By Ford R. Myers
President, Career Potential, LLC
This month, I will be delivering my ‘Job Seeker’s Tool Kit’ seminar TWICE. (See the October seminar schedule, below). I believe the demand for this presentation is so strong because it brings people ‘back to basics’ and provides specific, practical guidance on how to rapidly achieve greater career success.
Of course, when I mention the ‘Job Seeker’s Tool Kit,’ many people are thinking ‘Tool kit, what tool kit?’ I’ve got my resume and my cover letter; let’s just get out there and start interviewing!
The problem with this approach is that it simply doesn’t work – and I’m only interested in RESULTS! People need a portfolio full of high-quality career tools to do the right job, with the right person, at the right time, for the right purpose! Just as a carpenter wouldn’t show-up on the construction site with just a hammer; a job seeker shouldn’t show-up with just a resume. Different tasks during the process will call for different tools!
So let’s go through these tools again, one by one. I’ll break this down for folks so they don’t feel overwhelmed. (By the way, my Ultimate Career Guide is loaded with examples of each tool – plus the step-by-step instructions to make creating these as easy as possible! (Visit: www.ultimatecareerguide.com).
Here are the 10 essential elements that should be in every Job Seeker’s Tool Kit:
1. Written accomplishments. Write seven or 10 accomplishment stories about work-related tasks that made you proud. Describe the challenge or problem, your specific actions and the positive results you produced. These stories can be from any time in your career and any job you’ve had. These are usually examples of times when you ‘went above and beyond’ the scope of your job’s responsibilities.
2. Verbal presentations. Prepare and practice a ‘Positioning Statement’ (also known as a ’15 second commercial’) about who you are professionally, the industries you’ve served and the particular strengths you can contribute to a new employer. When you write it out, keep it brief and then memorize it so it will always be ‘on the tip of your tongue.’ You will also need a ‘Departure Statement,’ a pre-prepared explanation of why you are no longer with your previous employer, or why you are seeking a new position (even if you’re still working).
3. Professional biography. Write a one-page narrative of your career in the ‘third person’ – as though someone else wrote it about you. This is no time to be ‘shy,’ so make it sound impressive! This will be the primary tool you’ll use in all your networking. Somewhere in the middle of the document, create a ‘bullet list’ of the tangible results you have achieved (which are drawn directly from your ‘accomplishment stories.’)
4. Target company list. Make a ‘wish list’ of adjectives that would describe your ideal employer, such as size, location, industry, culture, values, environment, people, etc. Then research specific organizations that meet those criteria. Create separate folders for each of these companies and gather as much information as you can. Prepare a list of these organizations, categorized by industry. You will eventually network your way in to meet with the hiring managers (not Human Resources) at these companies!
5. Contact list. Compile a list of all the people you know personally and professionally. Yes, ALL of them. Include their names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Don’t edit the list or make any assumptions about who can or can’t help you. Remember that approximately 80% of new opportunities are secured through networking – and a very high percentage of those positions were discovered through people who were least expected to be of help! Your final list should number in the hundreds.
6. Professional references. List colleagues who would ‘sing your praises’ if asked about you. Contact each of them, and get approval to use their names on your list of references. Be sure to provide these individuals with guidance about what to say when prospective employers call. Also, ask these references to contact you immediately when prospective employers call them.
7. Letters of recommendation. Request letters from six to eight respected business associates, printed on their company letterhead (if they can’t or won’t use corporate letterhead, personal letterhead will suffice). These individuals could be superiors, subordinates, peers, suppliers, clients, etc. Try to ‘mix it up’ with individuals from various companies and in several different roles. Provide guidance as to what you would like them to write about you.
8. Networking agenda. People often find it difficult to get started with their networking because they feel nervous or afraid of making a mistake. The best way to avoid this problem is to learn the specific steps (the ‘agenda’) of a networking discussion – how it flows, what to expect, how to react to the other person’s comments, etc. In addition, it is smart to write-out a full script so you’ll know exactly what to say and how to say it. By preparing this networking script in advance, you’ll feel much more confident and productive in the process.
9. Tracking system. Keep a detailed record of your job-search activities, including phone calls, meeting notes, correspondence, and follow-up steps. This is vital for planning and assessing your performance week-to-week. Use pre-printed forms, folders, contact software and other means of staying organized. It’s all about improving your productivity week after week!
10. Resume. It’s the last on the list, but still indispensable. And, it has to be GREAT. Be sure the final resume is carefully-edited and succinct (no more than two pages), with a layout that is easy for the eye to follow. Include not just your roles and responsibilities in all your jobs, but also the outstanding achievements from those positions.
By integrating these elements into your job search – and not relying solely on your resume – you’ll add power, professionalism and flexibility to your efforts. It may take some time to produce these documents and to learn how to use them effectively – but it will be worth it. Building a satisfying career is much easier when you have the right tools!