If you’ve ever spent time around a small child, you know that one of their favorite questions is a simple little word that can stop a grown up in their tracks. “Why?” Why is the sky blue? Why do the lights come on when I flick this switch? Why does the car move when you step on the gas pedal? Why? Why? Why? Kids want to know and understand everything around them. They want to be masters of their own universes.
When it comes to our careers, maybe we could learn a thing or two from that insatiable curiosity. Putting in the effort of asking questions and then seeking out answers is the surest way to become the master of your own professional destiny.
How do you do that without driving everyone around you to the brink of insanity? Read. A lot. Get your hands on as much quality material about your target profession as you can. Keep a notebook, electronic or paper, and record the interesting things you learn. You never know when a bit of information gleaned from a book or article you’ve read will be the one piece of information that will help you in an interview, solve a problem, or open an unexpected door.
If you already know where to find publications suited to your quest, great! If you don’t, no need to panic. You could start at your local library. Librarians are amazing resources and may know just the right book, magazine, or professional reading material to get you started. If not, they’ll at least know where in the library to find what you need.
If you’re more of the go-it-alone type, check out a site like Amazon. Or find someone in your field who is on Twitter. See who they follow, and then you can follow the ones who share the most helpful content.
There is no shortage of reading material out there. If you want to be more than a cog in the machinery of your career, start investing in yourself and see what kinds of dividends you will reap. In the words of author Anthony J. D’Angelo, “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.”
In the West we tend to devalue process in favor of results, while in the East, process is still given its due. Think of the beauty, thought and care brought to a Japanese tea ceremony. The ceremony itself can last up to four hours, while the actual drinking of tea is only a small portion of the event, which happens near the end of the ceremony. Every part of the day, from beginning to end, has meaning and is included on purpose.
Too often in our culture the finished product is the thing that receives all the praise. It’s easy to overlook all the work that is required beforehand: the idea, the planning, and the set up. In reality, a good deal more effort is usually put forth in the behind the scenes work than in the actual end product.
When it comes to career development and the job search we often spend hours researching and choosing the right fonts for our resumes, picking the perfect picture for our LinkedIn profiles or fussing over formats. We pay a lot of attention to that finished product.
Do things like pictures and formats matter? Of course they do; the Japanese tea ceremony wouldn’t be much of a ceremony if they never got to drink the tea. But if you haven’t done the underlying work to create a captivating message, all the presentation tweaking in the world won’t help to make the right impression to move your career forward.
So spend just as much, if not more, time honing your message. Be purposeful as you create your 10 second elevator pitch. Boil it down from there to a unique branding statement. Know who you are professionally and what you can offer. What problems can you can solve for a potential employer? Figure that out and write it down.
Once you have the background work done, it will be time to work on the finished product of your resume, profile and letters. Then… go enjoy a nice cup of tea.
Are you making these mistakes in your job search? Chances are, you’re making at least one or two. See which mistakes you’re currently making — and then follow the suggestions to learn how to stop making that mistake!
Looking for a Job. Wait, I shouldn’t look for a job? Don’t just look for a job — look for a career. A calling. What are you meant to do? How can you use your skills, education, and experience for maximum benefit? You may not see that position advertised in a job posting. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. What kinds of problems could you solve for a company? What kind of company needs those problems solved? Investigate how you could solve that problem for that kind of company.
Not Targeting Your Job Search. What kinds of jobs are you interested in? What kind of company do you want to work for? If your answer is, “I don’t care, I just need a job,” your job search is less likely to be successful than if you spend some time thinking about where you want to work, and what you want to do (and how to get there!).
Not Making It Easy for an Employer to See How You’d Fit In. Generic résumés don’t attract employer attention. Instead, you need to show an employer how you can add value to their company. You need to customize your tool for the job. You wouldn’t use a hammer to tighten a screw, would you? You can’t use the same résumé to apply for vastly different jobs — for example, an elementary teaching position and a job as a sales assistant. Figure out what the key components of the job are, and then showcase how you can do those things in your résumé.
Quitting Your Job Instead of Keeping It While You Find a Better One. Maybe your Mom gave you this advice: “Don’t quit your job until you have a new one.” Mom was onto something. It’s controversial, but hiring managers and recruiters confirm that it’s easier to find a job if you’re currently employed. Jobseekers who have a job are more attractive candidates. Maybe it’s because unemployment can make you (seem) desperate. But study after study shows that currently employed candidates are hired more frequently than unemployed jobseekers … it’s especially tough if you have been out of work for quite some time.
Confusing Activity With Action. Are you confusing “busywork” with progress? Are you spending a lot of time researching jobs online and applying for lots of positions? While it’s recommended that you spend at least an hour a day on your job search if you are currently employed (and two to three times that if you are currently unemployed), make sure you are tracking how much time you are spending, and what you are spending it on. Spend your time on high value tasks — like identifying and researching companies you’d like to work for, and trying to connect directly with hiring managers and recruiters, and having coffee with someone who works for the company you’re applying at — and not just simply spending time in front of your computer.
Even if you’re not currently looking for a new job, a periodic check of your digital footprint is a must. Think of it like a Spring/Fall cleaning your internet house. If you don’t keep up with it a couple of times a year the job can quickly become untenable. Below are some quick tips to get you started.
- Google yourself. Think like a hiring manager or recruiter and conduct a Google search for your name. You may need to conduct a couple of searches using different variations of your name (First Name/Last Name, First Name/Middle Name/Last Name, First Name/Middle Initial/Last Name) to see what comes up.
- Review your current social media profiles for any potentially objectionable content. Also determine if any profile information is missing, or if there’s anything you can add. (For example, you can add a link to your blog in your LinkedIn profile.)
- Change the privacy settings for any religious or political posts. Delete any posts that show you engaging in anything that a prospective employer may find offensive or inappropriate.
- Use the Reach™ Online ID Calculator™ to assess your online presence. You can find the tool here: http://www.onlineidcalculator.com/index.php
- See if there are any gaps in your social media presence — are there websites that are standard for your industry that you should be on (for example, an Instagram account if you’re a photographer)?