If you are searching for a job, you are likely focused on jobs that will embrace your marketable skills.
But, you also have another job: you have to learn to market your skills.
There is both art and technique to an effective job search. The art refers to the big picture. What do you really want to do in your career? What does your career mean to you? Does it mean the label given to your career? the activities you are doing in your job? the work situation you are in such as corporate, small business, or entrepreneurial? how much you work? how much money you make? where you live? Perhaps most importantly, does it mean that that the job defines a big part of your identity?
These are giant and complex questions that are very hard to grapple with alone. Nonetheless, these questions have to be addressed in order to effectively craft a job search strategy.
For example, declaring that you want to have a job in “business” means almost nothing in terms of creating a defined plan for a job search. Even saying that you want to be in something more specific such as “marketing” does not answer the full question. Marketing might mean working in a large New York advertising agency or it might mean working in a three person boutique in Madison, Connecticut.
The technique of job search is far easier to understand. You need to master the essentials of networking, applying, resume creation, interviewing, and follow-up. You need each of these job seeking skills in order to secure your next job. For that reason, you absolutely need to be expert at each aspect of the job search in order to compete in a demanding marketplace.
We help our clients with both the art and the technique of job search.
How We Can Help You In Your Job Search
There are primarily three areas of actual job search help where career counseling can be useful:
1.) Strategic positioning: advising you as the job seeker on how to best market your skills and experiences to fit what specific employers are seeking
2.) Tactical abilities: training to present effective resumes and cover letters; appropriately following-up; networking; and interviewing
While many of job searching clients are Connecticut college students or recent college graduates who are living in Connecticut, there are plenty of older adults who come to us for career counseling advice to help them create a good resume.
There is no doubt that having a badly presented resume can sink your chances for employment.
But, in our experience, having great formatting on your resume will not effectively land you a job unless you have carefully considered how to craft a customized resume that illustrates that you know how to create value for your would-be employer.
For example, we were recently working with a Connecticut College senior who came to us with the standard request to help with her resume. Her resume was not the problem with her job search. Based on the information that was contained within her resume, we only needed to tweak the resume to make it perfect.
The problem was that there was a mismatch between her strategic positioning of jobs she hoped to obtain and what she had presented on her resume. Specifically, she knew she wanted a job “in business” but she had no real idea of what specific area of interest suited her. Her resume’s objective: “to obtain an entry-level job with a growing business” demonstrated her lack of business savvy. The manner in which she presented her previous jobs and activities provided neither a clear cut view of how she could help a business nor how she wanted to help a business.
That she had applied to “hundreds of jobs” and had no response was a mystery to her since she had good grades. She blamed her lack of job search success on the fact that she had majored in English while at Conn College. While liberal arts majors are not optimal for many business jobs, writing and communicating effectively are desirable skills for many business positions. In addition, Conn College is an excellent college. Getting good grades from a strong college is a big asset for any job search.
Through discussion, we discovered that she had many experiences that clearly suited her for marketing. For example, she had listed on her resume that she had “led fundraising efforts” for one of her activities. But, she had not mentioned that she had created several effective print advertisements that generated thousands of dollars in donations. In her first resume, she noted that she had “handled various tasks” at a local real estate agency. But, she had not mentioned that one of those tasks was submitting descriptions of various properties that were listed in real estate magazines. Anyone who has ever house-hunted knows that making the description of a typical 3 bedroom house into something that will entice buyers to visit is excellent marketing training.
We rewrote her resume to focus on her new objective of finding an entry-level marketing job. She had her first job bites several weeks later and now is happily employed in a marketing job in New Haven, Connecticut.
In addition, most recent college graduates have limited interviewing skills. They have little idea how good interview skills can make careers. Years ago, one of our first career counseling clients met with us. He had everything on paper. He attended Yale University. His grades were excellent. He majored in economics. He had plenty of interviews. This was during boom times on Wall Street. So, he expected to waltz into a high paying job. But, other than perfunctory rejections, he never heard back after dozens of interviews. He saw his friends receive multiple offers. He heard of his friends from less prestigious colleges in Connecticut also receive offers from places where he had interviewed. As he noted, he did not have to be a great detective to know that his interview skills were the issue.
When I spoke with him over the phone to set up a career counseling interview, he came across as a soft-spoken, nice guy. So, he was not hurting himself by being abrasive or obnoxious.
When we met for our career counseling session, he opened the door to our office. The first problem was apparent. He did not make eye contact when he entered. His next problem was that he did not say his name when he was introduced, a common issue among young adults. His handshake was weak and he did not make eye contact when we shook – problems 3 and 4. He sat down quickly, prior to being motioned to do so and prior to me. At that point, I lost track of the number of non-verbal problems he had as an interviewee.
If you can picture the scene, we were no more than 60 seconds into an interview. He had created a bad first impression. That, in and of itself, would be enough to sink him in interviews at highly competitive institutions. As the interview went on, there were numerous other non-verbal problem areas. He fidgeted. He would spin a pen in his hand while I spoke. He slouched. His eyes would dart away when we made eye contact.
Fortunately, all of these issues could be corrected and so went through the list one by one until he fully understood what he was doing and how he could correct his interview flaws.
He was amazed that he was so unaware of these issues. In retrospect, he, as other clients have subsequently done, wondered why his family and friends never pointed these things out to him. I asked rhetorically, “have any of your family members or friends ever interviewed you?” Of course, not. Like many people, his nervousness was the cause of most of his issues. In social situations, particularly with those he knew well, he did not have these issues. When he was finally comfortable, most of his tics stopped. And, when he was aware of what he should do, he was able to change his interview behavior. He landed a job after his next interview.
One of my favorite success stories of the last year involved a student I knew from years past. I run The Learning Consultants, www.learningconsultantsgroup.com and knew her from her days as an SAT student. “Meghan” had a bubbly, engaging personality from what I remembered. Now, she was 23 years old and having no luck getting a job even though she was getting interviews. She called me and told me that her interviews were causing problems. I was really surprised. Meghan came to our office for a role playing job interview. She was the same upbeat and relaxed person when we greeted each other and spent a few minutes catching up on our lives. We then engaged in our mock interview. Meghan changed. She went from relaxed to tense. Her body language became unnaturally tight. Her answers sounded like a high school student who spent time memorizing a speech. Her smile disappeared. After about 10 minutes, I stopped. “Where did Meghan go?” I asked. She knew what I meant. We then spent time discussing how she became “Interview Meghan” and the reasons for doing so. These ranged from standard nervousness to a long standing insecurity about being taken seriously since she was known as the funny and goofy one by her friends. She thought she had to be someone else. But, regular Meghan was better! She understood. She, too, was hired after her next interview.