Getting your First Job (or your Next Job)

I have the honor to work with individuals in a number of areas to aid them in finding their true work calling.  These areas range from my “day job” in the Executive Search world to my volunteer work with the Career Transition Group at Brentwood United Methodist Church in Brentwood, TN.  I even get many spurious calls from friends and parents asking me to speak with sons and daughters who are about to graduate from college or who have been out of school for a short time.  A recent article in the Wall Street Journal also prompted me to give this some thought. Each of these populations have unique needs, but there are also some commonalities that reach across the entire population.  My intent today is to give 4 common themes that affect each of the groups mentioned.

Let’s get started!

Supply Side

  1. Know who you are and what you do well.  This may sound easy, but in reality it is one of the biggest challenges I see in most job seekers.  Students typically take little advantage of career resources in their respective institutions and more advanced job seekers don’t know where to get started when their job runs out or they realize that they don’t like or are not effective in their current role.  I would encourage all of the groups to spend a little time getting to know their interests, their strengths and how they like to engage and work with others.  Some of the tools that will help in this process include Strengthsfinder from Gallup, the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator), the FIRO-B, the TKI, and a battery of assessments we use from TTI in Arizona as well as the Hartman Judgement Index.
  2. Know what you want to do and where you want/can do this work.  I see this issues also across all groups, but especially among those who are further along in their careers.  I cannot count the number of times I will contact a potential candidate for a search who expresses interest, but then decides that they cannot move to the region where the role is located.  It is frustrating for me, and I am sure for job seekers, to see that the flow of work continues to migrate from one geographic region to another daily in our country and across the globe.  While I realize that we do not live in a nomadic society, I also understand that not all work can be done remotely.  Job seekers need to keep in mind that they will have to relocate at some point in their lives in order to obtain true career progression.  Change is imminent and those who resist change will be left behind.

Demand Side

  1. Understand what you really NEED versus what you WANT.  In working with clients and in talking to hiring managers there is often a mismatch in what is communicated and what the real hiring manager is seeking. It is often the case that talent acquisition professionals start out looking for candidates with a given set of credentials, many of which are preferences, but are considered essentials.  I realize that we all want to get as much as we can, but the best job candidates are those who have proven skills and who have also shown the ability to adapt and grow.  We all know that no job stays the same and candidates who can flex and grow are preferable to those who are a perfect fit for today’s needs.  Look for skills and also for behaviors that give evidence that the candidate can change and grow.
  2. Don’t let “high tech” overwhelm “high touch”.  One of the biggest complaints I hear from job seekers at all levels is that in most cases there is very little personal touch in the recruiting process.  Candidates often complain that they never are given final notice if they are not the ideal candidate.  Most candidates will apply and their resume will go into a system, typically an electronic system, that will make the determination of whether information in a resume is a fit for the role as described.  While I realize that manpower issues prevent time with every candidate, I also realize that systems do what they are programmed to do, even if what is asked for might not be the right thing.  Additionally, many candidate never get a call or a note, not even an email, to let them know that they are out of consideration.  All in all, the process can be very sterile and impersonal for most job seekers.

While I have not touched on every point, I hope that those described above help give clarity to the supply and demand side of the search process for candidates and the firms they seek to work with.

Some of you will take issues with and disagree with my thoughts.  I accept that and would enjoy your feedback.  My thoughts and opinions are based on my own personal observations and dialog with hundreds, if not thousands, of candidates in all level of the job process.

How can we improve?  Come back next week and I’ll discuss how to make this better for all parties concerned.