I recently had an opportunity to provide career advice to a friend of a friend.
He started our dialogue simply enough:
What additional credentials do I need to get a position as an administrator? I've applied for a ton of jobs, but I've yet to get an interview.
He didn't need anything. His resume was impressive. He has his principal certification and a list of experiences that would be beneficial to any school.
Credentials--or the lack of credentials--wasn't his issue.
No, his lack of interviews had nothing to do with his experience and everything to do with how he was marketing his unique skill set. I provided him with a few recommendations on what he could do to increase his chances of getting his name in front key decision makers. He was very grateful, and I was happy to help.
But later that day I found myself sharing some of the same suggestions to a friend who works in a completely different field. He also had an impressive list of skills and talents; however, he was also finding it difficult to get called for an interview.
Both conversations made me wonder, though: how many other people with amazing backgrounds are actively looking to change jobs or attempting to move into a leadership role but are becoming frustrated by the waiting game?
If that's you, then here are three things I think anyone in any profession can do to bounce beyond the unending queue of online applications and begin opening doors.
1) Make sure your resume demonstrates the outcomes of positions you've held.
Mentioning that you were the manager of twenty people is great. Listing all of the committees you were on while also serving as a department head is awesome.
But neither statement tells future employers anything about your effectiveness in those positions.
Maybe you were a terrible manager and all twenty members of your team hated your guts.
I'm glad you were on several committees, but what happened as a result of those committees? Did you implement any initiatives? Did you lead the committees in making any decisions that improved the effectiveness of the organization?
Which is better:
- Served as a department head for three consecutive school years
- Chair of Community Advisory Committee
- Head of Department X: increased student performance by 27% department wide
- Led Community Advisory Committee in a parent involvement initiative, increasing % of involved parents from 30% to 65%
Both lists indicated what position you held, but the second list tells us what impact you had while serving in those positions.
Decision makers want people who can produce, and the easiest way to demonstrate that is by showing that you've produced in the past.
Seth Godin illustrated this point in his book Linchpin:
"There are fewer and fewer good jobs where you can get paid merely for showing up. Instead, successful organizations are paying for people who make a difference and are shedding everyone else."
2) It's not "who you know;" it's "who knows you and what you can do."
While it most certainly happens, the assumption that people get jobs because they merely "knew someone" is less accurate than you think.
You can know a ton of great and powerful people, but if they don't know what you're capable of professionally, then the chances of them just handing you a position are slim.
People like the familiar. We all have daily rituals, favorite restaurants, favorite meals. Spontaneity happens---and it is loved by everyone to some extent---but routines become routines for a reason: we dislike the unknown, particularly when it comes to hiring.
If someone is looking to fill a position and they are recommended a potential candidate by someone they trust, that candidate has a strong chance of getting an interview.
They may not get the position, but simply getting in the door is a move in the right direction.
Answer these questions:
- Who knows you and the skills you possess?
- Are they actively speaking on your behalf when they hear about available positions?
- Are they even aware you're looking for a change?
If not, then...
3) Walk through doors and declare your intentions.
My path to my current position started with a meeting I requested with my now current boss. I wanted him to know that I was interested in the new position that had recently been posted on the district's website. I went to the meeting with resume in hand, data analyzed, and a sample blueprint of where I would start if provided the opportunity.
He said something to me that I think I'll always remember:
I didn't even know you were interested in a new position.
You can never assume that anyone knows anything about what you're pursuing professionally unless you let them know directly.
If you're waiting for someone to see your resume in an online application system, there's a chance you may be waiting for a while.
Walk through a door or two. The worst thing that can happen is that the same door that was already closed remains closed.