Supercharge your job search for 2016

Get your ducks in a row and maximise your chances of scoring that next-step job in 2016.

A woman holding string resembling a network

It may involve some elbow grease, but a job well done will increase the chances of success. So what are you waiting for? Get cracking!

Approach

The most successful professionals, be it in the project management sector or elsewhere, do two things to get ahead. They take a rigorous project-like approach to the process, ensuring they set appropriate goals, as well as how to reach them. And they also never stop doing what landed them that job in the first place.

The planning

Career planning tends to be where a lot of people come up a little short. But just like in any undertaking, the plan is the single most important tool to ensure success, so it’s worth making the effort.

If you’re mid-career, you may already have a plan in place, and if that’s the case, it may be a good time to review it. If you don’t have a plan, now is a great time to create one. We typically tell our clients to include the following sections in their plan:

Self assessment

  • a review of your career to date
  • a skills assessment
  • a broad vision of the future

Tip: using a SWOT analysis approach might be useful here.

Goal setting

  • short term
  • medium term
  • long term

Tip: try to make the goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timebound.

Action plan

  • what skills do I need to develop
  • what supporting materials/resources do I need (CV, online presence, etc.)
  • what specific actions do I need to take to reach my goal
  • by what date do I need to finish the activities

Tip: we’ve developed an action plan template to help you get started.

Once you have your career plan written down, use it as a reference to monitor your progress and keep you on track. And it’s not a bad idea to revise it from time to time.

The tactics

So what specific areas should you focus on to help you reach your goals? Well, we think you wouldn't go far wrong with the below.

1. CV

We always recommend you to treat your resume as a working document. Often, new opportunities materialise when you least expect it, and if you aren’t able to act immediately you might miss out.

That said, your CV is the most important marketing collateral you have, so it spend the time and make sure it's as good as it can be. Sometimes it can even pay off to get a professional to help you.

As your CV will typically only receive only 20-30 seconds of attention by a recruiter, every word counts. For that reason we would recommend you to spend more time on the first page.

We won’t cover how to write a great CV in this post though, but you may find these pointers of how to improve an underperforming project manager CV useful.

Tip: to ensure your CV scores well in searches, don’t forget to search optimise the CV too, to make sure you're found online and in various databases.

2. Social

In 2016, your online/social presence is more important than ever. Almost every recruiter or hiring manager will look you up online before recruiting you. The solution is to preempt any embarrassment, by presenting your best self online. This is not a big deal for most people but past misdemeanours can in some cases come back and haunt you.

But social media presents a significant opportunity as well, and it's important to leverage it to your advantage. The savviest social media networkers we speak to utilise social media as a marketing channel.

For example, by creating and sharing interesting content and being active in professional groups, they build up a strong personal brand over time which will significantly enhance their attraction in the job market.

Other ways of building your personal (it should be called professional really) brand is to contribute to other people's blogs, helping people out on various fora, and generally be a source of information and advice.

A few examples:

Of course, to become a thought leader takes years of work and dedication, but even the most expert expert started from a place of ignorance. As always, the most important step to take is the first one.

Tip: LinkedIn now has an excellent facility for publishing long-form content – just remember that what you write should be useful to you target audience. No one's got time for general musings these days.

3. Market research

When it comes to your job search, it's always useful to do some research to help target your efforts better.

Firstly, you need to gain a general market knowledge. We'll presume you know what the sector you're interested in produces so we won't go into that here. A good way of starting is to map out the 10-20 top organisations in the industry, and read up on them. Browse their websites, sign up to their newsletters and follow them on social media.

This should help you figure out where you want to work, keep you up to date on what's going on, and to focus your efforts accordingly.

We would recommend that you divide the list into two groups, the top five in 'A' and the rest in 'B".

The second stage of the research part should specifically be with an action and an outcome in mind. What do you need to do to get on the radar of these companies? How do you do it? When?

Many of our candidates tell us that they find personal interractions the most effective. One idea would be to track down seminars and industry events that you could go along to. In other instances, online communities and fora have worked well (you strike up a cyber relation first, then meet in real life). Or why not become a shareholder and go along to the AGM?

4. Networking

If you ask around, chances are that many people will tell you they got their last job through people they know. According to a survey a couple of years ago, over 40% of candidates listed ‘networking’ as the source of their latest job. Job boards came in at second place at 25%.

So how do you network for career opportunities?

Well, the answer is unsurprisingly 'the same way as you network for anything else in business'.

There are a few rules of thumb to make the most of it though.

Firstly, try to make networking a natural part of your working life. You can for example set a target of going to one industry event every month, or reach out to and meet with one contact per month.

Secondly, have a plan. And feel free to research prospects or key people, but remember, aggressive targeting is almost never welcome.

Thirdly, always focus on what you can do for other people – never ask people what they can do for you. The secret to positioning yourself in the industry is to become a valuable resource, so make sure that’s your focus.

Remember, the power lies in personal contact (e.g. likeability) – no one will ever help someone they don’t like out.

Oh, and don't forget to follow up and follow through.

5. Start blogging to raise your profile

The web in general and social media in particular have given people powerful ways to market themselves. Many of the most successful professionals in, for example, the digital sector have their own blogs, which helps raising their profile.

This may not be a tactic we’d recommend employing to quickly find a new job, but it’s something that should be considered in the long term, as it can have a transformative effect on the career.

Blogging doesn’t have to mean ‘run your own blog’ either. Many companies have their own corporate blogs, and expert contributions are often welcome. Many independent blogs also accept guest posts.

Other alternatives is to publish posts on LinkedIn, or on teh increasingly popular content platform Medium.com.

6. The direct approach

To apply directly can be an effective and potentially fairly quick route to your next job. Fewer than 10% of all jobs are landed this way though, which may be explained by the amount of work required per application; job seekers tend to turn to the internet first, as it’s easier. This article in Forbes Magazine offers some concrete advice on how to go about the direct approach effectively.

7. Get in touch with some reputable recruiters

Using a reputable recruitment partner to boost your efforts should be part of anyone’s job search. They are often able to connect you to the right organisation, as well as to advise on your CV, job market trends, skills and much more.

Good luck, and here’s to a successful 2016!

 As always, if you have any suggestions or comments, please let us know via email – we would love to hear your feedback.

// The Programme Recruitment team.