When you are looking for a new job or trying to land a new client, you are definitely selling yourself. Your chances of success increase exponentially when you embrace the three fundamental beliefs of successful selling.
- You must believe in yourself;
- You must believe in what you are selling and what have to offer;
- You must believe that someone out there needs what you are selling and have to offer.
Please enjoy the following success story and lessons learned from Janis Jerman, a business leader whom I met at a networking meeting hosted by Executive Talent Services (ETS) where I spoke about the importance of networking follow-up.
Janis stood out then as a motivated business leader and as you will read in her surprising story, she continues to stand out in both her professional, confident approach, her generosity and her inherent leadership qualities.
p.s. I love Janis’ idea of drafting your own personal perfect job description as a way of really knowing what you are looking for.
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My job search success defied many of the statistics regularly drilled into job-seekers. Statistics tell us that 60-80% of jobs are filled through networking and not through posted jobs. Yet, I found my new job through an online posting and had no connections to the company or current or former employees.
I applied and began the interview process knowing only what I could glean from the company’s web site. My experience was positive, short (47 days from application to start date) and successful but don’t use my experience as an excuse for you to reduce your networking or rely solely on job boards.
Networking is Critical
Networking is a critical and necessary part of your job search that compliments your use of other appropriate job search resources. What is an “appropriate” resource depends on your job level, experience, and geographic availability. Be creative and think outside of the big mainstream job boards.
Use networking to research companies and industries and develop a target list. Check those companies’ web sites; monitor the industry association’s career and event pages for job and networking opportunities; subscribe to industry and recruiter’s e-newsletters; write an article for an industry publication. Keep your name out there and keep your skills up to date.
Be A Good Scout – Be Prepared
When you land an interview, remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Be confident, be prepared with questions, and focus your responses on how you can help the company solve a problem and what experiences you have had that support that contention.
As you are researching the company, including reading the job description (this is an important and sometimes under-valued part of the research process), and as you are participating in the interview process, listen for clues to the company’s issues or concerns. You can tailor your cover letter and interview responses to those issues or concerns.
Use the thank you letter as an opportunity to propose a solution to a problem identified during the interview. Offering a solution or explaining how you can solve a problem will show the interviewer that you heard her concerns and that you have the experience and know-how to help the company. It takes your candidacy out of the theoretical and into the practical. It also allows the hiring manager to envision you in the position.
My Keys to Success
I think that the keys for me in making this process successful, especially since I did not have connections or much research data on the company or its people, were:
- Knowing exactly what I am best suited for and identifying what that looks like on paper (write your own perfect job description so that you can recognize it when you see it). The job description included many of the technical skills and leadership skills that I wrote into my perfect job description. When I saw the job posting it spoke to me.
- In my cover letter, identifying specific successful tasks/projects from other positions to match up to each qualification identified in the job description. I was able to show them successful examples of the tasks that they wanted performed. I focused my letter on those items of interest to them and did not confuse them with other wonderful and successful projects that I am proud of but that do not specifically respond to the job posting. I saved some of those other proud accomplishments for discussion in the interview.
- Being able to tie together my varied experiences and show how that path across different careers and industries led me to this point.
- Attaching a brief proposal to my first thank you letter. I identified two issues specifically identified by the CEO, considered how they were related (even though they were not identified as being related during the interview), and suggested a three-step action plan to resolve those issues.
- Thinking about the interview, reviewing my notes, and developing action plans as if I had been offered the job and then making a list of applicable questions that I followed up with a few days after the interview. This kept me fresh in their minds and showed them that I was thoughtful and serious about solving problems for them. It also gave me more information and an opportunity to advance the conversation further in the second interview. I engaged in substantive conversations via e-mail in between interviews.
- Being clear with myself and the company as to expectations and work style. I asked specific questions about the transition and how we would work and communicate with one another.
- Constantly giving them an opportunity to envision me in the position. I asked questions that assumed I was in the position and sought feedback on how subordinates would respond to certain actions, what the executive team expected based on certain of my skills and traits, etc.
- Focusing on building a rapport with the senior executives. As a family business, it is personal to them. They need to trust, respect, and be comfortable with their first-ever COO.
Envision Yourself at Your Best
The job search can take its toll. Always remember that is a temporary circumstance, it is not who you are. Do the hard homework – critically explore your strengths and interests, draft your own personal perfect job description, identify target companies and industries, be able to promote yourself positively and productively, find ways to stay current in your profession, be specific and purposeful in your “asks” to networking contacts, offer to give back.
Maintain good motivation and attitude by envisioning yourself in positive moments – be they past or future successes. Always remember that you are a strong, valuable, professional person and direct that energy to your networking and job prospect contacts.
Always say Thank You
When you land that perfect job, immediately notify and thank the people who were part of it. That means personal phone calls to the most immediate colleagues, family, and friends; individual personal e-mails to the next tier; and a group e-mail to the next tier of similarly situated folks (i.e. one group e-mail to the soccer team; another to the book group, etc).
Share your news, recognize the role that they played, and thank them for their support. Reach out to everyone who touched you in your job search process, even if you think you got less from them than you would have liked.
Keep the connection current and strong. You may need their product or service in your new job; they may become a client or vendor; they may be a networking connection that you can introduce to someone else in the job search; or they may become your neighbor.
I met the most amazing, gracious, fun, and interesting people in my job search. Many of them are friends and colleagues for life. I am so fortunate to have such wonderful friends and colleagues.
About Janis C. Jerman is a visionary executive with a pragmatic approach to organizational development and effectiveness. She is the new Chief Operating Officer at Employee Family Protection, a national company based in Glastonbury, Connecticut. EFP provides voluntary employee benefit education and enrollment services. Learn more about Janis Jerman at Linkedin.com