How to prepare for a job hunt
Taking a couple of weeks out for a summer holiday can help you take stock of your career. If you’ve been thinking for a while that it was time to make a move – either towards a promotion or even towards a career change – make sure that you get all your ducks in a row before you start a serious job search.
Here are some of the things you need to get in order for a successful job search:
A good story
If you’re going for a promotion or a career change, make sure that the narrative on your CV ties everything together and supports your application. Does it tell the story you want? Does it show an upwards progression in achievements and responsibilities, or create a coherent, relevant account from what otherwise could look like a random collection of career facts?
Get your story right before you start making any applications. Get used to seeing yourself and your career through a prospective employer’s eyes – and practise talking about yourself in such a way that will sound clear, straightforward and convincing.
People who can vouch for you
At some point in the application process, an employer will want external validation that you are the person you say you are. Start thinking now about who would be a good referee. You don’t need to include these details on your CV, but it’s helpful to have your referees primed to confirm your strengths for after you’ve attended an interview. Let your referees know about your career plans, and if necessary, ask them to concentrate on particular aspects of your career history.
Be prepared for “social reference checks” too – those informal checks that an HR person might do of your name on Google, or social media. Do you come across as professional, an expert in your field, or someone that takes part in industry conversations? Start working on your public profile as soon as you can.
A functioning network
Your network consists of anyone you know (in a professional or personal capacity) that you would help out if asked. Turned on its head, it also means the people who can help you – either because they can put you in touch with other people, or because they know of jobs going at a company where you’d like to work, or because they are “in the know” in a different way. Perhaps they know about a particular sector, or have done business with you, or can put in a good word for you somewhere…
It’s all too easy to dismiss the concept of networking because you assume it means standing around at formal networking events feeling uncomfortable. In reality, anytime you get into conversation with someone (informally or formally) you’re networking. Meeting people is a great opportunity to find out where your paths cross.
Get in touch with people – and then maintain these relationships – before you need to ask favours.
A sense of your own mission
Forget the company mission for now – what do you want out of your career or your next job? How does such a job correlate to your values and career interests – and where do these dovetail with an employer’s?
True – a company is less interested in what you want than in what they need from their next hire. But if you can talk intelligently about how you fit in and where your interests merge, you’re more likely to come across as a person who a) does their research, and – as importantly – b) someone who knows why they want to work at that particular organisation. You’re a better bet because you want to work there – not anywhere else – and you’re therefore less likely to be flaky, uncommitted, or a flight risk.
A skills audit
Don’t over or under-estimate yourself. Do you have what it takes to do the job? Are you up-to-date with the skills you’ll need for the job and can you give examples of your abilities? Have you got any “must-have” qualifications? Are you plugging any gaps in your knowledge or experience, either through training or through your own projects?
Make sure you’re keeping current with standard industry requirements and that you’ve got your eye on what’s lihely to be happening around the corner.
More tips – plus the nitty-gritty details you’ll need for a successful job search – are in my new book published by Haynes: Job Hunting Handbook: The step-by-step guide to finding a job
– the strategies you need to write a compelling CV and cover letter (plus sample layouts for different career situations, and examples of the power of words to make you stand out)
– how to network efficiently online and offline (how to build and nurture contacts and use social media to your advantage)
– how to work out your values, skills and talents (plus how to assess if a job is the right fit for you)
– what it means to have a winning mindset and not letting obstacles get in your way
Plus: interviewing scenarios and question-answering techniques; cracking the hidden jobs market; assessment centres; and resigning with style.