Career Emergency First Aid Kit

Life is hectic. Careers are hectic. And it takes a few tricks to manage both successfully.

I have a close friend and client, Tracey, who’s now been in the successful role of Communications Manager for the American Red Cross in Phoenix for the past two years. One of the many things she does besides helping drive relief efforts for Haiti, is publicizing the Red Cross’ emergency First Aid Kit.

It made me think how much we all need our own “Career Emergency First Aid Kit.” A box of tools including an escape plan to help us stay afloat should our career take an unexpected turn.

Earlier in my career, I experienced a few setbacks that caught me off-guard. After I landed back on my feet, I became smarter about anticipating and preparing for change.

Planning and preparation are critical to surviving any disaster. Can your career weather any storm, and rebound quickly? One tool that is must be in your kit is a polished and professional resume. If you’re unsure about how your resume measures up, you may want to work with a professional resume writer.

For a faster career change, work your netWORK

There has been a major shift in the hiring strategies that organizations are using to hire top talent over the past 12-months that many job seekers don’t know about. The latest studies show that as much as 70% of companies who hired new employees in 2009 hired those candidates who had a referral within the organization.

In other words, if you want to speed up the process of landing your next job, you need to “work your network.”

Who should be in your network?
Make it a priority to get connected and stay connected to people who could hire you, or introduce you to others who could potentially hire you. Get re-connected with past employers, managers, customers, and colleagues.

Also, expand your network by meeting new contacts and attending industry conferences, trade shows, business networking events, and association meetings that target the industry (high tech, health care, etc.), or the job role (marketing, finance, management, etc.) you want. Be sure to block off your calendar so that you can attend at least two events each week.

Another great way to expand your network is by joining professional networking sites such as LinkedIn.com This is a super easy way to get connected to networking groups, industry leaders, and company decision makers. Make sure you create a polished and professional profile that highlights your career strengths, talents, results, and successes.

How can you network in a tactful way?
There is one BIG rule in networking. That is, you never want to give the impression that you’re hungry for a job. Instead, you want to be seen as someone who’s resourceful, knowledgeable, and has a wide network.

Send out personalized notes and e-mails to your network with links to industry news, reports, case studies, press releases, videos, and cool websites that you think may interest them. Offer to write recommendation letters, and introduce them to others in your network. Finally, invite your network to business networking events, and introduce them to movers and shakers that you know.

Career influencers are drawn to those who are resourceful. And when they know about job opportunities they’re more likely to tell you about job opportunities and give you a recommendation. So remember, the goal is to create a pull relationship with your network so that they are drawn towards you (not running away from you!). :-)

To learn more about the “four types of career influencers” who need to be in your network, and how to network for job leads, referrals and recommendations check out my book, “Career Smart – 5 Steps to a Powerful Personal Brand”. It’s now on Amazon’s Top 10 List for personal branding books!

Create a strategic job search plan

The single biggest mistake I see job seekers making is not having a personalized job search strategy. That is, an action plan loaded with websites, companies and people they are going to leverage to land their next career move.

Many professionals are simply applying for a few jobs they see on-line, attend a couple of networking events, and then get completely discouraged and say that there aren’t any job openings. The fact is companies are hiring professionals every day. So what shouldn’t one of them by YOU?!

The fastest and easiest way to land your next job is to create a personalized job search strategy and then follow it every week!

You need to fish where the fish are, so find out where your potential employers are by reading on-line job boards (i.e. CareerJournal.com, theLadders.com, etc.) specialized trade magazines, industry publications (the Business Journal) and company websites. You’ll learn which industries are hiring, which companies are hiring, and what the hot jobs are.

Additionally, you’ll want to create a list of organizations where you would like to work. Visit their website every week to search for on-line jobs, and any press releases or blog postings about internal departments that may be hiring.

The reason that on-line job boards should NOT be your only source for job openings is that some sites are notorious for listing outdated jobs. Why waste your time? Instead, I suggest that you make a list of job search sites that offer high quality jobs that match your skillset, and then check those sites weekly.

You can start by conducting a search on Google or Yahoo for the job role and the city where you want to work (example: software engineer, Portland). Review all the sites listed on the top four or five pages, and bookmark only those sites that list promising job opportunities.

You’ll find that each site varies in the quality of positions listed (lower-level to senior-level, as well as salary ranges), plus the type of industries, or vertical sectors listed. Some sites do a better job than others updating their lists, or publicizing openings in your city.

Focus your attention only on those sites. Once you’ve created a list of your top job search sites, make a commitment to review those sites weekly.

For more juicy tips on how to find out which industries are hiring, which companies are hiring, and what the hot jobs are pick up my exclusive Career Change Boot Camp Program. My two (2) CD audio program w/ e-Workbook gives proven, step-by-step strategies to help you transition QUICKLY and EASILY into a new job role, company, or industry.

Think Up, Down and Sideways

When it comes to getting your next job you need to think outside the box. The biggest mistake job hunting professionals make is looking for a position with the exact same job title they had in their last job. To increase your job opportunities, consider looking at smaller companies and going one-level up (i.e. from a manager to a Director), as well as larger companies and going one-level down (from a Director to a manager.)

Want even more job opportunities? Then start thinking “sideways.” Some companies don’t require you to have industry experience, only expertise in a specific job function. So if you’ve been in sales, finance, engineering, or administration in a specific industry (such as health care, high tech, or construction), start applying for those same job roles in other industries.

For example, after working in an advertising agency, I searched for my next career move and included organizations that had in-house advertising, marketing and communications departments. In less than 60 days, I was hired as a Regional Marketing Manager at a Fortune 500 company in an industry that was completely new to me!

Also, it’s not mandatory that you meet 100-percent of the requirements in the job description. In fact, I only met about 50-75% of the job requirements each time I reinvented my career! My secrets? Focusing on transferable skills, passion and confidence! A good rule of thumb is to have at least 75-percent of the skills and experience required, and express in your cover letter and interviews that you’re a quick learner, flexible, and passionate about the position and the company!

For more career strategies, or to get personalized strategies based on your unique career situation, challenges and goals visit my career coaching web page.

Increase Your Job Satisfaction

See Sherri’s latest interview on NCB Phoenix Channel 12 where she gives tips on increasing your job satisfaction.