[Anatomy of Success] The Perfect Job (or Career) Hunt

The winners in this month’s women’s and men’s U.S. collegiate basketball “March Madness” tournaments will show us how to hit the sweet spot of three qualities that every job hunter or career considerer (try saying that word fast) should target as they think about their job hunt, or  career switch.

On the subject of careers, I’ll be one of three speakers on a panel this upcoming Thursday morning, March 25th in Oakland sponsored by the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Financial Executives International. My portion is titled “Why Your Next Job is (Also) a Temporary Job.” You can get more info on the chapter here.

While there is a tendency to think of a job hunt like buying a house (one and maybe done), it’s more like frequent traveler renting a car: find a good one now and recognize that you’ll need to do this again, and again, and again. That sort of repeat experience means that it really helps to understand the basics of what’s going on, and how to leverage that understanding to your best advantage.

Just like the teams in March Madness, the “winners” of job / career search will have three things going for them, plus a little luck in the form of timing and location as in right place, right time:

  • Talent (Do you have the right skills, experiences, cultural fit, interests, employer or vocational need to be considered satisfactorily qualified for the job?)
  • Good career search / job hunt execution (Do you perform well on the job hunt / career search. Are you timely, promopt and show up? Do you network effectively?)
  • Strategy (Have you figured out the best ways to use your resources and opportunities to go about the job / career hunt? Are you thoughtful and smart about the way you’re going about the search, or are using a willy nilly approach that reflects poorly on you, and is a formula for a low success rate?)

Just like with the winning teams, there is some combination of who you are, how you go about your search, and the strategy you use that can optimize your likelihood of being successful. It’s rare that one element alone will suffice: more typical is the intersecting “sweet spot” of all three that will produce your best results.

People who do the best career or job search are people who at their core understand the skills, abilities, and background that they as individuals uniquely offer. That understanding, oddly enough, can in part be distilled and uncovered through networking and is covered in this post, “Know Yourself”. That networking will not only inform what you offer, but should – if done properly – also give you an excellent sense of where your skills and background is most valued, and will if done properly will also give you a strong sense about the best strategy for you to use in the job or career hunt you’re on.

While all job hunts in some respects are the same, how they’re best done differs dramatically. And on the subject of networking, it also helps to know how to avoid networking – like avoiding glass on the road when you’re driving –  done badly. “4 Antidotes to the ‘7 Deadly Sins’ of Networking” will give you lots of info on what to do, and what to avoid.

The types of talent skills and experience that is on the surface being sought is often described in posted job descriptions or a search firm specification. I note that it’s “on the surface” because my experience running large corporate recruiting operations is that there are frequently unspecified – or more accurately unconscious – elements that hiring managers and / or hiring panels are seeking. You can get at this type of “hidden” information by decent research and networking, using tools like LinkedIn (where you can find out who you personally know at the target firm) and by getting the answer to the question “What types of people generally get hired?”

Strategy for any job / career search should be informed by what you learn from doing decent networking. I’m a Dick Bolles fan (“What Color is Your Parachute” ) and have found consistently that good, solid, authentic networking leads to understanding the more effective strategies to use when looking for a career or looking for a job. The right strategy for one job search can be the wrong strategy for another: you don’t know until you’re out researching things by networking and information gathering.

Execution is a matter of doing the things you’ve set out to to, how you’ve set out to do them, and when you’ve set out to do them. Like the Woody Allen line -“ 80% of success is showing up” – execution is a matter of doing what you’ve set out to do. It helps, by the way, to have a strategy that can be executed upon. Like teams that develop a strategy they can’t carry out, trying to execute something that’s impossible for you is no-starter. And as posted noted here, simply being consistent and making sure you show up puts you well ahead of many other candidates.

So that’s it: finding the sweet spot intersection of three simple things that you’ll see evidenced by teams smiling at the end of March Madness – and holding their championship trophies.

You, by the way, can do the same.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive and team coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above.