Looking to land a new job before the ball drops in Times Square this New Year’s Eve? Then limber up. If you play this right, you could be waltzing into a groovy new gig by December. Even better? If you start right now, you very well might avoid the glut of “New Year’s Resolutioners,” who will wake up on January 2 and vow to make 2016 their year.
Two-thousand sixteen schmixteen. Forget about waiting. Seize the moment and close the deal now. You want to take a run at it? Here’s a rough outline of what you need to do:
Step 1: Construct Your Game Plan
Before you do a thing, figure out the end game. Where, specifically, do you want to end up by December? Assuming it’s realistic (as in, you’re not trying to go from copywriter to surgeon), then start at the “land great job” moment and work backward. What steps need to occur in order for you to get from today to that new role? Who do you need to meet? What changes do you need to make to your resume, LinkedIn profile, and any other materials? Do you need to shore up any skills to make you a more attractive candidate?
Map out the big picture before you go racing out of the gates all willy nilly. And then, once you have the overall plan pulled together, break down each day or week into manageable chunks or tasks, so that you can ensure your efforts consistently point you toward the goal (e.g., “On Monday nights, from 6 PM to 8 PM. I’ll find three people at XYZ Company who may be important to know).
Most people (especially those with day jobs, family obligations, or both) have precious few windows of time in any given week. You want to make darned sure you’re making the most of every one of these windows.
Step 2: Get Your Paperwork in Order
Many job seekers will try and do the paperwork (resume, LinkedIn profile, online portfolio) first. Don’t do that. You need a plan first. You need to understand who your target audience is, so that you can readily figure out what they’re likely going to care about the most. And then you need to modify your current resume (or scrap it and build a new one) so that it speaks directly to the roles you intend to pursue.
Study job descriptions that appeal to you and find the common threads. Do you see that three job descriptions call for strong problem solving skills or advanced Excel capabilities? That’s a pattern. Make sure you showcase these strengths right near the top of the resume (in a summary section). Figure out the key words that are common and specific to your industry or desired role (again, by studying job descriptions). Assuming you have strengths in these areas, construct an “areas of expertise” section that allows people to instantly see your relevant skills.
And then make sure your LinkedIn messaging aligns thematically with your resume. In fact, make sure that every tool you’re using to market yourself professionally positions you consistently and in a way that speaks directly to the types of roles you’re trying to land. No one is going to deduce why you make sense for a job; you’ve got to make your relevance smack-in-the-forehead obvious.
Step 3: Start Applying—the Right Way
Once you’ve got your paperwork in order, you may be very tempted to just sit back and start firing off applications through blind mailboxes. Resist.
I’ve counseled many frustrated people who have spent months sending out dozens of resumes week upon week, without hearing so much as a peep from potential employers.
Relying on this one method of job search can be the absolute worst thing you do when trying to accelerate a career transition. Instead, you’re going to be much (much) more successful if you begin finding, reaching out, and endearing yourself to people of influence within your desired field or at your dream company.
I’m not suggesting “Don’t ever apply for jobs via online applications,” because I know that’s unrealistic. But I am absolutely saying that, in tandem with this effort, find a few people on the inside who may be very beneficial to know. LinkedIn is a simple way to find them. Start with internal recruiters, would-be peers, and—if you can figure it out—the hiring manager. And build into your game plan a strategy for getting on their radar.
Step 4: Polish Your Interviewing Skills
When the phone rings with an interview invite, will you be ready? Heck to the yes you’ll be ready. Because you’re going to spend time before Interview Eve polishing your skills. I recommend recruiting a willing partner who will practice with you via phone, Skype, and face-to-face. You just never know which format your interviews will be in, so you’ll be wise to conduct a “dry run” through each common type.
What should your faux interviewer ask you? If you’re eyeing a large-ish company, head over to Glassdoor.com to see if prior candidates have posted actual interview questions (borrow these). If no, check out these questions. Take a run through and then ask your “interviewer” for candid feedback or constructive criticism. Better yet, record the session and review it yourself. The more comfortable you are with various interview formats and questions, the more at ease you’re going to be when the rubber meets the road.
Step 5: Fine Tune Your Strategy
As you roll forward with your research, your conversations with people of influence, your interview—you’re going to learn things. And these things might suggest fine-tuning your strategy, your resume, your specific tactics.
Don’t be so great-balls-of-fire with plowing forward that you fail to refine, adjust, and amend your game plan along the way. Commitment and tenacity are so important, but rigidity puts you at risk for missing an important cue or opportunity to improve your game.
Step 6: Kill it on Your Follow Up
Even if the interview goes spectacularly well, you’re not done when you walk out of the meeting. You still need to seal the deal. An immediate, killer thank you note will help you do just that. And I’m not talking about a day or two afterward. I mean, park your rear at your computer on that same day and send personalized emails to each person with whom you’ve met. Call out something specific that you discussed, affirm your interest, and if needed, clarify anything that you think maybe wasn’t covered well in the interview. (The same goes for any networking meetings you go on.)
Speed and customization wins with thank you notes. Your competition will wait a day or two. Trump them, every time.
Step 7: Prepare to Negotiate Like a Champ
Whether the offer comes in on week seven or week 15, your final order of business is to negotiate like a boss. Assuming you have written offer in hand, you hold a fair number of cards at this stage of the game. You know they want you. You know they value your capabilities and envision that you’ll be a success. They’re eager to seal this deal.
This is when you’re in the very best position to negotiate. If certain aspects of the offer aren’t in line with your needs, goals, or bottom line, then approach (enthusiastically) with a proposal that outlines what you want, why you’re asking for the modified terms, and why this will provide a solid return on investment for your future employer. Remember, they don’t want to hear you whining about your car payment or rent at this point. They want to see where you’re coming from, and what they’ll get in exchange if they sweeten the pot on this offer.
Also, as you request what you want, make sure you affirm your excitement about coming on board. You want them to feel like they’re so close to landing the big fish, not like you’re going to be an endless pain in the rear.
Certainly, your transition plan may not unfold in this exact manner. But you’ll learn things and meet new people along the way. So, you’ll adjust your plans and to-do list accordingly.
But the key takeaway is this—you still have time to make a job change in 2015. Mobilize now, then bask in your successes come December.