Career Growth Strategies For A Successful Job Search
Career Growth Strategies for a Successful Job Search
Erin Urban, LSSBB, CPDC
“I’m job searching but I’m scared”, shared Tanya. “I cannot stand to stay where I am. I’m so burned out and worried, I’m having trouble focusing on what I want to do! How can I stand out? What are the top critical strategies for a successful job search in a competitive market?”
Tanya’s troubles reflect the vast majority of job seekers in these challenging times. Whether you are looking for a job because you are in between jobs or because you are feeling burned out where you are; job seeking can be a scary proposition. An overwhelming majority of professionals (job seeking or not) have no idea how to tactically and strategically position themselves for career growth.
As one of my executive clients shared with me: “Erin, I wish more people had access to certified career strategies and resume resources like yourself. I’m trying to expand my team and the resumes I review are terrible. These candidates cannot communicate their value proposition or even articulate what they have done in a relevant, readable way.”
The hard truth about job seeking
Whether you like it or not, you are selling yourself as the best candidate for the opportunities you seek. Whether the roles you want are internal or external (outside your company), if you do not market your professional value it is almost impossible to stand out.
In all of the resumes I review and the LinkedIn profiles I survey, the 3 biggest gaps I see are:
1. No focus or career clarity
2. No career target to aim for
3. No relevant career contributions
If you are feeling confused about your career path, it is very hard to find the right opportunities for long-term career fulfillment or even make sure you are moving in the right direction. Without career clarity, defining a career target is next to impossible. If you do not have a career target, you won’t be able to market yourself or the jobs you want.
Last, but not least – if you are not aiming for your career target with impact-focused, outcome-driven contribution statements; it’s not likely you will get on the shortlist for key opportunities. If you cannot express what you are capable of – how will anyone know?
What sets successful professionals apart is the ability to set a clear career goal and design their growth plan based on that goal. Smart professionals also know the power of intentional reflection. Take time to pause and review your journey. Ensure that you are making the right strategic career moves based on your goal. Intentional planning and reflection also allow you to make adjustments along the way. After all, the only constant in life change.
Developing career clarity
We rarely employ a great degree of logic when we make our next career move. Most of us (myself included), have been a victim of Open Door Syndrome. We walk through one open door to the next without really pausing to think: “Is this the best opportunity for me and is it aligned with my career goals?” Rather, we jump at opportunities like eager fish after the worm on a fisherman’s hook. Smart fish wait and consider if that bait will lead to a bad end (potentially fried, blacked, and grilled). Instead of jumping from the frying pan into the fire, consider this:
Your ideal career path is at the intersection of your strengths, expertise, and interests.
The professionals I coach in career clarity do not start over again in their careers. If you aren’t sure what the next best move is for you is, making a career shift can be terrifying. Get very clear on the following:
1. Your core strengths are those actions, situations, and mental states that give you energy.
2. Your core expertise are those key skills you have refined and developed in your career.
3. Your interests give you momentum, fulfillment, and something to look forward to.
Without these elements in your career plan you will find yourself feeling stuck, frustrated, over or underwhelmed, and (at worst) burned out. You must have all three or risk lost energy and fulfillment.
Find Your Strengths by making lists, vision boards, or even an excel spreadsheet with every task, action, and core responsibility you have in your job(s). Note which ones give you energy and which ones drain you. That which gives you energy is in your strength zone.
List your core Expertise in much the same way. What are you known as the ‘go-to’ person for? What essential abilities have you honed and refined over the years? Do you see any that align with your strengths?
Understand your Interests in either list form or a vision board – whatever works for you. Consider if you have ever set aside a dream because you thought it wasn’t a good career path. What new and emerging trends excite you? It also a great idea to focus on an enjoyable role you have held and analyze it to see if you can duplicate more of that experience in your career plan.
Defining your career target
When you have career clarity, it becomes much easier to define and align with your career target. If you are worried about limiting your possibilities, here is something to think about. Firstly, you will find it excruciatingly frustrating to apply for any job online. You must be relevant to the roles you seek. If you are not, you will not meet the algorithms search criteria and your resume will be archived. You are wasting your time.
Let’s say that you get around online job applications. From a hiring manager’s perspective, a professional who cannot express themselves relevant to the roles they seek is a huge risk. It takes money to onboard new talent. A hiring manager wants to see clear examples of why you are the best candidate. It is very difficult to express your career contributions based on the roles you seek if you have no clear target.
You cannot grow towards something you do not know.
A strategic career target based on your career clarity insights will help you develop a plan of action. Do a ruthless amount of research into potential roles or connect with a certified career coach to define your target(s). Your career target must be future-proof, aligned with your priorities, strengths, interests, and the majority of your core expertise.
The roles that you define are ideally related roles that share a significant amount of common transferable skills, education, or credentials. Note that certifications can be obtained as you develop in your career.
If you are considering a career shift or pivot, sometimes the next job is just a step in the right direction. While you may not have to start all over again, gaining essential experience will help you develop toward the career goal you have established. If you have decided you want to be the VP of Strategic Operations and you are currently a Project Manager, I recommend you consider several growth/transition roles to achieve your goal.
Expressing your relevant career contributions
Savvy professionals know that strategic career moves do not happen by themselves. While some people just get lucky – those who have clarity, a target, a plan, can express their goals and contributions based on those goals see faster career growth. In all cases, decision-makers want to know what’s in it for them and what return on investment you will give them.
Reverse engineer your career target to make sure you are discussing relevant career contributions. Talking about yourself isn’t easy for most of us. Make the process more straightforward by leveraging the roles you seek to help you express how you are the best candidate. This works well for those who are seeking new opportunities elsewhere and for those who want to develop within their organizations.
1. Use the research you have done to define your career target.
2. Review the job descriptions for your ‘ideal’ roles to understand core skills.
3. Develop your career contribution statements and examples based on these samples.
4. Provide real-life contributions, projects, initiatives, with outcome-based statements.
If you still struggle with discussing your contributions, get help from a trusted colleague, mentor, qualified coach, or professional in your target field. It’s funny how easy it is to see the greatness in others, yet we struggle to express our own worth. If this is you, congratulations: you are human!
This process is transformational beyond just the job search and also prepares you to interview with impact. A habit of continually adding to your core list of career contributions will help you when opportunities arise throughout your career. Situations such as potential promotions, asking for a raise, or performance reviews all benefit from your ability to express how you add value.
Strategies for a Successful Job Search
These foundational elements will set you apart from 90% of other professionals! As I stated when reassuring a worried client (when seeing that +300 people applied for a job): “By being better aligned with the roles you seek and clearly expressing your contributions, you are already in the top percentage of other candidates – even before you optimize your resume.”
Another client delights in sending me regular reports with statistics on how many hits his resume has received since he started applying for jobs. “The bottom line is, with your help I am getting through to humans”, Randy shared. This is significant because the human side of the hiring process is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
With Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that govern online applications and every recruiter performing extensive searches on LinkedIn: having clear strategies for a successful job search is non-negotiable. Even those who need to navigate the hiring process for an internal role exclaim how similar it is to applying for a job online.
If you are feeling discouraged, I want you to know that you will be seen and stand out! Have faith in yourself, own your impact, and follow the steps I provide in this article. Knowledge is power and words have more influence than ever before. You are smart, capable, and I believe in you! Leverage these gifts of knowledge to achieve the career fulfillment you have always wanted.
“Knowledge is power. Sharing knowledge is the key to unlocking that power.”
― Martin Uzochukwu Ugwu