and one mouth so you can listen twice as much as you talk is actually good advice for every part of your working world, from the interview to get the job to the moves into management and executive leadership.
The Big Mistake You Can Make
When you sit down for an interview, one of the big questions in the interviewer’s mind is what you will be like to work with. It’s a valid question because most jobs do involve some level of teamwork. So in order to answer the big questions, the way you answer smaller questions is observed. Speaking without listening is a red flag because it indicates that since you don’t listen here, in the job interview, you won’t listen later, on the job.
If you are rehearsing your “hire me” job spiel in your head, waiting for the chance to present it, then you aren’t going to be hearing the questions they ask. You’ll be answering the questions you think they will ask — and that is not the same thing at all.
It is a good preparation tactic to think through questions that may be asked in an interview. But that’s not a script you are rehearsing, and the interview may not involve those questions at all. It’s better to make sure you actually hear what is being asked so you can answer the question.
The Leadership Skill of Listening
One of the reasons that the skill of listening is a mark of leadership is because truly hearing what people are saying gives added perspective to a problem so it can be solved. Listening is a mark of respect for the speaker, and true leaders value those on their team as important contributors. Learning how to listen is part of honing your interview skills, but being able to listen and contribute value to the conversation by being on the same page is a skill you will need all your life.
There is a lot of information out there on tax filing and job hunting and keeping your information organized. It’s an important subject because, according to the IRS, some job hunting expenses are deductible. The problem is figuring out how to keep track of all the expenses so you have the paperwork to prove your deduction claims.
Pilers, Filers, and Technophiles
The way that will work best for your purposes is the way that you naturally do things. Most of us are either pilers, filers, or technophiles.
If you are a piler, it’s obvious because there probably is a pile or two in your immediate vicinity right now. You tend to toss things somewhere to deal with later, and instead of going against your habits, how about having a box or basket to toss all receipts into? If you can create several boxes and make them look good, you can sort as you toss, but some of us pilers would rather pitch it all in one place and take an evening to sort it at tax time. Pilers have a hard time going through extra steps even if a nice system is set up, but boxes — that’s just walls on the pile. It works.
If you are a filer, you might already have an impressive system set up with files and labels. Just make sure there are files for any job search expenses and that you put anything remotely deductible in a file so you can find out if it is needed at tax time. Filers need to make sure they aren’t so organized they over-separate files into overwhelming divisions of minutiae. It’s okay to file by month instead of subject, for instance. If you find yourself unable to file something that may be important, make a file for “may be important stuff” and put it in.
If you are a technophile, you love the tech stuff and you are great at scanning documents and putting that information in cyberspace or hard drive. The problem is when you lose track of where your stuff is or that hard drive crashes. There is a lot out there for technophiles who want to keep documentation electronically, but make sure you have backed it up for emergencies.
It’s true that some job search expenses are deductible but only if you handle your documentation information efficiently. Whether you are a piler, filer, or technophile, the challenge is to figure out what works for you and do it.
Many of us need a little help learning the new skills that are a part of today’s workplace. Fortunately, there’s a way to get some of that education for free — the MOOC, or Massive Open Online Course. The challenge is finding the right course for your circumstances, and not being overwhelmed by the task. Many of the top universities offer MOOCs, but just because it’s good content doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Do Your Research
Take the time to read reviews and carefully consider what your goals are. For instance, the emphasis on internet marketing in every business means that people who keep up on SEO skills are preferable. Look for some reviews, or guides like the 2015 Guide to Free SEO Training Courses Online on Search Engine Watch. The goal is to select one skill to develop in your spare time and deciding which skill you need to prioritize based on your own career goals.
Do Your Homework
Once you have decided to take something like a MOOC, keep at it. Most of the difficulty in online classes is keeping at it. This is why it’s usually good to do one at a time and, if you can talk a friend into taking it with you, you have a study partner and some accountability. You are working on educating yourself for your own satisfaction for the most part, but that is impressive because it shows you are looking for life-long learning opportunities.
People who demonstrate a desire to keep learning, taking the initiative to research the best options for their industry, and keeping at it by getting through something like a massive open online course are impressive. They make an impression on their colleagues because they set a good example. They make an impression on their employer because they demonstrate an ability to stay current with their skill set. And they make an impression in their self-confidence because they are increasing their knowledge and understanding.
If you decide to explore the potential of the MOOC, do your research and select the right one — then do your homework and get it done.
I hope that by now you have a LinkedIn profile because this social media platform is one of the best ways to keep your career viable — if you use it wisely. But once you have completed your profile and started exploring your options, how do you decide what is a good thing to do? And how do you figure out how to do it?
Search Engine Journal has recently given us some good ideas in Kristi Hines’ 10 LinkedIn Tips and Strategies You Need To Know. These are helpful suggestions that may be exactly what you are looking for:
- How to unsubscribe from blog posts — a great help in uncluttering your inbox
- How to quickly change group digest frequency — another de-clutter benefit
- How to see where you rank — it can make a difference
- How to put links on your profile — to your site, your writing, etc.
- How to get LinkedIn Premium features for less — who doesn’t like a bargain?
- How to schedule updates to LinkedIn — and take some of the drudgery out of your life
- How to get LinkedIn testimonials on your website — you do have a website by now, right?
- How to research customers on LinkedIn — or anybody else, like potential employers
- How to target Facebook and Twitter ads to LinkedIn connections — you may not be actually putting out ads, but it is good to know
- How to research competitors on LinkedIn — and see how you stack up
How Is Marketing Like Career Building?
It’s true that Search Engine Journal is not usually a site you’d find career advice on, but the line between marketing and career building is very fuzzy. If you think about it, marketing is just presenting the best of your business to the public in various ways so the people see and respond appropriately. Isn’t career building presenting the best of your skills, knowledge, and experience to get an appropriate response?
In fact, skill marketing is a way to get people thinking about you as a potential asset for new positions. The more you can utilize platforms like LinkedIn to show what you have to offer, the easier it is for people to see what you bring to the table.
Why do the powerful prefer to look obviously different than the rest of us?
Power symbols — those accessories that indicate status and authority — do vary according to the context. A number of years ago at a Presidential Inauguration it was striking to see that Republicans and Democrats clearly had preferred outerwear, but the wool dress coats and cowboy hats of the one party were just as expensive as the down parkas and accessories of the other. Equal in price, quality, and impressiveness but different in look and definitely different than the rest of the crowd standing in the streets for the ceremonies.
Today, questions like “are tiaras the new power scrunchies?” show up in the New York Times. In that particular article, the jeweled/metallic headband/tiara is a confidence booster that female executives are embracing in some circles. The idea that people of power have always worn a symbol of that power on their head is as old as time. Queens wear crowns, and when the women wear their versions of the crown they feel powerful.
Symbols Need To Have Context
The challenge in any career is to understand the way the corporate culture thinks. A status symbol can be an investment tool, but only if you are communicating effectively to those around you. Part of that communication is the confidence it gives to be wearing the status symbol, and part of the communication is the message the symbol itself sends.
As the wearable tech trends come available there will definitely be some new players in the status symbol arena. Smartwatches will join the smartphones and luxury watches already being sported in the C-level suites. But like all symbols, the context is everything.
When you are selecting your wardrobe and accessories for an interview or for the workplace, make sure your status symbols are appropriate for the context. You want to look different and powerful, not just different.
Did you ever wonder what the global job market is actually looking for? LinkedIn is in a unique position to find out, so after analyzing over 330 million LinkedIn member profiles, they came up with The 25 Hottest Professional Skills of 2014. Of that 25, the top 5 are:
- Statistical Analysis and Data Mining
- Middleware and Integration Software
- Storage Systems and Management
- Network and Information Security
- SEO/SEM Marketing
What This Means For 2015
These were the top 5 skills that employers and recruiters were looking for last year. These are the skills that got people hired. Does that mean you should drop your current career plans and get a degree in statistical analysis? Not necessarily — but it does mean that technological understanding is something that cannot be ignored. Any candidate that has the skills needed for a particular job PLUS the global perspective of how that job fits into the bigger picture is a lot more prepared to compete.
If your resume doesn’t mention the technology you know how to utilize, it’s time to update your resume. In this increasingly interconnected world, we need professionals who can integrate the work they do with the global presence of the company that employs them. Each one of the “top skills” looked for attest to the fact that business is supported by technology and the IT department isn’t just tech support.
At the very least, taking the time to see what these areas consist of and how they are used in your industry prepares you to be someone who can see how their part fits into the mission of the company and gives you insight on the challenges of management and leadership. If you are interested in executive responsibilities, executive perspective sees how it all fits together.
If I were to make any predictions for 2015, it would be that most of the skills on 2014’s list will still be important. They may change positions, but like technology, they aren’t going away.