It’s amazing how consistently I see job-seekers make these mistakes. It’s not that they aren’t talented or smart — it’s that (please listen up!) job search and career management are a separate job from the job you do. It’s frustrating but true. Doing a job without learning the tools of career management means you are being complacent about your next job — you may do fine, but are unlikely to hit it out of the park. Here are four blind spots many of us have:
• Have no target — Most of us begin the job search by putting together our resume and looking on line for open job listings. There are two problems here: First, a resume is a selling tool, not a diagnostic tool. You craft your resume once you know what you want to do, so that you can highlight the experiences that are most relevant for that job. This is also true for internal promotion – if your resume is a list of mini-stories, then make sure you are sharing the ones that would position you well for the role you want. Second, on-line jobs: forget that most of them are listed for legal reasons and get filled internally. The bigger problem is that when we look at them, we subconsciously start to fit ourselves into them — most of us completely abandon our hopes and dreams, all for a kitchen soup job description that was written under pressure.
• Network without a message — The logical impulse is to think that networking is about getting to key people. It is indeed important to know the key decision makers who can make your next job happen. However, people can’t help you if they don’t know A) What you want and B) What you can contribute in that job.
• By-pass friends and family — When I hung my shingle nine years ago, I bought a book on selling by Zig Ziglar (his real name!). In it he said that if you have a really great vacuum cleaner, why do you feel uncomfortable selling it to your friends and family? If it’s so great, wouldn’t you WANT them to have it? The same applies here. If you know you could do a job, define what it is and tell everyone you know. Positive messages are like batons in a relay race — people love to pass them along.
• Think it’s a done deal — This is the most heartbreaking of all. A month or two into a job search, someone will get a hot lead. Internal referral, great interview, enthusiastic follow up from the hiring team. In their excitement, the person ignores other leads, which makes them focus too much and get anxious about the hot lead. Then a few days of radio silence from the hiring team. The candidate begins to follow up too often and sound needy. They may even get resentful and feel betrayed because the connection had been so great. Eventually the candidate hears nothing or hears that the job went to an internal candidate. And a month is lost.
Here is a better recipe for avoiding these mistakes:
• Take the time to assess your strengths (Strengths Finder 2.0 is a good start), write down how those strengths contribute to the team, and really believe it. Even if you are just starting out, think about high-school and college examples. Use this knowledge to develop one or two job targets.
• Craft a message that tells people what you want and what contribution you could make to their organization. This is true at your current organization for a different or more senior job.
• Share this message with key people when you can get to them, but start with people who know and respect your work, and ask them who else you should be speaking to.
• Consider all leads as just one option. For job search, have 6-10 active leads. Yes, 6-10! For promotion, make sure you have a couple of options. Your boss may leave or get transferred, or someone else with more pull than your boss might get their candidate into the job you wanted.
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