We’re in a recession. OK, you knew that. My point is, if you are looking for a job – or for a better job – you need to know what the people hiring are looking for. Sadly, in many cases the jobs that are available will be parceled out by people who either are not hiring for their own groups (HR in many cases), or by people who do not understand their needs well enough to hire the best-qualified candidate. The good news is, you would not really want those jobs anyway if you had any choice, because those are the dead-end no promotion high-stress jobs we all hate anyway. The bad news is, of course, that in many cases we take those lousy jobs because we have to find work. So, my advice is for the many people who have a job but know they’re not in the right one, so they’re looking.
One thing I really hate about all the job-search books, articles, and guides is this assumption that you have unlimited time to pour into the search. OK, if you’ve been laid off you have some free time, but not the months that these guides say you need to have available, so you’re likely to have to take a temp job or an undesirable position, in which case you will be working and looking. If you are a student just out of school, you also have a short window before you have to start paying back that student loan, and in any case unless your name is Kennedy you will need to pay bills right away. Fact is, almost everyone looking for a job will eventually be looking and working at the same time. This is bad enough, but no one in the employment assistance field seems to grasp this. After all, it’s not easy to ask your current boss off from work so you can go to an interview, and if you don’t tell your current boss you feel dishonest. And it’s not as if you can go on vacation and conveniently schedule a lot of interviews in that space of time, especially if you do well and they call you back a second and third time … over a couple more weeks? Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how to handle this particular problem, except to say how I am dealing with it. My superior is very supportive, and knows that after I finish my MBA I will be seeing what’s out there, and so if I need a short-notice day off he will work with me. Why would he do that? Because he knows that this is a way for my company to show me that they value me, making it less likely that I would leave, especially if they could make a counter-offer (my company likes to promote from within, so obviously that is my first avenue), and it’s also because he’s a good guy, who treats people the way he’d want to be treated. I know that a lot of folks don’t have that option, but if you do have a pretty good boss in a job that’s just not all you need, it may be a good idea to sound out their opinion. Because while it’s a pain to have to replace a good employee, if they’re leaving it’s best if it happens on good terms with no one caught by surprise. That’s also a good test for the new employer, by the way – anyone who expects you to leave your current job without a decent transition, is not likely to respect you once you become their employee.
But that’s sort of missing the topic. The key to getting a good job, the kind that provides career and growth opportunities in a healthy environment, is to be someone they fell they have to have, someone they are not likely to find very easily. To be that person, you need to know enough about the job to know what they need. Do the research, find out everything you can on the company and on the position. If you’re reading this you know the basics of computers, so put some detective skills to work to see how well the company is doing (a growing company pays more for talent, while a company in trouble will be cheap), what skills are needed (be sure you are being hired for something that the next person is not likely to be able to do; nobody pays well for the ordinary skills) or preferred, and why they are hiring now. After you figure that out to some degree, you play ‘turn around’ and imagine what the person doing the hiring is looking for, and make sure you fit that image.
It may seem hokie, but when I interview people for positions, I always consider them on three levels – can they immediately do what needs to be done, can they get along with everyone in the team, and can they grow, maybe show leadership? Strange as it sounds, a lot of folks hurt themselves by not showing how they can help the company, they seem to be hard to fit into a group, or they show no sense of maturity. Your resume must be accomplishment-specific, include a cover letter, and be focused totally on proving you can and will be the perfect fit. If you get interviewed, dress like you are expecting to meet the person two levels above the job you want. Do not chew gum, and make sure you neither smoke nor drink, even if you are invited to do so. There’s a lot of good books out on how to handle interviews, and so a trip to the library is definitely in order, but remember that the more specific information you have on the company, the better you will look compared to the other candidates.