Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tips for Job Seekers

I am consulting with an organization called Nexxt Phase, for women in career transition. We are in the process of redefining the vision of the group and determining ways we can help women achieve their career goals.

We put together a list of tips for job-seekers, with special focus on women returning the workforce. I thought I'd share them here.

• Your career effort should be a PUSH, not a PULL. This means you should avoid getting absorbed in trolling the Internet and applying for positions, which will give you a false sense that you are doing something productive. Instead, the focus should be on determining what you want to do, what organizations might hire you and finding contacts in those organizations. This is a marketing effort and the brand is YOU.
• Put all of your information on your resume. You want to manage expectations about you, and that means including pertinent dates such as when you graduated from college. Hiding your age will not prevent ageism and may backfire since employers could make an assumption that you are significantly younger than you are and be surprised when they meet you.
• Be opportunistic, prepared and strategic. Get out and attend things, consider everyone a potential lead. It is typically your secondary contacts—friend of a friend, etc.—that become the ultimate conduit to a new job.
• Know that there is no one perfect job that will fulfill all of your needs. Know what your skills and interests are and seek out positions that meet at least 2-3 of your key criteria.
• Define what you are looking for and ask your contacts for what you need from them. Be specific, give people a hook. The onus is on you to define your own needs. You will get a much higher response rate this way than asking “for any ideas you may have”.
• Just get started. Get off the fence and commit to something and take steps. It is very easy to postpone a decision until everything is well-defined, but that day may never come.
• Establish criteria, test and modify as you gain feedback.
• Package what you’ve done and what you are seeking in an effective elevator pitch. This pitch should put into 3-4 sentences, your background and what you are seeking in a job. It should be polished, confident and memorable. The elevator pitch is designed to catch someone at a random moment and provide them enough detail and impetus to be helpful to you.
• Show your strength in interviews. Remember: You are interviewing them too, it is very much a two-way street.
• If you are interested in creating a flexible work schedule, define what that means to you and package it as a win-win for both yourself and the organization. Don’t rule out positions that are full-time; once you’ve gotten beyond the preliminary interviews you can begin to investigate flexibility.
• Create a personal Board of Directors. This should include people who care about you, are willing to speak the truth and who have complementary and desirable skills.
• Never turn down a meeting, you never know what will come of it. Network by joining professional associations and support groups where you can expand your circle.
• Be okay with where you are right now; be positive. And take steps to move forward. This process requires patience, commitment and discipline.

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