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Your Toolkit for Making a Career Transition

Are you currently in career transition? Have you just been laid off? Or maybe you are just stuck in a career rut at your current job? Are you ready to leave or simply want a career change?

If you said yes to any of these four questions then you may want to keep reading. Do you have a toolkit at home for when you need make small repairs? I am sure most of us keep one for those last minute emergencies. Just like the kit you have at home, it’s a good idea to have the right tools for your next career move. The sole purpose of having a toolkit is for preparation. Are you prepared to land the job you desire?

Here are some tools for your career toolkit:

Utilize a Goal Setting worksheet

In one of my most popular courses I teach “Goal Busters”, I encourage the participants to daydream if they had all the money and resources they needed how would they spend their time. The results from the participants always lead to some type of career path. Once the participant has narrowed down their options, we then apply the S.M.A.R.T. goals methods. Next, the participant sets a goal of how many job searches they would like to conduct in a certain time frame. I recommend 20 to 25 searches for my clients. I also recommend my clients apply the “one plus” rule, which means if you commit to doing 25 searches, then the actual number to be completed is 26 searches. Keep going, until you land the career you are seeking.

Develop a Company Cheat Sheet for research

Ensure you know how to research the position and the company. Develop a cheat sheet for the company and the position you desire. Items that can go on a company cheat sheet are: latest news on the company (positive of course), the stock price (has it gone up/down in the past month?), any major investments the company has made or what charities the organization gives to. Facts about the company will be found mainly on the company website, but others sources, such as magazines or newspapers, are also a good way to gather information. Harvard Business Review, Fortune, and Inc. are some examples of reputable magazines. Normally a Google search of the company homepage and LinkedIn are the best for the “positives” about any company. LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook are the three major social media giants when it comes comes to companies having an online presence. Be sure to research what the company is doing on these three.

I also recommend doing the same for the position you desire. Ensure you are reading the full job description and taking notes of how the job fits your skill set. Print the job description, circle all the skills that fit you and tie the description to the skills and accomplishments on your resume. This is what I call fitting the resume to the job description.  I have coached many clients who have done this and came out successful in their job search.

Resume/Cover letter

A resume is your branding tool to get you the interview. The resume tells the recruiter if you are the one for the job by listing your professional skills, expertise, work history, and affiliations. Format your resume to the job you are seeking, this is why research is imperative. Questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do you have the skills that match the job description?
  • Do you have the required items as well as the preferred areas the recruiter is seeking?

There are many tools online to help you format a resume to your liking. It may be tedious, but having a good resume is a must. If you do not have a resume or have the time to build one, it is helpful to hire a career coach and get the help you need to build a great resume.

Cover letters are a way to further highlight your skills and experience and give you the opportunity to explain why you are the perfect fit for the job. I only recommend cover letters when they are requested from the employer. From my experience with clients , many recruiters do not read them. There are templates online as well for cover letters. Again, if you choose to, you can always hire a career coach for help with this.

Have a LinkedIn account

Are you on LinkedIn? If not I highly recommend you develop an account soon and start to connect. I recommend following the companies you want to work for and/or are interested in. Start to post topics you are interested in and facts you are aware of, this will show your expertise in that area. Social media is the number one and sometimes the only search method recruiters are using to hire the talent they seek. To begin the process, start with a career coach and a LinkedIn specialist. Or read up on how to create a LinkedIn profile. I recommend the book “LinkedIn for Dummies” or check out this handy LinkedIn for Dummies Cheat Sheet.

Also be aware of what is on your personal social media accounts. On Facebook, one has to be very careful what they post, as potential employers and recruiters will likely search your name in Google. As the saying goes, people reveal who they really are on their Facebook page. I recommend being very careful of what you post on your personal pages. I also recommend following the page of the company; this same advice goes for Twitter.

A list of interview questions to study

After you have studied the company (again why research is imperative) you should know their culture. Ask the recruiter what is expected of you in the interview. Over the phone interviews, are normally the ”weed and feed” phase, meaning the recruiter will ask a series of questions to see if you are a great fit for the company. If they like you, you will move to the next phase of the interviewing process, which can be 3-4 interviews long. During the phone interview it is helpful to have one copy of your resume, your fact sheet and any questions you may have for the recruiter.

Hint: Recruiters like when the interviewee has questions. Always have two or three questions prepared for the interviewer as this proves you have done your homework and they will see that you are serious about the opportunity and would be an asset to the company.

The in-person interview is mainly behavioral. Behavioral questions are questions that are asked to see how you will respond to a certain type of situation. Behavioral questions they may ask are:

  1. Describe a situation where you had to handle an irate customer.
  2. Describe a situation when a customer or coworker was happy from your actions.
  3. Tell me about a difficult decision you have made in the last 1-2 years.
  4. Provide an example of when you took the lead on a project.
  5. You have been asked to handle a job you are not aware of what do you do next.

You will need to bring a couple copies of your resume and wear proper dress attire. These interviews can be one-on-one or with a panel made up of a few people.

Develop an elevator pitch

Always be prepared to give a 60-second answer as to why you are the right choice for the job. This is a question asked by almost every interviewer. The first question you have to ask yourself is “Do I believe I am right for the job?” You have to believe and have confidence in yourself. One way to do this is to develop your elevator pitch.

For example, your response can be “I am perfect fit for your company because I have the proven track record of fundraising capabilities you seek to achieve.” Very short, sweet and to the point. One thing to keep in mind is when the interviewer asks this question, they already know if they are going to hire you, they are asking this question to see how you will respond, therefore respond with confidence.

Develop a story cheat sheet

During most interviews, behavioral questions are asked by the interviewer. It is best to answer these with a simple and short story. To ensure you are prepared for these tricky questions I recommend the the STAR Method. The  STAR Method for interviewing is a structured way of answering those tough competency/behavioral-based questions the interviewer will likely ask.

  • Situation- Describe the situation or tell the story of a time when you gave excellence service. Ex. Irate customer called in upset about a fee being charged
  • Task- Describe the task you were given. What was your requirement? I was required to resolve/diffuse the situation
  • Activity- Describe the action you took. Therefore I listened to the customer and empathized with their concern
  • Result- Describe the result and how well the situation turned out. After hearing the customer out, I researched the account and learned it was an error and refunded the fee amount and gave one month free of service

These are not long stories; they should be no more than a paragraph long statement. Do not babble on and on. Using this method will provide a short story and the interviewer won’t even know you used a method at all.

Constant sharpening of the tools

These tools are helpful to use throughout your professional life and just like any other toolkit you must keep the tools sharp, therefore constant review is needed. It is helpful to review your resume on a regular basis if you are actively seeking a job. All resumes are not fitted for all positions. For example, if you are seeking a job in management and a career in customer service, you will need to have two different resumes highlighting your strong points in each career field.

If you are currently employed it is wise to review your resume quarterly. For example, I recently received an award, therefore I updated my resume reflecting this information. You as an individual should be on a constant pursuit of personal development, therefore your resume should grow with you. Make sure you update what you have accomplished versus what your “job task” was. For example, if you answered the phone, this is what is considered a job task, an accomplishment is “answered 50 calls per day providing a 75% resolution.”

If kept properly your toolkit will always rescue you when needed.

Thanks for reading and your comments are welcome.

About the Author Marla J. Williams

Marla J. Williams is a certified life and career coach and co-founder of Truth Speaks Coaching (TSC) LLC and founder of the I.M.A.G.IN.E. Women's Empowerment Conference. Marla is also a trainer and master motivator and she is passionate about ensuring others thrive to the fullest in their lives and careers.

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