Sunday, February 28, 2010

Get hired in the competitive job market


One of the most important decisions you will make in your adult life is choosing a job that meets your interests and expectations. You need to know what you like to do, what your interests are and what skills and knowledge you have. The art of finding a job is knowing how to sell yourself by using what you have to your best advantage.
During the last decade, the job market has changed radically. On one hand, people are not content to stick to a job for a long time and are moving around from job to job. On the other hand, organizations are always reengineering and as a consequence there are more people being laid off. By now, most of us realize that a cradle-to-grave job is out the window along with regular raises. Approximately one quarter to one third of all jobs are in transition. The average worker can expect to change jobs six to ten times and careers two to four times. It seems that jobs are disappearing faster than new jobs are being created. There may be a shortage of jobs, but there is always an abundance of work to be done and therefore lots of opportunities. Although the unemployment rate is relatively high, there is still plenty of opportunities for people with the right attitude, entrepreneurial spirit and the willingness to contribute to get hired. If your job isn't giving you the satisfaction you are looking for, it's time to invest a few hours reflecting on what would bring you more fulfillment. Even if you are comfortable with your work, when an opportunity presents itself you could still move on to do something even more interesting and challenging. Look for opportunities and take them as they arise.
In planning your career, you need to have a clear idea of the sort of job you would like to do. Do you like to use your hands to make things? Are you a self-starter with lots of initiatives and enterpreneurial spirit? Do you like to work with people? Do you like investigative work and to deliver high quality products? Whatever your preference, you need to know it. If you have difficulty in making decisions about your career choice, talk to a friend, spouse, mentor or career counselor. Find out what the growth industries are out there. Presently, there is a great demand for nurses and post traumatic stress counselors in North America. Technology and computer companies are still growing and hiring. If you are interested in a career in technology for example, use every opportunity to build a foundation to make your way in the technology-infused world.
Set realistic targets and work toward them with a positive attitude, discipline and enthusiasm. As you get to know more about your job and gain experience, you can begin to plan further ahead. In your early years, you must be prepared to move around to learn and gain experience, as well as to take more than you think you can handle. Be prepared to change your plans if necessary and be flexible in your attitude. Gain confidence by doing your work, whatever it is, to the best of your ability and believe in yourself. Your perseverance in looking for the right job and determination to keep going until you achieve your goal will make the difference between finding a job or not.
More and more organizations are looking for the right people at the right time with the right skills and right culture fit. Nowadays, organizations are likely to base hiring decisions more on skills than on past job titles. Many technical skills become obsolete with progress in technology. Organizations of the future will need people with generalist skills. Employers are seeking people with the following generic skills:

· the ability to take responsibility;
· the ability to communicate and to manage information;
· the ability to learn continuously and think critically;
· the ability to solve problems analytically and make decisions;
· the ability to direct teams, motivate others and meet objectives;
· the ability to work on a team to plan and accomplish goals;
· the ability to design, plan, research and investigate;
· the ability to set priorities and meet deadlines;

Employers are seeking people with the following qualities:

· positive attitude;
· self-confidence;
· willingness to accept challenges;
· adaptability and flexibility;

In short it is very competitive out there and you need to sharpen your skills, competencies and qualities to market yourself and get hired. It is important that you ask yourself if you are achieving the goals you really want and if you are doing the things necessary to become your best in your chosen profession. Self-analysis is needed on a regular basis to evaluate whether your performance and skills measure up to your own standard and the organization's needs. The core competencies that are always in demand include such skills as leadership, communication, problem-solving, analytical and strategic thinking, negotiating, planning and organizing. Being competent is more than simply acquiring a skill, knowledge or experience, it is using and applying them in your workplace to your advantage in order to meet your business needs. You have to develop the creative thinking ability to see the desired goal and plot a course to get from here to there. Strength in these core competencies gives you an edge over competitors and makes you a desirable asset for any organization.
Before you can gain experience and have a chance to contribute in a job, you have to get one first. This takes time, energy and perseverance, but there are techniques and strategies that can give you a head start. The following list of suggestions may be useful if you are looking for a job.

1. Set your job targets. Determine and specify what types of jobs you want and the salary you expect to earn. List your most important job target criteria: what you need and what you want. Be realistic and stay flexible. Formulate your job targets to take advantage of your skills, past experience and qualities.
2. Have an action plan. Make a list of companies you are interested in and any other potential employers. Make a list of contacts and network effectively. Establish a job search routine. Make a schedule of tasks: phoning contacts to establish leads only, not to ask for jobs.
3. Track down job leads. Track down all job leads that are of interest to you or have potential. The more obvious ones are: career section in newspapers, magazines, personnel agencies and recruiters. The best sources of job leads are friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues and relatives.
4. Prepare yourself well. Research the field and companies you are targeting thoroughly using libraries and other available resources. Classify your job target criteria into requirement and preference. Prepare and update your résumé. Practise your job hunting techniques with the companies at the bottom of your preference list. This gives you an opportunity to sharpen your skills on the job leads that you are least interested in. If you succeed in getting a job right away, you may consider it as a temporary job until you get a better one.
5. Focus your effort on your best prospects. Customize your résumé for the job leads that interest you most. Make it appealing to your potential employers by showing you in the best possible light. Ask a competent person to evaluate it for objectivity. Emphasize your education, strengths, accomplishments and work experience that you anticipate they are looking for. Find out who is the person who has the authority to make you an offer. Send your résumé directly to him or her with a copy to the personnel manager. Get as many interviews as you can.
6. Develop the ability to sell yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses. A positive attitude, enthusiasm and resourcefulness are good selling points in the job stakes. Relate your qualifications, experience, skills and qualities to the needs and relevance of your potential employers. Put yourself in the shoes of the employer looking to fill a job.
7. Prepare yourself for the interviews. Research and learn as much about your potential employers including their products and services, their strengths and weaknesses, and their needs and expectations. Prepare yourself for interviews by rehearsing some specific questions you are likely to be asked. Anticipate the needs of your potential employer and be prepared to relate your strengths, skills, accomplishments and experience to their needs and expectations. Have a list of carefully chosen references available if asked.
8. Sell yourself at the interview. Win the interview performance by selling yourself. Create an immediate rapport and connection with the interviewer(s) by providing good first impressions like a firm handshake, making eye contact when speaking and listening, and appearing relaxed and confident. The easiest way to sell yourself is to convey your passion for what you do. Highlight your experience, skills, strengths and accomplishments that are important to the interviewer(s). Convince your interviewer(s) that you can and are willing to do the job, and can fit in with the company's organization and their corporate culture.
9. Believe in yourself. Whatever the outcome of the interview, have faith and confidence that you will get hired and achieve what you want. If you have a disappointment, try to keep up your morale and spirit. Ask for some constructive feedback and keep going. Never give up. There is nothing to it but to do it, one contact at a time, one interview at a time. If you are made an offer, negotiate for your needs and requirements, again be reasonable and flexible. Accept or refuse any offer gracefully and respectfully in writing. Do not burn any bridges.

Looking for a job is a tough and stressful commitment. To be successful in today's competitive job market, you need to think of yourself as a small business owner who is offering your core competencies and skills. Identify your potential employers and develop an effective business and marketing plan to sell your knowledge and services. Employers are seeking individuals who can be part of their solution and contribute their bottom line. You must be able to convince them that you can add value to their business. Look constantly for ways of matching your skills to solve the employer's problems. View yourself as a solution-oriented entrepreneur by stating clearly what you can do to assist each potential employer. Your success depends on your ability to understand the employer's wants and needs and convince him or her that you will be an asset who can fill the needs.
The advice outlined above has been used successfully in the past by myself and others. Depending on your own circumstances, you have to determine whether they are applicable to you and put them into practice accordingly. Incorporate some of the best job-hunting advice and suggestions in your own present or future job searching strategy. Good luck!

Extract from my book: Become your best.