If you lost your job in 2020 or if you graduated into the job market in the middle of the pandemic, then you know the pain and the cruel reality of searching for a job in 2020. It has not been easy. In fact, for many, it has not been kind. If not for laughing, we would cry. I prefer always to smile, stay positive, and look toward the future. And since it is December of 2020, what does the future, specifically 2021, hold for us and the job search?
I follow the stock market very closely. Many will argue that the stock market is not the economy. Others will say that the stock market's performance indicates a “K” shaped recovery where a small minority (the 1%) are doing well as the market climbs to record levels. At the same time, the majority suffer as wages remain stagnant and employment falls.
I believe that the stock market is not a reflection of today’s economy but rather a predictor of the future economy. That is precisely what drives the movement of a stock price. The price to earnings (P/E) ratio where the denominator is a prediction of future earnings. Therefore, if the stock market is climbing to record levels today, in December, then we can, and should, infer that future earnings are also moving higher. Future earnings growth requires some combination of sales growth, increased productivity, GDP growth, and, yes, job growth.
In simpler terms, at some point in 2021, the dam is going to break. There is a lot of hiring that was deferred in 2020. A lot of positions were left unfilled. A lot of projects and strategic initiatives were placed on hold. Collectively, we will need a lot more workers to drive the growth that the stock market is foreshadowing will come in 2021 and beyond. When that flood of hiring comes, will you be ready to ride the wave, or will you get lost under the water? What strategies will you use to ride the wave and stand above the competition? When the job market asks, “Who are you and why should I care” how will you respond.
Here are four recommendations on how to prepare for the hiring surge that is undoubtedly heading our way and put yourself in position to land a job offer.
#1: Focus your search on a specific job title (Maximum of 2)
The search for your next professional position is like a cross-country journey. A journey with a specific destination will be quicker and more direct than a trip without a destination or map.
Imagine that you want to drive from New York City to Los Angeles to spend some time on the beaches of Malibu. You could get in your car and start driving west. You know the sun sets in the west, so you follow the sun. You will find the beach eventually. But you will make a lot of wrong turns along the way. And the trip will take far longer than you had initially planned.
Alternatively, you could program the GPS coordinates for Malibu into Google Maps and follow the specific directions to your desired location. You will get your feet into the waters of the Pacific Ocean in the fastest and most efficient manner possible.
The one or two job titles you want to target are the GPS coordinates for your job search process. Before you begin your job search, you need to define precisely what type of position you are targeting. The job titles you select to target will guide the direction you take to develop your value proposition. These same job titles will serve as guideposts for customizing branding assets, including your elevator pitch, resume, and cover letter. And the target positions will direct you to identify contacts that you will want to add to your job search network.
#2: Identify a list of target companies and organizations (Maximum of 50)
It is a vastly complex world into which you will venture when you begin your job search. You need to refine and narrow your search process. There are potentially thousands of organizations where you could search for job opportunities. I recommend a micro-targeted approach for your job search activities. You need to develop a focused list of between 30 to 50 organizations.
Beyond 50 targets, it is virtually impossible to complete the required level of quality research and customization necessary to execute a successful job search. In-depth analysis of target companies. Customization of your value proposition and branding assets to align with specific organizational culture and value. Identification of potential network contacts within target organizations for exploratory meetings. Phone and digital outreach, along with network maintenance, to keep your job search network alive and producing opportunities. You must keep your activities focused. Quantity of targets does not equal quality in the job search process.
To develop the list of target organizations, you first need to define your organizational filters. Imagine that you had a strainer into which you will pour thousands of potential companies. What are your most critical organizational characteristics that will filter out all but the most attractive organizations for your job search? For example: Company Size (Startup, SMB, Enterprise), Industry, Growth Rate (Employees and Sales), Financial Viability (Cash Flow from Operations), Organizational Culture, Company Ratings (Glassdoor), and Geographic Preference (what part of the country, city or rural, remote or travel-based, etc.). The list of filters is unique to you, like a fingerprint. What is important is that you take the time to reflect and develop your specific list of filters.
#3: Research your target positions
A winning job search process is not a strategy predicated exclusively on applying to online postings. However, these job postings can provide a wealth of information invaluable to a more balanced and comprehensive job search process. You need to research job postings on LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job sites for the job titles of the position(s) you are targeting in your job search. Reviewing these postings is a critical step in identifying the keywords, required skills, and knowledge that you will need to incorporate into your value proposition and branding assets.
In business to business (B2B) sales, the sales cycle often begins with a Request for Proposal (RFP) from the potential customer. A well-written RFP outlines the pain points and the future requirements the organization has established for a solution needed to address the problem and drive a positive return on investment.
When you view the job search process through a sales rep's lens, what is a job posting or a job description? It is an RFP from your potential customer (the hiring organization and the hiring manager). The pain point is the open position, and the solution's requirements are spelled out in the job description. Yes, there are poorly written job postings, just as there are poorly written RFPs. Your task is to research, dig deep, and determine if your solution (i.e., your value proposition) is the best solution for the RFP. If you do not meet any (or a limited subset of the requirements) in the posting, there is no amount of selling that will close the gap. Instead, direct your job search efforts in a new direction and find opportunities where you are a better fit as the solution to the problem.
#4: Do not pass “Go” without an Elevator Pitch
I begin every job search consultation with the same question: Tell me about yourself. 95% of the time, the answers are virtually identical. There is a pause, and then the client launches into a verbal recitation of both resume and career. The lesson is clear. The client has not defined his brand and does not have a handle on his value proposition. He cannot efficiently and effectively tell me who he is and why I should care about him. The client is missing an elevator pitch.
For your job search, your elevator pitch is the essence of who you are and the unique value that you can bring to an organization and a specific job. The elevator pitch must be the first step in building your brand and starting the job search process. Your elevator pitch is the genetic code of your job search. Without DNA, there is no life. Without an elevator pitch, it isn't easy to execute the job search process and land the job offer.
With an effective elevator pitch in your back pocket, you can then use elements of that pitch at multiple steps throughout your job search process.
Resume: The elevator pitch is a central component of a well-crafted Professional Summary in the top third section of your resume.
Cover Letter: Your elevator pitch is the foundation of the one or two paragraphs that make up the central Body section of each cover letter you draft.
Networking: Whether it is an exploratory meeting or a networking event, your elevator pitch is the powerful but concise story about yourself that you share with each contact.
Interviews: In every interview, you will be asked some variant of the standard “Tell me about yourself” question. Your elevator pitch is your go-to answer for that critical interview question.
There you have it. Four basic recommendations, simple in theory but ones that will certainly require effort and investment on your part to execute correctly. 2020 is almost behind us so let us get prepared for 2021. It is going to be better. I have to believe it and you should too!
As an aside, if you want a way to laugh at 2020, check out this excellent video from Match that ties a bow on this past year in a very humorous fashion.
If you like getting your job search advice served up with an authentic voice, a dose of humility, and some popular culture, please subscribe to my AdvantEdge blog.
Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.