by: Ian McEwen
Now that you are committed to make a career change, the next step is to build a business plan to separate you from others vying for the job you want. Just like selling automobiles, you need to know the features, advantages, and benefits of your product. In this case, the product is you!
Take the time and clearly define who you are as well as what you do. “Who you are” is your personality profile. As an example: Do you perform better in a challenging or task oriented role, or do you prefer a more relaxed, contented environment? Do you like a structured or unstructured workplace? Are you comfortable with conflict? From a communications perspective, are you able to engage an audience immediately in a warm, friendly, sociable way? Or, do you build relationships over a longer term? If you are more analytical, you might prefer a culture that provides significant problem solving, compared to one where you are constantly learning new ideas. Do you accept responsibility easily and do you take ownership in most situations? How well do you handle stress? Try this exercise: Write down adjectives that describe your personality. Don’t stop at 10! Expand your list to at least 25 and be able to comment on each one.
Next, outline your professional skills that are backed-up by specific examples of your accomplishments. You should build an inventory of your credentials, and core skills – both professional and functional. Identifying your skills tells “what you do.” As an example, a General Manager of a dealership should be able to elaborate on team leadership, strategic planning, managing processes and systems, business development, and customer relations to a potential employer.
A third component to your strategic planning is to integrate a section that identifies your interests. People who are passionate about their industry, a product, or service will demonstrate this in an interview in an honest, meaningful, and unmistakable way. Your interests are a large part of what makes you unique.
Now you’re ready to tackle the outside world! Apart from scouring the newspaper want ads, and sending your resumé to every employment agency, we recommend a more targeted approach to job hunting.
Once you have established your core competencies, you can start building a prospecting list. Although skill sets are transferable across some industries, we recommend to our candidates to not colour outside the lines. Keep your prospecting relatively close to your experiences. Start by building industry verticals. As an example, we recently worked with a candidate whose background was in the automotive financial services sector. We developed a targeted prospecting list to include:
Using these verticals, the candidate listed specific companies to target and research. The exercise is to find out the current needs of the companies, the trends, current opportunities, plus obtaining the name of a contact inside each organization. The internet is a powerful and invaluable tool in this process.
This is only ½ of your networking list. To this list of ‘cold contacts’, you need to add people that already have an existing relationship with you – this is your ‘warm contacts’ list. Networking involves meeting and talking with people about your area of expertise and interest. It is a vital way of uncovering possible job vacancies. Don’t be afraid of picking up the phone and asking for a short meeting. The reality is it is impossible to live and work effectively without the help and support of others. People like to be positive and affirmative. They dislike being put in a negative posture of rejecting you.
Make sure you do your homework and prepare a little summary of the company and person on your referral appointment list. Your prospecting meetings are to present your credentials and to share information about the current job market. Since you are the one who requested the meeting, you have the responsibility to prepare an effective agenda. You want to find out how your interviewer sees you fitting into their industry or company.
Remember to be a good listener, and take notes. The more information you gather, the easier it is to activate and navigate through your strategy. At every contact point, establish good rapport, and present yourself in a friendly, organized, polite, and professional manner. Don’t be afraid to ask for additional referrals from other people who might be able to help you find something in your chosen field. If someone refers an associate to you, make sure you do a follow-up. And, always send a thank-you note. Your contact will appreciate it, and it will work in your favour if they learn of an opening down the road.
Remember, searching for a job is a full time job – Monday through Friday – 9 a.m. → 5 p.m. It takes discipline and commitment.
In our next article, we will discuss how to prepare for and conduct a ‘winning’ job interview.