A strategy matters if you wish to beat your competition to the dream job. Here is how you can do it.
Job hunting is not a game
You are called in for an interview. On the day you are told that there is fierce competition with four other candidates that vie for this dream position. What started as a nerve-wracking but yet exciting day, turned into disaster and deflation. Not qualified, not prepared, out-competed. You thought your degree would give you the edge. Now, what’s next?
Most of us will have to go through numerous job interviews. We all dread the day where we invite rejection and face the inevitable negative feedback. How could one enjoy that?
Here, I will explain how you can make the hunt for jobs (more) fun and increase your chances of success. How? By following these six steps to build and execute your career plan.
At the end of this article (and as a bonus), I will tell you why having a career strategy makes jobhunting more fun.
Six Steps To Create A Strategic Career Plan
- Collect and Collate. You need an open mind here. The more you think out of the box, the more helpful the overall exercise will be.
- List all the job adverts you encounter, document (list) the people that you think have interesting jobs or do things that you like.
- Go through the newspapers; look at job sites. Take notes whenever a fresh idea enters your mind.
- Just write it down. Take notes. The idea or job can be daft or not even exist!
When you make your list, try to write down why you like the job or role.
2. Define the common thread. Have a good look at your list and your comments. What is it that attracts you to each of the jobs that you’ve listed? Is there a common theme? If so, this is the elusive thread that defines your interest or motivates you.
Write it down. You will need it for your future cover letter!
3. Define your training needs to succeed. You have narrowed down your interest to a specific set of roles or jobs that all share certain features. You can now use this list of posts to look for positions you want to apply to in the future. Here I should be clear: you are looking for jobs that you would like to have. Qualifications (and their absence from your CV) are another matter — Career plans allow you to address that.
Take a look at the skills and qualifications that future jobs require. Do you already meet the requirements? Great, start applying. If not, consider getting these qualifications as an integral part of your career strategy. Are there particular skills that are needed? Address your lack of qualifications or skills head-on.
4. Build a network and Broadcast your Plan. You will need to empower those that can influence your career. It is easy to connect with people when you communicate your future aspirations. So why would you hold back? You’d be surprised how opportunities can appear out of nowhere.
Internships can be of great help if you are in the early stages of your career. Seek internships or pursue job experience in the area of your interest. When you do, directly engage with your future colleagues about your career plan and its constituents. Volunteering or summer jobs (if you are still in school) can be great vehicles to gain experience and building your network. Just keep in mind that you pick positions with your strategy in mind.
5. Ask for criticism and feedback. Why would you ask someone to beat you down? The answer is simple: They are just trying to help. Glowing reviews don’t address your weaknesses. They don’t prepare you for the tough questions nor disappointment in the future. Constructive and critical feedback does. When you only get positive feedback, insist on constructive criticism that will help your development.
6. Address your weaknesses. Write them down in your plan. They are barriers that need removal. Strategic choices for courses, further internships and job applications require this information. Tackling your deficiencies define your strategic moves. You can write and talk about your journey in your application. You will find that when you work with people and connect on a constructive and professional level, champions will emerge (People that take an interest in your quest and actively support your journey to success!).
Final and positive thoughts of encouragement
You very well may find that this exercise does not give you a definite answer to your future job yet. DO NOT DESPAIR!. We don’t have crystal balls (well, I don’t) and it is reasonable to find yourself in murky waters as you embark on your journey towards discovery. This exercise will define your interests in a broad sense. The mere consciousness that this exercise awakens will make you more alert and selective towards opportunities that will come your way.
How your career plan will change your interview game
You may have noticed that a good career plan provides you with the tools to move forward and the knowledge to succeed. If you accept that your skills and ambition are central to success, then you must start looking at your (future) employers as the vehicles that help you travel to the destination.
In other words, question what an employer can do for you, rather then what you can do for your employer. Approaching a possible company as an equal partner in your professional development (addressing your weaknesses or needs as defined in your plan) is critical for that. By communicating this clearly in your application along with your career goals, you will stand out as a candidate. Perhaps equally important is that your plan is broadcasted directly and provides an incentive for the company to hire and invest in you.
I hope that you will put my advice in this article to good use. Think about what you want.