As you sit down to write your elevator speech, or practice your potential interview questions, one thing you have to be clear on is: who are you? You need to know yourself, what you are good at, where you need to improve (you don’t need to tell others that), and what you want to do. One thing I highly recommend is that you learn, or confirm, these things by taking some tests. Here are a few of my favorites. There are many, many more on the web.
Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. This is a great little book that explains what emotional intelligence is, provides an excellent online assessment of your emotional intelligence, and then provides exercises to improve.
Strength Finders 2.0 by Tom Rath. Strength Finders is an outstanding assessment that helps you find out what you are good at, so you can do more of that. This book by Tom Rath explains the assessment, has a link to an online test, and then helps you better understand your top five strengths and how to make the most of them.
DiSC – Since the ancient Greeks men have been creating personality assessments that evaluate your personality relative to four components. The Greeks used water, wind, earth and fire. My favorite simple assessment is the DiSC profile which stands for Dominance, influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. You can pay from $0 to $100 for a DiSC online. While you may take the same test, the more you pay, the more information you generally learn about yourself. I’ve included a link to one quality vendor – there are more.
Enneagram – the Enneagram is a very different form of personality assessment that may help in day-to-day living as much as in the workplace. Check out the Enneagram Institute for lots of information.
o*net Interest Profiler – this is an online career interest assessment offered by the US Department of Labor. While it will take more than just a few minutes to take the test, it may help you identify a career area you had not been considering.
Take some time, assess yourself, learn to talk about your strengths and passions. They will lead you past your next job and into a satisfying career. If you are struggling with your job search, this might help. https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/
When my parents went to work after college they could reasonable expect to work for one company for their entire careers, and they did for 42 and 54 years respectively. When I graduated college, it was assumed that my generation would work for 2-4 companies over our careers, predominately in the same field. But as my children entered the workforce, it was predicted that they would have 3-5 different careers over their lifetime.
Organizations are much better today at recognizing strengths and transferrable skills. The best organizations look past your specific experience and instead focus on talent, skills, and fit. Do you have the ability to do what they need? Do you have the skills required to be successful in that organization? Do you fit with their culture and their team? Those things, in that order, are way more important than where you worked or what you were responsible for.
On your resume, spend the most energy on your accomplishments. What did you get done and how did that impact the organization? If you did it for them, you can do it for the next company too. Update your Summary and Accomplishments sections for every job you apply for, and tailor them to that job at that company.
And don’t be afraid to look outside your field and/or industry. Sell your talent and skills, not your history. Work where you find passion. I know two people who had good, successful careers, and dropped them to attend coding bootcamps and both are now successful coders. I started out as an Industrial Engineer, and now I’m a human resources guy. Don’t plan for your career to move in only one direction.
The bottom line is that you should not define your job search looking backwards at what jobs you’ve done. Direct your search towards what you are good at, and what you are passionate about. Be prepared to talk about your strengths and skills, more than your former job titles and responsibilities. You’ll find a job that will be more satisfying and fulfilling. If you are struggling with your job search, this might help. https://im-fired.com/about-the-book/
This month I have been trying to get you in a new state of mind. I’ve talked about new markets, new resumes, new cover letters, new targets, and new networking strategies. For the last post in January, let’s focus on the new interviews.
If you have a good resume and cover letter and you use those with effective networking, I can almost guarantee you’ll get interviews. These techniques will raise you above the average job seeker and give you the visibility you need to be noticed. Then, it will be up to you to use your interviewing skills to move to the next stage.
If you click on Interviewing in the Tag Cloud to the right of this post, you’ll find seven previous posts on interviewing. One of my favorites is Becoming Scheherazade… from just over a year ago. Each of the posts provides some insight in how to make your interviews more successful, but for you impatient ones…
- Be prepared – go online and find lists of the interview questions. Then write out your answers to those questions. Then practice saying those answers aloud. Be prepared to answer behaviorally based questions (back to Scheherazade).
- Know who you are and what you want – spend some time (before the interview) really thinking about what you want out of your next job and what you can give. This will drive your elevator speech (last week) but it will also let you answer those questions about your strengths and weaknesses.
- Get off on the right foot – be on time, well dressed and groomed, look the interviewer in the eye, offer a firm handshake, etc. You need to make a good first impression.
- Answer the questions you’re asked – don’t talk about unrelated subjects, don’t volunteer information they don’t need to know, don’t vent about how your former employer fired you or about how bad your old boss was at managing.
- Ask questions – use your opportunity to ask questions to show what you know about this company (things you learned while developing your target list, networking, or through research). Asking questions shows that you are interested and want to learn more. Asking intelligent questions really gets the interviewer’s attention.
- Be polite – enough said.
Losing one a job and finding another can be a challenging, frustrating, and ultimately rewarding process. For the most part the techniques are not rocket-science, but for many they are not common sense either. I hope that these new posts in January have given you the foundation to understand the process and be successful.
If you want more advice on how to write a resume, how to, network or just how to find a job, check out I’m Fired?!? A Business Fable about the Challenges of Losing One Job and Finding Another. Click here for more details.
I’m not a psychic but I predict that at least one time in your job search some interviewer will ask you “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” While I don’t particularly like these questions (more on that later) you do need to be prepared to answer them. Usually the strengths are easier for people. Odds are you can say that you are honest, hardworking, dependable, loyal (remind you of the Boy Scout oath?). If you can, this is a chance to work in your previous related experience – you know the industry, know the job, etc. You understand the drill. You tell them whatever you think they need for this job is what you have – in spades. (More on that later too.)
Where people often struggle are with the weaknesses. Who wants to tell someone they just met what is wrong with them? Nobody! You were going for a good first impression. You don’t want to tell them that you’re a bear in the morning before your coffee or that you can get really cranky if you’re forced to work with people who are not as smart as you are. That just sounds like a bad idea – and to a large degree it is.
You know what issues you have, so try to find a “weakness” or two that you can put to the company’s advantage. For instance, can you turn impatience into a sense of urgency? How about perfectionism in to attention to detail? Can you turn conflict avoidance into being a good mediator, or disorganization into free thinking? The idea here is to be honest, but to also be clear that a) you do recognize that you have this “weakness” and b) you can use or compensate for that weakness in a productive way. A good friend once pointed out the difference between disabled and differently-abled. Just because you have a weakness, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be great for this job – so tell them about it.
Now back to the second aside – “tell them what you think they want to hear”. I am not suggesting that you should be dishonest. You should pick the strengths that you have that are required for this job and sell those. For instance, you might be an incredible typist and speller but those may not be skills required of a manager or a machine operator. Focus on the job you’re applying for. Above all, be honest. With both strengths and weaknesses there is no expectation to reveal everything, but whatever you say you can do well – or you need to work on – needs to be true. Be honest with yourself and others all the time.
As for first aside, if you are an interviewer, these are lousy questions to ask because you will get the answers they think you want to hear. Instead, work those ideas inside of behaviorally based questions like “tell me about a time when you used your greatest work-related strength to help solve a critical problem” or “tell me a time about when one of your personal weaknesses caused you an issue at work.” These questions require that the strength or weakness be given some context and color. I can again make a prediction – you’ll get more useful information.
According to Wikipedia, no fewer than sixteen ancient Greek sages have been credited with the phrase “Know thyself” and it is still applicable today. As you dive into your job search, spend some time reflecting on what you do well and what you need to work on. Write down instances where you’ve done both, and think about how you can use your weaknesses to your future employers advantage.