Today is America’s shopping holiday, Black Friday. Bargain hunters scour print ads and websites to find the lowest prices and best values. They make lists and plan routes to go from store to store. We need to follow a similar method in managing our careers and looking for work.
1. Write down your professional goals for the next year and next five years. Start with salary. Then dig into how you want to work and what kind of responsibilities you want to have.
2. The next step is strategy and planning: How can I achieve my goal? Use your list to develop a strategic plan. For example, is it logical to achieve my salary goal in my current position with my current employer, or do I need to change jobs and possibly take on more responsibility? Do I need to go back to school or get a certificate? Who can help me achieve my goals (networking)? What resources do I need (LinkedIn, career websites, professional associations, alumni groups)?
3. Here’s the most important lesson from Black Friday shoppers: Go for it. We’ve all heard stories of mobs, fist fights, and arrests. None of this is good. However, behind all the negative news lies something very positive. Tens of thousands of people are going after what they want as consumers. What if they did the same thing in their professional lives? A motivated person is more likely to succeed. When looking for a new job or changing your career, take a lesson from the people packing the malls today: Have a goal, make a plan, and go for it.
Many clients tell me that they follow up with employers by email after job interviews. They also seldom get a reply. Here’s a better strategy: Use the phone. While it is possible to dodge a message as easily as it is to delete an email, a phone call carries more weight. The interviewer hears your voice and remembers that you’re a person. Better still, if the interviewer picks up the phone, you get the chance to ask questions and engage the interviewer.
An email message is passive, and it gives you no chance to ask questions or answer them. Some clients think they are being polite by using email. Think about it this way: You took the time to interview with a company. Don’t they owe you the respect to reply to a phone call?
Know what you want to say when you talk to the interviewer. The key question is: “Are you still considering me as a candidate?” If the answer is yes, ask when the company expects to make a decision. Don’t leave it there. Follow up with this question: “I am very interested in this position. What else can I tell you that would help you make your decision?” If the interviewer tells you that she is not considering you as a candidate, ask: “Thank you for considering me. Do you have any advice for me as I continue my job search?”
In either of these cases, the interviewer could give you an answer that isn’t helpful. On the other hand, if you don’t ask the question, they won’t be helpful because you’re not asking for it. Use the phone. Ask questions.
In a recent post, I described a client who is being laid off because of a trend to make employees buy their trucks and routes. We could debate this managerial strategy. As I wrote, I’m not a fan of making employees carry most of the risk. However, my client faced a different, more immediate problem. He needed a job.
My client assumed that that all trucking companies were following the same model. Maybe more are, but not all. We quickly identified four companies that pay drivers as employees and do not require that they own their trucks. I also talked to him about other ways he could use his skill as a driver to earn a living.
My client’s initial problem was that he faced a career roadblock without thinking about alternatives, ways to work around a problem. In the face of job loss, most of us go through a similar type of despair or denial.
What should you do if you or a friend are facing a career roadblock? First, analyze the situation calmly and rationally. Ask this question: What kind of employers need my skills? Make a detailed list of your professional skills and start thinking about what kind of industries and companies employee people with those skills
Another good way to get around road blocks is to talk with people you’ve worked with in the past, especially supervisors or managers who appreciated your work. Don’t ask them to help you get a job. That’s a big turn off. Instead, ask them for advice. What skills do they see as your strongest? Where do they think you should look for work? Do they have any insight about how you might change careers? Humans love to give advice (especially bloggers). Take advantage of that resource.
There are other ways around career roadblocks, too many to list here. The key is to recognize that you are stuck and find a way to move forward. Keep a positive attitude and stay open to new ideas. For many successful professionals, a career roadblock offers an opportunity to find a new, better job. The first step is always to believe in yourself and know that you can move forward.
I'm on vacation in Michigan and was going to take a few days off from blogging. However, I saw an article in the Detroit Free Press that forced me to the keyboard. Of Americans laid off between Jan. 2009 and Dec. 2011, 56% have found jobs. The articles says "only," which is misleading, given current hiring trends. It takes longer to find a job.
Here's the real problem - pay. One third of people who found a new job are making 20% less than before. The only way around this problem is to keep looking for a job that will pay a better wage. Most companies aren't giving raises or only offering minimal raises. The article tells the story of an IT professional who was making $80,000 who now makes $9.15 providing tech support. The media loves this kind of story. It's frightening. Don't listen to it. If the young man cited in the article had the experience and skills to be hired for a job that pays $80,000, there's no reason he is locked in a near minimum wage job. He has to keep looking for work and remember to sell the qualities that brought him the better wage. It's not easy. But it's the way things are going to be for a while. No one is safe -- be ready to move. Keep looking for something better.