New grads (and old): How to get market-ready and land a job

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on June 28, 2010

Menlo Park career coach K.C. Anderson

InMenlo recently sat down with K.C. Anderson, a fairly new Menlo Park resident who’s transported her career coaching and consulting from Coastside to downtown Menlo. The conversation turned to how recent grads can land that first job, although K.C. was quick to point out that many strategies that get a person market-ready apply t0 any job hunt. We asked her if she’d like to contribute some tips to InMenlo and she provided the “five high-return activities to make your job search more effective” that follow:

1. List your requirements for a job situation.

It seems almost counter-intuitive in such a tight job market to start with what you want, but in the heat of a job search, it is very tempting to take any job that is offered. If it ends up being a bad fit, this could lead to a short-term job or poor reference.
Make your list and give each a weight between 1-10. Your 10’s are the non-negotiables. Start with items like “minimum take home pay”, “number of hours I can work / which shifts”, “how far I can commute”. Then, using # 2 below, “the skills I most want to use”, and “the situations where I’ve been most successful”.  You may choose to take a job that does not meet all your requirements, but that decision is conscious and lived with much more easily.

2.  Identify what you bring to a job and the stories you have to support that.

Identifying the talents, skills and knowledge you uniquely have to offer is the most important part of your “market-readiness” process. It’s part of developing your own “personal brand.” If you don’t have an idea about what you uniquely bring, write out stories of times when you have accomplished something you are proud of. Look at the themes of the talents you keep using. Usually they are evident – you gather people, you are great with numbers, you love to figure out how to get something done, etc.

3.  Look again at your resume. Does it reflect your “personal brand”? Does it tell specific instances where you demonstrated your talents?

Resume advice is abundant. Yet most resumes focus on what you have done, rather than what you have done that has had some result.  Might take a little thinking and brainstorming with a friend or coach, but this is a big part of what separates the resumes that are not moved forward from those that get an interview.  Your skills, knowledge, experience, and brand need to be clear. Have someone read your resume and ask them “So, after reading that, what do you get about me?”

4.  Check out the kinds of jobs that you are thinking of. Align your resume and cover letters with the same language / competencies.

Visit one of the good aggregator sites. Put in key words relevant to your target jobs. Words like “graphic design”, “administrative”, “sales associate”, or an industry. Pull up ads (they do not have to be local for this exercise) and highlight what seem to be critical requirements. Then check your resume and make sure you are using the same language and terms. Maybe you worked on a community project and led the team. In industry, that might be called “project management”. Larger companies use screening software and if your resume doesn’t have the key words, it will not even be seen by a person.

5. Identify the 3-5 people who have seen you work (paid or unpaid) and who have respect for you and your work.

Make sure you have contact information for them. This is the beginning of “networking” – and 70-80% of jobs are landed through some sort of network contact.  There are specific techniques around networking that make each conversation more fruitful, but for these first few contacts, you have two objectives (neither of which is asking where there is a job).

  • Practice talking about “what I bring” (your brand) and the kinds of roles you think might be a good fit.
  • Ask for their feedback. Tell them you respect them and their insights would be truly valuable to you. Ask them if what you are saying is clear, and if your ideas for targeted roles make sense.

Last, thank them so much for their time You have gained much from this experience and they now have a clear picture of who you are and what you are looking for.

Concludes K.C.: “You are now much better prepared for every phase of the job search – applications, networking contacts, and interviews.  You are market –ready.”

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