How do I find a new job? (2):


Developing SkillsTo get the job you really want, you have to pick your targets carefully. Taking a scattergun approach and applying for anything and everything that is vaguely relevant to your search is likely to be unproductive, if not completely frustrating. Just sending out applications randomly is doomed to failure. Your job search needs to be focused.

And remember, at every stage of the process, you will have to sell yourself to the hiring manager. They have a problem and it’s your job to convince them that you’re the perfect solution to that problem.

Every product, if it is to sell, must be the solution to a problem.

Also remember, if you’re to succeed in your search, you must be well prepared. You cannot leave anything to chance.

The aim for the second part this series is to focus on preparation.

This starts with taking stock of the skills you have and the skills required for the job you desire.

Tip 4: Skills audit

You need to be very clear about the skills you have now and the skills required for the job you really want. So make two lists, one for each.

For the job you want, you’ll probably have to do some research to ensure that you fully understand the skills required for the job. Certainly you need to have a fairly accurate knowledge of the skills requirements, if you’re going to able to sell yourself to a hiring manager in due course.

Once you have your lists, you’ll need to consider any skills gap that might exist between the two. If your own skills are better than an 80% match with the skills required for the job then you have a very good chance of success.

Most hiring managers will accept that leaving the candidate with a little ‘growing room’ in the job is not a bad thing. Providing the skills gap is not too great. As always Vilfredo Pareto’s 80/20 rule is a fair guide.

If you find that there is a significant skills gap, i.e. greater than 20%, then you have to decide how you can bridge that gap.

Perhaps you need to consider a lower level of entry, if that’s possible, where you can further develop your skills on the job whilst you gain more experience.

Alternatively, could the gap be plugged with some additional training?

You may have to pay for that training yourself but you need to think of that as an investment in you. As a hiring manager, I have always been impressed with individuals when it is clear that they have taken the initiative to develop their own skills through additional training or continuous professional development.

Another way to develop your skills and experience is through voluntary work.

The supply of voluntary organisations looking for skilled resources will always outstrip demand. As long as you’re a willing workhorse, they will usually accept skills gaps and let you learn as you participate in helping them achieve their aims.

You may have to get creative but you will need to ensure that any deficiency in your skillset is made up somehow.

Once you’re confident that you have the skills you will need, then the next step is to ensure that you have a good story to tell.

Tip 5: A quiver full of arrows

So you’re now confident that you have the skills you need but how do you convince a hiring manager that you have the skills or competencies required for the job?

If you’re being interviewed by me, I am not just going to accept anything you say at face value. As a hiring manager, I can tell you that I want to hear some examples of where you have used those skills successfully before.

For instance if you tell me that you’re a good a project manager, I’m thinking “well that’s what they all say”. I would never just accept your statement, as if it were fact. You have to back up your claims with examples of what you’ve done before. Hiring is a risky business, as I’ve said before, so I really do have to be convinced before you’ll get any job offer from me.

For every skill you claim to have, I expect you to give me an example of when and where you’ve used it before, describing in detail the steps you went through to produce the desired results. I want to know about the size of the project; your real contribution to it; the part you played in making sure that there was a successful outcome; how you managed to resolve any problems; what you learned from the experience; and so on.

In any competency-based interview, you will be expected to back up your claims with examples. You will be asked, so be prepared. If you are to succeed, you will need ammunition as you go into battle. You’ll need a quiver full of arrows, which you can draw on as necessary to fire at the target and hit the bullseye.

Don’t make the elementary mistake of trying ‘wing it’ or leave it all to chance. That would be the road to disappointment.

Sit down and create a series of vignettes which together showcase all of your skills and competencies.

Vignettes are short stories that serve as examples of the things you’ve done and the skills you’ve used to do them. They are designed to convince people that you have certain skills which you’ve used successfully in the past. They don’t have to come from previous work experience. They could come from a hobby or a college project or anything of significance where it’s been necessary for you to use those skills.

In creating these vignettes now, and providing you do have some good stories to tell, you will be better able to target jobs for which you can be a very credible candidate. And in a tough job market, you do need to be a credible candidate.

Once you have prepared a series of vignettes the next step it to polish up your CV or resumé.

Tip 6: Preparing your CV or Resumé

You know this I am sure but I’ll say it anyway. Essentially the CV or resumé is your sales brochure. It highlights the product ‘You’ with all its features and benefits and it outlines what’s on offer to the hiring manager.

There is no right or wrong way to write a CV or resumé. However it does need to be concise and well-written; it must have a clear layout; and it must be user-friendly and easy to read. And it mustn’t have any obvious gaps and it should not contain any sloppy mistakes.

Whilst it needs to be concise, it also needs to be sufficiently comprehensive to show that you have the required skills and experience; that you are potentially the right man or woman for the job.

It is the bait designed to get you in front of the hiring manager, which is essential if you are to close the sale and secure a job offer.

When your CV or resumé arrives on the hiring manager’s desk it has about 30 seconds, if that, to make an impact.

In that brief period it has to convince the hiring manager that there is a very good chance that you are the right candidate for the job; that you are someone with whom they really must meet.

In the past, the received wisdom has been that you should have a single CV or resumé of no more than two pages which is used for all job applications.

The idea being that this CV or resumé is accompanied by a Cover Letter which then draws attention to those aspects of the CV or resumé which are relevant to the job under consideration. Nice idea but I’m not convinced.

In my experience, as a hiring manager, I rarely get to see the Cover Letter. That is often retained by the Human Resources (HR) department and all I see is the CV or resumé. Actually I don’t usually get one CV or resumé; normally I’ll get 20 or 30 at least.

So if I cannot see, quickly, on the first page why you’re a suitable candidate for the job then the chances are your CV or resumé will go straight in the bin. I haven’t got time to solve any puzzles, it needs to be fairly obvious to me that you have the skills and experience I need.

My underlying point here is that I would recommend that you create a master CV or resumé of three or four pages with details of all your work and, most importantly, your achievements.

From this master you can then cherry-pick relevant content to create a targeted CV or resumé for each role for which you apply.

Whenever you see a job advertised, it will have a list of requirements. Some will be essential and some will be desirable. Take your master CV or resumé and edit it down to two pages keeping all of the details which are relevant to the job at hand. And remember; the most relevant part of your experience is what you’ve been doing in the last five years. Make sure on Page 1 that it’s obvious you have all or at least most of the essential requirements for the role. At the very least give the hiring manager a reason to read Page 2.

So that’s the preparation stage of the process. Don’t underestimate the importance of this stage. It is the foundation on which your job search will be built, so do it properly and give it the time it deserves.

Now like any sales process, in order to make a sale, you have to start getting in front of people. Sales professionals call this prospecting.

Whilst responding to job advertisements is one way of trying to land the right job, it’s not necessarily the best way.

One of the most powerful ways is through networking.

In the third part of this series I will provide you with some useful tips for networking.

In the meantime, ask yourself these questions:-

  1. What is it that makes you special?
  2. What is your unique selling proposition (USP)?

These are messages you’ll want to get across when you are networking.

© Roy Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Related articles:-

How do I find a new job? (1)

How do I find a new job? (3)

What job can I do?


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