The events of the past year have led to many of us re-appraising what we want to do for a living. Whilst for most the need to find something new is not from choice, it still gives an opportunity to think again about what is wanted from a job.
Whenever I’ve been asked for advice by people looking for a new role, I’ve suggested stepping back from saying “I want to be a...” and instead think about what the role contains rather than what the job is called.
To start, think about the things that interest, excite and motivate you. They don’t have to be work related; they just need to be the things that get you out of bed in the morning. That is the easy bit, but then you need to think about why and sometimes you need to ask why a few times until you get to the underlying reason.
I like talking to customers.
I like it when they ask for help with a problem.
I like the personal challenge to fix things.
It may take more than one “why”, but it shouldn’t take more than five (“The Five Whys” is the subject for another time!)
You should end up with a list of the things that make you tick, and you’d want to form the core of any role.
Next think about the tasks that turn you off. You don’t need so much analysis here but try and divide them into two lists.
The things you’d avoid because you’re not very good at but would like to learn.
The things you’d avoid because no matter how good you might be, you just don’t want to do them.
Armed with your three lists, you should look for a role that delivers as much as possible of your first list, a smattering of the second and as little as possible of the third. If you land the job then you’ll be somewhere that interests you, has a core of skills you can already do and the chance to learn more.
It’s maybe true that there is no perfect role, but by focussing on finding one that speaks to your inner being and plays to your best skills then you’re giving yourself the best chance to find it. So, if you’re reconsidering what you want to do, whether by choice or not, why not take the time to find the best fit for you in whatever the post-pandemic world becomes?
You’ve filled in the application, you’ve sent off the CV, but what happens next?
Usually an employer is going to have many many more applications than they have positions, so the first thing they’ll be doing is a paper sift to get down to the half dozen or so people they’ll actually invite for interview.
So what’s in their mind when they are sifting? Obviously they’ll be wanting someone that actually wants the job and has the skills already, or can demonstrate the ability to learn. But what else do they want? Speaking from experience, I want it to be easy to see those things, I’ve a lot of CV’s to get through!
The personal profile is where it all starts, it needs to sell me the picture of the applicant - what they are, why this job is right for them & why they’re right for the job. Hook me in, but make sure any claims can be backed up later in the document.
From there I’m asking three things when I look at the job history:
written by Ian Nicholson - experienced employer and volunteer for Works for Us.
In 1999 two social psychologists called Dunning & Kruger studied people’s perception of their skills compared to their actual ability. Their initial findings showed that some people often over-estimate their ability as they don’t know enough to know they’re not that good. They then did some further work & found that highly skilled people often under-estimated their strengths; because they thought something was easy they thought everyone would find it easy & therefore discounted their own ability.
Why’s that last bit important?
Because often when we’re at work we can all lose sight of the skills we have when we just consider it “stuff that we do” - we stop realising we’re good at something just because we find it easy. Most interviewers will ask you to describe times that you’ve shown a skill so it’s important to think again about the what & the how & look harder at what makes you stand out. Are you the one the boss always asks to take on that extra task? Are you that go-to person the rest of the team turns to?
(For a quick video on the Dunning-Kruger effect, take a look at https://youtu.be/pOLmD_WVY-E )
With restrictions on getting together & needing to keep socially distanced, it might seem strange to say that we’re actually a lot closer to everyone than you may think, but that’s the idea behind “Six Degrees of Separation”. The theory was first set out in 1929 and suggests that you can make a link from between any two people in only 6 steps - you know someone that knows someone etc.
Once dismissed as the academic version of an urban myth, the birth of the internet & popularisation of email & messaging apps gave rise to some new research, in particular two studies, one via email & the other via Microsoft Messenger ( as it was called way back when!), that showed that the average number of steps (though not the maximum) was indeed 6.
So what? If you’re looking for work then working your contact list is probably more important now than ever, but the trick is to look beyond the people you immediately know, be confident to ask to speak to that friend of a friend and grow the chain from there. In business people have talked for a long time about building a network & LinkedIn’s model is based on supporting that so in a future piece we’ll give some tips on how best to use the site.
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