The 50-50 Job Search
Published in CareersConnect, May 2010
By Peter Weddle
The conventional wisdom is that searching for a job is, itself, a full time job. That may have been good advice in the 20th century, but today it's a formula for long-term unemployment. If you spend all of your time looking for a new position, you can't get to the other task that's required to be successful in the job market: revitalizing your career.
No one would argue that finding a job is easy, especially in today's era of cramped opportunities. It takes long hours and a lot of hard work to research employers, reply to their ads, and network with friends and colleagues. In the past, however, you could also be certain that such dedication would pay off in a reasonably short period of time. In weeks or at most a month or two, you would have a couple of job offers, and one of them would probably be better than the last job you had.
That's no longer true. In this tepid recovery, you can exert the same level of effort as you did in the past and still come up short. You can even work harder than you did in your last job search and still find yourself without an offer. Why? Because employers have changed the rules of the game. They're no longer looking for qualified applicants for their openings. They want to hire the "better-than-qualified" person.
How can you make yourself look like a better-than-qualified person? That's where the "50-50 job search" comes in. You spend half your time working as hard as you can on your job search and the other half on transforming yourself into a candidate that employers simply can't resist.
How Do You Become Irresistible to Employers?
In today's tough economy, businesses are looking to draw as much talent and productivity as possible out of each employee. You can argue about the fairness of the increased requirements but not about the reality of their existence. Employers want their workers to be:
- At the state-of-the-art in their profession, craft, or trade; and
- Able to contribute continuously to their success in a significant way.
Step 1: Candidly assess the status of your qualifications.
At a minimum, ask yourself these questions:
- When was the last time you took an in-depth course in the latest tools and techniques used in your field? If the answer is more than two years ago, you're not a better-than-qualified prospect.
- Have you ever acquired skills that would expand the range of situations in which you could contribute to your employer? Do you speak a second language, for example, or do you know how to use the latest technology in your industry? If the answer is no, you're not a better-than-qualified prospect.
Step 2: Plug the gaps in your qualifications, beginning with those that are most likely to be of concern to employers.
If you're uncertain of the priorities, ask a couple of hiring managers in your field. As a general rule, however, always begin by remediating any deficiencies in your primary field and then work on adding complementary skills that will make you even more able to contribute.
There are, of course, a range of alternatives you can use in this effort. Check out:
- Local community colleges,
- The programs offered by your professional or trade association, and
- Online courses from training firms and academic institutions.
Step 3: Promote your effort.
Don't wait until you're done with your educational efforts and don't assume that recruiters and hiring managers will know to ask about them. Start getting the word out the minute you start to get better-than-qualified.
At the very least, add your coursework to the "Education" section of your résumé. List the name of the course, the institution or organization providing it, and the term "On-going."
That simple entry will signal to employers that you understand the importance of being a better-than-qualified person and that you take personal responsibility for ensuring you are. There's simply no better way to set yourself apart from others and set yourself up for success in today's job market.
About the Author
PETER WEDDLE is the author of over two dozen employment-related books, including Recognizing Richard Rabbit, a fable of self-discovery for working adults; and Work Strong, Your Personal Career Fitness System. He can be contacted at Weddles.com.
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