The historic economic downturn, persistent business malaise, changing societal demographics and increasing international competition that we have experienced in recent years have served to accelerate a trend that has been underway for some time now – – people making more frequent career changes either by choice or out of necessity.
Given this new reality where there are increasing numbers of people vying for positions both internally with existing employers as well as externally with new organizations, it is more important than ever to effectively differentiate yourself and effectively articulate the unique qualities that make you the best candidate for a given job.
There are several key elements to effectively managing this process:
- Honestly Assess Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Each of us has unique talents that we often overlook or dismiss as unimportant because they come so easily to us. We discount the value of these gifts because we mistakenly assume that everyone else must possess them as well.
Take some time to think about the talents, attributes and knowledge that have drawn people to you throughout your life (e.g. your communications skills, your creativity, your compassion, your attention to detail, etc.).
It’s also equally important to know your “Achilles heel” to ensure that a potential new opportunity plays primarily to your strengths and minimizes exposure of your vulnerabilities.
- Know What You Want AND Don’t Want
Prospective employers can easily differentiate between those people who have a sincere passion for the work they hope to do and those people who simply are going through the motions to get a job.
It is a wise investment of time to make an inventory of those things you truly love to do and those that you do not. You then can use this list as an evaluation tool for assessing the extent to which a potential new position aligns with your interests/passions. By understanding where your interests lay you can be more strategic when seeking out new opportunities.
- Research What is Needed From the New Employer’s Perspective
Many of us make the mistake of seeing the career search process only through our own filter – we know who we are and what we want and then we go about looking for a position that fits what we have to offer. We see ourselves as a fixed-size “peg” and we spend an enormous amount of energy looking for a matching “hole.”
It is critical that you understand who is hiring out there in the marketplace and what they are looking for. Knowing the “hot” fields and the types of skills, knowledge and abilities that are in greatest demand provides you with valuable information to assist you in developing your personal marketing plan. You must be willing and able to modify your “peg” to fit the reality of the available “holes.”
- Be Able to Articulate Who You Are and What You Have to Offer
It’s not enough to have the right experience, the right education and the right personal “brand.” These elements only are beneficial if you can quickly articulate what you have to offer in a concise, compelling fashion that leaves your audience wanting to know more about you.
We generally formulate an initial opinion about others we meet in as little as 20 seconds; consequently, it is essential that you captivate your audience right out of the gate. There is no time to tell your entire life story so you’ve got to offer some nuggets of information about yourself in as few words as possible. This takes practice and constant tweaking to ensure you are tailoring your message to the unique needs of your audience.
As the current year draws to a close and you take time to celebrate the holidays with friends and family, set aside some time to evaluate your current employment landscape and give some thought to the direction you would like to go with your career in the new year. There are no guarantees about what the future holds; however, the one thing over which you absolutely have control is clarifying your personal brand and the way you market yourself when new opportunities present themselves.