New year, new job?
Perhaps that was your New Year's resolution: To find a job that better suits you. Or, perhaps, some irresistible opportunity will beckon.
But landing the right job and finding fulfilment in your job requires planning, says Halifax-based executive recruiter and career coach Gerald Walsh.
He's been asked by people whether their résumé should be three pages or four, as if that is the most crucial issue in finding a new job. But they seem oblivious to what their values are and how that relates to a job, or how to anticipate the questions they will be asked in an interview, to take two prime examples.
He asks clients to ponder 16 aspects of jobs he includes in his recent book Pinnacle, such as compensation, vacations, workspace, boss, colleagues and opportunity for advancement. Then rank those, to clarify what's really important.
He mentions someone who wanted four weeks' vacation and spurned an offer that only allowed three weeks. But Mr. Walsh figures vacations probably only ranked fifth or sixth on that person's list and, when he reconsidered, the job was gone.
It may seem difficult to define your workplace values, but that's also part of the planning process he recommends. He offers 72 examples in the book, including achievement, adventure, affiliation, ambition, authenticity, and autonomy if we just stick with those beginning with the letter A.
Ponder values, whether with or without his list, determining which resonate the most with you.
Pick the five most important, considering why each is important, to what degree it is being met through your career choices, and when your work is in conflict with them.
You can also review your work history, each and every job, to recall what you liked and didn't. Mr. Walsh mowed lawns as a summer job in university. People envied him because it was outdoors, in the sun. But it serves for him as a reminder he dislikes monotonous, boring jobs.
You'll be asked many questions in a job interview but it's possible to prepare and plan. First, all questions boil down into one of three categories:
- Do you have the necessary skills to do the job?
- Are you the right fit with our organization?
- Will you do what it takes to help us meet our goals and solve our problems?
"An interview is an exchange of information between two parties. You're there as the employer has a problem and you are a potential solution to the problem. They don't care how wonderful you are. They just want you to solve the problem," Mr. Walsh says in an interview.
So you need to think about how you solve the problem – the job posting, if you read between the lines, will tell you what it is – rather than just list skills.
They need to hear how you applied those skills to solve similar problems in the past.
Fit can be difficult to determine and here you want to be sure as well that it's ideal, or at least highly workable.
Usually you'll face two interviews and, while you can ask questions about fit then, it can sometimes be better to wait for the job offer.
Request a chance to chat with the new boss, asking what it's like to work there and what that individual most likes about the workplace.
Also ask to talk with future colleagues, to gain further insights.
During job interviews, a range of questions will be asked covering education, work history, your level of interest in the company, knowledge of company, career plans, management style, weaknesses, and the like. All can be prepared for, since you should know they will be asked.
Similarly, prepare for behavioural questions, figuring out what questions you would ask a candidate given the job posting.
"You can predict 80 per cent of the questions and so nothing should take you off guard," Mr. Walsh insists.
Your responses should be framed around what he calls the PAR formula: You need to explain the problem you were dealing with in the past example so the interviewer understands, describe the actions you took, and recount the result. Even if the outcome was poor – the individual whose performance you were trying to improve had to be let go – if the actions were correct, you should be OK.
Mr. Walsh believes people have a right to be happy in their jobs: "Don't give up. You can find something you like." Perhaps this year, with some planning.
Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter