The key to a successful job search is more often than not an exercise in unlearning a whole lot of bad habits.
As with any learned habits, these have come to you initially with good intentions.
The best of intentions actually. The first people we often go to for advice are those who already have jobs. Unfortunately, those are the very people who haven’t had to apply for a job for some time.
The very techniques that got them to their positions, particularly our parents, are techniques that don’t work today. It’s often hard to believe, but many of our forebears didn’t have to write a resume, have never applied online for a role, and thought that psychological testing was ever only for clinical cases!
So what are the seven successful steps to find your dream job?
1. Find out who you are and what your strengths are:
This may seem self-evident, but you never really know what your strengths are until you write them down. Look inside yourself first and foremost.
- What’s most important to you?
- What excites you?
- What keeps you up at night?
- If money or qualifications were not an issue, what would you like to do?
- What would keep you interested even if you weren’t paid to do it?
2. Explore who is willing to pay you for these unique talents:
Again, this is where the dreamer who stays in the clouds never sees the foot on the ground – and at those lofty heights, you won’t get running either. If we actually expect to be paid for our qualifications, talents, skills and dedication, let’s peer outside to see who actually wants them!
When you’ve found someone who loves you more than you love yourself, and is willing to pay you at the same time, then you’ve got real potential to succeed!
- List and target the places and employers you would really love to work for
- Talk to those people and show them what you can offer!
- Devise your own marketing plan about how to get their attention
- Research where the emerging roles are in the future
- Check the demand and supply equation to get an accurate figure of the amount you can ask for
3. Create winning signature documents that make you irresistible:
These include a cover letter, resume, a one-page flyer and business cards. Even though many employers are now using initial video and online question screening, you will ultimately need to have these signature documents ready to go. I call them signature documents because they need to represent who you are and your market readiness. With your resume:
- Have a career summary at the top of your resume if you have work experience relevant to the role (by the way, employers and recruiters scan these mighty fast!)
- Focus more on achievements (outputs), and less on responsibilities (inputs)
- If your employment history is more than ten years, draw the line there
- Make sure it looks consistent with a clean use of space in the design
- Have your referees (at least two) available on request
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- List date of birth, marital status, health status, number of children, religion, or your available days to work
- List hobbies and interests that are irrelevant to the role you are applying for
- Go more than 3 pages, less if you can do it
- Change the font style or heading sizes within the document
- Exclude a footer with your name and page number on every page (sometimes the employer will be printing dozens and lose the page sequence)
4. Contact the employer before sending your application:
The biggest mistake often happens at this step. You have the perfect resume, but know little about the role you are applying for. Contact the decision-maker for the role you are applying for. Use LinkedIn to find out more about them.
When I say the decision-maker, I am referring to the person who you would be reporting to. The biggest mistake job-seekers make is trying to contact the HR department. The HR department is trained to actually cut and dice job applicants down to size. In most cases, they are face-less and these days, trying to locate a direct line to them is like looking for a needle in a hay-stack! Go direct instead!
5. Make your first impressions count at the interview:
If you’ve been invited to a video or face-to-face interview, you must do these things:
- Present in professional attire, and with neat grooming
- Make the first 30-seconds count (some research shows that they may have already made up their minds in that period)
- Remember, you’re being assessed the moment you walk in the door, not just during the interview
- Remember some simple techniques to learn the names of the panel members and do thank them for their time and interest in you
- Don’t be pressured into a salary figure if asked. Instead, give a range and do your research on the market rates for similar roles
- Practice your STAR answers to STAR questions. These questions involve:
The Situation or Task you were involved in
The Action you took
And the Results you obtained (and what you would do differently next time if the result wasn’t exactly what you were after).
This question style is often called behavioural interviewing and is based on the idea that past performance is the best predictor of future performance. The good news is that you can prepare in advance for these and a good place to find them is in your achievements in your resume.
6. Follow the recruiter or the employer up if you don’t hear back in a reasonable time:
It is perfectly professional if you do this without sounding desperate or pushy. A professional will want to know where they stand, particularly if the employer or recruiter has given an expected time-frame for a result.
Unfortunately, many employers and recruiters have many competing demands placed upon them, but really, there is no excuse for them to not let you know where they are at in the process.
7. Negotiate your worth and value when an offer is made to you:
When you receive a firm offer, it is often made subject to referee checks. At this stage, you need to contact your referees and outline the kind of role you have applied for. You can then hand over their details for a telephone check. Written references are things of the past, and many employers will not read them because, after all, who will pass on a bad written reference?
Ensure you know what your value and potential contributions to the employer will be so that you are in the best negotiating position. Even a new graduate should not accept a role offered below the market rate.
So your dream job is now at your feet ready for you to take the next journey in your career.
Make sure you know what is expected of you in the first 90 days and do the best you can.
Your employment branding and reputation is only as good as your last role, so ensure you live up to the expectations you have claimed about yourself throughout the job-seeking process.
And last, but not least, have fun! Do take the job seriously, but don’t take yourself so seriously, that you have no time to enjoy it. Leave your ego behind, and with the best intentions, know how to work with others and in a team environment.
Your technical skills will evolve and change throughout your career. Learn and develop continually. But your people skills will be honed over a lifetime.
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