Under normal circumstances, I’d receive a few requests a quarter for career advice. As of late, this has increased. Friends and colleagues, including their recently graduated children seeking guidance to find a job – those straight out of school or seasoned professionals starting a second act. My advice is similar in all cases and here it is for you. Hope that this is helpful.
Typically, the “ask” is “Do you know of any opportunities…anywhere?”. This is confusing, since I know these folks, and know that they wouldn’t take “any job, anywhere.” If you’re searching, you should be looking for a position that lets you utilize your training, experience and passion. For example, if you hate leaving your family, considering a job that requires 75% travel is a distraction. When your questions and searches aren’t targeted, it’s counterproductive.
You must first understand where you want to be: Define your target. You don’t need to peg the exact job, but you should narrow your search to the companies that align to what matters to you. Odds are, you already have an idea. Most likely there’s a reason behind that choice that is compelling to both you, and likely to a hiring manager.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Where can I make a difference?
- What does a day-in-the-life look like for the target role?
- How do my skills align?
- Where have I demonstrated those skills before?
After you’ve thought through these questions, start building your list. Create a spreadsheet to build a matrix of target employers, adding your criteria, i.e. compensation, culture, travel, training, equity, etc. Do the best you can to create, what would be, a full and meaningful work experience at this stage in your career.
As you’re doing research on these companies, one of the columns should be “How do I connect?” Work your network to see who you know that can put you in touch with someone at those companies – Not for getting an interview today, but so you can validate what you think you know. If you don’t know anyone, call a rep or someone in customer service and ask for a favor to pick their brain with prepared questions.
Once you have this information, you’re ready to engage with someone searching for talent. In a normal scenario, you may talk with a recruiter who will ask why you’re interested. Since you’ve done the hard work of targeting and researching the companies on your list, you now have a strong narrative of why you think you’d be a good fit, and what you could offer them. You can take this a step further by thinking about the obstacles and characteristics of someone in the role by recalling experience in your life where you have faced similar challenges, weaving that into your story, preferably with measurable metrics and objectives met or over-achieved.
If you’re able to execute these steps the outcome will be greater confidence as you’ve crafted a true story about your journey that is thoughtful, researched and compelling to those that will weigh in on a decision to hire you. I would also suggest that it improves your odds of landing a role that is a great fit for both you and the company.
Good luck and Good Selling!