Over the past few years, layoffs and downsizings have become common events in the workplace. People who have enjoyed long-term employment with major corporations found themselves out of a job after years and years of service. An even more startling event was their realization that they were in no way prepared to re-enter the job market. Recent college grads found that their degree alone was not enough to get them the job since they were competing with candidates who had years of real world business and practical experience, as well as a degree.
Whether one is new to the job market or have found themselves faced with a career transition, there are some strategic and tactical strategies that position job seekers for a greater chance at success.
Resumes and Cover Letters
Submitting a resume and cover letter is standard operating procedure when applying for positions. The most common mistake made with these two important documents is that the information is sometimes too general and non-impactful. If the HR professional or hiring manager reading your cover letter or resume is not compelled to continue reading, then you will not likely be the one who gets the interview.
Your cover letter is a request for interview that should denote the job you are applying for and provide brief, specific experience and skills that confirm you are a job match for the position. Sending a cover letter that is not specific to a job (i.e. “I recently graduated with a Marketing degree and would be interested in a position with your company”) sounds as though the job seeker is desperate for any job and has not done research on the company to determine what jobs are actually available. Also, simply listing degrees and experience is not very compelling because many of the other applicants will have degrees and/or experience. Job seekers should review the job description and list 3 – 4 specific bullet points that reflect how their knowledge, skills, and abilities match up to those listed in the job description.
Your resume should also not merely be a timeline that list your titles, skills, and abilities. Instead, applicants should emphasis specific accomplishments, competencies and transferable competencies, along with activities and the results of those activities! Place focus on things that are specific to you such as degrees, certifications, specialized training, internships, involvement in professional and/or volunteer organizations, and relevant awards and achievements. Spend time reviewing your resume verifying that your content has correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Last but not least are your references. Do not include references who have not agreed to speak or write a letter on your behalf. Also, notify your references that you are currently applying for positions and that they may be getting calls. Generally, potential employers do not begin calling your references until after the interview.
Because the job market has become so competitive and our country is still experiencing economic strain, employers are definitely pursuing the biggest bang for their buck and they have a large selection pool to choose from. In order to stay current and competitive, you must prepare a strategic action plan that promotes growth, strength and diversity in your career portfolio. It is imperative to stay current with practices, knowledge, skills, and advancements in your field through professional development. According to the Digest of Education Statistics, in 2005 almost 27% of Americans age 25 and older held a college degree. Therefore your degree is no longer your ticket to success nor is the lack of a degree always a roadblock. Professional development should be on-going, regardless of what your educational level is. Professional development could include attending workshops and seminars, specific continuing education courses, self-initiated research, tutorials, and on-line learning. Your resume should then highlight your professional development as it relates to the job you are applying for. Investing time and money into professional development is an investment that is likely to yield stronger results.
Human Relations and Interpersonal Skills
Gone are the days when having the greatest skills and education meant you were a shoe-in for the job. Skills can be taught much easier than behaviors can be modified. Everyone says (and usually thinks) that they have great interpersonal skills, are valuable team players, and are fast learners, but unfortunately, that is a matter of opinion. Employers expect you to walk the talk and are not interested in pacifying employees with bad attitudes and behaviors. Many times employees cannot control unwanted change or unwanted job responsibilities, but what they can change is their approach to the situation. Being an effective follower, all the time and not just when you agree, is a prime behavior employers’ value. Leadership and Management generally control decisions regarding policy and production. It is highly likely you were not hired to buck the system because you are sure you have a better way or that their way is going to fail. The job of the employee is the implement and produce at an above average level. No one says in the interview that they are going to do the bare minimum and will only follow instructions and/or policies and procedure when they agree with them. So it is better not to bring those attitudes and behaviors into the workplace. If your employer doesn’t function in a manner that meets your moral or ethical standards, then you are not in an appropriate job match.
Employers are also seeking candidates who know how to manage their locus of control (refers to the extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that affect them). People with an external locus of control tend to blame outside forces or people for situations while those with an internal locus of control looks for areas where they (the individual) can make a difference and find ways to positively impact the situation. If you did not talk about finger-pointing and assessing blame in your interview, then steer clear of that once you get the job.
With jobs as few and far between as they are, and with the competition constantly mounting, job seekers not only have to be in a position to impress employers, but to be the IT candidate who is most memorable and brings more value to the table than anyone else.