Several times per week I am asked for career advice from people who are considering a new job or changing jobs. Here’s the advice I give…
DECIDE WHAT YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO DO
Whether you’re gainfully employed and looking to make a change or in between jobs, decide what constitutes meaningful work for you. Write the perfect job description for yourself, and make the job description a list of outcomes for which you will be accountable.
Every company, entrepreneur and employee of a company is essentially a problem-solver. Do some deep thinking about what problem(s) you excel at and enjoy solving.
Do research. Talk to people. If there’s a specific job/job title that you think you’d be interested in, interview people who are already doing that job and ask for their thoughts, including the best and worst parts of their job.
I often hear some version of “I don’t like any of the jobs that are posted.” That’s okay. Those are just the jobs that are posted. This is why it’s important to have conversations to understand an organization’s biggest challenges and opportunities. Sometimes after enough meaningful conversations, you end up creating your own job with a company that can’t wait to bring you on! Don’t base a career decision solely on what jobs are being advertised.
Also, don’t make the mistake of thinking you are your resume. You’re not. History does not equal destiny. Don’t assume the entire market views you as a “Finance guy” or that you’re pigeon-holed into a specific industry just because a bulk of your resume reflects that.
Any good hiring manager will consider hiring you based on whether he/she feels you are capable, motivated, and valuable for the organization. And if they’re really good, they’ll have a helpful conversation with you (“interview”) where you can mutually determine that you are capable and motivated, despite not having done 100% of the “required” tasks in the past. (My business partner and I always say, “I’ll hire for attitude over experience any day.”) You can demonstrate that you’re capable of doing something you’ve never done, by citing examples of things you excelled at, despite having no formal training in in the past.
SET YOURSELF UP TO BE “FOUND”
LinkedIn has established itself as the social network for professionals, and reportedly has 130 million members in the U.S. alone. This is your online resume/business card.
There’s a ton of free advice if you Google “LinkedIn best practices”, but just a few from the perspective of someone who hires people:
- Use a professional photo as your profile picture
- List more than just each job you’ve done, create a short, bullet-pointed list of what you accomplished or were responsible for at each role. It doesn’t help a hiring manager much to know that you had the same job title for the last 10 years at 4 different companies.
- Consider every job title, list of technologies, award, etc. a “keyword”. LinkedIn is one giant SEO (Search Engine Optimization) platform. Having a professional, useful, accurate LinkedIn profile (it’s free by the way) increases the chances you’ll be found by an organization who’s looking for someone like you.
MAKE FINDING YOUR NEXT JOB A PROJECT
Consider how much time, energy, money and resources go into planning a wedding. It’s a major project and people treat it as such. It’s also 6 hours of your life. Yet when some of us are considering possibly life-changing career changes we just make a couple phone calls, ask a few friends for advice, and get frustrated when our dream job doesn’t manifest itself in a couple weeks.
Treat it like the major project it is. A wedding that people plan for over a year in advance goes by faster than your very first day on a new job. Sometimes, just modifying your expectations is enough to keep from being frustrated.
MAKE FORMALLY APPLYING FOR A JOB THE LAST RESORT
The lowest percentage way to get a job is to apply for it. Most organizations still require your resume, but it’s often a formality. The highest percentage way to get a job is through mutually trusted connections who can refer or advise you.
Find out if you know someone who works in a field or in a company you’re targeting. Or ask around and search for someone who knows someone who works in a particular field or company.
CREATE A TARGETED RESUME
Every time someone asks me if I’ll look at their resume, I answer the same way: I’ll be happy to, as soon as you tell me what job you’re applying for.
Your resume is a proposal in the form of a person. When a catering company sends a proposal to cater a party, they don’t send a menu of everything they’ve ever done. They send a proposal that’s specific to the party, the people, the location, the type of food, etc.
Don’t ever lie or embellish on your resume. But do modify it for EVERY job so that it reflects and prioritizes your accomplishments as they relate to the performance objectives of the role.
ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST
I’ve always believed that the very best form of marketing is simply doing a kick-a$$ job at the job you’re already in. Even if you don’t love it, your attitude, attributes, technical and communication skills don’t go unnoticed.
Be the very best version of you at work every single day. If you’re folding shirts at a clothing store, be the best person who’s ever done that. Treat each work day like you’re auditioning for the job you already have. I’ve personally been noticed and have received job offers from clients, vendors, and former managers companies I’ve worked for when I wasn’t even considering a change.
GET A FULL FINANCIAL PICTURE BEFORE CHANGING JOBS
Changing jobs is stressful and risky as there are a lot of unknowns.
More than ever, companies are hiring consultants on contract (starting at 6 or 12 months) that they pay by the hour rather than with a salary and benefits. Many people believe that contract roles have less job security than full time roles, but my belief is that both are at equal risk. My own experience tells me that very good people have their contracts continually extended, even after the project for which they were originally hired ends.
If you’re considering a consulting/contract role, talk to an accountant about the benefits of having tax write-offs and paying your own health insurance. W2 or 1099 employment both have their pros and cons. It all comes down to your preference.
Use salary.com to research salary ranges and hourly rates for various job titles, as well as cost of living in other cities.
DON’T BURN BRIDGES
If you’re leaving one company to take a job elsewhere, use your best judgement on when to break the news to coworkers and bosses. But never burn bridges. Always transition respectfully. Offer to train someone else for your role. PROACTIVELY create documentation that will help others in the transition. Offer to take calls (to a reasonable extent) to help after you’re gone.
If you have specific questions please feel free to contact me and I’ll be happy to help.
VP, Business Development, Solstice Consulting Group