Many job candidates I see believe finding their next step on the career ladder is a numbers game.
They apply for as many appropriate, next-level-up positions as possible and figure the odds are they’ll wind up with something good—and if not good, at least acceptable.
Although this strategy can work early in one’s career as you become more experienced, a different strategy is required. At the senior levels jobs become fewer and competition increases, so adopting a process that is focused on quality over quantity can make a big difference in the outcome. A targeted and focused approach to your job search requires mastery of these five behaviors. Take the time to learn how to do these correctly–and with confidence–and you can’t help but be propelled forward.
- Create a target list.
Research tells us that what differentiates a leader from a manager is knowing your goals and having the ability to recruit stakeholders, allies and sympathizers to help you achieve them. At more senior levels the same is required for a successful job search.
Start by creating a specific list of the positions you are interested in (you could have 3-5 target positions) and the companies that offer those positions (the company list can include anywhere from 20 to 100 companies). You will most likely end up with a list of companies for each of the target positions. It’s OK to have between 20 (for very specific and rare positions) to 200 items on your list.
- Network with purpose.
Job seekers are always advised to network, but networking isn’t useful to you if you don’t do it strategically. This is where your target list comes in—it’s your roadmap. Start digging into each company on the list and track down people that can get you one step closer to others at the company who might want to hire you. Those are the folks you want to reach. Network at industry events but be selective, only attend events where you are likely to find connections to your target companies. Create a weekly goal for networking. Make sure you can realistically achieve your goal given your existing schedule (especially if you are currently working).
- Leverage informational interviews effectively.
Next, look to schedule as many interviews with people at your target companies as possible (this is one step in the process where it’s okay to focus on quantity and quality at the same time). Although you are interviewing for available jobs, but don’t forget to schedule informational interviews as well. These interviews aren’t for a specific job but to gain insight and information. Meet the person with whom you’re interviewing in their office, over coffee or on the phone and limit those meetings to 45 minutes, unless they want to talk longer. One of your main goals here is to gather intelligence about the market, the industry and the company. Just as important, you’re trying to get this person to take action, to open a door to someone outside your network you need to reach.
- Be curious.
That may sound obvious but many people don’t realize how much time they spend talking about themselves during interviews, rather than seeing the interview as an opportunity to learn about the company. Whether you are there for a specific job or your meeting is purely informational, make sure there is an equal focus on presenting yourself and learning about the company. That means asking a lot of questions, but with an eye toward gaining a deeper understanding, not just because you’re supposed to be asking questions. Inquire about business drivers, business goals and challenges the company –or specific department–faces. The more open-ended the questions, the more valuable the answers are likely to be.
- Connect the dots.
If you did a good job with #4 you now have a solid understanding of your target companies goals, needs, challenges and plans. Armed with this information you can connect the dots between the company’s needs and your experience. Whether it’s done in a handwritten thank-you note, an email or during a second interview, this is your chance to show you understand what the company is looking for and to demonstrate how you can help them achieve their goals. Take this opportunity to make a direct connection between your expertise and experience and what the company wants to achieve.
Do these five steps effectively and you will be on your way to locking in your next senior level job!