Perhaps you’ve been fortunate to have not lost a job in the past two years. Whether you have lost a job or not, odds are good that you know someone who has. Every professional needs a plan for finding employment and for staying employed.
Who would have thought that working for companies like General Motors, AIG or Citigroup could be risky? Recent history has clearly shown that the nation’s largest companies are not necessarily the most stable companies one could choose for employment.
There was once a perception that working for the nation’s largest companies equaled career stability. Today however, stability and opportunity can be found in a well-funded start-up as much as it can be found in the largest employers.
Jeff Snyder, the President of SecurityRecruiter.com, a search firm highly specialized in information security recruiting, tells us that technology professionals today must be more proactive to take control of their careers than at any other time in the past. Technology professionals need to consider their personal stock value as they make education, certification, networking and career move decisions.
Personal stock value refers to the traits, skills, characteristics and experiences that make a person unique relative to their peers. Let your technical skills become rusty relative to the skills the market is demanding and your personal stock value slips. It is far more important today to build a marketable portfolio of skills, traits and professional experiences versus concentrating only on working for the “best” companies.
Many elements can cause one person to stand out over another person in the job search process. Consider these 10 topics when thinking about how to build your personal stock value, how to network and how to increase your marketability.
Click through to learn more about key tactics for landing a tech job in tough times.
Don’t wait until you’ve been handed a layoff notice to start looking for a recruiter. Identify recruiters who specialize in your areas of expertise before you need them. You wouldn’t wait until you need a root canal to visit a dentist for the first time. You wouldn’t wait until you have a broken bone to visit the doctor for the first time. Why would you wait until you lose a job to make your skills known to the specialized recruiters who recruit your discipline of skill? Knowing specialized recruiters can position you to learn about career changing growth opportunities when you’re not in desperate need to find a new job. This type of relationship can position you to make a well-planned career move versus a reactionary job change.
Don’t let dust settle on your resume. You don’t need to constantly be looking for a new job but in today’s business climate, most professionals are not immune to job loss. Invest in yourself to have an effective resume created and then keep it up-to-date as your skills change and as your accomplishments accumulate. Know that busy recruiters, busy human resource professionals and busy hiring managers are short on time. When your resume lands on their desk, it will likely be scanned quickly rather than read thoroughly. Does your resume clearly display your accomplishments in a way that a busy reader can quickly determine your professional value?
Some of the more popular online networks include LinkedIn, Spoke, Plaxo, FastPitch, Facebook, etc. Some might argue the business value of all of these networks but the fact is that business networks can be sources of information for you and about you. Build and manage a business network on LinkedIn, for example, and you’ll be exposed to any number of the more than 60 million users worldwide. Build your profile strategically and you may be found by a recruiter who needs your skills. Be careful to only place information online that you won’t want to retract at some later time. Some employers are asking their recruiters to study job candidates’ online presence as part of the background check process. You wouldn’t want a loose comment you made two years ago on Facebook when you were having a bad day to cost you a job today. Decide how you’re going to use online business and social networks and stick to your strategy.
In the past, networking was traditionally done at after business hour groups, at trade shows and at seminars. Today, networking takes on a whole new meaning. Sure, you can still find groups to attend to make face-to-face connections but online business networking can be done faster, can cover more geographic territory and can set you up for stronger meetings when you do meet a business colleague for the first time in a face-to-face setting. Groups on LinkedIn have taken off lately. You can join as many as 50 different groups that pique your professional interest. Before you join such groups, think about why you’re joining the group, what you intend to contribute to the group and what you hope to get out of the group. Contribute help and answers to groups and one day when you need help, it just might be sitting there for you in the form of one of your group members.
Certifications don’t make one professional better than another but certifications do give prospective employers a sense of security that certified candidates represent a lower hiring risk than those who are not certified. When employers are overwhelmed with too many resumes for an opening, many will eliminate candidates from their short list if they’re not certified in ways requested in a job description. Certifications give employers the perception and sometimes assurance that a candidate is serious about being an expert in their chosen field of expertise. Technology professionals who want to rise above their hands-on technology peers to deal with topics such as management, leadership and strategy should consider pursuing training and certification that is more business and project management focused and could include Toastmasters public speaking and Dale Carnegie or similar training.
Every time you leave a voice mail or send an e-mail to someone who doesn’t already know you, you’re leaving an impression. That first impression can be one that invites your audience to get to know you further or it can be a deal-breaking impression before you ever get a chance to be interviewed. When leaving voice mails, speak articulately, spell your name and repeat your phone number more than one time. Know that the quality of your voice mail begins to form an impression of who you are in the voice mail recipient’s mind. When communicating via e-mail, find your e-mail program’s spell and grammar check options and turn them on. Know that the person who receives your e-mailed communication is forming an initial impression of you by reading the words you choose to write as well as the way you choose to use the words. Busy recruiters, human resources professionals and executives seldom have time to read long paragraphs. They’ll be more likely to pay attention to your material if it is delivered in executive summary format. They may want to learn more about you if you write in complete sentences and if your written correspondence is free of improperly spelled words.
It may sound simple but it is very important to know who you are before you show up for an interview. Only you can know what you’re passionate about doing in your chosen career. Only you can demonstrate the value you’ve created for your past employers. You won’t always know what to expect in an interview but one thing you can be certain about is knowing who you are and knowing how you’ll articulate certain examples of what you’ve done and what you’d like to be doing in the future for a new employer. Accept only the job you can be excited to show up for and perform every day, one that matches your core values. The alternative is that you’ll likely be looking for another new job soon.
It is very easy to research companies today as opposed to 20 years ago. As a job seeker, it is your responsibility to not only know yourself but to also know about the company you’re visiting for an interview. Smaller, privately held companies are harder to research but information is still available and you should seek it out before arriving for an interview. Study company websites, press releases, articles, marketing material and profiles of hiring managers and executives. If you use LinkedIn, it is a great way to research who the decision makers are in specific companies. You should study decision maker backgrounds to see where they worked prior to joining the company you’re consider joining.
Business professionals are judged by the quality of the questions they ask when they interview. By asking technical questions, business questions and questions about where the interviewer came from and why they enjoy working for your prospective employer, you’ll accomplish many objectives. You’ll demonstrate that you researched the company when you ask business and technical questions. By asking carefully planned questions of the interviewer, you’ll be engaging them and learning as they share their thoughts with you. You’ll also be demonstrating your analytical and critical thinking skills when you ask strong questions. You’ll be giving your prospective employer a glimpse of who you’ll be once you’re on board.
When anyone goes out of their way to help you with your professional pursuits, be sure to go out of your way to express thanks. Sending a thank you e-mail is fine and a far better practice than doing nothing. However, an even better practice that is guaranteed to make you stand out is the practice of sending hand-written thank you notes. Yes, a hand-written note in a hand-addressed envelope with a stamp. Relationships that last are built when you go out of your way to recognize and to show appreciation for those who have helped you along the way in your career. Try it. The day someone calls and thanks you for thanking them in such a personal way, you’ll understand how rare it is for anyone to receive this kind of personal attention.