4 Tips to Stay Relevant Before Searching for Your Next Job

Want to know the best way to be proactive in your job search? Check out my latest VentureFizz post here to learn more.

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Sometimes, Culture Fit Overrides Job Fit

As some of you know, company culture is one of my favorite topics to discuss. So, in light of a current situation, I felt that today’s blog post should discuss this. Recently, an individual was referred to me for some career and job seeking advice. Of course, I jumped all over this because I absolutely love helping people figure out what they truly want and how to be proactive about getting it. As I provided some advice to her, I recalled some important lessons I learned while job seeking myself.

This woman told me about some of the job roles she was interested in and how a couple of the companies she interviewed with seemed to have great opportunities involving this type of role but the company in itself left her feeling uninspired. She also happened to know a few people that previously worked at these companies and she was able to determine that the company culture didn’t really seem to match what she valued.

Of course, the fact that she mentioned personal values seemed to pique my interest and we hashed out these details. After learning what seemed to be important to her and what she really was passionate about, it was easy to see why these companies left her feeling uninspired. The companies had nothing to do with any of that. And after thinking about it, I recalled the time when I was aggressively looking for work. I was so set to get my career going in HR that I accepted jobs with companies that didn’t match my personal values. Or what’s worse, I found that their culture and ethics were awful. Needless to say, I was happy to land a role in HR but I was miserable, I learned nothing, and I really felt like I gained nothing from working there. Before I knew it, I was looking for work again because I desperately wanted to get out of that less than ideal situation.

As I considered these situations, I realized that sometimes finding a job in a company that has a culture that matches your values could be more important than struggling to get your foot in the door for a role you’re targeting. I wanted to be happy and I wanted to find a company that made me want to stay with them long term. I realized that perhaps starting in a position that wasn’t necessarily what I was targeting might be the way to go. I knew that if I was happy with the company, I wouldn’t mind taking a little extra time to work my way up to where I wanted to be, career-wise.

Sometimes it’s not enough to just be involved in the role you desire if the company in itself isn’t ideal for you. If you’re a job seeker, it’s important to research the culture to ensure you don’t end up in a bad situation that leaves you scrambling for a new job and company that is better suited for you. Unfortunately, changing jobs so quickly doesn’t look great to recruiters.. It looks better if you stick with a company longer-term and progressively move your way up.

Spend that extra time to do your research and really dig deep to make sure the company you’re accepting employment with is going to offer you more than just a job title and a couple skills in your field. You spend a good portion of your time at your job so finding an overall fit might be the better choice when it comes to finding a long and lasting career.

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Switching Up to a Career Seeking State of Mind

Alright, the economy really did a number on us as employees. Many of us have lost jobs or were in fear of losing it. We took pay cuts, benefit cuts, and worked extra hard to compensate for being under-staffed. Some of us had to take crummy jobs after crummy jobs just to make sure our mortgages were paid and there was food on the table. Some of us even wondered if we’d ever find a stable job again. I say- enough! I’ve been there before and I know it’s rough. But 2013 is a new year and with last month adding over 100,000 new jobs into the mix, we’re hoping things are looking up. With that being said, it’s time to switch gears and start getting career-minded rather than “job to get by”-minded.

Building yourself up to get ready for your career and achieving your career goals does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process. So, what should you be focusing on to help you get where you need to be? Here are a few ideas:

  • Personal Branding: resumes are becoming redundant and often highlight what you done rather than your career path intentions. It’s time to stand out of the candidate-crowd and get people to know you for what you WANT to be known for. Get involved in activities, groups, or conferences that can help you gain skills and network. Get exposure on social media. Start TALKING about it.
  • Be about it: maybe your personal brand won’t land you the dream job right off the bat, and that’s to be expected. Your relevant skills might be a bit rusty or maybe you need to develop new ones to keep up with the way the industry had changed. Internships, projects, and volunteer work are never below you- remember that. Some people’s pride and ego get in the way from taking on these seemingly innocent projects/roles. But the truth of the matter is; these situations help you build the skills you need to be an attractive candidate.
  • Learning is continuous: so be sure to add to your talking and doing by learning. Think of it as being extremely well-rounded. Your mind needs to be sharp and up to date. Be sure to find learning opportunities, whether it is to take classes, read business books/blogs, or simply join in a discussion relevant to the career/industry you’re targeting. This can keep you fresh and be ready to contribute useful ideas/insight when you have the opportunity to shine.
  • Build your network: doing all of these steps will be pretty useless if no one knows who you are, where you’re located, or what you’re striving for. It will also be useless if you have no idea what feasible options for you are. Build your network of contacts, get to know them and let them get to know you. Simply building and maintaining these contacts can help them reach out to you if opportunity arises or they can even help guide you so you can ensure you’re taking the right steps towards your goal. Your network will be your support, your mentors, your key to opportunity, or just a good conversation.

Your career isn’t a fleeting thing. It is your future, and a long-term future at that. Take care and pride in these steps to help you reach your goal in the most ideal way possible. 2013 will be the year that you will focus in on your potential and strive to be the best version of yourself. Take action!

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to join #Tchat on Twitter on Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

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Storify : Lose job, keep career

5 Powerful Career Drivers for the Future of Work – Forbes article by Meghan M Biro

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Say Yes to Continuing Education

In grammar school and high school, we’re taught to get good grades and participate in extra-curricular activities so we can get into our dream colleges. In college, we are once again told to get good grades, encouraged to take on internships, and asked to join clubs- all to help our chances of landing a great job upon graduation. And once we land those jobs, gain experience, and slowly but surely move along in our career paths- then what? Does education and learning just end there because we achieved the “ultimate goal” of getting a job that offers financial security and benefits? Does it just end there?

It shouldn’t. People should be driven and encouraged to do whatever they can to continue to learn. So many people believe that once they receive that diploma or certificate that they’re done. They paid their dues and finally got their careers in check… and that’s that. When I’ve asked people why they aren’t continuing their education and learning, I often got answers such as this:

  • I’m too old to go back to school
  • I’m too busy with work and home-life to take on anything more
  • I don’t have the money
  • I don’t need it
  • I wouldn’t even know where to start
  • I’m too scared to start something new

All are valid reasons and concerns but the reality of it is, skills are becoming outdated, people are being automated out of jobs, and technology is upgrading/advancing so quickly that most of us can’t keep up. The world of work is evolving in some major ways. So, the “ultimate goal” isn’t about landing a job anymore, but more about keeping up.

Like I said earlier, all those reasons are valid but there are ways to work around it. For example:

  • Online school
  • Certificate classes
  • Work training
  • Informal social groups
  • Reading new industry books/blogs in your free time
  • Networking
  • Stretch projects
  • Work shadowing

Education shouldn’t just be a stepping stone or a distant memory- it should be ongoing. The world has so much to offer and we live in an amazing time where we can easily access this. So take advantage of the things that generations before us could not. Become the ultimate asset and more importantly, do it for yourself.

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Switching Gears: Changing Your Career Path

In life, sometimes what you set out to do turns out to be different than you imagined it. Maybe once you get involved in your career or degree you realized that it doesn’t spark your passion the way you initially believed.  Maybe you’re scared of making the change. Maybe you’re comfortable with what you’re doing and pursuing something new is too much of an effort. Whatever the reason may be, I hope people realize that if you feel in your heart and mind that you want a change, then you should consider it. Making a change towards something that would make you feel fulfilled and satisfied isn’t as hard as you may think.

As I was thinking about this subject, I decided to interview my good friend, Nader Owies. Nader took the plunge and made the change to follow the career path that he was honestly passionate about. Here’s what he has to say about getting courage to take those chances:

Ashley Perez (AP): Why did you decide to change your degree from Political Science to Film?

Nader Owies (NO): “I never actually changed my degree; my game plan while graduating from undergrad was still to go to law school. While in school, I minored in film to fill my elective requirements and I ended up with so many courses I just spoke with my advisor about getting a minor degree, as well. The real decision was after school, when I was applying to law schools. I always had the reservation about what I was getting myself into. The truth was- I hated politics, and law, but working in law or politics paid well and from my experience at school I came to learn that I was good at both, so why not right? That, and my parents chanting the standard,’ Be a doctor or lawyer’ song that all parents learn when they have kids, were pushing me towards it. I don’t remember the exact moment or anything, but my idea of what I wanted out of life kept showing me that I was heading in the wrong direction. Sure, I could be a successful lawyer or politician or whatever else and have enough money to be comfortable. But I didn’t want to sacrifice my happiness for that. I wanted to love what I was going to be doing almost every day for the rest of my life, whether it made me a lot of money or not.”

AP: What are some of the reservations you had about making this change and how did you overcome them?

 NO: “My parents were a big factor: both of them being Egyptian, and anyone with foreign parents knows exactly what I’m talking about when I say convincing your parents that you want to go to film school rather than law school is like pushing a boulder up a hill. Beyond them, the only other reservation was the change in lifestyle. I knew what going to graduate school meant:  I had to leave everything I know behind, pick up everything I owned and chase my dream. Very few people have the guts to do that, and only about 5% of those people actually succeed at it. However, I kept telling myself, there is always going to be a million reasons not to do something, yet there is always going to be one reason do to it- because you want to.

AP: What are some challenges you faced during this transition and how did you overcome them?

NO: “Most of the challenges had to do more with the practical things in life rather than the educational journey I was going on. School came easy because it was what I loved; every day I was watching and talking about films. The challenges weren’t anything different than most people go through. Basically it was just becoming an adult and having to deal with things you never had to worry about before. My only advice for anyone going through that transition: don’t put things off for tomorrow, just do them right now.

AP: What was the one piece of advice that led you to be inspired enough to take this chance?

NO: “I had a professor in college who told me something I’ll never forget. He said in a lecture one day, ‘You will spend the majority of your adult life at your job. If you are simply there to make money you will find that the stress will kill you before you ever make as much as you want and you’ll be miserable the whole time.’

AP: What are some of the most memorable successes and failures you’ve had while pursuing this new degree and career?

NO: “The good thing about working in movies is that your successes and failures are very apparent. You can literally watch them on a big screen. There are a few projects I worked on here and there that while piecing them together in the edit room, I had that realization that I was stitching together a huge dud. And no matter what I did in the end it would still be a dud. But you live and you learn; take the lesson and move onto the next one.”

AP: What advice would you give college students or recent grads in regard to this?

NO: “Always work your ass off. I’m sure it is this way in plenty of other industries, as well, but in entertainment, your reputation is everything. People will hire you on reputation alone, so make sure you leave a good impression with everyone you work with, and do the best you can with what you’re given.”

AP: What are some realistic factors you wish you knew before doing this?

NO: “How expensive graduate school really is. I always knew the amount, it’s just until I did the math and realized that paying back that amount over ten years that I would actually be paying more than double the amount I initially borrowed. I know that no one would give out loans without interest rates attached, but in the name of education and bettering the human race, someone should make it illegal to charge that much for seeking knowledge.”

I’ve known Nader for several years and always held him in high regard. He has a great head on his shoulders and was the perfect person to trust to give advice about this subject. Yes, he’s had reservations, challenges, and failures. But the point is, he faced these situations head-on because he knew that the end result was going to be worth it. He would rather try to obtain the things that he was passionate about than take the easy and safe way through life. If you have a passion, try to pursue it because if not now, then when?

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Is Job Hopping Really a Bad Thing?

Some recruiting and hiring managers would look at a “job-hoppers” resume and most likely shred it without even a second thought. Job hopping was considered to be career suicide in the past because employers would consider the candidate to be a high-risk employee. The assumption was that they were flaky, would not be committed to a company, and would leave the company high and dry. This assumption has caused recruiters to turn the job hoppers away in previous years. The economy and workforce has changed since that outlook but, unfortunately, hiring practices have not changed with it.

Job hopping isn’t always a bad thing and recruiters shouldn’t turn away a candidate without digging deeper. Sure, there are the people that fit the unreliable, job-hopping stereotype. On the other hand, there are plenty of people in this economy’s workforce that do not. For example, some people may not have willingly job hopped. Over the recent years, many people have been laid off and/or have had a hard time finding stable work. Because of this, people may not have left jobs voluntarily or may have had to take odd jobs just to stay financially afloat. These individuals may have been the most dedicated and hardworking employees a company could have but were just dealt a bad hand. Without investigating their job history further, a recruiter may have missed a gem.

Another reason why a candidate may have job hopped is because they haven’t found what they are looking for. There are so many options a person can have when it comes to workplace, job type, culture, benefits, etc. Sometimes a person will take a position and realize it is not a right fit for them. Once they come to this conclusion, they may move on to find something they can be happy with. Is this a bad thing? No, it’s probably a good thing that a person is very set on what they want out of a job and employer. Will they potentially leave your company within the first year? Maybe, if you don’t take the time to determine if you are a fit for each other. This candidate clearly has an idea of what they want and what they won’t settle for. You know what your company can offer. It would pay to take the time to look deeper and see whether or not you would be a fit for each other before making the investment.

Some job hoppers take temporary/short-term positions to obtain experience for a company or position they have their heart set on. I could actually use myself as an example for this one. After finishing my BSBA in Human Resources I had attempted to apply for human resources based jobs only to be rejected due to lack of experience. Well, how was I supposed to get experience if no one would hire me to get it?  Simple: take temporary positions that were more flexible on hiring people with little to no experience. Sure, it’s been a bumpy ride over the past year and it’s been scary to not have a stable job, but it’s what I had to do. I could wait forever for a company to take a blind chance on me or I could take temporary jobs here and there and gradually build my experience to meet the requirements that the companies have. Job hopping was an investment for my future.  My resume probably looks like a recruiter’s worst nightmare but if you take away all the companies and job titles, you’ll be left with the experience, knowledge, and skills that companies require.

Sometimes job hoppers might be more valuable than employees that have been with you for years.  Job hoppers have experience in working with many different companies. Their experience will expose them to procedures, practices, software, and much more. Because they have knowledge of different ways of doing things, they may be able to help your company find ways to be more efficient. Maybe they can suggest a new way to do a task that can cut down the time to complete it. Maybe they know of software that would better suit your company’s needs. Perhaps they have connections or have networked with a client that you’ve been dying to get business from. I’m just saying: sometimes job hoppers can open minds, eyes, or doors for your company.

So, recruiters, next time you receive a resume that has a horrifying job history, please remember the details above before making assumptions about the candidate. Take the time to speak to the individual and assess whether or not they could be a good employee for your company or a costly decision. Sometimes you may be pleasantly surprised. Some of these candidates may just be waiting to commit to a dream opportunity that presents itself.

Some other articles you can read on the subject:

http://excelle.monster.com/benefits/articles/3643-job-hopping-career-killer-or-savior

http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/story.jsp?storyId=533347268