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The first thing today’s job seeker should understand is that an effective job search strategy has push and pull components; working the job boards at the executive level is not an effective primary approach. One needs to have an active network and personal marketing materials that will pull in new opportunities. More often than not, according to our strategists, job seekers become their own worst enemy by assuming:
- You are too old and no one will hire you. (There are ways to work with your age.)
- Simply updating your résumé will work in this job market. (Not anymore!)
- That if you get in the door, you will get the job. (You need a plan and interviewing practice to defeat your formidable competition.)
- All you need to do is tell your network you are available. (They are busy with their own lives.)
- You can search a couple hours a week and find a job in no time. (Job search is a full-time job.)
- You do not need professional help (coaching) in this process. (You are not an expert in finding jobs. Find someone who is and get help.)
Here are five areas our strategists have identified as “must haves” in today’s executive job market:
The Value Proposition and Brand Statement
The job search process is a marketing and sales process with one winner and many second place finishers. Our research tells us that to make the short list, you must first capture a résumé/profile reader’s attention in 10 seconds or less. The key to capturing attention is a short, impactful, eye-catching personal brand statement and value proposition. Unfortunately, most candidates are unclear about what makes them unique and what their winning edge is. The vast majority of the time, when asked what their value proposition is, our team has found candidates do not have a compelling statement. This is a huge area of need for job seekers and one that needs to be worked on before anything else.
The value proposition must be concise and located at the top of the résumé. When defining your unique personal value proposition, make sure it’s more about you than about your previous jobs. That information is already in your résumé. The value proposition must be a combination of what you are and what you bring that others do not in a short statement that will entice readers to continue reading your resume to see your specific work experience.
The personal brand statement is like your individual slogan. Located at the top of your résumé next to your name and after your name in your email signature, this very short statement sums up who you are professionally. This short statement allows people to attach a quick “slogan” to your name, one that reminds that what you are all about.
World-Class Personal Marketing Materials
To effectively compete in today’s highly competitive job market, you need world-class personal marketing materials. Just like when you go on an important sales call, you should have a “leave behind” when you are interviewing and networking. After all, when you’re interviewing, what you’re really doing is selling – yourself. In an interview, they already have your résumé, so giving them another copy of your résumé adds no value. What you need is a ValuGraphic, a customized personal marketing document that presents your career history and unique business value together in content-rich text with graphics.
There’s a form of the ValuGraphic that’s designed to be used as a handout at networking meetings to make it easy for people you’ve just met to remember you. When you’re networking you need something beyond a résumé or business card to hand out. Ten minutes after the meeting starts, people are trying to remember who is who. If you have a networking piece that not only has some background but also your picture and the job you’re looking for, you’d distinguish your brand and stand out in that networking meeting. They deliver a “Wow!” factor that distinguishes your brand and makes you stand out from other people. Additionally, the networking ValuGraphic is something others can share on your behalf, something much more consumable that your résumé. Remember, advancing in a job search requires marketing yourself all the way until you’ve accepted a written job offer.
Need help telling your story? ExecuNet’s Career Strategists can make the difference in all aspects of your job search… and beyond. Get the help you need and the job you deserve.
These days one’s online profiles need to be professionally designed by job search experts. Keyword optimization, format and content have become so specialized that it is becoming increasingly more challenging to be located through a simple search. If they find you will they be impressed? Your value proposition must be compelling and visible with a compelling pull strategy to even be found.
In a recent survey recruiters told us that cover letters have made a comeback and you need to have a compelling email template that you can use when applying for a job, networking or asking for referrals. The right template can be easily tailored to the specific situation to save time without appearing generic.
The newer ValuGraphic and customized cover letters and emails have brought personal marketing collateral to a whole new level, but they are a complement to the résumé, not a replacement. You must capture a reader’s attention in 10 seconds or less. Differentiate yourself and ignite immediate interest with a contemporary, customized résumé that delivers your executive brand and creates high levels of distinctive value for your background, accomplishments, expertise and unique competencies. Different situations call for different collateral to address different needs and expectations. For example, a résumé should not identify your ideal job, but a networking handout should.
What Résumé Readers Tell Us They Want in a Résumé:
- Your name, contact information and an executive brand statement
- A value proposition that describes your overall uniqueness and what you’ll bring to your next role
- Four or five accomplishments (not responsibilities) with metrics
- Twelve to eighteen competencies/keywords
The top summary section of your résumé should be like the inside jacket cover of a book or the coming attractions for a movie. It’s all about the storytelling. The Professional Experience Section is the actual story and should include basics such as company name, description, dates, your title and responsibilities. What is commonly omitted is explaining what was going on in this company before you arrived and what you did to address what you found, with supporting metrics and the legacy you leave behind there.
At the executive level, more than 80 percent of the over $200K jobs are not posted online. The more you earn the less likely your next job will be posted online. The fact is, you need to be comfortable networking. To run an effective executive job search campaign you must network with people you know and those you don’t. Sometimes it will be one-to-one and sometimes it will be in groups. Face-to-face, online and on the phone are all formats you must utilize.
No matter the format, it is essential to have a 30-60 second “Networking Pitch” with which you are comfortable and fluent. Practice. Practice. Practice… and then practice some more. Your pitch should be based on your unique value proposition and you should have a “leave behind” that will help you stand out and be remembered. The Networking ValuGraphic is the perfect device for this challenge. Networking is not the place for résumés, but the Networking ValuGraphic makes it easy for others to remember you and is something they can share on your behalf. It’s got the “Wow!” factor you need when networking with strangers and makes it easier for people you already know to help you. Telling your network “I’m looking” isn’t going to get you far. Explain exactly what you are looking for and provide the proper (not a résumé) leave behind for them.
These days, you need over 500 online connections. Keep actively in contact with as many of those connections as you reasonably can, especially when you are not in job search mode. Keep a core active network when you are not in search and there will already be relationships in place for when you need them. You want to be networking not needworking. Most importantly, identify “key connectors” – the more you have the easier your search will be, so it is important to identify and cultivate relationships with people who have wide networks and enjoy making introductions. These key connectors are few and far between, but if you can identify them it’s going to do you a tremendous amount of good.
Networking with recruiters is a key area which job seekers often struggle. Most job seekers do not have many, if any, recruiters in their active networks. You want a recruiter to take your call? Don’t cold call or email him your résumé. Recruiters want to talk with someone they have worked with in the past. The recruiters you used in you past jobs to fill positions will talk to you. Also, good is asking people in your network to introduce you to recruiters they know who work your industry. If your mutual connection tells a recruiter he will want to know you, your chances are good that he’ll take your call out of respect to your mutual contact. From there it is up to you to sell yourself.
Things to Know When Looking to Attract Recruiters:
- It’s not like it used to be when calls were returned and they were happy to chat.
- Recruiters focus on filling jobs, not collecting résumés and helping callers.
- Being hard to find online guarantees fewer, if any, unsolicited calls about open jobs.
- Poor collateral (profiles, résumé, etc.) guarantees no response.
- Personal introductions are the best way to get a recruiter’s attention.
How recruiters behave today bears little resemblance to how they behaved 8-15+ years ago. Don’t expect follow-up from them, even when you think you’re “perfect for the position. They work for the company that hired them to fill a position and won’t spend time talking with candidates who do not fill their needs. You need to get used to it. The search is an attempt by a company to fill a void. Remember the search is about the company’s need to fill a void, not your need to get a job. If you do not fill their need, they move on – quickly.
Interviewing, Advancing, Negotiating, and Onboarding Effectively
There’s a before, during and after to interviewing. You need to know before you interview: how the company is going to make decisions, who the ultimate decision-maker is, what kind of questions are they likely to ask you, what do they expect you will bring with you, what’s the purpose of this interview. Sometimes the recruiter or HR person can help you with these questions, and sometimes you just need to ask.
When you are actually in an interview never lose sight of the fact that the only purpose of the interview is to get the next interview. The only purpose of the final interview is to get the offer. The only purpose of the offer is to negotiate the deal. Keep your focus on advancing. Like in a selling situation, your goal is to advance, make it to the “finals” and be the last candidate standing.
When you do receive an offer, do not be reluctant to negotiate… too many people are. There is always room to negotiate. If you don’t ask for it now, you are unlikely to get it later. You want to negotiate with a win-win mindset so that there are no hard feelings when you start work.
Spend your first few weeks on the job behaving like a consultant. Gather data, learn the company’s sacred cows and who you can trust. Go in there with a clipboard and a questionnaire; don’t let anyone see your questions. Write down what you learn. It’s okay for people to wonder what you’re writing down and if they have the right answers. Take as long as you can to determine what you would suggest needs to be done to improve the organization.
Listen to Harriette Lowenthal, ExecuNet’s Director of Coaching Services talk in detail about how you can dramatically improve your job search results
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