Taking Stock Of Yourself Can Land That Next Job

October 1, 2009       Tom Pope      

One job seeker volunteered at Beth Israel Hospital. Having a sales background with Neiman Marcus in the for-profit world, that skill helped the woman land a job in development.

That story, told by Lois L. Lindauer, principal of Lois L. Lindauer Searches LLC in Boston, shows the value of knowing a personal inventory of skills.

"She knew a strong connection exists between sales and development," Lindauer said. "Part of handling personal resources while searching for a job means taking an inventory of your skills."

Personal resources can include handling the time management of schedules and financial juggling while on the search.

With your personal inventory, sharpen the resumé. Take out helping words and put in action terms.

"How much did you raise a certain level in your previous job?" she asked. "How much of an increase occurred during your watch. People don’t want to hear that you’re just part of a team," she said.

To obtain a sense of your skills, look at the last evaluation sheet from your manager. What were the skills mentioned?

Handling personal resources includes the psychology of evaluating your weekly success rate during the search. Is the level of success only seen in reaching the job or in the stages of getting the job?

"Sometimes we feel we’re making progress by sending 10 resumés a week," she said. "It’s much better to send one targeted resumé where you’ve made a contact with someone in the organization," said Susan Egmont, principal of Egmont Associates, a national executive search firm for nonprofits, foundations, and academic centers in Boston.

Part of the psychology of handling personal resources is keeping a set schedule. Egmont related the story of a woman who left her house every day in the morning just to pick up a coffee so she had the sensation of returning to an office.

"Set barriers for your work time," she said. "If the family knows that you’re working, that can stop them when they ask you to run errands."

Does a formula exist to decide if you made X amount in the former job, that you need to spend a percent of X per week to fund your search? No guideline exists, according to Egmont. "That varies widely because of the position you seek," she said. "Also, it could be months before you find a position."

Investing money has to be evaluated. In some cases, the idea of building skills by investing in either software or classes might help. Maybe training is available on the job, she suggested. Sometimes programs are offered from the state Department of Labor or community colleges. Another cost could be the network allotment you desire when you set up meetings with people for lunch or coffee.

Personal finances have to involve a long-term plan, according to Heather Eddy, president and COO of the Alford Group Executive Search, a sister company of the Alford Group, a full-service recruitment firm for the nonprofit sector in Chicago. "Reports show a job-less recovery," she said. "That could mean some six-month to one- year job searches."

Most people Eddy has placed during the past year were sourced out of jobs rather than people who were out of work. "We’re seeing the excellent people still in their jobs," she said. Make appointments for yourself to meet people as part of your scheduling. "Dedicate a good portion of your time to reaching out," said Eddy.

View success as the number of contacts you’re making instead of just the interviews. Eddy pointed to the value of a networking luncheon. "You want to meet around four people a week or a combination of interviews with networking opportunities," she said.

Lindauer called the idea of setting a schedule to manage time similar to the realization that the search is a job.

"Networking means setting a goal to do around three things that advances the search," she said. "If you know of a position, call someone who has that position who is a friend to ask details about the job description."

Joining an organization could be part of the networking. Special organizations exist for programming people, research or fundraising and members learn of opportunities. Look at the sites of places you would like to work, Lindauer suggested.

The networking keeps you motivated. "You want to be with people who support your effort," she said. "That’s one reason to go to meetings besides the information exchange — part of it is to avoid feeling isolated." NPT

Tom Pope, a New York City-based journalist, writes about management issues.