If you’re by nature or inclination a disorganized person, the thought of conducting an organized job search or applying organizing principles to your career planning might strike fear into your heart! Okay, so that’s a bit of over-dramatization, but the point is, whether you’re innately drawn to organization or just the opposite, a certain amount of organization is pretty much critical to a successful job search or to smart, long-range career planning.
Just think about those times when your job has worn you to a frazzle, and you wonder how in the world you got into that predicament–and how you’re going to get out of it. Wouldn’t a little advance organization have helped prevent that stressful dilemma?
The same goes for your job search and career planning.
What Does It Take to be Organized?
Out of curiosity, I started looking at job postings for professional home organizers (by the way, the ones I saw didn’t pay wild salaries, but that’s not the point at the moment). As an example, here are several of the key qualifications listed:
- Thrive on finding solutions to complex problems.
- Prepare a customized action plan and timeline for each organizing project.
- Implement organizing processes and customized solutions.
- Ability to work with a variety of personalities.
- Ability to visualize and transform a space.
- Confidence and the ability to take charge.
I’ll bet that if you give it some thought, you can see a way most if not all of these could be applied to your job search and career planning activities. For example, you might not need to “visualize and transform a space,” but you probably do need to “visualize and transform” your job search if you want it to achieve a successful outcome, especially if you’ve been going at it in a more or less haphazard fashion.
Failure to Have an Organized Job Search or Career Planning Process
What are the consequences of not achieving an organized job search or career planning? For starters, as I mentioned above, you could be jeopardizing the possibility of a successful job search–needlessly. That’s a consequence (cost) you don’t want to incur and shouldn’t have to, but it’s up to you to take the actions necessary to avoid it.
Positive alternatives do exist. One way is to get help from someone who is more organized than you feel you are–for instance, either a professional (such as a career coach) or a friend or colleague whose methods you respect. Brainstorm with that person on what you need to do yourself and what you can readily have help with.
Another possibility is to take a class in organizing. No, I’m not being facetious. I haven’t checked specifically, but I suspect there are classes available somewhere (offline or online) to help people become more organized. If time and travel are concerns for you, online might be a good option because it’s more flexible. If you’re the kind of person who does better with personal interaction and group participation, a physical class situation might be better. The main issue in this case is finding a class that you can translate into your professional career needs, rather than one designed to be so specific to physical home organizing that translating it would be difficult at best.
You don’t need to suffer the consequences of failure with regard to having an organized job search or career planning process. Take charge of the process and put in place the techniques you need to have for it to work well.
I have to admit that the whole idea of “big data” overwhelms me! In fact, reading articles about it tends to make my eyes glaze over. However, we live in a world where such topics can impinge on our actions, career success, life balance and more, so trying to ignore big data completely is probably not a realistic or sensible choice.
Corcodillos and Big Data in Job Searching
I’ve mentioned Nick Corcodillos and his Ask The Headhunter newsletter a number of times. Today it’s in relation to his article about “Big Data, Big Headaches for Job Seekers?”
If you’re already feeling frustrated by the ways in which impersonal screening and hiring techniques make your job search more difficult, time-consuming and prone to failure, Corcodillos’ article won’t provide you with much encouragement. He sees the trend as continuing to grow and is seriously concerned about the emphasis on big data in that regard.
For example, he mentions an article in The Atlantic by Don Peck, called “They’re Watching You at Work,” that quotes a recruiting VP at Xerox Services as saying, “We’re getting to the point where some of our hiring managers don’t even want to interview anymore….They just want to hire the people with the highest scores.”
Corcodillos is trying to arrange a discussion on TV between him and Peck about increasing use of big data in HR. It will be interesting to see if he succeeds and, if so, how that discussion goes. In any case, I highly recommend that you read his article (I’ve provided the link above). It’s very thought-provoking and more than a tad disturbing.
So What About Big Data and Your Job Search?
You and I can’t control the big data leviathan individually…maybe even not collectively. However, you do absolutely need to be aware of its possible impact on your job search. To the extent possible, you must take such factors into account and be both assertive and creative in your approach to job searching.
To start with, fight back by getting personal in your job search as much as possible. That includes making person-to-person contacts, not just online, and nurturing your contact network (both online and offline) so that you are viewed as a real person by those key people. Don’t succumb to the idea–however tempting–that you can manage everything electronically and by rote and still be a viable top candidate for the positions you’re targeting.
Does this mean more work for you to conduct and achieve a successful job search? Undoubtedly, but the alternative is unpalatable. You can throw up your hands, knuckle under to big data and all its cousins, and resign yourself to praying for a minimal job opportunity to present itself to you. That’s really not an option you want to choose!
No, I never got asked any of those dumb interview questions myself. However, I know people who have, and you probably know what I mean. It’s the “what flavor of ice cream would you be” or “if you had to choose between selling your child and selling your car, which would you choose” (I made that up–at least, I don’t think it’s ever been asked!) variety of interview question.
I’ve heard that even some supposedly successful and reputable companies like to throw in this off-the-wall kind of question during interviews. Presumably they’re hoping to get a sense of how the applicant thinks on his or her feet, responds to totally unexpected questions, etc. I can’t believe, though, that there isn’t a more effective and less far-out method of determining that information, and I’m certainly not alone in thinking this.
Useless Interview Questions
Just as one example, I recently read an online post by David Welsh titled “Which Member of the ‘Rat Pack’ Matches Your Leadership Style…and Other Useless Questions.” Welsh appears to be UK-based, but his somewhat tongue-in-cheek post makes good sense in a much wider area than that. Why more companies don’t “get it,” I can’t understand. As Welsh says:
“The irony is there are several really high quality psychometric tests out there that are very good predictors of leadership ability and traits. I’ve even seen them used. And paid for. They are not cheap. And then clients would listen to the results, nod, ask that stupid question about leadership style at final interview and rely on the answer alone.”
How to Handle Dumb Interview Questions
Basically, you have two choices when you encounter what appears to be a really dumb interview question:
- React with shock, dismay, etc., and “blow” your answer (and probably the interview while you’re at it).
- Take a moment to decide whether you can give an answer that says something meaningful about your unique value to the company and doesn’t seem too far away from whatever silly thing they asked. Then provide that answer calmly and concisely.
Actually, I suppose there’s a third choice. You can pause, say “that’s an interesting question–can you tell me what prompted you to ask it?”–and then wait for their response.
Although choice #3 might produce an interesting outcome, I suppose I’d probably advocate for #2.
One Final Tip onInterview Questions
A critical part of any successful job search involves astute evaluation of the interview process and a plan for approaching it as effectively as possible. I always encourage clients to prepare thoroughly for interviews, including doing extensive research on the company before the interview. Then I remind them that “expect the unexpected” is consistently good advice, to be ignored at their peril. You can’t be thrown for a loop in an interview if you’ve given thoughtful consideration to how you will handle unexpected situations and have made sure you’re ready for them.
Based on what we have been seeing over the past year–and more–job search in 2013 will not be for the faint of heart. If you want or need to plan and conduct a job search next year, you will need to have several things, not the least of which is enough determination to overcome the numerous obstacles that could and possibly will pop up to block your path to a new job or career.
To quote Mr. William Shakespeare: “Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” In colloquial terms, you can’t complete the dash for home plate if you never even get to first base. And, as Sydney J. Harris (an American journalist for the Chicago Daily News and later the Chicago Sun-Times, who died in 1986) tells us: “Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.”
Job Search 2013: Borrow Nike’s Slogan and “Do It”
I recently read a thought-provoking book by Peter McWilliams called Do It! Let’s Get Off Our Buts. In fact, that’s where I first saw the quote from Mr. Harris. It’s the kind of book you need to read and then re-read–at least once or twice–to get the full benefit. Also, it probably makes the book more effective if you do the exercises it provides. I have to confess, I haven’t done that yet; however, I initially read the book for pleasure, rather than as part of an action plan for self-improvement. However, I do want to share McWilliams’ view of what constitutes a career: “You have a career or profession when what you love doing most is what you also get paid for doing.” That’s how I feel about the work I do with and for my clients, and it’s how I sincerely want them to feel about the work they do for current and future employers.
Countless obstacles could stand in your way to a successful job search or career in 2013. No one promised the search would be easy–or if someone did, he/she was deceiving you, either intentionally or unintentionally. However, you can’t afford to let obstacles intimidate you into spinning your wheels or backpedaling, if achieving your goal is essential to your well-being–emotionally, physically, professionally or all of the above.
5 Job Search Tips for 2013
- Outline a plan that will have you up-and-running by January 1 (if not before).
- Build flexibility into your plan–remember that obstacles can crop up unexpectedly.
- Marshal your job search resources–people, time, money, whatever else you might need. If you don’t have all your ducks lined up yet, start working on that now.
- Take a quick look backward (over this past year) to see where you veered off track, slipped up in some way or otherwise didn’t make the progress you had aimed for. Use that quick review as a launchpad for your 2013 planning–starting with what needs to change and when.
- Allow yourself opportunities to recharge your batteries between now and the end of the year–quiet time with family, a trip you’ve been putting off, a good book you want to read or a movie you’ve been waiting to see, whatever will rejuvenate your energy and strengthen your ability to surmount any obstacles you encounter in your job search 2013 activities.
My Wish for Your Job Search 2013 Success
Actually, it’s more than a wish. It’s an affirmation. I believe you can do much more than you think you can, even if you don’t always see a clear path at the start. Give yourself credit for that…and don’t give up if the going gets rough. Persistence can pay off when you least expect it.
You might understand that your resume becomes part of the hiring process as soon as you start submitting it to prospective employers for positions you know they have open. However, you might not realize some of the ins and outs of how recruiters and hiring managers deal with your resume as part of their hiring process. I believe any insights you can get into that could prove useful in conducting a successful job search. That’s why I particularly enjoyed reading a new article by Dr. John Sullivan, “What’s Wrong with Using Resumes for Hiring? Pretty Much Everything.”
Problems regarding resumes and the hiring process
I’ve read a number of articles by Dr. Sullivan, and I don’t always agree with everything he says, but this article makes a lot of good points, so I highly recommend reading the whole thing (I can only touch on a few high spots in this post). Sullivan lists 30 problems and divides them into 5 categories:
- Top 5 factors that most negatively impact the quality of hire.
- Content-related resume problems.
- Non-job-related factors that could impact the quality of the submitted resume.
- Format-related resume problems.
- Problems with the typical resume assessment/screening process.
Job seekers’ perspective on resumes and the hiring process
Sullivan’s articles are generally written from the perspective of HR/recruiting professionals, but he does sometimes include points that can be useful to you as a job seeker. For example, in this article he mentions the following:
“Resumes do not include information on all of the key assessment criteria – candidates are generally assessed on four criteria: 1) are they qualified? 2) are they available? 3) are they interested? and 4) do they fit? Because most resumes are really simply job histories, they thus only address the first criterion … are they qualified?….If you ask candidates a simple question — Does your resume accurately reflect what you are capable of doing? – the answer is almost always no.”
My comment here is that your resume absolutely should not be just a “job history” and absolutely should reflect, to the greatest extent possible and reasonable, “what you are capable of doing” for the prospective employer. Otherwise, it will probably make you sound like all the other applicants who are pursuing that position. Standing out from the competition as a highly qualified and potentially valuable candidate is what it’s all about! If you’re simply #499 in a line of 500 applicants, why should the company want to consider you?
And here’s another critical point: “The candidate’s job results may be impossible to verify — many candidates fail to include the results and quantify their accomplishments, making the quality of their work difficult to assess. Others include results and numbers that may be exaggerated. Unfortunately, in most cases it is simply impossible for the resume reader to verify the accuracy of these numbers.”
What can you do about that? Possibly several things, but especially these:
- Use only facts (statistics, etc.) you are comfortable discussing in an interview. That means, for starters, that you know you achieved those results and can speak about them confidently. Also, you’ve presented them in a way that doesn’t violate the company’s confidentiality rights.
- Stick to the facts and provide solid support that indicates their validity, even if you can’t provide all the details in the resume. Whenever possible, use facts that can probably be verified in some way.
- If you can, use independent, third-party testimonials and verification in your resume. For example, a short quote from a senior manager or someone else with clear relevance to the situation can make a point that it’s hard for you to make on your own behalf. You don’t necessarily even need to use the person’s name, but his/her title (position) should be noted.
Again, I encourage you to read Sullivan’s entire article. It’s worth the few minutes it will take.
Whether or not you consider yourself a well-organized person, it’s likely that adopting a relatively organized approach to your current or next job search will produce worthwhile benefits. The process of finding and capturing a new job has become more and more complex in recent years, and that trend appears likely to continue into the future–possibly even at a faster rate than it has done in the past. Unless you have an encyclopedic mind and can also manage multiple, sometimes conflicting priorities at a time without missing something, a degree of organization is essential to a successful job search. That’s true whether you’re a senior executive or a recent college graduate with limited business experience.
Why use checklists for your job search?
Checklists enable you to accomplish several desirable goals, including the following:
- Lay out all the critical steps you need to take and develop an approximate order and timeline for completing them.
- Identify “missing pieces”: possibly useful actions you might not otherwise have considered.
- Track your progress and spot actions that haven’t been completed yet but need to be done soon.
They’re also customizable to your preferred style of operating. You can make them as simple or as involved as you choose, because you’re the only one who is going to use them. If challenges arise and you need to reschedule an item on your list, no one is going to hassle you about that. As long as you’re fine with it, it’s okay.
What kind of checklists should you use?
As mentioned above, you get to choose how you develop and use your job search checklist. You can design your own or get ideas from lists that others have used and tailor them to fit your needs. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about the type of checklist. Personally and as a business owner, I like project checklists that give me a column for the target completion date and another column to check the items as I complete them. That style can work well for a job search, too. You can also make use of a number of high-tech tools, including resources like JibberJobber.com, to help you manage the list.
You can and probably will want to incorporate a variety of items in your job search checklist. The following are useful to include:
- Source of the position you’re pursuing (online posting, referral from a friend or colleague, etc.)
- Company, title and brief description of the position
- Date you submitted your resume and cover letter or other materials
- Return contact(s) you received (phone, email, letter, etc.)
- Dates of interviews scheduled and completed
The beauty of using checklists for your job search is that it helps you manage diverse important tasks even while other demands on your time and attention preclude devoting your full time to the job search. It’s easy to keep tabs on what’s happening, what you have and haven’t done, and so on, without making yourself crazy over it. Job searching can be enough of a hassle without subjecting yourself to that!