Questions and Answers with Career Expert Dan King
Please note: On a somewhat infrequent basis, Quintessential Careers asks noted career experts five questions related to their expertise and publishes the interview in the current issue of QuintZine, our career e-newsletter. Those interviews are archived here for your convenience.
Dan King is principal and founder of Career Planning and Management, Inc.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||Why is it important for job-seekers to think of themselves as “products” to be marketed?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Quite simply, job-searching is a sales process. You are the seller; the employer is the buyer. In any sales process, you need to clearly present your product clearly, believe in its worth, and showcase the value it can bring to a potential buyer. In the case of your job search, the product is YOU.
You may resent the indignity of being thought of as a product and understandably so. You are more than a product. But from job-search standpoint, you bring certain skills, training, experience, behaviors, and talents that you want a potential employer to buy, or at least lease, for a period of time. In short, you want some money in return for the services and benefits you bring. What are they?
In Marketing 101, students are taught a process that follows the 4 Ps — Product, Place, Price, Promotion — which can apply equally well to your personal self-marketing.
Product: What knowledge, skills and abilities do you bring to your work? If you don’t know, you’re not ready to market yourself.
Place: What are the work settings that can use your product? Develop a list or organizations and fields that could benefit from what you bring. Then tell yourself: “One of these lucky organizations is going to get me.”
Price: What is your product worth in the market? Research salary information to determine the appropriate salary ranges for someone with your skills, training and experience. You can’t get what you’re worth if you don’t know.
Promotion: How will you let others know about your product? Your resume is your brochure, a tool to get you a meeting. Nobody buys from a brochure alone, so you need to find additional ways to get yourself in front of hiring managers.
Again, it’s not the most qualified who gets the job, but the one who knows best how to market the qualifications he/she has.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What are the top activities job-seekers can engage in to successfully market themselves?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Activity #1: Without a doubt, the sure-fire fastest way to a new job is through networking. Most surveys show that the process of networking leads to as much as 80 percent of all hiring today. Given this statistic, it’s no longer a question of whether you should network or not — you should — it’s a question of how to network in a way that doesn’t compromise your pride and integrity.
If you feel as though you’re asking for favors or begging for a job, you’re probably approaching it all wrong. Get straight with yourself that you have some value and that somebody out there is looking for it. If you don’t believe that, then there’s probably not much point in looking for a job at all.
Not good at mixing and mingling in professional groups? Then don’t try to be something you’re not. Find a way to network that fits you and your personal style. There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to networking. Some of the best networking occurs when you’re not actually networking — when you bump into a friend at the gym, in the supermarket, or while you’re out walking the dog — where simply by talking about your situation, you get suggestions, ideas and contacts.
If you attend a social event or professional meeting, make a vow to introduce yourself to just two people, and then go treat yourself to a hot-fudge sundae — or whatever it takes. In other words, don’t berate yourself for not accumulating 50 business cards; reward yourself for taking a couple of steps outside of your comfort zone. Two contacts are better than no contacts. The next time you’ll be so focused on the hot fudge sundae, you’ll probably make four introductions in the time it previously took you to do two!
Activity #2: In a competitive job market, quantity is less important than quality. If you spend all your time perusing the job postings in search of “open holes” to plug, saturating the market with hundreds of resumes in hopes of hitting somewhere, you’ll receive a slew of rejection letters — or worse yet, no responses at all.
You don’t need hundreds of jobs; you need just one. If you want to be more strategic, develop a list of organizations that would be of interest as places to work, and approach each one as a special marketing project. Share your list with friends and acquaintances to see if they know anyone who works at any of the companies — someone who could help point you to a potential hiring manager. Or research some articles to see what’s been written about the companies on your list — look for names in the articles and write to them. People are generally flattered when you acknowledge reading their name in print and thus are more likely to respond favorably toward you by helping you navigate your way within their company.
Activity #3: Take care of yourself emotionally and physically. The mind-body connection influences your job-search success more than most people realize. If your job search is wearing you down, leaving you exhausted and depleted of energy, you’re not likely to have the strength to market yourself effectively, much less maintain a healthy personal and family life.
When you’re feeling down, take an afternoon off just for yourself — take a long walk, do some gardening, visit a museum — so you can reenergize and reposition yourself for a more productive day tomorrow. Schedule these mental health activities just as you would any other job search activity. Otherwise, you’ll just feel guilty.
Maintain a regular fitness regimen, join a gym, or find a running or walking partner. Or consider working with a personal or career coach — someone who can boost your motivation, keep you focused, and help you strengthen in areas where you struggle.
Projecting optimism when you may be feeling your worst is admittedly a challenge, but the single most important variable in landing a new job is your attitude. Accept that your ups and downs are cyclical, and manage them accordingly.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||What’s the best way for someone who just has no clue of the type of job/career he/she wants to figure out what career will give him/her the greatest happiness?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| Cluelessness about the type of job or career you want is a common affliction. Today, many people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and even 70s are still trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. Sure, there are those who knew what they wanted to do since they were old enough to walk, but they’re rare. The rest had to figure it out by trial and error.
The best career choices are made by pinpointing the intersection of your skills, values and interests. In fact, all career development research points to “interests” as the best indicator of satisfaction in a job. So the theory goes, if you do work that is interesting to you, you will be satisfied.
While this may observation appear to be common sense, in actuality, you probably base your career decisions on the “skills” you possess — and what others are willing to pay for them, which is where you can trip yourself up. If you’re like most, you have an uncanny ability to get good at things for which you have no interest.
There is no magic formula for figuring out what type of job or career you want. No career test will tell you what you should do — the answers are within you. You can begin your exploration by asking these soul-searching questions.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||We frequently hear from mature job-seekers — in their 50s and beyond, but often even in their 40s — who are having a particularly difficult time finding a job. Is age discrimination a reality, and if so, what can the mature job-seeker do to overcome this discrimination?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| I’d be lying if I said age discrimination doesn’t exist — but it’s much less an issue today. Nonetheless, if you’re someone over 40, you may feel like you’re facing an enormous hurdle, but that may be based on an assumption that the work world hasn’t changed much since the 1970s. It has.
Most of us grew up believing that if you didn’t have your career on track by the time you were 30, something was very wrong. Today if you think you have it on track by age 30, something is very wrong. It’s likely to change again … and again.
Many of the people in hiring positions today are baby boomers, and they don’t think 50 is old. If anything they still think they’re “cool,” despite sporting a few gray hairs themselves. More likely, they may harbor some negative views of younger workers.
Most age discrimination occurs behind the scenes, when people are being evaluated on paper. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at your resume and determine that you’re not 25 years old, no matter how you try to disguise it. Left to our own human biases, most of us have preconceived notions about what a 50 year old is like — just as we might about what a 20-year old is like. But many people don’t automatically fit the mold.
We all know people who are 30 who may as well be 70 — and we know people who are 70 who might as well be 30. But we know that only when we meet with them face to face — based on their energy, enthusiasm and attitude. The traditional methods of searching for jobs — answering ads, applying to job postings, mass-mailing resumes — does not allow for an assessment of someone’s energy, enthusiasm or attitude.
That’s why people who are concerned about age discrimination need to use job-search methods that allow them to rely less on their resumes and more on their ability to get in front of someone who has the authority to hire them. And the most efficient way of getting to the hiring manager is through networking — a concept many job-seekers avoid or at least, underutilize.
If you’re not a mixer or schmoozer, then don’t try to be. As I noted in the earlier response about best activities for marketing yourself, find a networking strategy that works for you and your style.
Lastly, if you don’t want to face age discrimination, don’t practice it yourself. Sell your experience and maturity — but don’t underestimate the value of people who are younger than you. In today’s work world, age and experience don’t automatically correlate to skills and value.
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>Q:||We also hear from frustrated job-seekers who have submitted lots of job applications and resumes/cover letters, been called for minimal interviews and received no job offers. What’s your advice for this type of job-seeker, who is growing increasingly anxious? What can she/he do to improve chances of landing a new job?|
|ica” color=”black” size=”+4″>A:|| If you’ve followed all the best advice, posted your resume on the major job sites, spread the word to friends and colleagues that you’re looking, but you’re still getting nowhere, you may be left wondering: “Will I ever get hired? Wouldn’t any normal person have a job by now? What the #@$&% is wrong with me?”
Relax. Take a step back. It’s inevitable that you will work again. After a long period in the marketplace, you need to pause, review what you’re doing, and reevaluate your approach. You won’t get out of this quagmire by continuing to do the same thing.
Begin with an assessment of where you’re stuck. What’s not working for you? What are the obstacles in your way? What issues are you facing? To identify possible barriers to your success in finding a new job, consider some of the variables that typically prolong a search:
The Uncontrollables: These are issues that you can’t change personally, such as a poor economy, the decline of certain industries, and the obsolescence of particular job skills. You can’t alter the state of the economy, but you can change the way you deal with it. In a down economy, traditional hiring processes — answering ads, responding to job boards, signing on with recruiters — dry up or, at best, become very competitive.
You can choose to be frustrated and upset about not getting the job (or even an interview), or you can choose to not be frustrated and upset about it — either way, the outcome is the same — you still need a job. So choose wisely. Don’t waste your energy on the “uncontrollables.” Co trol what you can — and let the other stuff go.
The Mech nics: These are the procedur s, s rategy, and tactics you’ve deployed in your quest for a new job. If you’ve been operating with outdated assumptions about how the hiring process works, you’ve probably set yourself up for disappointment. With the workplace in a continual state of change, it is unlikely that job-seeking methods that originated in the 1970s, ’80s, or even ’90s will have much impact today.
To succeed in your job search, you need more than a good resume; you need to be able to articulate your goals clearly, establish rapport quickly, and promote yourself effectively. It’s not the most qualified candidate that gets the job; it’s the candidate who knows best how to market the qualifications they have.
The Subtleties: These are factors that relate to your attitude about your job search. During transition most of us behave in ways different from the norm. Friends, colleagues, and quite possibly interviewers, are not seeing you as your full-functioning self, but rather as someone whose behavior is burdened by stress, worry, and frustration.
Similarly, during interviews, prospective employers are evaluating your level of enthusiasm, facial expressions and poise to see how self-assured you are. How you communicate is as important as what you communicate. You may appear to be saying one thing, while your body language is communicating something else, perhaps urgency or desperation. Employers won’t hire you because you need a job; they’ll hire you because you can contribute something to the organization. Learn to truly believe in your value as an employee and let your attitude reflect this confidence.
Dan King is principal and founder of Career Planning and Management, Inc., a career coaching and consulting practice in Boston. With more than 20 years experience in coaching, training and career development, he supports organizations in planning and managing a wide range of contemporary worklife and workplace issues, working with such diverse clients as Lotus Development Corporation, Marriott Hotels, Mass General Hospital, NStar, Fleet Bank and Harvard University. Dan is the resident career expert and co-host of Hire Frequencies on Boston’s Personal Finance Radio and is a regular contributor to the Career Connection column at JobFind.com. His articles have appeared in numerous publications and websites, including the Boston Business Journal, Mass High Tech, CareerBuilder, JobMonthly, and HR.Com. He has earned recognition as a Career Management Fellow (CMF) from the Institute of Career Certification International and is a Master Career Counselor (MCC) recognized by the National Career Development Association.
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