The beginning of the year is the most popular time to make a career change, which means that it is even more competitive. If you want to stand out from the crowd, it pays to be prepared. Here are some handy tips.
1. Be patient – it might take time
Remember, it will probably take until Easter (at the earliest) before you start a new role, so don’t rush into the wrong decision.
2. Remain loyal – it will pay off
Yes, it’s hard to give your best when all you can think about is leaving – however, don’t relax just yet because you will want a good reference and you might be working in your current role for some time.
Never badmouth your employer. It could get back to the boss (awkward) or make future employers wary of hiring someone who is obviously so discontented.
3. Identify your strengths – and weaknesses
You need to be clear about what you can offer future employers.
To discover what your ‘brand’ is, ask trusted friends and colleagues to list the 5 or 10 things they think you do well – perhaps you have good technical skills or are good at being collaborative?
Then ask if there are any aspects of your personality or performance that they think need work – maybe you are not so good at organisation?
4. Search online for keywords that will sell you
Next, match what you have to offer with the jobs you are interested in. A quick scan of job boards to see what recruiters are looking for will identify the keywords you need to include in your job applications – from ‘collaborative’ to ‘commercial’.
Make a list. Then rephrase your skills so they fit these descriptions – for example, ‘ambitious’ could be ‘target-driven’.
5. While you are looking, is there anything you are missing?
If nearly every job spec is asking for a particular skill, then perhaps it’s time to get a qualification.
For example, if the spec says ‘must be proficient in data analytics, including Excel’ and you use Excel but don’t have a certificate, go online and do a quick course. If there are any glaring gaps in your skills, perhaps you need to invest in a professional qualification.
Also, check out the Procurious Training & Learning section.
6. Update your CV
Pay attention to the style: No more than two sides of A4.
Start with a personal statement. List jobs with the most recent first and avoid giving your entire life history. Focus on what you can do rather than what you have done.
Include some examples of where you have met/exceeded expectations using the STAR (situation, task, activity, result) approach. This will clearly demonstrate you are up to the job without appearing arrogant.
Don’t be tempted to invent hobbies and interests to make yourself appear more interesting or to lie (dates, job titles etc. are easy to check).
And don’t forget to double-check grammar and spelling.
7. Remember to tailor your application/CV to each role
When you get to the stage of applying, carefully read the job specification and include all of the keywords listed – using the exact same wording.
Look through your list of skills and keywords that sell your brand and include those that are required or you think will add value to the job. Remember, at this stage, you need to show that you are an obvious fit for the job.
8. Get your online presence ready – LinkedIn in particular
Think of this as your shop window – a potential employer or recruitment consultant might come across your profile and at the very least will check it.
Ask a few key contacts if they will provide you with a recommendation and add a bit of personality by posting a few blogs or sharing some newsworthy links. Also, boost your network by requesting others to join it – the more senior the better.
Go to LinkedIn and click on ‘Show recruiters you are open to job opportunities’. (Don’t worry – you can control who sees this, so the boss won’t necessarily find out.)
Also, get on the books of recruitment consultants specialising in your area so they can put your name forward for any relevant jobs.
9. Identify your ideal employers
Make a list of the firms you would like to work for and start researching them – you will want to talk their language in your job applications and be prepared for interviews.
10. Practice your pitch
Some people find it awkward to self-promote while others just come across as arrogant.
So practice telling stories that showcase how you have met a challenge, achieved a target or developed a skill – you can use these on application letters, when networking and in interviews.
It’s also a very self-affirming – and will help you deal with the disappointment when employers don’t even bother to acknowledge your application or reject you.