Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Want a job? Really? Here's Some Straightforward Employment Advice

I was just on Linkedin reading through discussions. As always, there are a lot of conversations about how to write the perfect resume, how to conduct yourself during the interview, how to dress for an interview, etc. These articles are very informative and the advice makes sense... But, (yes, there is a but) there is one secret key to success that is rarely mentioned.

If you include this secret all the rest will fall in place. If you include this secret you WILL write the perfect resume, you WILL be confident and act appropriately in the interview, and you WILL dress for success. Further, your chances of getting the job increase exponentially. In the long term, you will have job satisfaction, job security, and work-life balance.

Now you are probably thinking, ‘what’s she selling?’ I am selling simple, plain-old common sense. It cost you a little bit of time and effort but ultimately, the return on investment is massive. It will benefit you as an employee and it will benefit the employer to whom you dedicate your career. So, are you ready for the secret?

The secret is a question you must ask yourself before applying for a job. After you have asked yourself this question, we will need to put a little effort into answering it. DO NOT jump to conclusions answering the question without due diligence. Most importantly, DO NOT apply for a job without answering the question first. Ok… without further ado, here is the question…. Do you want the job? That seems pretty obvious, right? Well, it’s not.

Let’s think about the word ‘want’. Many make the mistake of mixing up ‘want’ with ‘need’. You ‘need’ a job; therefore, in desperation you apply to anything and everything never considering what you really want or whether you really fit. So you get a job and you fulfilled the need, but it really wasn’t what you wanted. You are miserable and unmotivated. The dissatisfaction and lack of fulfillment makes you resent your job, your managers, and your coworkers.  Perhaps your performance is adequate… but don’t shine. Who is benefitting? If you are only adequate, what job security do you have? If you are miserable, do you really have work-life balance?

So, how do you know what you want? How do you find what you want? Lastly, how do you get what you want? Let’s start with the first question – What do you want? The answer to this is all about your personality type. Are you a creative or analytical? Are you a team player or do you fly solo? Are you competitive or not? Do you prefer privacy or wide-open workspaces? Are you outgoing or introverted? Are you one who prefers sameness or do you thrive on change? Be truthful, there are no right or wrong answers. Keep asking yourself questions until you know your personality – until you know what you want.

To give you a good understanding of how this works, I will tell you about my wants. I want a job where I can be creative and analytical at the same time. I prefer wide-open workspaces where I can work with a team to produce amazing things. I compete against myself and therefore embrace change with the goal of constant improvement. Perhaps your is the exact opposite and that’s great too. It is all about finding what YOU want and matching it to what a company wants.

Now, on to the next question: How do you find what you want? Did you know that businesses have personalities too? In fancy terms, it is called the corporate culture. Finding the perfect job is like finding someone to marry. While you are dating (looking for a job/interviewing) you are looking for someone who shares your core values and someone who has a personality (corporate culture) complementary to yours. Notice here, I said complementary not the same. Remember, sometimes opposites attract. For example, introverts often work very well with extroverts… somebody has to do all the talking :). Creative people can open new doors for those who are super-analytic and the super-analytic can add direction the creative person’s ideas.

When you are looking for a job, do your research! Get to know the company the same way as you would a date. Learn about their core values and find out whether you and the company have complementary ‘personalities’.  There are a ton of company personality indicators if you just look. First, start by reading the job description. This is not a passive, quick review…really read it. What type of language do they use? Does it have a lot of business jargon, is it hi-tech , is it youthful? What are the requirements and the ‘preferred experience’ for the job? This is important, but not only to determine if you have those skills/traits/education (obviously), but also the requirements of the job tell you what the company values. Is a bachelors degree required and an MBA preferred? Clearly they value education. Do you value formal education or do you value the school of hard knocks?

Next, look thoroughly read the company’s website for clues. What are their mission, core values, long-term goals? How do they describe themselves on the career page? What benefits do they offer? Again, there is more to this than the obvious. Benefits show you what they value most.  Check out recent press releases to understand how the company works toward their goals. Look at their advertising to understand the brand image. Look the company up on websites like Glassdoor to see what employees say about the company (Remember though, you must take everything employees say with a grain of salt. Some people have axes to grind. Look for trends rather than specific complaints). 

Now that you have gotten to know the company, would you 'marry' them? (Remember you will spend as much time at work as you do at home - so isn't a job like a marriage). Does your personality complement their personality? If the answer is no – move on. If the answer is yes, apply for the job.

The best part of all this corporate personality research is that you have now learned how to write your resume and cover letter to really grab their attention. Make sure your resume and cover letter are truthful and tailored show how you are a perfect fit for their culture. In the cover letter, take the opportunity to tell them about the personality similarities and use your prior successes to support that idea. Yes, this means you may have to rewrite your resume/cover letter for each job to which you apply… but if you really want something – you are willing work for it, right? I don’t know about you, but my successes weren't handed to me on a silver platter.

When it finally comes to the interview, ask questions about the corporate personality. Get to know the employer more intimately. Interviewing should be a two way street. In the best situation, the employer interviews you and you interview the employer. Don’t be arrogant about it, but there is no harm in getting to know someone. Best of all, it shows that you are genuinely interested, that you researched, and that you want to make sure that you will be perfect for the company. No one wins if you don’t love your job. Perks, benefits, and corner office may sound great but they are not necessarily fulfilling.

The upshot… stop acting desperate and stop being lazy. Sending the same resume to hundreds of jobs that don’t fit (personality or experience for that matter) – is just plain-old lazy. If you want a job, really want a job  – work for it!


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