After a recent conversation with a client, I was inclined to dig deeper into this specific topic and put everything into an article. My goal is to encourage candidates not to throw in the towel after a couple weeks of applying across a particular industry and not attracting the type of interest from recruiters and employers expected. The thought process is to change your approach, not give up.
If you read my last blog post, you are familiar with a book I mentioned titled Blue Ocean Strategy. As a quick recap, the plot revolves around outperforming the competition in ways that do not require going head to head, but simply maneuvering around them with new and fresh ways of thinking. Now, as you tirelessly apply for positions after already working a long day at your current position, taking care of the kids at home or whatever it is consuming your time, what could you do differently to attract the ideas of the beholder (AKA-recruiters)?
If you put yourself into the shoes of the recruiter, what do they want to see? The first major point is what impact you have had on roles held in the past. The breakdown of this initiative is being direct and results-aware when filling the experience section of your resume, LinkedIn page, etc. A great example in any type of sales role is providing quantitative results for work specifically done under your umbrella. Another way to pull the readers attention is to include data in the Executive Summary section of your resume. I will touch on this a bit later as there is a great debate about the efficacy of the Executive Summary.
Another impact point is to adjust the formatting of your resume and LinkedIn in order to make the readability friendlier. All the important and relevant details the employer wants to see may be listed, but if they’re hidden in paragraphs or the last page, unfortunately, you don’t stand a chance at receiving a phone call for next steps. Stressing ‘clear and concise’ will be on repeat throughout this article. Use effective bullet points to draw attention and remember what position you are applying for. Avoid using an Executive Summary to insert fluff into the most imperative section of your resume.
Utilize the Job Description
When you read through the job description, do you have experience matching what the position would like to see? If so, then turn those similarities into a large attention grabber. Recruiters and employers always search for a candidate who can tackle their workload most effectively and grow the business, so if you have relevant experience or successes, count them as a gold star. I cannot emphasize making those details jump off the page enough. Not only does it highlight the quality candidate you are, it simplifies the job of the recruiter to decide if you’re a solid fit for the role. Think of the job description and requirements as a complimentary gift for your interest in the position. Your responsibility before landing the job is to utilize the information properly.
Ever since I was a kid, my mom always used to say “Utilize the resources around you to their greatest extent.” In some cases, this is networking and learning through conversations. In this example, it is digging deep to become the ideal candidate each role you apply for. Start off with a bang and make a great first impressions displaying you’ve done your research and you’re ready to prove why you’re the right fit.
My last tip for soundly landing the first phone interview after submitting your application and resume is follow-up. One of the most underrated pieces of the job search puzzle is the follow-up aspect. Now, let me preface this with the some (few) situations where there truly is no contact information provided at any level and getting in touch is difficult. But, throughout most processes an email, phone number or LinkedIn account of someone who matters can be located.
The key here is to always be looking. The first potential location for this information is the job posting. When you scroll all the way to the bottom, is there a section with content about who posted the job? Second, is when you submit the application. Most likely a screen will appear saying “Congratulations, you’ve submitted your application. Once we review your documents, a member of our staff with reach out to you.” In many scenarios, there is contact info at the bottom. If there is still nothing there, utilize LinkedIn, which I highly recommend regardless. You can search the company, people who work there, possibly recruiters they work with or the HR department. Lastly, when a recruiter calls for a long-awaited position, your heart starts pounded and all you can think about is saying the right thing. After the phone call, your mind is jumping in a million different directions, BUT the first thing to do is save the information in your phone for the purpose of follow-up. If you have not heard anything by the end of the week after they mentioned that time frame, give them a ring and check to see if there is anything else you could do to help move the process along. The same idea goes for email, although this vault can be a little easier to dig through, it’s still vital to save email addresses for key players.
The overall message here is to promote yourself as an ideal candidate by being attentive and detailed. Thinking from the perspective of the recruiter and positioning yourself as a one of kind candidate will prove to be easier than you once thought. Let me know if you have any further suggestions about how to stand out most effectively.
Implementing ideas from two different books that very much speak to the fundamentals of my internal passion and drive. The first is the Slow Fix by Carl Honore. After reading ‘The Praise of Slowness’, I plan to pick up each and every book written by this author. His thoughts are beyond refreshing and presented in a realistic manner where you can apply them to the workplace, home even relationships to achieve success. After just finishing his next ‘The Slow Fix’, I am ever so inclined to share how these ideas relate to Career Coaching. The main points include tackling problems with a long term plan in mind. It may not even be a problem you are looking to overcome, it could be strategy for achieving higher employee retention or gaining increased market share for your novel product.
Regardless of the subject matter, the idea of Slow Living allows you to step back and truly analyze an approach before springing into action. There is so much value in this level of thinking in order to truly prioritize what can realistically be achieved short and long term. Throughout the book the author refers to specific situations where significant results have been achieved starting with Slow Thinking. I would be remiss not to mention the problem solving approach is not the only benefit of Slow Thinking, but for the sake of subject matter I will stay in this lane or I may go on forever.
The second book is Blue Ocean Strategy by W Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. This read was also a game changer for my views on innovation. My interpretation of the book establishes a method to outrun competition, not by competing in the same space, but developing a ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’ meaning a whole new avenue of thinking. A common trend in achieving this success is giving the consumer (buyer, end user, etc) what they want before they know they want it. Sounds trivial, right?
This is where the loads of planning I preach comes into play. Tackling ‘Subject A’ step by step with proper organization gives you the ability to analyze from a high level view and build strategic advantages. These advantages will propel you straight past the competition. Even in a position of power, this level of thinking should never subside. It is a revolving door to stay ahead and maintain growth. Entrepreneurs, sales and marketing departments, along with many others know it well.
'Why' the Effort
My goal of this blog article is to establish clarity why this applies and is crucial to personal career development. With reference to the two topics mentioned above, approaching personal and professional growth is a winner. Whether your long term goal is to climb the corporate ladder, become a successful entrepreneur or retire by 40 with a cabin in the woods, take your career continuum as serious as financial and health stability.
When laid out as simply as that, it appears outrageous not to have a plan of attack for each aspect of your development, but do you?
This is my plea to spend time (our greatest asset) as responsibly as possible and since we allot the majority to work, again the breakdown seems simple. This type of behavior begins with developing a personal portfolio. There is nothing holding greater value for the long term professional game than your portfolio.
Each piece with the exception of structure is personalized. It is a time to review work history, accomplishments, promotions and any other features highlighting who you are and what your journey has resembled. Consider this portfolio a structured timeline of your professional life.
I hope the value of this timeline is starting to become apparent, but if not, envision this situation. You have an upcoming review with your direct manager and feel there should be a well deserved promotion on the table for the start of the new year. Instead of walking into the meeting with a few thoughts sketched out on your latest company letterhead notepad, you have an entire portfolio organized to visualize exactly what you have done throughout the year and results produced because of those efforts.
Not only does preparation display initiative (Blue Ocean Strategy), while your manager may have your best interests in mind, they also have a lot coming across their planners. This organization will avoid any potential projects or initiatives slipping through the cracks.
The second behavior combining professional development and the features mentioned above is a business plan used specifically for presenting ideas, or the interview process. Again both of these initiatives are meant to allow you to stand out from the crowd. A SWOT analysis for the current marketplace structure or knowledge of the topic at hand are valuable ideas to include in a business plan. Again, the business plan is personalized for the candidate regarding the end goal and of course experience level.
Both of these documents create value for the end user through emphasizing productivity, but also personal accountability. Through an organized checklist of what you accomplish with your time, you increase visibility for yourself. Of all elements that could be overlooked, it is this one. In the long run, the only person tracking personal and professional progress for you is YOU. When is the last time you accepted or presented a challenge to management or yourself? If you have followed these steps, you just need to peak back at your portfolio to easily lock down the answer. This initiative is essential.
To reiterate this is my personal ask of you to start a personal portfolio and other supporting documents in order to hold yourself accountable. Depending on your strengths, you may not need a professional to help you get organized, BUT in the event you need assistance, I am here and am happy to help. Watching my clients thrive through these initiatives creates and propels my professional journey. Let’s make it happen together!
What is grit and how do I find mine?
So, you get knocked down after making a presentation to your big wig client or completely stumble over your pitch to the new sales director or maybe it is something as simple as walking in late only to be noticed by HR.
First things first, admit your wrongdoing (if there is one). Always display accountability for your actions, no matter how much pride you have to swallow. The growth process includes understanding when and where to admit you are incorrect.
Next, it is time to slide on your big kid pants and realize the world is going to continue spinning. The clock will keep ticking and your next task lies ahead of you regardless of what happened yesterday. Displaying self-awareness to understand the actions you can take in the future to avoid a similar situation is a sign of a true professional.
Depending on the nature of the hurdle you have to jump, what comes next will vary, but one thing is consistent across all grit situations. You have a decision to make and this is one only YOU control the outcome. Are you going to dwell on the past, or embrace the future and continue to chug forward? In order to display grit, you must choose to move on and conquer your next challenge. Of course, this is easier said than done, but when you break it all down, is lingering on one issue (or multiple) worth stopping you from achieving your goals?
Goals and Grit
What are your goals? In much of my content I speak about short- and long-term goals. The reason I spend ample time here is because it’s vital to know what you’re working towards. As an aggregate group, we all need to embrace our skills and work with our passions versus the alternative of working just to live.
The next question is, once you have your goals clearly laid out, how much grit are you willing to display in order to achieve them? I call this my ‘no BS mentality’. It just does not make sense to waste precious time concentrating on things that don’t matter. If you get knocked down, figure out how to get back up ten times stronger.
Where else does grit matter?
This conversation is highly relatable beyond just professional development. Maybe it is relationship with a friend or significant other that really ended sour and you feel the world didn’t treat you fairly. It is fair to say those situations sting in the beginning, but with time and conscious understanding you can learn and grow to help you move on stronger.
Another example is something as simple as getting a flat tire. You have two decisions to make (after handling the logistics). You can pout and let it ruin your day, or you can get that baby fixed and use every minute left of the day to make an impact. When you look back in a year, which decision will give you more pride? I think we can all agree here.
Green vs Red Lights
An analogy I use often (just ask my boyfriend) relates to a red versus green traffic light. Think about a red light as a problem or issue and a green light as a win or smooth moving part of your daily life. As you move through your day, what stands out more to you? The red lights adding stress or the green ones that just seem to fly through naturally? Often times problems or mistakes are highlighted more regularly than victories and ease of momentum. Whether regarding colleagues or projects, this analogy NEEDS to remain top of mind. Discussing a red light is one thing, but don’t forget to include all the greens along the way.
Be there person in the office or your friend group who just seems to display endless tenacity. Others will follow this mentality and continue to produce positive relationships and results. Remember the same frequency you display is the one you demand from others. How do you guys display or define grit? Leave me a comment and let me know!
Rebecca Wagner - I actively find flow through unparalleled focus on propelling the careers of others. These posts will help to share my thought processes about development, self-awareness and growth.