The title of this blog article is the best advice I can give any career seeking school leaver or graduate at the moment. Why? Because it works!
I know that the kind of jobs that you may be aspiring to and may have geared your education towards may not be thick on the ground at the moment and that getting a chance to be interviewed can often feel like constantly hitting the same brick wall but that does not mean that settling for second best and going off the radar of all employers is the way to deal with it. There are loads of cracking job and career opportunities out there but the candidates that get them are the ones who are prepared to do the leg work, build the relationships and get noticed...
Go to everything...
Look on-line, in printed media and through social media for every opportunity to get out into the world with a smile on your face, your best interview gear on and your CV in your pocket. The numbers game of on-line applications, posting your CV on one of the big sites or connecting with an agency is of course worth it because they might find you what you want. But I strongly encourage anyone, of any age, to get out there and find opportunity for themselves.
I am not of the Norman Tebbit school of 80's thought when he encouraged people to get on their bike and find work, patronising as it was, instead I am very much of the school of thought that you live, in person, being brilliant and smart and excited and interested is going to have a far greater chance of being spotted.
Why? Well despite many 'big' employers computerising their recruitment filters to the point of programming key words and qualifications into their selection programmes on-line; there are still vast numbers of employers, decision makers, recruiters and event organisers that understand about personal brand, making an impact, the personal touch and impressing someone with actions and words and not just qualifications and experience.
In my experience SME's particularly take great heed of their 'gut feel' for an individual candidate. Because every single one of their staff matters to them, as there are fewer, then meeting people is a way they still find their stars of tomorrow.
So prepared with a CV that does all of things I have spoken about at length in the past as 'the flier for the brand of you' (see previous blogs) and with a brave attitude to talking to anyone because as I have said in the past 'you never know who the person will be that gives you a break' you should get yourself along to everything that might lead somewhere; careers events, networking events, industry events, university and college events and national employment events at the big venues like the NEC.
Prepare your 'pitch', know what your USP's are and be ready to really sell yourself when you get the ear of someone who wants to listen and is interested in what you have to offer. As a recruiter of 20+ years standing from my point of view you being there already puts you in credit with me and then if you have a positive attitude, something to say and some energy and interest then you are really beginning to get my interest...
Speak to everyone...
Be that person who is interested in what every employer does, find out more, understand when you hear an opportunity that you like that you need to act and project the professional image that you want to promote going forwards; set yourself dress, speech and manners standards and let those things as well as your skills, knowledge and competencies be your message to employers...you will be saying 'I mean business!'
Networking is a very inexact science and actually the more you try and apply scientific methods to it a) the more mercenary you appear and b) the more you remove the random factor... but talking to people and asking questions and being open and honest about what you aspire to does work..
My two best job / career conversations? One was with a lovely Australian lady in a bar in Paris at Christmas time and the other was with a chap by the coffee machine during lunch at a careers event...you never know, who or when but you need to be there to benefit and to be on duty for your brand at all times to get the most from any good fortune.
I think it was Gary Player (the very good South African golfer for you Tiger Woods generation people) who said 'the more I practice the luckier I get' that's kind of my point in a nutshell!
Recent intensive sessions with some of my career coaching clients have made me increasingly aware of just how out of sync candidates and recruiters can be when it comes to understanding what a CV is for, what it needs to do and just how fundamentally critical it's influence on the whole recruitment process can be.
I have spoken before about the way that I work with candidates; getting them to think about themselves as a product / brand, about how to market that product / brand and then to understand that their CV is basically a marketing flier for that product / brand and an interview is in effect a product / brand pitch...so with all of that in mind and with my latest insight into the candidates perspective complimenting my 15+ years of wearing the recruiters hat; I want to explore the very real gap between what candidates offer recruiters in their CV (there must be a better word than that, it means 'the story or journey of m y life in Latin...really?!) and what recruiters really need the CV to say and do.
So let's get Key Debate Number 1 out of the way immediately...the Personal Statement / Profile Statement or Introduction (I'm not married to any of those names for it really) must be in the first person, no questions, no arguments. Why? Well for me the first thing on your CV sets the tone just like the 'hand shake moment' when you are networking. So why use archaic language when you are talking about yourself and when you want to make a positive impression? When someone says "I" in their Personal Statement then the recruiter is engaged from the start, a relationships is being formed and there is somehow more validity and humanity in the words because you are owning them and not allocating them to this mysterious third person.
One of my favourite personal brand words is Congruence and I am often taken aback by the absence of it; when for example I sit down with a graduate who is friendly, approachable, informal and warm and then read their CV commence with a third person description of themselves that would not be out of place in a Dickens Preface! Authentic and Appropriate (two more of my favourite personal brand words) dictate that one should be the "right sort of me" for each different circumstance and environment. Well in a CV one chance to impress type situations then surely the 'right sort of me' is the one that is natural, warm and which can create a connection with the reader? I for one am far more engaged when someone tells me in their CV...."I love the challenge of working to demanding deadlines and I get a real buzz from hitting personal and team goals" rather than "Charlotte has a passion for personal achievement and she thrives under pressure" no-brainer surely?
So in short whatever the candidate calls the first bit on page one of their CV they need to understand that all a recruiter wants to gain from reading it is a sense of their personality, what is important to them, what they want in the future and whether they seem to fit the brand that the vacancy is with....they want a sense of what the candidate is all about and to give that most clearly first person and proper engaging vocabulary does it for me every time.
I always try to impress upon my coaching clients after we have covered the 'intro' that they have now shaken the hand of the recruiter and said hello and that it is now time to now tell them what you can do and show them how well you can do it! Many CV's slip into the easier go to of Education & Qualifications, which I do concede in some roles is crucial but in the majority of the jobs people apply for it is the list of competencies / skills and knowledge that dictates success and usually dominates the job specification against which the recruiter is checking each CV.
So if you are a candidate play to what the recruiter wants; they you to mention as many of the key competencies that they have on their list as possible and not just in a talking the talk way but very much in a walking the walk way. So it's all about listing the desired competencies, illustrating that you can do and/or have done and some tangible evidence to back it up; qualifications, training, results and promotions. Sell them you and what you can do in mutually understood language that of competencies and real life tangible outcomes of you doing those things.
Finally it's the career history, education and training bit. From a recruiters point of view they are looking very much for succinct, perhaps bulleted content that tells them in concise short-hand what the candidate has done so far, who for, how successfully and for how long. CV's that go into the minutia of every role down to what the candidate did on Tuesday's and the name of every one of their managers just overwhelm and probably tired and under pressure recruiter. Again I am back to the gap between a candidate telling recruiter everything (or what you think they need to know, which is often everything) or making it easy for them to gather the information that they need to know.
I am a great advocate for the schools employability workshop we run called 'You are the Recruiter' which is a part of our Employability offering to Secondary, Further and Higher Education; Why? well probably because I wrote it and it helps put bread on the table but mainly because I am convinced that being put in the shoes of a recruiter just for a few hours at the right age, where choosing between CV's under time pressure is the end game, is invaluable in helping to educate tomorrows candidates on what a recruiter looks for and needs. That knowledge is powerful.
The CV game is not always about pure candidate talent in terms of qualifications, job ability and achievements sometimes (and increasingly often in my experience) candidate talent in terms of communicating with the recruiter in the right way, with the right structure, focus, vocabulary and personal brand clues is crucial. Obviously the candidate needs the right stuff to 'show off' but the fact is that many others increasingly have the same stuff; as qualification standards rise, work placements / intern-ship numbers grow and part-time work for students is more common.
Back to brand of you, flier and pitch; candidates that don't 'get' this will increasingly find that the gap between them and the candidates that do growing. That's is why what I do is so rewarding; a CV rewrite coupled with coaching to help a clients to see themselves as a brand so often changes their 'luck' in the job market.
Paul Goring 2014
With social media taking an increasingly important role in finding the right career move and in being found by employers the influence of recommendations and endorsements is becoming hugely significant.
I have always tried to be honest, immediate and generous with my comments about people that I have worked with, networked with, met informally and rated. Obviously it is easier if you have worked with someone for a period of time to write something very competency based and referenced into actual roles the person involved has performed. But in my experience quality and potential both shout loud when you know what to look for.
I am sure that the old adage of people buying from people applies here and that trusted, experienced and well known people in your chosen field are gold dust as recommendations. Why? Well two main reasons, first they know quality when they see it because they have experience of what it looks like, sounds like and starts out being like and second and perhaps even more importantly they will not associate their brand with an individual who will disappoint, fail to achieve or not live up to expectations.
So you are perhaps either starting out on your career or looking to gain an upward move or sector change; how do you reinforce what you have in terms of qualifications, attributes, competencies and skills in terms of underpinning recommendations / references from the right people? Themes I have talked about in past blogs about likeYou never know who the right person to network with is and Always being on duty for your brand are particularly relevant here. Always being at your best in networking, job or socially related situations gives those key people that you bump into along the way every reason to see the best in you and want to tell others about it. Being interesting and interested and memorable for the right reasons will all give you a fighting chance of leaving positive impressions however short the encounter.
Linked In is perhaps a prime example of where this is most relevant in terms of social media. The programme prompts your connections to either endorse you for a skill or experience as well as giving them an opportunity to recommend you. Recruiters (internal and external) increasingly use Linked In as a source of reassurance on candidates through the medium of these two sources of information to influence how they view you.
Not on Linked In? Well you need to sort that out pretty sharpish! The fact that you have a presence on the platform and most importantly keep the profile up to date and full of information says to potentially interested parties that you are serious about your career and that you know what it takes to get spotted. The absence of a profile when someone searches for you may even be the end of the search. With a growing number of connections comes increased chance of positive endorsements and recommendations and allows people like me to say good things about you. You also have the option of asking for recommendations..
I know that perhaps culturally this might feel a bit awkward. Asking someone to tell the world how brilliant you are feels wrong in some way..but if the rest of the world is doing it and gets results from it then you don't really have a choice in a competitive labour market do you? Obviously just as you might not connect with a complete stranger you should only ask those who you know will recall you, know enough to say good things and whose opinion carries weight.
That's why when you network you should always make a note of people that you have chatted to and connected with - you never know when you can leverage against that relationship. People who are in positions of responsibility, power, authority however you chose to describe them; are often incredibly generous with their recommendations. That is why when you leave education, employment or even a training event you should focus on who you should ask if they would mind offering a recommendation for you. Building relationships towards the gift of a recommendation is a skill of course and you need to have performed at a level that you would want others to know about but this stuff is important as it offers a rich back drop of reassuring opinion about you from people that the people making decisions about you will read, listen to and allow to inform their decision.
Marketing the brand of you is a multi layered task and the layer of recommendations is a key part in making sure that anyone you want to /need to impress can find opinion from others that under pins how fantastic you are!
Copyright Paul Goring 2014
Returning to work after any sort of break be it parenthood, studying, illness, sabbatical or unemployment is not easy and sure we all have doubts about how we will make the transistion and whether we will be able to find and keep the kind of job that we want.
These doubts are perfectly natural and understandable but ultimately they are a burden and they need to be understood, managed and controlled for you to move forwards.
So where do you start?
Well I think Step One must be to make sure that you are ready. Being ready is not just about wanting to get back into work or indeed needed to; being ready is about the preparation you need to go through to ensure that you are going to be confident and successful and this bit is about you and no-one else.
Have you reviewed your CV or have you got one from three years ago that ‘will do’? Well for starters it won’t do and by ignoring your CV, which is the most crucial key to opening career doors, then you are already putting yourself at a disadvantage compared to other candidates that do understand its power and are working hard to use it.
So why don’t you want to tackle the CV issue? Are you concerned about the gap, worried that the job you are looking for now does not sit well with the work you did in the past, anxious that your technology skills have not kept pace with the market or are you simply unsure what a CV should look like in 2013?
All are easily answered and managed. Your CV is your flier advertising the brand of you and you can read more detail about this in earlier blogs I have written but let’s focus here on you being comfortable with the gap and not allowing it to be an unexplained black hole in your career development or something that you are somehow not able to explain or indeed celebrate.
Developing more knowledge and skills, becoming a parent, overcoming illness or doing something different for a while are all part of who you are and being comfortable in including that time in your CV and explaining it to potential employers is key to you being ready to get out there and get a job that you want. So get started. Think about the positives; what you have learned about yourself and how you have grown and celebrate them.
Once you are comfortable that you don’t need to excuse yourself about your recent work history and that it can be integrated with your past career history and your personal brand then you can start looking outwards.
Are your skills sufficient for what you want to do? Is the job market healthy in the areas you want to work, are you being realistic? Setting yourself up for more disappointment by not researching carefully and being honest about what you can do and what you want to do can be a big mistake.
All of the confidence that you have built up and the energy that you have to invest might be wasted on making many applications for roles that just don’t suit you or which might not exist. Knowing the market is key and that takes time on line and talking to experts to achieve.
Getting out there! Now that you know that you have a researched and achievable job target and you have a CV that you are proud of you need to sign up to on-line job sites,–post your CV and let people find you as well as finding them through recruitment agencies, job sites and adverts for vacancies.
Dressing the part and feeling the part are both key to you being successful. That personal brand and confidence that I talked about needs to be expressed physically as well as in your mind and employers respond to confident body language and candidates that speak with confidence and purpose and even if you don’t feel it sometimes you need to ‘fake it to make it.’
We can help with all of these stages if you need us but more important than that is your own self-belief and positivity because good things happen to candidates who know themselves and the market and get out there and make things happen.
Returning to work can be a fresh opportunity to reinvent and re energise your career; so good luck with it and let us know if some one to one coaching or a place on our career boot camp days would help !
Wanting a job, understanding the qualifications required, seeking out some really strong industry background material and focusing on the leading players the sector are all very laudible activities in the process of getting yourself hired to work in your dream industry but sometimes you need to be able to not walk the walk or even walk the talk but simply talk the talk.
OK so let's think for a moment about how not being in control of language makes us feel. Being in another country and not talking the language fluently can be pretty stressful and confusing and creates a real barrier immediately to successful communication indeed being in another part of your native country and being exposed to another dialect or accent can be pretty difficult sometimes; so imagine that stress and that feeling of not being understood and put it into the context of the interview process.
I have interviewed many many people. I have seen some awesome talent and heard some impressive interviews but what can really make the difference; especially when we are focusing on second or even third jobs, is the candidates comfort and fluency in the language of both industry generally and especially the sector for which I am recruiting. Does that sound daunting, sorry. Actually it is perhaps more accessible and easy to obtain than just having to have ten years experience in the industry.
Advice. Well read lots of industry related material; trade magazines, blogs, postings, on-line reports and web-site information. Gather the clues of what that industry uses as a palate of words.
Linked-In. Join groups in that industry, see what the hot topics are at the moment. Interviewers love hot topics, they are industry relevant and give you a chance to show them that they know your / their stuff. Also ask questions on the group forums - the people providing the answers will be surpirsingly generous, people want to attract talent into their industry it is a tiny bit of reflected glory and they are also looking after their own interests by attracting the best people into their industry!
Mirroring - use the same language as the job ad and interviewer(s). If they call a sales lead an 'in' then you should too. It makes people feel relaxed if others use the same jargon - there is a also power thing involved but essentially you can do yourself a favour by adopting their language / jargon lead! You can generate a genuine sense of belonging and of being of the same 'career tribe' and that creates a buy in that can really benefit you.
The second strand of this process in the language of the specific employer that you have targetted. Do they call they customers clients or customers? Do they call their employees employees, partners, staff or people?
Their web-site will of course always give huge clues on this and my good friend Linked-In will help too. Same advice as above; find people that work within the culture and experience their vocabulary and learn from it.
Remember three things; the interviewer is nervous too and that they are usually very proud of their employer and of the industry they have invested their career in and so using every chance to call things the same name as they do with as much underpinning research and understanding as possible can surely only do you good!
So spend a little time as part of your preparation for interview routine focusing on this bit, often ignored or not sufficiently prioritised but a great way to build bridges, earn trust and demonstrate cultural fit; through language.
That's it I guess - talking the talk.
I have been thinking this week about this word employability. It is being mentioned in the loftiest political circles as well as in schools, colleges and universities, its also being considered by employers and I am told that even parents are managing to suppress their understandable distraction with qualifications, to mention it.
But what does the word actually mean, shall we dwell for a moment on finding a working definition and then using that to inform our thinking further?
Good old Wikipedia says....
While there is no singular definition of employability, a review of the literature suggests that employability is about work and the ability to be employed, such as:
1. The ability to gain initial employment; hence the interest in ensuring 'key skills', career advice and an understanding about the world of work are embedded into the education system.
2. The ability to maintain employment and make 'transitions' between jobs and roles within the same organisation to meet new job requirements and
3. The ability to obtain new employment if required ie. to be independent inthe labour market by being willing and able to manage their own employment transistions between and within organisations.
I must say that for me, the first bullet is the most resonant just now. I’d really like to focus on the sentence ‘an understanding about the world or work’ and it being ‘embedded in the education system’; for me this is the crux of the whole employability debate.
But who is responsible for this huge undertaking?
Can we expect the educators, that have been driven for a long time by their performance being judged purely in terms of the academic, to be able to change over night?
Do our parents need to acknowledge that the A Level / Degree certificates are no longer enough for a career, unlike back in the 70's / 80's??
Is it the employers; should they offer more internships, placements and apprenticeships to young people?
Do commercial expert consultants like Consortio need to be welcomed in to the debate and have their knowledge and experience celebrated instead of being seen as competition by everyone...?
Or maybe should young people take responsibility for their own career and employability skills from an earlier age?
Tough questions.....my view is actually a bit of all of the above because none of the stakeholders in the process are able, on their own, to solve the problem in its entirity and indeed none of them have the know how to be the sole solution. So cooperation, mutual purpose and communication are key to bringing all the stakeholders together and to move the issue forwards quickly.
We know that we, at Consortio, are an important part of the solution.
We know that everyone needs to be part of a coordinated plan.
And we definitely know that unless we solve this sharpish that we will be failing our future talent and impacting our future economic capability.... serious stuff!
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