If you are reading this, you are most likely a business leader. If you are a business leader who has worked for one organization for more than 10 years, you’ll want to continue reading. In fact, you may even want to take out your highlighter.
Statistics show that people between the ages of 18 and 38 change jobs an average of 10 times. Think back in your career. How many times have you made a job change? Now fast forward to now – when you are settled into your profession. How many times have you made a job change in the past few years? If you are like most people, you have probably not made many changes in this middle part of your career. Your needs have changed; perhaps your focus has been on growing within your corporation vs. exploring opportunities outside the organization. In any event, you probably have not kept up your job seeking skills – skills, I might add, you are not born with.
In order to advance within your field of choice, you must build leadership skills. You must have vision, a clear understanding of who you are. You must have clearly defined goals and objectives, solid communication skills, and the motivation to move forward. For today’s leader, however, there is one more skill to add to the list: Job Search Capability.
In today’s uncertain economy characterized by downsizing, outsourcing, job elimination, bailouts, and bankruptcies, many leaders who have heretofore enjoyed “job stability” now find themselves looking down the job search path. It seems no one is immune to receiving the dreaded pink slip, and when it arrives, most of these people are ill equipped to handle the daunting task of successfully finding a job. Can you relate?
Finding a job – no matter what your title – is a job.
The skills required to do this job (land a position that meets all your needs) are not necessarily intuitive. These skills are also not taught in colleges and universities. In order to transition effectively – and in today’s economy, this transition may very well be involuntary – you will need some basic skills in order to succeed.
What do these New Leadership Skills look like?
Leaders who successfully land in positions:
• Have the Ability To See Possibilities Despite Their Current Reality
Losing a job is tough. And it’s not unusual to get stopped by the initial shock of it all. But getting stuck in your current reality won’t get you anywhere. The people who are successful at getting jobs are able to move beyond the depression, the fear, the anxiety, the anger and all the other normal emotions that emerge when they lose their job and set their sights on what they will need to do each day. They are able to pick themselves up and move forward. They consider what is possible vs. dwelling on their current situations, and they take a more active approach to their job searches so they can start getting results. These people are not ignoring that the situation is grim, rather they are creating forward momentum by focusing on what they can control — their attitudes and their search activities.
• Know who they are
They know who they are at the very core, and they know what their strengths and weaknesses are. In today’s economy, more and more people are finding it necessary to change careers; to “recareer”, if you will. In order to do this, these job seekers have to explore what makes them tick. They have to look within and see how they are wired, what they are great at, and what they are not so great at. Many people in job transition complete a personal SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis to discover what sorts of careers make sense for them. They aren’t afraid to admit that there are behaviors that could be keeping them from reaching their goals because they know that once they recognize and identify a weakness, they can begin to work on it. These people also take a hard look at their last position, identifying what was working (and what wasn’t) so they can design the next position so it will meet all of their needs. Successfully landing a job for these leaders is not just about paying the bills. Rather, it is a quest to find a position that is truly a reflection of who they are. Successful job hunters are humble too. They aren’t afraid to ask people for their help in their search. They realize that they will land a somewhere more quickly by tapping into their network rather than going it alone.
• Develop a search plan and work their plan
They know what they need to do each day. Looking for a position requires a diversified strategy: using the Internet, working with recruiters, going to job fairs, conferences, networking events, etc. Successful job seekers map out the daily activities that need to happen, and they discipline themselves to make these things happen. They spend 5 or more hours per day involved in search activities. They figure out where to market themselves. They develop call plans, determine who to talk with, and schedule meetings with the people who can help them move their search forward. And they frequently reflect back on their activities; analyzing their results. What’s working? What’s not working? Then, they make necessary adjustments.
• Use technology to their advantage
I call it “Techno-Awareness”: you don’t have to be technologically advanced to be aware of the technologies necessary to conduct an effective search. Successful job seekers aren’t afraid to use technology, and if they don’t have such skills they build them. If you are over 40, and you have not looked for a job in the last 15 years, you may not know about many resources now available to you with just a click of the mouse. From conducting Internet research on firms you’d like to work for, to online networking, to learning about resume writing and interviewing, there are resources free for the asking if you just look for them. It’s no longer the norm to send a hard copy of your resume with a carefully written cover letter to a prospective employer. You will be expected to navigate a host of posting sites using a variety of formats. Your technology skills will make this task manageable.
• Communicate effectively in all forms
They present themselves well in person, on the phone, and in writing. Being able to communicate effectively both in written and verbal form is a leadership skill most people have already honed within the confines of their corporation. But what communication skills are necessary in the context of a search? It’s important to have a well written, accurate resume to present to potential employers. In addition to creating an effective resume, they proofread their cover letters, application forms, and email messages to ensure that all information is presented neatly and honestly. With respect to verbal communications: successful job seekers develop an effective presentation that gets them noticed. They practice their 30-second commercial so that when they meet a potential employer or a referral source, they are ready to share who they are and what they do in a positive, confident manner. And how do they find the people who can land them in a new job? They reach out. They tap into their network.
• Leave no stone unturned
They persist and tap into all resources. When it comes to looking for a job – especially in an economy like the one we are experiencing here in Southeastern Michigan – it’s vital that you tap into all possible resources. The most successful job seekers leave no stone unturned. When they hear “no” from an employer, they persist and ask who that employer can connect them with. They attend job fairs, association meetings, networking events. They contact their school’s alumni association; they join job search groups at their churches. They volunteer their time with community organizations in order to connect with people. They look online. They contact recruiters. They go to open houses and any number of other gatherings. They don’t stop. Each activity leads to another activity. Similarly, each contact leads to another contact. In the end, they know that it takes just one lead – just one contact – to say, “Yes, we’re interested in bringing you on board.”
So how do your skills stack up? Are there areas you need to work on? What would happen if you found out tomorrow that your position was being eliminated? What would you do? Are you equipped to land in a new position? Are you prepared to conduct an effective search? Or will you need to build your job search capability?
Not sure where to start? Consider engaging a coach; someone who can build your awareness and capability while effectively guiding you through the career transition process.