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9 steps to the job of your choice

Looking for a new job, within or outside your present company?

Here are some recommendations which can significantly improve the odds of success.

  1. Pick your industry – lean towards those which are growing

  2. Decide what pace of work suits you

  3. Work in the core of the business

  4. Check job sites – best source for junior to mid-senior roles

  5. Reach out to your network in the target industry

  6. Message your trusted network – they can be good advisors

  7. Customize a job application to the targeted role

  8. Articulate your value in a resume – highlight accomplishments

  9. Write out an outline on how you will approach the job if selected

These also apply to job changes within a company. In that situation, look at the different divisions, geographies, groups of your existing company as independent businesses and approach them with the same process as when looking outside at other companies.

For individuals who have worked in one industry for a while, it's natural to extend their employment in the same industry. It is also accretive to their experience and learning and past work experience is given credit during the hiring process.

The juncture of a job change can also be a good time to look at industry choices with a clean slate.

Benchmark the current industry vs. others where your skills and experience can be applied. Are there are other industries with better learning and growth prospects? If there are, it's worth a serious consideration; more so if your current industry is or has been under growth pressure, as was telecommunications equipment in the 2000's, or the semiconductor, personal computer, and retail banking industries in the last some years.

There may be a short term loss in changing industries if full credit is not given for past work experience. That said, it still merits weighing the pros and cons of the current loss v s. the potential gain in the near future.

This is also relevant for younger workers who have yet to accumulate substantial industry exposure. In their situation, the key determining factor is their education background. If it is a specialized or trade education, e.g. finance, comp science, or graphics design then treat this as "past experience" and look for opportunities where credit and leverage is available for this education. However, even with a specialized education, pick industries which are healthier and profitable vs. those which are not so. With a financial education this could be working in a capital markets or insurance firm vs. a mortgage lender. With a comp science education this could be profitable internet enabled business vs. a PC products company.

In essence, treat a job search as ground zero. Assess where the most fertile opportunities lie and to which ones a substantial part of your experience and expertise can be applied productively. Assess the potential for gains in the near future with potential loss (if any) in the transition. If the potential gains prevail then the decision is easier, and in the event of a tie, the potential for future gain is still worth pursuing.

Decide what pace of work suits you

Each individual has a preference for the pace and intensity of work which he/she is willing to commit to. Some enjoy a 24x7 work schedule. Others may want a more structured 9- 5 x5.

The pace of work varies with industries and roles. For those seeking predictable work content and hours, the mature or regulated industries like education, pharmaceuticals, retail banking, or manufacturing industries are better options. For individuals craving for the more intense work schedules, newer age, fast growing, or less regulated companies e.g. internet enabled businesses, business consulting, and hedge funds are better alternatives.

Similarly, client facing roles like customer service or sales will call for more intense schedules and flexibility while those in the back office like procurement, HR, and finance may allow for more predictable work and schedules.

Since work pace and intensity can be a significant determinant of work – life balance, introspect, and make choices which align with your pace.

For younger workers we lean towards recommending the more intense industries and roles. At a juncture of their careers if they have fewer other commitments and high energy levels, this is an opportunity to put in the extra bit into learning and building good foundations for a career.

Work in the core of the business

While all job roles and functions in an industry are important, every industry has some roles which are especially critical to its success. Examples of this are R&D in pharmaceuticals, trading in capital markets, Subject matter expertise in consulting, sales in high value goods/services, and merchandizing/logistics in retail.

Since superior performance in these areas can differentiate a company's performance, these functions attract higher investments, training, and management attention. They also offer faster growth and learning opportunities for high performers.

When looking for a change, assess your skills and look to apply them to a core role in a company. If it is your current industry and role, then you are already in a good spot. If not, make a conscious attempt to explore a movement to an industry/role where your role will be closer to the core.

This is equally relevant to younger workers. When deciding where to work, aim for roles which are critical to the success of your future employer.

Check company job sites – best source for junior to mid-senior roles

Once you have identified the industry and target company(s), the job's page on the company website is the best place to check out open positions. In addition, a significant number of small through large companies are using social media to advertise jobs (21% according to a 2010 survey by Career Builder and the number would have significantly jumped since then).

Web resources like Monster and LinkedIn are very helpful for multi company job searches e.g. Position x in the consulting industry in New York.

If you find a job which fits your interest, apply for it.

Message to your network in the target industry

Reach out to your network which is in the industry/company/ trade which you are applying for a job in. This could be current and ex colleagues, professional recruitment firms, and social acquaintances in the target industries. This is a great way to supplement the web/public source research on companies and jobs.

Get the word out that you are looking for work, or a specific position in their company/industry/line of work. Ask for inputs on open positions which they know of, the culture and work environment of the company, and prospects for the job(s) which you are considering. These are people who live the roles or in the companies/industry you want to work for and a very rich source of experiential inputs. They can also offer insight into potential job opportunities which are not yet in public domain.

Reach out to your trusted network – they can be good advisors

Talk to professionals you trust and who have seen you in a job environment. Talk about your job search and specifically about how you see your professional abilities and accomplishments. Ask for feedback on how they see your strengths and accomplishments.

These can be very productive conversations to help refine your self-assessment and how to articulate it.

Customize a job application

In a short summary, bring out an understanding of the role, why you would be productive in it, if there are similar roles which you have done well in the past, and why you want to work in the position/company you are applying for. Keep it brief (less than a page). Treat it as an elevator pitch to attract attention to your candidature and get you invited for a discussion.

Articulate your value in a resume'

In the resume,' focus on articulating past job scope and accomplishments e.g. Worked with 2 Fortune 200 companies, specialized in apparel merchandizing, booked $x million in new order booking, brought in 3 new clients, completed 4 clinical trials in 5 years, set up 14 new stores in the Northeast. Hiring managers are looking for a specific job output from the role and look for similar accomplishment in past roles of candidates.

Preamble the resume with a short bulleted summary and highlight those accomplishments which are most relevant to the job which you are applying for and want seen first. This will catch attention.

Write out an outline on how you will approach the job if selected

The industry, company and role identification followed by the application process and articulation of your accomplishments relevant to the job are all steps to get to a conversation with a hiring manager. If you have got that far, congratulations. However, we still need to land the job.

The hiring manager wants to feel confident that the (you) candidate understands the role, and will be productive and committed on the job.

Go prepared with how you would approach the role if you get the job, and how your past experience supports your approach and chances of success.

  • What you see as the key success measures of the role.

  • Where do you see opportunities to perform well on the key success measures

  • How would you approach these opportunities, and in what timeline

  • What resources or company assistance you will require to ensure success

This gives the hiring manager a preview of how you would approach the job and an opportunity to share feedback where he/she feels differently about your plan. If what you have proposed resonates with him/her, it significantly improves the odds that you will be hired to implement it.

Happy hunting!


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