You’ve been working in your career field for some time now having somehow survived the great recession as part of the X generation. You’re in the middle of your life, career and the workforce. Now you are in the hunt for a new job. What do you do?
First, understand that there are roughly 84 million Gen X individuals here in the United States, but they represent only 16 percent of today’s workforce employees. You as a member of that group, make up a good portion of the key niche of an industry and generally are considered the generation that drove the concept of work / life balance in the workplace.
Defined as independent, ambitious and family-centric, you are uniquely different from the other four generations of workers currently in the marketplace. As a mid-level professional, you are also considered one of the most desirable and sought after hires. Employers are consistently seeking mid-career individuals with fresh skills and proven abilities to make up technical and manage positions within their organizations.
Concurrently though, understand that there are high expectations of mid-career professionals to be impact players within organizations and your burden to demonstrate your skill set, experience and ability to make a contribution is high.
Key here is that the sheer volume of Millennials (estimated as 35 percent of the workforce now and 46 percent of the workforce by 2020), combined with the general lack of Gen Xers and the increasing retirement of Baby Boomers means that employers are generally facing a leadership gap. You as a mid-career professional must demonstrate your ability to fill both management and technical leadership roles within organizations. Or else you will quickly be pigeonholed or passed over for advancement by other more capable technical professionals and leaders that will step up to fill your role within the workforce.
So begin by taking a truly reflective inventory of yourself. Where have you worked? What projects have you worked on? What did you achieve on these projects? What are your accomplishments? What are your strengths? What do you do exceptionally well? What sets you apart from others?
These answers are pieces of a puzzle to be keenly organized into your resume and professional profile in such a way that you present a compelling story and reason(s) you should be recruited and hired. Fortunately because you have career experience, you also possess some vital assets: practical, hands-on knowledge, experience and skill set, area(s) of expertise, a professional network, and an established personal brand. Key is that you need to demonstrate and promote these abilities. Organizations need your skills and talents to meet their challenges. You have established yourself as resourceful, resilient and professionally mature.
Now all you have to do is package your key attributes and characteristics to market your personal brand to the world.
Personal Brand Marketing Materials
Start by bringing your resume up-to-date. It needs to look professional. It must properly incorporate the pieces of your puzzle into one solid coherent picture of your brand. If it doesn’t it might be prudent to spend a little and have it professionally produced. You want your brand to be polished. Likewise, your project list, cover letters and portfolio also must reflect the polished look of your brand.
Your resume should be eye catching in the sense it’s well laid out, includes all of your contact information, is easy to read, and incorporates key words related to the position you are applying for. Employing organizations store resumes in databases and use key search terms related to the job they are seeking to fill to pull up resumes. Using those words improves the chances of your resume popping up and being seen.
Write a tailor-made cover letter for each specific job you seek. Your cover letter needs to tell the employer how and why you are a strong match to the position. As you polish your personal brand marketing materials, take time to also prepare a 60-second elevator pitch that defines you as a brand. Describe who you are, what you do, what you have achieved, and what your career plans entail. Practice it so when you meet new people you can recite it naturally and with ease.
Keep Your Skills Current
No matter how many years of experience you have, there’s always more to learn. Mid-career professionals are defined by having fresh and relevant experience. Stay abreast of developments in your field, emerging trends, news, and professional courses and certifications that are available and can be a great enhancement to your credentials. Also, technology moves at a swift pace so stay current of new software and hardware, and other technological advancements. Doing so shows employers that you are up-to-date and adaptable.
Determine Where You Want to Work / What You Want to Do
By now you’ve paid your dues and are ready for more senior management roles. So determine what organizations you want to work for. Develop and list and start researching these so you are well informed about the nature of their business, key leaders, and all other relevant facts and details about the organization.
Prioritize your targets and develop a plan on how you will get your resume into the hands of the right person(s). This can be accomplished by reviewing the organization’s website and through your networking contacts. You will find a higher degree of success speaking with someone in the organization if you send your materials directly to a specific person. After you send your materials, follow up within a day or two by calling that person and specifically asking for an opportunity to meet.
Online Job Postings
Though online job postings are plentiful and easily found, competition is fierce as more people apply for the same position. Online job searching can be a powerful tool, but don’t rely solely on this method. Although many people get jobs through them, establishing a strong personal brand and marketing yourself online and through strategic networking can prove more successful. Especially, as you are seeking career and leadership advancement. That is why you need to take a more pro-active role in personal marketing. You need to do this both online and offline.
Most of us use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and perhaps other social and networking sites. Professionally, using LinkedIn is the current, most visible mechanism for building your online identity and is a valuable resource used by recruiters for organizations of all kinds. Employers are perusing this website to actively reach out to prospective employees to recruit to their firm. So it’s very important to develop an online presence to market your brand.
Create a professional profile on LinkedIn that defines your brand. While you can post your resume and list accomplishments, you can also write a profile that tells a more compelling story about yourself, and key skills and experience. There are also many other sections you can use to list skills and expertise, certifications, courses, honors and awards, languages, publications, as well as advice on how others can connect with you. Also, ask others to “recommend” you. This enhances your brand.
If you use Facebook, it’s wise to think about the nature and access to posts, photos and timeline events if they might be more personal than professional. Also, if using Twitter be mindful of your tweets as they are also found on Internet searches. Rather than tweet about what you just ate, consider tweeting about your profession – industry news and add your opinion. Also, Twitter has job postings, aggregated lists and industry-specific opportunities.
Also consider creating your own website to promote your brand. There are free templates available online, free CMS sites including WordPress and Joomla make updates easy, and even Google offers a new web-based design facility. With your own domain you can upload a resume, project list, portfolio and other marketing materials as well as produce an in-depth profile that puts light on your knowledge, experience and skill set. Plus, it illustrates a specialized knowledge that reflects you are keeping up with electronic technology.
LinkedIn provides excellent online networking opportunities. Rather than submitting your resume to a job board, consider searching for professional connections on LinkedIn to see who works at the company you are targeting. Then reach out to them to and invite them to connect with you.
Reach out and connect with everyone you know professionally, from friends, colleagues and associates to clients, vendors, suppliers, and others you may have in your list of contacts in your phone and computer. Connect (re-connect) with former classmates, colleagues and clients so you can build a strong, viable network that can be a valuable assistance in your job search efforts. Keep in touch with them; let them know what you are doing as well as your plans. It also provides an opportunity to get together again and touch bases. Also, use your contact settings so others will know what you are interested in and are available for, such as new career opportunities.
In addition to networking online, you must also network personally with your peers and other professionals. These relationships can easily be developed by actively participating in professional activities, especially through professional associations. Get active in the local and state chapters, and attend meetings regularly. In fact, take on leadership roles and volunteer for committees and other activities as these will bring you into more regular contact with peers.
Getting to know others and spending time with them is the most valuable networking you can develop. You can never have enough friends. You need to work at developing contacts and relationships. That’s why being active in organizations is so helpful to your efforts.
At every professional gathering, take the initiative and introduce yourself to others. Make a point to meet new people at every meeting and sit with those you don’t know so you can make new acquaintances. Exchange business cards, but remember, simply exchanging is not networking. After meeting a new person for the first time, follow up in a day or two by sending an email, making a quick phone call, or even invite out for coffee or lunch.
Networking is a career lifetime activity and requires a committed effort and nurturing. By this time in your career you should have a fairly healthy network that can help you with your job search.
Always be Prepared
If you have diligently followed these tips then you are likely to be readily prepared for the interview. Before you interview, review the job description once more so you can intelligently address the qualifications and requirements. Think of questions you should ask them in the interview that would demonstrate your knowledge and interest in the organization.
Finally, modify your elevator pitch by dissecting the job description. Write out how you specifically match up to the position and why you believe you would be a valuable addition to the team. Read it aloud so you can refine it; try to make it as short, clear and succinct as possible. Two minutes is sufficient. Practice it so you can easily and naturally recite it. When the time comes to talk about yourself you will be ready to hit a home run.