Making yourself FutureFit
People regularly ask for my advice on how to get their next job. In many cases they are frustrated because they think that aren’t getting a fair shot at opportunities for which they are qualified. Some times, it seems that the are right. In a few cases there is probably discrimination based on age or gender–unfortunate but real. More often though, the problem is a failure of the candidate to present themselves as a key component of the hiring companies readiness for the future. Many (maybe most) people looking for a job right now consistently send the wrong message. Job seekers doom themselves by looking like a solution to the hiring company’s 2003 problems. Not good. In addition, they “package” themselves in the same way that they did in 2003. Even worse.
Most successful companies are working hard to be more FutureFit. Executives are worried about how their company will compete in a changing marketplace. When they have the chance to hire a new team member, they want to “hire up” and add people that will materially raise their level of competitiveness. They don’t need to hire people that were better suited to their old problems than their new ones.
1. You are who your LinkedIn Profile says you are
Too many people waste hours dolling up a resume that will almost never get seen. Increasingly, companies mine LinkedIn for candidates. They identify qualified candidates who are not currently looking for a job and then reach out. Recruiters do this based on what they see in the profile. Unless your LinkedIn profile is selling your capabilities well, you’ll never hear from them. That resume will stay in the drawer. Take a good, hard look at your LinkedIn page. What does it say about you?
Companies are looking for the best people. Does your summary really extol your virtues? Does it emphasize the ways that you can make your next company more successful and solve the problems that they are worried about now?
You need to communicate everything that’s important about you and your capabilities in your profile and put all the best stuff into the first couple of sentences in the introduction. Don’t bury your lead.
2. It’s not “What have you done for me lately” it’s “What are you going to do next”?
Job seekers waste too much time in the past. Past successes are only interesting to the extent that they give the hiring manager confidence that you can solve their upcoming challenges. But many resumes and LinkedIn profiles wallow in lengthy dissections of who you used to be and what you used to do. What you did at IBM twenty years ago not only won’t help your cause, it may scare people away. The 35 year old hiring manager was in junior high school while you were slaying dragons in Armonk. Stories from the early days of AOL won’t impress someone who thinks that Facebook is old school and doesn’t remember MySpace. Focus your presentation and conversations on current examples and the next set of challenges. Experience is not valued…it’s feared.
3. Be part of the right conversations in social media
You are also defined by your conversational circles on Twitter and LinkedIn. Get in the game. Position yourself favorably by joining the right conversations. Who are the influencers in your segment? What are they talking about? What do they seem to be concerned about? This understanding will inform your conversations when you speak to execs at your target companies. Just as importantly, it opens the door to you joining the conversation. Ask a question. Post a thoughtful comment. Add a useful link. With luck, you’ll get a reply or retweet back. Suddenly you are also positioned as a thought leader in your category. Recruiters will identify you as someone to keep an eye on.
4. Promise to be an “A Player”
Every company aspires to hire “A Players” that will make a difference. During the interview process, too many candidates are so afraid of making mistakes that they fail to step up and promise to be a franchise player and make a difference. Don’t be a wimp. Have a vision and a plan. Be willing and able to look the hiring manager in the eye and communicate how you will help his/her company be successful. This needs to be more than just bravado. It needs to be a “business plan” that is credible based on your background, capability and research on their business.
The truism in M&A is that companies are bought and not sold. That’s largely true in the hiring market place as well. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of people are competing for every job. Employers in most cities and most categories are being very picky. To get the strongest offers from the best company, it’s essential to present yourself as the one candidate who can make a difference in their business. Someone who is not just good but exceptional.