Feature: Getting a Head Start on Success
The other day, I attended a career fair for experienced professionals in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. To qualify for admittance, a person had to have an undergraduate degree or higher in the life sciences and at least three years of work experience. With admission requirements at that level, the 40 employers that exhibited at the fair undoubtedly expected to see a group of candidates who understood how the job market worked and knew how to compete as professionals for their openings
Based on what I saw among the crowd of attendees, however, I suspect many of those employers were disappointed. Standing in line, waiting for admittance to the fair, were job seekers who:
Yeah right. Which alternative universe did these people come from?
Finding a job-at least one that pays more than the minimum wage-is the equivalent of running a race with everyone else in the job market in your career field. It’s one of the most competitive situations you will ever face, and only one person per opening can win. There are no ribbons for those who come in second, third or fourth.
On top of that, the playing field-especially for the best jobs-is getting more crowded. More often than not, hundreds, sometimes even thousands of other people want exactly the same job you want, and they are as determined as you (and maybe more) to get it. If you are anything other than your very best, therefore, you don’t stand a chance.
But, what does being at your best mean? I think it involves positioning yourself effectively with employers. It’s giving yourself a head start in the race for your dream job by paying attention to the following five factors:
Qualifications are evidence that you can do a job; perfect qualifications are evidence that you can do the job better than anyone else. From a recruiter’s perspective, a perfectly qualified candidate is one who exhibits three attributes: state-of-the-art skills in their field, the wisdom necessary to apply those skills effectively in the workplace, and an outlook or personality that will enable them to optimize their contribution to the employer. The key to winning the job you want, therefore, is to present your qualifications in a way that brings you as close to perfection as possible: address all three areas and be at the top of your game in each one.
Every interaction with an employer’s representatives-whether it’s a formal interview with a hiring manager or a brief conversation with a recruiter at a career fair-is serious business. No matter how casual or inconsequential a situation may seem, they expect you to treat it (and them) with both gravity and respect. It is all part of the screening they do to determine the best single candidate for an open job. And to them, each interaction is a win or go home kind of contest. Either a candidate looks and acts like a winner or they’re a loser and can look somewhere else for employment. If you want to stay competitive for the best opportunities, therefore, be professional in your appearance and your conduct all of the time.
Recruiters and hiring managers typically speak to a fairly large number of candidates for each opening, and one factor, more than any other, determines who stands out: preparation. If you are going to attend a career fair, call the company that’s organizing it and ask what employers will be exhibiting; if you’ve been invited for an interview, call the employer and ask for the names of the people who will be interviewing you. Then, do your homework on the Web; use sites such as Hoovers Online and ZoomInfo to find out as much as you can about the individuals and/or organizations. Doing your homework gives you several advantages: it provides the information you need to build rapport with the people you’ll meet and to get more out of your interviews by being able to ask questions that are useful to you; and it enables you to create a good first impression by demonstrating the effort you make in preparation.
Landing a job-especially a great job-is an exercise in selling yourself. That doesn’t mean you should adopt an alternative persona or reshape yourself to match the profile of some employer’s dream candidate. You must, of course, be yourself. In addition, however, remember that recruiters and hiring managers are people, and people normally like to work with others whom they find interesting and pleasant to be around. So, be polite, be focused (turn off your cell phone and any part of your brain that’s working on something else), and treat every person you meet to the best side of your personality. In short, make it your job to help them get to know you.
Mount a credible case on your behalf. Wanting a position more than anyone else does not make you the best candidate, at least from an employer’s perspective. They want to know the answer to WIIFT-what’s in it for them? What will you be able to do for the organization and how well can you do it? To make your case, you must articulate your strengths and success in applying those strengths on-the-job and then prove those assertions by detailing specific illustrative achievements from previous jobs. It’s an exercise in persuasion in multiple venues: you must make your case on your resume, in your interviews, and during every other interaction with prospective employers.
The conventional wisdom describes job search as an exercise in “finding a job.” It’s not. There’s no hide and seek about it. A job search is a contest with everyone else in the job market. That means you have only two possible outcomes: you can either win or you can lose your dream job. To make sure you come in first, position yourself for success: focus on the factors that will give you a head start.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. Don’t keep WEDDLE’s to yourself. If you like our newsletter, please tell your friends and colleagues about it. They’ll appreciate your thinking of them. And, we will too!
Section Two: Site News You Can Use
Business 2.0 published its tips for road warriors. Among the suggestions, bet on the come when it comes to achieving elite status. In other words, if you know that you’ll be accruing 10,000 miles in the air on upcoming business trips, contact your airline and see if they’ll grant you whatever elite Frequent Flyer status you may qualify for in advance. Most airlines don’t publicize this perk, but it is available. For more information, see the Flyer Talk Bulletin Boards. Whether you’re upgrading to first class or not, however, you will probably be sitting in an airport at some point cooling your heels. One way to make the time as productive as possible is to find the nearest Wi-Fi access point and log on. It’s a tough choice I know-given all of the other fun options you have in an airport-but if that’s what you decide to do, JiWire.com and WiFinder.com can help you out. Each lists thousands of free and fee-based Wi-Fi connection points in airports, barber shops, and coffee shops around the world.
HR Magazine, a publication of the Society for Human Resource Management, published its list of the top 25 questions you should ask during an interview. They include:
There are two important ideas behind this list. First, the most effective interview is one that serves your information needs as well as those of the employer. In fact, most interviewers will evaluate you more highly if you politely ask good questions about the organization and what it’s like to work there. Second, the number one reason that people don’t work out in a new company is not that they can’t do the work, but that they don’t fit in. So, focus the questions that you do ask on determining if the culture and leadership style of the organization is one in which you will feel comfortable and can succeed.
Staffing Industry Analysts, Inc. published data on the length of time you can expect to be employed if you take a job as a temporary worker. According to the 2006 Staffing Buyers Survey, the popular notion that temporary work tends to be short and episodic is just flat wrong. The following are the lengths of typical work assignments by industry:
While temporary work is, by definition, not permanent, neither is allegedly permanent work, at least in some industries and companies. What’s the bottom line? If you’re in transition, think about accepting temporary work; it can give you a relatively lengthy time to prove your mettle with an employer and/or earn some income while you look for your dream job elsewhere.
The Times of London reported that the Japanese government has taken retirement planning to a whole new level. Apparently, many Japanese gangsters are nearing an age when they want to hang up their guns and garrotes, so the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has drafted a set of rules for those gambling, loan sharking and protection workers wishing to qualify for retirement benefits. Since organized crime leaves no paper trail, however, “retiring mobsters” (now, there’s an oxymoron) must supply a letter of retirement from their crime boss and, if that’s not available, be able to show gang tattoos, criminal records and missing finger tips. Who says crime doesn’t pay?
Two researchers from the University of Michigan and Stanford University, Fiona Lee and Larissa Tiedens, found that practicing what you preach pays off. For years, CEOs have been exhorting employees to make sure they understand how their work contributes to the enterprise’s success. In other words, employees are in control of what happens and they must make sure that what happens benefits the organization. In marked contrast to that sermon, however, more and more CEOs are adopting the Ken Lay defense when things go bad-“it was all beyond my knowledge and control.” They might have been able to get away with such behavior in the past, but with today’s more savvy investors, it costs the company real money. The academics found that a company’s stock price was higher one year later when its leaders blamed poor performance on controllable internal factors rather than on external ones. Saying the dog ate your homework may work in elementary school, but it apparently doesn’t hold much weight with investors.
Section Three: Site Profiles
Site Insite … how well do you know the Web’s 40,000+ job boards?
1. If you’re an experienced cosmetologist who wants to move to a larger salon, where could you go online to take the wrinkles out of your search for appropriate opportunities?
2. All of the news about Barbero and the Preakness has stoked your interest in working with horses. Which of the following sites would help you saddle up some good openings with local stables?
3. You’ve built a solid track record as a broker in a large financial services firm, but now want to work for a smaller employer. Which of the following sites would help you leverage your experience and quickly build a portfolio of openings?
Site Spotlite … from the pages of WEDDLE’s 2005/6 Guides and Directories
Post full time jobs: Yes
Post part time, contract or consulting jobs: Yes – All
Distribution of jobs: National-USA
Number of jobs: 10,000
Salary levels of jobs: $31-50K/yr, $51-75K/yr
Offer a job agent: Yes
Resume database: Yes
How long are resumes stored: Indefinitely
Restrictions on who can post: If registered
Other services for job seekers: Career information, Links to other sites with resources
Member, International Association of Employment Web Sites: No
Answers to Site Insite
1. All but BeautyPeople.com, the site of a dating service.
2. Only YardandGroom.com and Whinny.org; Groomsmen.com is the site of a store for the groomsmen at weddings and Stablemasters.com is the site of an educational company specializing in online degrees.
3. All but BetOnUS.com, an online gambling site.