What many job-seekers today don’t understand is that staying employed is very much like running a business. You need to think of yourself as the CEO of your own start-up company — BRAND YOU — and continuously market, network and strategically position yourself, just as a business does.
To ensure you’re ready for the many inevitable shifts and moves your career is likely to make over your work life, adopt a start-up mentality, whether or not you’re currently facing a job search.
Finding a job and staying employed today — two separate challenges — require more effort and strategic planning than ever before.
Maybe you think that finding a job in the digital age means posting your resume to as many job boards as possible, then sitting back and waiting for the interview offers to come flooding in.
If that’s how you spend most of your job-search time, you’re setting yourself up for failure, and building a false sense that you’re working hard on finding a job.
The fact is, most jobs are not posted on job boards. The majority of jobs that are filled are not advertised anywhere and not posted on a job board. Yet, most job-seekers pay attention only to that small percentage of jobs that are advertised and visible. The rest are part of the “hidden job market.”
What is the hidden job market?
- Positions created to accommodate specific candidates, once they connected with and spoke with companies’ hiring decision makers.
- Existing positions that open up when an incumbent is replaced with someone better.
- An open position that isn’t advertised outside the company. Only insiders know about it.
- Jobs that, for whatever reason, are not advertised or visible, and can only be uncovered and accessed through networking.
[Editor’s note: See our in-depth analysis of the hidden job market].
As crucial as networking is, along with understanding where to find jobs, these strategies alone won’t bullet-proof your career. Understanding how to stay employed will.
Gone are the days, for the most part, when you could expect long-term employment (5-7 years or more) with the same company. Employer loyalty rarely exists these days. No job is permanent and everyone should expect to be in perpetual passive job search.
Savvy careerists continuously market themselves, always anticipating job transition. Career situations can change at any time, and everyone must be prepared.
Flexibility is key. Some viable strategies include temp-to-perm and portfolio careers (multiple part-time jobs or consecutive short-term consulting positions, including temporary jobs, freelancing, and self-employment). Creating income security, instead of job security, is the new wave.
“Portfolio careers are usually built around a collection of skills and interests, though the only consistent theme is one of career self-management. With a portfolio career you no longer have one job, one employer, but multiple jobs and employers within one or more professions.”
Dive in Right Now, With this Checklist:
1. Define your personal (or career) brand.
Personal branding is a method to uncover and differentiate the personal attributes and hard strengths you possess that outdistance your competition for good-fit jobs with your target industry and employers. Branding is no longer optional. Employers want to see hard skills linked to your softer ones — indicating who you are, what you’re like to work with and how your strengths and expertise will translate to a strong bottom line for them.
I’ve written a 10-step personal branding worksheet that will help you.
2. Get your resume, biography and other career documents together as the foundation for all your personal marketing (or Brand You) communications.
Gone are the days when all you needed to land a job was a one-size-fits-all resume outlining your comprehensive skill sets and qualifications. These days, you need to first have a clear career target so that you can build your career marketing documents around content and messaging that showcase your ROI (Return on Investment) and resonate with a specific audience.
3. Move your Brand You communications online with LinkedIn and other social media.
Being on LinkedIn and having a strong online presence are also not optional. You may not feel comfortable putting yourself out there, but without an online identity, you may be completely invisible to recruiters and hiring decision-makers who source and assess candidates through LinkedIn and other search engines. Transform your portfolio of career documents into a LinkedIn profile that’s a magnet for these people.
Beyond LinkedIn, build a diverse online footprint across multiple channels, monitor it regularly for “digital dirt” or incorrect information, and make adjustments when possible. Show that you’re social media savvy by networking through LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and others.
4. Keep your network alive … always!
A vibrant, far-reaching network is career insurance. Your real-life and social networks need to be ever-primed for you to tap into for new opportunities, introductions, and hot leads, and help you penetrate the hidden job market. You need to practice “give to get” networking, being there for your network so they’ll be willing to reciprocate.
Put your online and offline brand communications to work in all your networking efforts.
5. Improve or add relevant skills and stay educated.
Job seekers with up-to-date skills are much more attractive than those who haven’t kept up, which means learning industry-relevant skills as well as the new social-media skills.
6. Work on developing a back-up or side career.
Think additional income stream to supplement your “real” job and possibly pump up to full-time, if you lose your real job.
A beloved hobby or favorite pastime could become a money-maker. Maybe you’re handy around the house and can hire yourself out to help people with their “honey-do” lists, or odd jobs. Maybe you’d go for a part-time job in retail, healthcare, restaurant, or business services.
Other options could include teaching or substitute teaching, consulting or contract assignments, and home-based work or telecommuting work that could include technology, sales, office support, bookkeeping, personal services, and more.
Now you’ve done the backend work, and you’re ready for the inevitable. When you’re laid off, forced into another job search or choose to transition:
7. Get clear on what kind of job you want, who your good-fit target employers are, what their needs are right now, how you can help them and who their key hiring decision-makers are.
8. Work on circumventing the gatekeepers at your target companies and connecting directly with the key hiring decision-makers, where they hang out online and offline.
9. Cultivate relationships with several executive recruiters who specialize in your niche.
10. Prepare to brand and “own” your job interviews.
Launching a targeted personal marketing campaign, with purposeful networking to uncover the goldmine of hidden jobs, and strategically positioning yourself, leads you into the huge pool of unadvertised jobs.
This article is part of Job Action Day 2011.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker’s Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.
Meg Guiseppi is a c-level executive branding and job-search coach. She helps her clients uncover and differentiate their unique promise of value, navigate the daunting executive job-search landscape, and land their next great gig. Learn more about Meg at her Executive Career Brand blogsite. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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