Recently, New York University’s Stern School of Business featured a panel discussion with top recruiters providing excellent advice for anyone looking to SEED a career move, regardless of experience, education or circumstances. Here are key insights:
- You can’t always get everything you want. Meg Bradt, CEO of Simetra Executive Search Partners, said that in this economic environment, you can’t hope to change location, company and industry all at the same time. Bradt advises that you focus on the one that is most pressing and possible to change, relative to your requirements.
- You can’t always get what you want, Part 2 – Salaries: Be prepared to provide your salary history, especially when it’s stipulated that you must in order to be considered. The panelists indicated that companies post openings on job boards, but mostly to test the market. It’s my experience that they do it also to set salaries – by the many thousands who apply, and by reviewing their salary history. The more demand there is for a particular job, the more bargaining power the hiring companies have. Not fair, but reality nonetheless. That’s why they won’t even look at resumes that do not contain salary histories.
- All the more reason that it pays to have good friends, and to be a good friend. All of the recruiters said the best way to learn about good jobs is through efficient and effective networking – expanding your circle of peers, colleagues, community associates, and friends who know you are job-hunting. Select an industry group, association or location that is most attractive to you, and get involved, visible and valuable in those specific venues. The concept of “pay it forward” – though much hackneyed and maligned – is critically important. However, if you feel you are constantly providing the same advice to the same individuals and that the focus of the conversation is always about them, without considering your own needs for advice or connections, then reconsider. Or, become a therapist, career management consultant or life coach, and get compensated for your wisdom!
- When it comes to getting hired in any environment, it helps to be a knowledge-skills-aptitudes contortionist. Adaptability, flexibility and resourcefulness were the buzzwords for the entire panel discussion. The most attractive to hiring managers are those who are willing to make concessions on location, salary or title; after all, sometimes all you really need is the proverbial foot in the door or, as one recruiter put it, you only need to identify that one company who is most attractive to you and really wants you. The recruiters also advised that taking a low salary is not the worst thing, because once you’re onsite and proving yourself, there’s potential to advance. Furthermore, health benefits trump all other benefits. If it’s health benefits that cause you the most anxiety, then opt for the job that will alleviate that concern.
- Don’t assume that headhunters are a “one-man band” always playing the tunes you want to hear. Morten Nielsen, a Korn Ferry executive who specializes in senior-level pharmaceutical hires, said he receives resumes for all types of jobs in myriad industries, which is indication (and irritation) to him that to some job hunters he is just a name that they haven’t taken the time to research. Nielsen urge job hunters to research the recruiters that specialize in the industry they want to be in, before sending inquiries. It’s smart to cultivate at least three or four headhunters, even when you are not job-hunting, and to be courteous to them when they call you about searches they’re conducting. If you help them when they need you, perhaps they will repay the favor when you need them.
- Accentuate the positive, but do it with numbers. Regardless of your previous role prior to your current job hunt, be sure your resume includes language that speaks to quantitative outcomes of what you have accomplished, as well as job descriptions, and include key buzzwords that are in a particular job description or the hiring company’s industry. Even if your last job was as a volunteer community organizer, if you can translate your role to a strategic, operational or financial benefit – such as: “helped reduce costs by XX%;” or, “raised XXX$ for organization by doing A, B, C;’’ or, “generated 1,2,3 outcomes that were key priorities of the organization” – then you are communicating your unique quantifiable contributions beyond reciting a particular job description.
- Packaging is important. It’s critical to have a professional image online, especially a LinkedIn profile (www.linkedin.com) that exemplifies where you want to be next in your career, and what you have accomplished to get there. The recruiters indicated that the only professional social network they check is LinkedIn, but they do check Facebook to see if your online brand is something that will turn them off, or embarrass a potential employer. All advised you to consider a personal brand, especially if you are shooting for a consulting job, or trying to switch industries. Start a blog that highlights your expertise and experience, and make sure the rest of your web “footprint” jibes with the image you want a potential employer to see. Employers, vendors, potential partners and other people who are important to your career will Google you for your online footprint so it’s good to get into the mindset that you need an online brand. Need help with that? Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- You’re wonderful, you’re smart, you’re branded, but enough about you! One of the most egregious offenses job hunters commit is to write long cover letters that rehash their own resumes. Cover letters should be brief – one page is highly recommended – and must indicate that you have researched the company, or industry, the challenges and opportunities you think the company has, or something interesting and admirable about the person to whom you are addressing your letter. Reference your “transferable skills” –i.e., if you are trying to switch industries but are an expert in project management or marketing or forensic finance, if that’s what makes sense for the prospect, match your skills/outcomes achieved to the job description for the particular company. Recruiters also advise tweaking your resume for every position to which you apply. Yes, it’s hard work, but your resume is like an ad for the product you most want to sell – you! You are always selling yourself but focus primarily on your customer’s needs – in this case, those of the hiring executive whose decisions can affect not only your career but your life.
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