Thinking about a midlife career change? Here’s what NOT to do.
As I sit here watching the World Cup with the rest of the globe, I am struck by how fun high-level soccer/futbol is yet, like many Americans, I don't follow it. It reminded me of how so many job search techniques are 'obvious' or 'no brainers', but so few people follow them. Below is what I have learned from personally going on over 200 job interviews. (Disclaimer: I realize that I am probably weird in that I LIKE job interviews, and go on many of them just for fun or research.)
1. Communication - can you clearly articulate what you want to do, who you want to work for, and why you would be good at it? Many people embark upon a job search with a vague sense of what they would like to do, such as 'finance', without ever articulating role, company size, or what they enjoy about data analysis. If you can't articulate it to yourself, how on earth are you going to communicate it to a hiring manager? When in doubt, write it down. Then look at what you wrote and say 'would I hire myself with this?' If yes, great. If no, get to work!
2. Preparation - today's job seekers are at a tremendous disadvantage. The internet makes it too easy to just visit a website, look up a company's value statement and spew off facts and figures. Today's job seekers must go beyond the website - reach out to colleagues or alumni to get a feel for the company's culture, read job reviews on Glassdoor, and really understand the role and required skills. Do a quick LinkedIn/web search for people with whom you will interview to learn more about their background, skills and any potential commonalities. Go beyond the website.
3. Network - more and more, it's about who you know as well as what you know. Since 80% of jobs are never advertised, most job seekers are competing for only 20% of the jobs. This makes online job applications even more competitive and the odds stacked against you. Also, when you network, you learn about opportunities BEFORE they are posted, glean important information not available on the company website, and have allies on the inside who can vouch for your candidacy. If you are not networking, you are likely not working.
4. Commitment - how interested are you in the job/role/company, really? If you are interested in management, do you have a subscription to Harvard Business Review? Have you created any valuation models if you are interested in corporate finance? If you are interested in Supply Chain, are you a member of your local APICS? What journals and industry websites do you follow? Have you joined an industry or city-specific LinkedIn group? Who have you reached out to in your LinkedIn or alumni network? Everyone who applies is interested. Very few can demonstrate commitment, and they tend to get hired.
5. Delivery - you need to convince the hiring manager why you are the right fit. This is not about why you want the job. It is about communicating how your skills and education transfer to the job (i.e. transferrable skills), and how you can add value. The hiring manager is not there to give you a job - it is to fill a need for the company. You can learn this by networking, informational interviewing and asking questions. Remember, your goal here is to tell them how you will add value and be part of the solution.
6. Sourcing - this goes back to the fact that 80% of jobs are never advertised. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people apply to the same job you saw, especially if it is with a brand name company. Most hiring managers use a computer to screen resumes - do you want to outsmart a computer or get hired? Referrals are the preferred method for hiring managers, who post online for EEOC laws or lack of immediately available candidates. This is referred to 'post and pray'. The way to learn about opportunities before they are posted? Network, network, network. This can include informational interviews with colleagues, alumni, interest groups, etc. A funny thing happens when you network - you learn about jobs, companies and roles that you never knew existed. So, before you spend hours online looking at job postings, remember to fish in the part of the pond where there are fewer boats!
None of the teams in the World Cup just 'got' there - they had a vision of what they wanted, put in the time and effort to get there, and wanted it more than their competition. The same is with a job search - there are no shortcuts. Articulate your vision, make the effort, put in the time, and demonstrate why you want it more than the other applicants. Then sit back and enjoy the thrill of who you meet and what opportunities present themselves!