My first outplacement client uttered a phrase I heard over and over as I helped clients transition from a layoff to a new position: “I’ve never actually looked for a job. They’ve always come to me.”
Remember back to the days when you were invited to apply for positions and the interviews were a sham? You waltzed into them with a smug smile on your face. The offer came before you could write a thank you note. Now, you’re wondering about this whole LinkedIn deal and as far as Applicant Tracking Systems – who thought up that particular form of torture?
It’s not as bad as it seems. With a few adjustments, you can shift gears from the admittedly good old days to this new realm of automation and scarcity.
Put An Ironic Twist On Looking Forward
Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, said, “My generation’s parents told their children, ‘Become an accountant, a lawyer, or an engineer; that will give you a solid foothold in the middle class.’ But these jobs are now being sent overseas. So in order to make it today, you have to do work that’s hard to outsource, hard to automate.”
Pink outlines the six abilities that will be financially rewarded in the coming years, and ironically, they have nothing to do with efficiency and everything to do with human connection. Your communication skills will serve you now more than ever. The trick is to bypass the applicant tracking systems because if you’re competing in a pool of hundreds of candidates, you’re playing the odds, and that’s not a fun game to play.
Instead, seek to be in conversation, seek to engage, seek to build connections before your resume enters the picture.
Round Out The Picture That Assessments Paint
You absolutely need to brand yourself as you develop your marketing materials (your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile), but if your brand is rooted solely in metrics and data, it’s flat and two-dimensional. Sure, your numbers speak loudly, and they stand out, but the essence of who you are needs to be represented, too.
You can take tests and fill out assessments to get a picture of your personality, and those are useful starting points, but what looks good on paper needs to have substance and depth. Your lived experience informs your brand more than anything else.
I worked with a music teacher in a public elementary school who was miserable in her job. In fact, she was taking anti-anxiety medication because she couldn’t manage the stress of her position. Everything in her past pointed her to teaching music as the optimal profession for her, so she thought she was just doing her job wrong. She wasn’t. It just wasn’t the right fit for her. She ended up getting retrained as a paralegal, and she eventually weaned herself off of the anxiety medication.
Your lived experience, more than any other dimension, is the foundation for shaping your brand and your direction.
Swim With The Technology Tide
You know what else that first outplacement client said to me? “I think I have a LinkedIn profile, but I’m not sure.”
Find out. Then, make sure it’s updated. Learn how to use it.
Technology doesn’t need to be the hub of your job search, but don’t let it hinder your search either. Your ticket in the door may be a good old-fashioned, face-to-face conversation, but you can bet that you’ll be checked out online.
You’re being assessed to see if you’re behind in tech terms. You don’t have to be on the cutting edge, but leave the snark about tech behind and be prepared to talk about your favorite apps.
Ideas to get your tech on:
Most public libraries offer free subscriptions to Lynda, a tech training platform. See if you can access it through your library and wander around there. Get a “reverse mentor” (a teen or someone in their 20s or 30s who catches you up and tips you off to emerging apps, sites, and platforms) and find out what’s trending in the world of automation and social media. Get curious and explore. Vow to learn at least one new tool or shortcut every day. You don’t have to a PhD at Hootsuite University(that site actually exists!), but keep yourself malleable and swimming with the mainstream.
Back to my first outplacement client. He ended up with two sweet offers at the same time. He had his choice about which one to seize. Those days of people competing for you? They’re not yet over.
Maggie Graham | Coach
Career coach Maggie Graham banishes Credential Gremlins in her forthcoming book Skip the Next Degree: Career Change without Debt and Despair. She points mid-career professionals in the direction of their next steps and defines a road map to take them there. Job seekers will find an ally when they seek support for landing their next positions.
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