When it’s time to make a career move, conventional wisdom is to visit job boards and respond to postings. There’s a sense of accomplishment in hitting ‘submit’ and knowing that you’ve officially thrown your hat in the ring for a new gig. But then what? It’s a waiting game to see if you get a call back and, if you don’t, you wonder why. It could be that you didn’t match enough keywords in an Applicant Tracking System, funding was cut, or interviews started a week before the job was even posted. In other words, a lack of response may have very little to do with your qualifications. Even so, you end up at the mercy of someone else’s needs and timeline, rather than being in control of your own search.
I propose taking your search into your own hands to create an ideal role and positioning yourself as that person people think of when an opportunity arises. Consider these techniques as you approach a new job search or grow in your current role. While you might be perfectly happy at work, you never know when an offer you can’t refuse may present itself. When that opportunity arises, you’ll want to be prepared to act without delay.
First, create a list of companies for which you’d like to work. It could be based on your affinity for their product, a strong culture fit or a leader with a great reputation. If you’re having trouble getting started, visit some interesting companies’ pages on LinkedIn and check out the organisations that ‘people also viewed’ to expand your list of target companies. Consider what connections you already have there and who could make an introduction for you. This is your opportunity to test the two degrees of separation between Kiwis.
Now it’s time to get to work. Step away from the computer and start having proactive conversations about your next move. At this point, you are able to take control of the interview process by initiating a conversation to learn more about the companies where you’d like to work. This outreach works best and is most natural when you are not responding to a job posting, but beginning a new conversation. Rather than jumping in and asking for a job, start by learning about the company. You’ll get beyond the surface of the image they have and learn more about the day-to-day workings of the organisation. Explore if, and where, you might be able to fit in and share what you enjoy about your work rather than trying to sell yourself. This mindset shift will allow you to be more comfortable in the conversation without feeling like you’re performing. It’s much easier to share a story about why you love the work you do than to concoct a pitch about why you should be hired. You’ll also feel more natural in these conversations.
If your conversation has gone well and you remain interested in working with the company, consider an offer rather than a request. You have a unique skill-set to offer an organisation. Discussing your offer tends to be easier than asking for a job and also puts the parameters of the job in your hands. You don’t’ need to fit into a defined position in this situation, but show your value and create something based on both the company’s, and your, needs. If the conversation has led you to believe it’s not the perfect fit, that’s also great news. Knowing what you don’t want to do is equally important as knowing what you want.
These conversations and the ensuing relationships will allow you to proactively shape your career path, rather than reacting to what is available online. When my clients approach their search through relationships, they often share with me how they haven’t had to job search and have been ‘lucky’ enough to have opportunities come their way without online applications. I’d argue that those ‘lucky’ people created their own opportunities through meaningful relationships.