Posted Friday, February 25, 2005
Step One - Plan:
Most people spend more time planning a one to two week vacation than they do planning their lifetime career. When planning for a vacation, you look at where you want to go, what your reason is for wanting to go to that particular place, how long it will take to get there, whether or not you want to take any side trips, what type of budget you will need, and what type of clothes you will need to take. You may also speak with people who have been there to find out a little more about the destination and activities or do some research on the internet or at the library or a travel agency.
It is important to do the same type of planning for a career. You need to take a look at where you want to go and how you are going to get there. You will need to look at: whether or not you need post-secondary education or some type of training. How long will it take you to get the skills you need? What is the best way to get these skills? What kind of money do you require for the life style you want? Think about whether or not you know anyone who is currently working in this field or if you know anyone who knows anyone working in this field. Where else can you go to find out more information?
If you are still in school, speak to a guidance counsellor and ask for information. You can also do informational interviews with people working in the field you are interested in. Another option is speaking with a career counsellor or doing some career tests.
If you are out of school, contact an employment agency to speak with a counsellor or do some personal research at the library as well as networking and making good use of your contacts.
Step Two - Prepare:
Preparing for your job search involves doing a thorough personal inventory to determine your transferable and adaptive skills. Learning more about your skills prepares you so that you will be able to tell an employer the skills you have that match the job that you would like to have. This takes time. It may involve completing a questionnaire or sitting and writing down all the things you have done over the years. This is not simply listing your job description, as most people do more than what is listed on the job description, it also involves activities that you do at home.
Most of us take our skills for granted. We are so used to doing certain tasks that we do not recognize that not everyone can do what we are doing. We also do not always recognize the skills we are using in our daily activities – problem solving, decision making, driving, fixing appliances, preparing food, personal counseling. People may express amazement or be impressed by something that we take for granted. Listen to what they are saying. This is a strong skill for you and may be developed into a career goal.
Once you have reviewed your skills, you can work on developing a 30-second summary of these skills, also known as an “elevator speech”, which can be used during a telephone contact, in your cover letter, in an interview, or when talking to friends about your job search.
Preparing also means doing research on companies you might like to work for. This research may be done at the library, through personal contact, informational interviews, reading newspaper articles, or an informal visit or tour.
The development of a targeted resume is another crucial step. A targeted resume is one which highlights specific skills to demonstrate your suitability to an employer. It provides details of your work experiences which match the skills they might require. A cover letter should also be prepared for a targeted employer.
Another part of preparation is reviewing potential interview questions and determining the type of information you want to provide or you may be expected to provide to an employer. Following this, you need to practice speaking about yourself in order to be comfortable in presenting yourself to an employer.
People often think about getting a resume prepared, and maybe a cover letter in response to a job ad, but then they forget about preparing for the interview. Although a good resume and cover letter can get you in the door, the interview is what gets you the job.
Step Three - Practice:
Practice!! How many people would step on the ice in an NHL game without having practiced? How many people would step on stage to sing or act without several rehearsals? How many Olympic athletes would compete without any preparation? Very few, if any - and yet, when we fail to practice our interview techniques, it is comparable to doing one of the above.
Practicing can take place with a friend, family member or a counsellor. There are many books available that provide sample questions and sample answers. Feedback on your interview skills may involve peers, general comments, and/or videotape. Here are some sample questions for you to use:
·Tell me about yourself.
·What do you look for in a job?
·How long would it take for you to make a meaningful contribution?
·Why are you looking for a new career?
·How would your boss describe you?
·How would your colleagues describe you?
·What were the five most significant accomplishments in your last position?
·What are your strong points?
·What are your weak points?
A videotape is an excellent way for you to see yourself as an employer would see you. You can dress as you would for an interview and have someone you know act as the interviewer. You will then be able to notice how you handle yourself, how you sit, and how you respond to questions. For instance, did you give enough information or too much information. You can also note if you have any habits you are unaware of. This will help you become comfortable in presenting your skills to an employer.
When you think of the years of training it takes a hockey player to reach the skill level of an NHL player, or the years a ballerina spends in practicing before she performs at the NAC, a few hours of practicing your interview/presentation techniques isn’t asking too much.
Step Four - Perform:
Think of your interview as a performance. You must prepare for it (research the employer, practice interview questions), dress appropriately (dress for the job you are applying for), and have the proper equipment (copy of resume, references, portfolio, and pen) to show that you are ready to do the job.
The first two to three minutes of your interview are the most important. An employer usually makes a decision based on your appearance and your opening presentation. It is important that you make the most of these precious minutes.
A smile is a big part of your wardrobe. If smiling doesn’t come naturally to you, practice in front of a mirror until it feels comfortable. Ensure that your body language doesn’t send the wrong message. Don’t cross your arms across your chest, or keep checking the clock. Check your appearance, both standing and seated, in a mirror. It is important to try to relax, but do not slouch in your chair. Don’t chew gum during your interview, and if you are a smoker, try to have your last cigarette at least 10 minutes before your interview and freshen your breath with a breath mint.
Another important point is to never say anything negative about your previous employer. It may make the employer wonder what you would say about them, and you never know who is related to whom.
Make sure that you have some questions to ask the employer. Not “how much money will I make and how long do I get for vacation?”, but questions that show you have researched the employer and have some knowledge of their company. Make a list of potential questions to ask. If the interviewer has been very thorough and you can’t think of any questions, at least find out when they will be making a decision and ask if it is ok to follow up.
Here are some sample questions you can ask.
Why is this position open?
What are some of the more difficult problems one would have to face in this position?
What significant changes do you forsee in the near future?
What are some of the objectives you would like to see accomplished in this job?
What are some of the long-term objectives you would like to see completed?
How is one evaluated in this position?
What accounts for success within the company?
Step Five - Post-Mortem:
Once your interview is over, review it in your mind. Was there anything you should have said that you didn’t, or anything that you said that you shouldn’t have? Make a mental note, or write down how you felt about the interview. By reviewing your interview, you can prepare for the next one.
Once you get home, it’s time to prepare a thank you letter. In this letter you thank the interviewer(s) for their time and the opportunity to find out more about the company. Express appreciation for the way they handled the interview, the information provided, etc., as well as expressing your desire to work for the company. If there was anything you forgot to tell them about your skills during the interview, or any information you said you would provide them with, now is your opportunity to do so.
Don’t forget to follow up one to two weeks after your interview to indicate that you are still interested in being considered for the position and to check on whether or not a decision has been made. If they have hired, and you are not the successful candidate, ask permission to call back in case there are any other openings in the future and let them know that you would like to be considered.
Remember that you usually have to go through about 200 "no's" before you get to a "yes". Try to keep positive about your job search by sticking with a routine and talking with as many people as possible about looking for work. Let everyone know that you are currently unemployed and tell them the type of work you are looking for. Attend workshops on Job Search or consider joining a Job Finding Club for extra support during your job search.
About the Author
Fran Watson is a Career Counsellor, Workshop Developer/Facilitator, Coach, and member of Toastmasters. You can find out more at (www.franwatson.ca) where you can also sign up for her FREE ezine, "Fran's Facts and Findings".