Before creating your ‘One-Page Successful Career Plan’, know the rules and myths of job seeking…
Golden Rule 1: Great Jobs are usually Under Your Nose – Where you Work Now
This first rule is something many don’t want to hear – perhaps they (usually wrongly) blame their employer for their un-successful career. Or they fall for the tempting ‘the grass is greener’ fallacy. But your next best job is likely to be in your existing company.
How so? It’s obvious.
Your bosses know you. So you are more trustworthy than outsiders, and they know your skills. So, when they give you a new task or challenge, you’ll learn it faster. Why will management often bend over backwards to find you a better job when they know you’re unhappy, and therefore, at risk of leaving? Because they know you, and you know them.
A common mistake made by companies when recruiting is the cultural mismatch. Anyone can match skills – it’s matching the culture that’s difficult. So, if have an employee working hard and who knows the company, they are a lower risk: so they are more likely to get another opportunity.
The cost to companies when they lose people is very high – in fact, it’s between 4 and 18 months salary of the person leaving. So most employers are very reluctant to lose you – many will bend over backwards to meet your needs.
It’s always easier to land another job when you have one – so don’t toss your current job away lightly. You are probably now blocking your successful career in the medium term.
Don’t quit right away, give it some thought…
It helps all of us to take a dose of responsibility occasionally: How much of the problems with your current job are really down to you? If you (perhaps, mistakenly) believe it has nothing to do with you, at least, admit that perhaps you didn’t choose that employer well in the first place. Not taking responsibility means constantly changing jobs because the grass always seems greener somewhere else. It’s not.
If you move and the grass turns out to be brown and filthy, then what? You’ll need to move again, and you become a ‘job hopper’ that quality employers shun.
One of my clients was then Australia’s most successful company, Macquarie Bank. Many years ago one of their Senior Directors made a profound comment when reviewing a resume. The candidate had worked at 3 different companies in the 7 years since she graduated, getting more money each time. He said: “She hasn’t shown the perseverance to succeed inside an organisation. And that’s very important to us.”
So Rule No.1: Look inside your current organisation and exhaust all opportunities before looking outside.
Most recruiters hate this dose of reality – it’s hard to sell a body to someone who already owns it! You’ll gather by the end of this article that I don’t have a high opinion of the recruitment industry.
Golden Rule 2: Why Major Job Changes need 2 Steps
Employers and their agents get thousands of resumes from people trying to do too much too quickly when changing careers. You’ll fail when combining two big changes in one job move: it’s better to take the two steps at different times.
The two biggest steps are changing job rolesandchanging employers. Don’t do them together
Let’s take an example: Imagine you are currently a Sales Manager and your passion is to be in technical support. Your employer only has a small product support team, and this probably won’t change.
So, there are unlikely to be suitable vacancies in the near future. This means that you need to move companies AND change what you do.
This is hard to do together in one step and is rarely successful. Jobs become very specific by the time they get to the recruitment agencies or advertised online. They specifically want someone who has done product support somewhere else, and someone with only sales experience just won’t make the cut.
The solution? A sales job in a company with a great technical support department, with the understanding that it’s your intention to move into that area. And that you will be studying and training towards this goal in a reasonable time-frame (but with no promises) – then the goal is achievable. It’s a two-step process.
So, a journey of two steps begins with the first step – if a cliché works for a thousand steps, why not for two?!
Golden Rule 3: The Truth about Recruitment Firms – they Don’t Help You
Many people believe they do help because we all know people who were introduced to a job by a recruiter. So of course, recruiters seem to help some people. It’s just that it happens less than you think – they might have 100 applicants for one job, so just 1%. And finding a job for you is their job.
But don’t confuse it with helping you. Why don’t recruiters help people find jobs? More importantly, why don’t they help them with their careers?
Firstly, and most importantly, you’re not the one paying them. You are simply the product to a recruiter – they work and do the bidding of the people who pay them, the employers. They are salespeople who are absolutely focused on this month’s revenue, and that revenue comes from selling people to companies. And that leaves you between a rock and a hard place.
Secondly, they thrive on staff turnover. You’ll never hear a recruiter tell you that your best career move is where you are working now, but it usually is. No money for them if you don’t move.
So, if you want to plan your career, if you want to know where you’re heading, and you want some good unbiased advice, don’t seek it with recruiting agents.
The exception? Make friends with a couple of them and share information with them. This is networking rather than a commercial relationship, and networking is powerful – but don’t rely on them to help you progress your career.
Golden Rule 4: Go Direct – Why ‘Do It Yourself’ is Best?
What do you think is the least successful way of finding jobs? Bulk applying to lots of online job ads is a waste of time. If you were trying to grow your business, would you just email spam your brochure to 100 companies where you knew nobody, would it work? No!
Professional sales people know this doesn’t work (though many poor sales people still try the spam approach). So why would bulk emailing your resume to strangers be any different? Not only is it a ‘brochure of one individual’, a brand of one, but it’s just random and unsolicited information. It’s also dangerous if you’re employed – your boss might find out!
So why do so many people think it works? Beats me given what I know now, but I believed it before I became a recruiter!
So, what’s the best way to find that great job? By using what works well in sales – personalised emails that are tailored to that business. Then phone calls and video/face meets – the direct approach. But only after you have done your research.
What works even better? What’s the most powerful step to sell your micro brand? Get a referral.
A referral with an endorsement is even better! And you get referrals from contacts in your network. So, the most powerful step to build your great career is to build your network. So Connections matter…
Golden Rule 5: Connections are your Fast Track to Great Jobs
Many times over many years employers asked me to do salary surveys: how much should their salespeople be paid? Operations people? Client services?
As a recruiter, my business had a lot of real world salary data. My response was always to ask ‘how well connected are these people?’ This always surprised employers, but it shouldn’t have – it is the key to high earnings and great careers.
So if someone is regularly at industry events and conferences, and networking effectively, they will be well known in the industry. Then they are more likely to be offered jobs when they become available.
They are the ‘low hanging, very tasty, fruit’ for the competitors of my clients. So asking about the connections is a vital question. Good connections mean employers need to pay you more if they want to keep your services as you are more vulnerable to being poached. Connections really matter in great careers.
‘ASK THE recruiter’
There was a wonderful book written about 25 years ago by a chap named Nick Corcodilos, called Ask the recruiter. It’s a very simple book, with the advice boiling down to:
Work out what you want to do
Work out who you want to do it with
Go and see them and talk about how you can help them; how you can make them money
Great advice. So why do we over-complicate things? And this leads to an observation: Why are books on career advice always 300 or 400 pages of dense prose? Why aren’t they simpler? There are typically 3 reasons:
They are usually written by psychologists, who are concerned about ‘equity’ and giving everyone a fair go. Good intentions, but the advice often becomes unclear in their search for political correctness. Also, in their professional work, they must qualify their advice and so it becomes long-winded.
They try to be all things to all people. So they cover all job seekers from school leavers to retirees to those receiving social welfare payments.
Finally, these inflated books contain resources that are much better kept online so you can access them when you need them, and the information is kept up to date.
These giant books are often bought for the same reason we sign up to gyms – we feel better after paying for a year even if we only go 3 times!