Thursday, December 19, 2013

Looking for a Job - You are In Sales . . . . . . . "The Job Seeking Sales Process"

I often ask job search workshop groups I'm speaking to: “Have you ever been in sales?” 
     A few hands will go up.  
I then ask the group:  How many of you ARE in sales?  Again, a few hands go up.
I then ask:   How many of you are looking for a job? 
     As the light bulb goes on, all hands go up.
And I say, “Well, if you are looking for a job, you are in sales!”  And that’s the truth!

Looking for a job is all about sales
Looking for a job is all about sales  –  selling the most important product or service you will ever sell  – YOU!  If you are looking for a new job, new role, expanded role, interim contract or consulting gig, you are in sales!

What do you need to know and do?
How do you sell yourself?  That’s the $64,000 or $45,000 or $150,000 or $30,000 . . . . .question  –  literally and figuratively.  How do you go about selling yourself in the employment marketplace?  What do you need to know and do?
  • One thing you need to know is that effective and successful sales people don’t sell themselves "helter-skelter" –  they don't just start talking to people.  That approach would be akin to “shotgunning” in job search lingo – just phoning anyone, or firing off resumes to anyone and everyone without a strategy or a plan.  Successful salespeople have a plan.
  • Another thing you need to know is that "it's all about them" . . . . . them being the customer.  Good salespeople understand that customers want to know "What's in it for me?"  In sales lingo, it's called the "WIIFM!"  They want to know how what you are selling will help their company grow and prosper.  Know as job seekers that hiring firms are looking inward - at their own needs and selecting candidates who will best fill them.
  • A final thing you need to know is that customers buy benefits.  Astute salespeople don't approach customers with laundry lists of their product's features.  Instead, they show how these product's features will help the customer solve problems, stem shrinkage, and facilitate growth.  Astute job seekers know that resumes with "laundry lists" of duties tell little about how they can contribute to a prospective employer's success.  These job seekers list duties they have performed and responsibilities they have shouldered and focus on how their performance of these duties helped previous employers solve problems and achieve growth and success. 
Good salespeople, understanding how and why customers buy, prepare thoroughly before they ever approach their first customer in the marketplace.  Let's take a look at what they do:

The Sales Process
Effective sales people sell themselves and their products or services by preparing themselves to approach their customers and their marketplace.  They:
(1)  Learn about and understand their product / service they are selling
(2)  Research and learn about their marketplace
(3)  Identify target customers / avenues into the marketplace to make a sale
(4)  Develop their marketing tools to market and sell their product / service
(5)  Market their product /service
(6)  Negotiate the sale
(7)  Make the sale!

As a job seeker, selling your product or service is no different.  You are offering, or selling your skills, knowledge, experience, and abilities to prospective employers.  Effective job seekers learn to sell themselves.  They devise a plan to approach their target market, prepare their marketing materials, and then venture out into their targeted portion of the employment marketplace.  They follow a process - a sales process, and do not conduct their search as some "helter-skelter" inconsistent bursts of activity.  When the process is followed consistently, job seekers get jobs!

The Job Seeker Sales Process
Effective job seekers sell themselves and their product or services using the same sales process. 
Here is how to apply the sales process to preparation and conduct of your job search:

Step (1)  Learn about and understand the product / service you are selling - That's you!
    It can be surprising what you don’t know about you - or at least how to talk about you!
    A.  Akin to a salesperson learning about a product or service, job seekers need to devote time to learning about what they have to offer their customer, i.e., a new employer.  How?
    ● Assessments are one way.
    ● But if you don’t have the resources to secure a formal assessment, a simple paper and pencil exercise can do the trick:  Identify your skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, attitudes, and aptitudes.  This is what you have to sell.
    ● Ask your network (close colleagues and friends) what they see as your assets in terms of skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, attitudes, and aptitudes.
    ●  An exercise I like is to ask about 10 people who know you well this question: If you had 3 words to describe me, what would they be?
    B.  “What do I really want to do?”
    Visit and re-visit this question many times as you go through each of the 7 Steps of the Job Seeker Sales Process and throughout your search.  Your answer will change over time and become clearer and clearer.
    ● Identify your objective for your job search.  Ask yourself:   “What type of work do I really want to do?”

Step  (2)  Research and learn about your marketplace
    Just as professional salespeople learn about their marketplace, called a sales territory,  job seekers need to learn about their sales territory – the employment market.  Ask and begin to answer these questions:
    ● What industries use and hire my type of skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, attitudes, and aptitudes? 
    ● What types of companies and organizations employ my skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, attitudes, and aptitudes?
    ● Within the companies/organizations, what departments use my skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, attitudes, and aptitudes?
    ● What areas of the country/globe are these companies and industries located in?

Step (3)  Identify target customers / avenues into the marketplace
    Hone your research by beginning to identify your target customers.  Identify target companies and organizations that may employ your skills, knowledge, experience, strengths, attitudes, and aptitudes.
    ● Use web/online research to identify companies within your targeted industry.  For instance, if you want to work as an electrical engineer in the defense industry, Google defense contracting companies to get a list of target organizations to begin to explore (Get that?  – Begin to explore and learn about - not send off unfocused and untargeted resumes and applications "helter-skelter.").
    ● Identify trade associations for your targeted industry(ies).  Use their websites to identify their member companies/organizations that are target companies for you.
    ● Research target companies via publications/business directories that provide “sales-type” information about companies.  Professional salespeople use and rank “Hoovers” as one of the best.  But there are others such as Manta, One Source, Yahoo, The Fortune 500, Fortune Global 500, etc.  Some are free; others provide free introductory time periods.  These resources can also be found, and used free of charge, in libraries.
    ● Speaking of libraries, visit one.  Librarians  can direct you to useful research tools to identify target companies/organizations and to learn about your target market.

Step  (4)  Develop your marketing tools to market and sell your product / service
    Here are the basic marketing tools you will need to venture into the job market:
    ● Resume in chronological format (at least to begin your search) 
    ● Linked-In Profile
    ● “L”vator speech (. . . goes everywhere you do.  Learn it and work it in to conversations.) 
    ● Business Cards (. . . go everywhere you do.)
    ● Annotated Reference List
    ● Marketing Plan
    ● Portfolio
    Think of these as your Basic Tool Kit for a Job Search; you will develop others - templates for cover letters, networking plan, follow-up method, etc. – as you get further into your search.  With these marketing tools developed, you are now able to enter the job market - to begin talking with your network and target companies in a way that contributes to your success - not deters it.  You now have the information you need to identify real, potential job opportunities, and a way to communicate to those potential employers about what you have to offer in an impactful, attention-getting way.

Step  (5)  Market their product /service
    Conduct your job search.  Because of the preparation you’ve done in Steps 1 -4, you can hit the ground running and pick up traction over other job seekers who did not prepare in this way. 
    ● Apply for positions using your targeted and focused resume aimed at showing that you meet the requirements of the job.
    ● Contact target companies/organizations with a targeted resume that addresses your  needs and priorities.
    ● Network with your contacts.  Inform them of your status and the work you want to do, being as specific as possible.
    Ask 4 key questions.  Ask about good:
        - Companies they are aware of (that you can look into),
        - People they can refer you to
        - Associations you can participate in, and
        - Search firms that they found helpful/useful.
    Don’t ask (at least not initially) this question: “Do you know of an jobs?”  If their answer is “NO,” it’ll be a short conversation!
    ● Follow-up.  Devise a strategy to follow-up periodically and consistently with each and every contact you make.  That applies to companies, network contacts, associations, and with search firms (find out how they prefer you to stay in touch).  Plan multiple follow-ups and schedule them every 3 weeks or so, more frequently when needed.

Step  (6) Interview for and Negotiate the sale
    Your goal is offerS so you have a choice!  To get to the offer, you have to interview effectively.
    A.  Interviewing is terrifying for a lot of folks.  But, like anything else in life, the more you practice . . . the better you get.
    ● Learn and develop the skills of interviewing to increase your comfort level.  These boil down to giving and getting information effectively.
    ● Develop skill early in your search by talking with people.  Practice your “L”vator speech, discussing your accomplishments, and asking about your contacts’ knowledge of the employment marketplace.
    ● Demonstrate that you are an ideal candidate by showing that:
        - You meet the job’s requirements (Technical competency)
        - Are a good fit for the organization (Organizational culture)
        - Would work well with the team  (Chemistry)
        -  Will provide value and benefit the employer if they hire you
    ● Steps 1 - 5 provide a great foundation for developing your abilities to sell yourself.  In producing your marketing materials, in talking with research sources, and in networking (in person and via social media), you increase your comfort level and develop the ability
        - To describe what you are looking for,
        - To discuss what you offer to a employer, and
        - To show how you can fit and fill an organization's needs and benefit them in doing so.
    ● Treat all networking meetings like you are interviewing.  It's good practice and it really is an interview.

    B.  Negotiation is a sticky wicket for you many job seekers.  Many, who have conducted a long, frequently frustrating and disappointing search, and who finally receive a job offer are loathe to negotiate for more than the offer offers. 
    ● To negotiate or not to negotiate - that is a job seeker’s dilemma. 
    ● If you do not negotiate, you generally leave some things on the table that could have been yours.
    ● For some, however, who do not have the stomach for negotiation - and the nervous anxiety it produces, it may be best to accept the offer as is.  It is truly the job seeker’s choice!
Step  (7)  Make the sale!
        Accept the offer - the negotiated offer - and close the sale!  You have a job!

Sales Summary
In the tough, tight employment market today, and I would predict for the foreseeable future, finding a job will require hard work.  Understanding and practicing selling skills will help you show employers what you have to offer and how hiring you can benefit them.   Following the Job Seeker Sales Process will aid you in conducting an effective and efficient job search.  Take the time to prepare yourself and your job search marketing approach to make the best impression of you as you enter and sell yourself in the employment market.  It is truly the shortest distance between looking for a job and finding it!
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Thursday, December 12, 2013

End-of-the-Year Audits Work for Job Search Too

If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you always got!
This simple truth works for many things in life - your job search too! 

As the year winds down, and the holiday events you attend become fewer, take some time to review your job search activity to figure out where you can do a better job in order to achieve your goal -- a new job! 

Before jumping into 2014 with a continuation of the same search you've been conducting  -- doing the same old things you've been doing  -- give some critical thought to how your search has been going.  How?  By performing a A Job Search Audit.  It can tell you how you’re doing - really!     

Review your job activity, starting at the very beginning, in a methodical and complete manner - that is key!  Identify every activity and chart your activity on a spreadsheet - computerized or paper and pen - it doesn't matter which.  Focus on contacts and outcomes of those contacts.  This review, your Job Search Audit, will give you some clues and ques about. . . 
(1)  What you ARE doing well - a telltale sign is activity that is generated by your efforts
  • Networking meetings, e-mails, offers of assistance from colleagues, interviews, final interviews in which you are one of 2 or 3 finalists, i.e., close-call interviews, invitations to meet, job offers, etc.
(2)  What you are NOT doing well - a telltale sign is little to no “external ”activity –
  • Spending your days alone at your computer, sending countless resumes to companies with no response from them or sending countless applications with the same lack of response.
  • Few, if any, networking meetings, e-mails from companies and colleagues, offers of assistance from colleagues, interviews, professional society meetings, invitations to meet, job offers, no “close call-interviews” etc.                                                                                                
Here are the steps to perform your Job Search Audit:
Step 1.  To perform your audit, set aside a block of time in which you can devote your total attention - no interruptions!
Step 2.  Next, if possible, find a “job search buddy” with whom you can talk through the review.  
             - If your resources allow, a trained Job Search coach will help you move through the audit expeditiously.
Step 3.  Third, review your Career Strategy.  Take out your Marketing Plan.  Create a chart and identify any and all responses you have what response you have received from your:
     - target companies, 
     - applications, and 
     - network contacts.
Step 4.  Chart your follow-up with each (Note:  Follow-up is not a one-time e-mail or follow-up phone call; it is a consistent process.) 
  • List each response you received and the action you took in response.  
  • Identify how many interchanges occurred. 
  • Where did the communication die?  
  • Who dropped the ball?
Step 5.  Fourth, review your resume.  You have learned a lot about your industry and the role you are seeking in your industry if you have been conducting a consistent and active job search campaign.  
  • Based on your current knowledge of your industry/target companies, and their advertised positions, 
  • as well as your current knowledge about what you REALLY want to do
  • Ask Yourself:  "Does my resume need revision?"  
Spot the holes and fill the gaps
When you look at your activity this way, you will be able to spot "holes" or gaps in your activity.  Plan to plug these holes in your activity going forward.  It may make the critical difference. 
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Layoffs Coming? - Catch the Signs -- They're There

As employees and job seekers thoughts turn to holiday plans, employers thoughts turn to rightsizing their organizations. Catch the signs!

It’s that wonderful time of year, when . . . . . the best present you could get would be a bright shiny job offer in your in-box if you're a job seeker, and a fat end-of-the-year bonus check if you're an employee.
It’s also that less-than-wonderful time of year when employers look at “rightsizing” their organizations for the coming year.  In “corporate- (and HR)-speak” that means looking ahead at the # of employees they pay and comparing that to the amount of work they will get paid for by customers.  It’s a pretty logical and simple formula.

Amount of work to be done = Number of needed employees.

● If there isn’t enough paid work to be done to support hiring, that = no hiring for job seekers.

● If there is too little paid work to pay the current employees, that = layoffs - if not now, then soon.

Don’t be caught unaware.  Catch the signs, albeit subtle.  Plan your next career moves, and job search moves now.  Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  

For additional information and advice, click on the "Articles" tabs and refer to  You've Got the Job Now What? sections of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Postponing Your Search During The Holidays -- A Bad Choice

The Holidays are upon us - keep on searching!  You'll be glad you did!  
With the passing of Halloween, the holiday season arrives.  People's thoughts turn to the holidays --  plans, preparations, parties, travel . . . . . and with it, many job seekers thoughts turn to shutting down their job searches.  My advice --  don't do it!

A Bad Choice
As the holiday season arrives, many job seekers make a bad decision - to lessen, or shut down all-together, their job search with the thought that they will renew and resume their search in the new year.  Bad decision!  Why?  A misunderstanding of  how hiring happens.

Many job seekers mistakenly believe that employers stop hiring during the last couple months of the year.  Not true - My best and most poignant example is a client who received their job offer on the afternoon of December 24 - it was around 2:30 pm.

Sure employers become busy with not only holiday company events, but end-of-the-year tasks and requirements that must be accomplished before they can call it a year and go home for their own holiday break!  So hiring may slow.  But, if they have open positions that are critical to performance in the new calendar year, they will want to fill these before December 31.  With that hiring task behind them, they can hit the ground running on January 2.

Add to this misunderstanding of end-of-the-year hiring the fact that job searching is hard, and job seekers have a case for postponing their search until the new year.  If a job seeker has been working hard for months with no job offer to show for it, and feeling pretty discouraged, stressed, and even defeated, taking time off from your search during the holidays can seem like an attractive option. 

But, don't do it.  You will benefit by maintaining your search right through the holidays.  Here's how:
Continued benefits
So keep on searching right through the holiday season.  You will benefit by:
● Having a slightly more open field where the competition lessens due to the fact that many of your competitors will drop out of the race due to their mistaken belief that employers don't hire during the holidays. 
Maintaining your job search momentum and staying visible and current with you network  -- thus keeping your pipeline for leads and opportunities open and fed.
Continuing your follow-up on open positions and opportunities.  

Added advantages
(1)  Employers may have time to talk!  Throughout the year, many employers who just don't have the time to talk, or network, with you often find that their schedules slow a bit.  With their employees beginning to use their vacation leave ("use it or lose it") and others on travel, employers sometimes find "holes," or time, in their schedules due to the fact that they can't move forward on projects without the assistance of the absent employees.  So they may be able to talk by phone or even squeeze in a meeting with you.
(2)  Holiday get-togethers abound!  Take advantage of these opportunities to attend --  business cards in hand -- and get known! 
Friends, families, neighborhoods, and groups hold parties and events. 
Professional organizations and professional societies substitute holiday parties and networking events for their regular monthly program format.

A different twist
It is true that the holidays present a different twist on job search.  While hiring may slow, networking opportunities increase.  You can gain visibility and add to your list of network contacts.  Your challenge is to understand and act on these opportunities that the holiday season brings.  

If your search is well underway, it may be possible to achieve your goal and secure an offer by the end of the year.  If you search is recently begun, and you are not yet engaged in pursuing specific opportunities, it is less likely that you can generate an offer by the end of the year but you can advance your cause.

Scenario 1:  Your search is well underway
If your search is well underway, and you are engaged in pursuing jobs for which you have networked or interviewed, you may be able to be able to turn the opportunity into an offer by the end of the year.  Be proactive in following up with the employer, offering to supply any additional information, to update them on additional credentials you have attained, to meet other members of the staff, or to inform them of your availability for a final interview.  Express your continued interest in and great enthusiasm for the firm and for the position.

Scenario 2:  Your search is just getting started
Just beginning?  Beginning your search activity near the end of the year will put you ahead of the crowd who plan to begin their job searches in the new year - a really popular New Years Resolution.  However, there is a lot of preparatory work in getting a search underway and these last couple months of the year are a good time for a job seeker to do that.  It takes a month or two to prepare your marketing materials, and begin to re-connect with your network as well as to gain referrals to new network contacts.  It takes time to get applications submitted.  In sales jargon - it takes time to open and feed the pipeline.  You can accomplish all this and more if you begin now.  And it means you will be well positioned to hit the ground running in the new year.

Continuing to maintain an active search, or begin one, during the holidays, makes good $en$e.

For additional information and advice, click on the "Articles" tab and refer to the Planning and Strategy section of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
 ____________________________________________________________________________                 AJC - for Your Career Path
  Linked In:        
Twitter:  @AfterJobClub