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November 16, 2011

Cracking the New Job Market

CrackingNewJobMarket_thumbThe rules for finding a professional job used to seem fairly simple: you put together a resume, practiced answering interview questions, and got out and did some networking.

But while these tactics are still important and effective, there are new rules -- and new mindsets -- to learn. Nowadays, employers are less interested in your past accomplishments than in what you can do for them in the immediate future. This new approach to getting hired requires new skills -- such as research, information-gathering, and "selling" yourself as a solution to whatever problems the employer is facing.

In his new book, "Cracking the New Job Market," R. William Holland, PhD -- a veteran human resources executive and career coach -- outlines these new realities, along with advice on getting hired in any economy. We spoke to Holland about his book and his job-seeking expertise:

Monster: Do you believe that "following your passion" is good advice today in choosing a career -- and has that changed in recent years?

Holland: Following your passion can be good advice, but too often it is not. Because of that, it ranks very high on my list of "frequently given bad advice." It's far more important for you to pick something at which you can excel, and for which others are willing to pay. Besides, most people misunderstand the relationship between passion and career choice.  The world is full of great examples of people who were able to bask in the glory and satisfaction of good pay for a job well done and, as a result, developed a passion for what they were doing.  It's nice if you're passionate about your work, but most people are not. And today, more than ever, passion alone is not a sufficient condition for making a living.  

Technology and globalization have increased the competition for goods and services in the marketplace. There has been a corresponding increase in the requirement that employees  produce something of value. You have a better chance of being valued by an employer if you excel at the job you have. 

Monster: How has the advance of social media changed looking for a job and managing a career?

Holland: At one time, job seekers were told that networking was the most important part of their job search, and that even after landing a job they should maintain a close network of face-to-face contacts that could be called on when needed. They were urged to get away from their computers because, according to the career counselors, "you can’t find jobs there." Though networking is still important, the face-to-face component has been relegated to being an appendage of what can be accomplished on the computer, rather than a substitute for it.

Consider that the number of close face-to-face contacts one can maintain maxes out at around 250, while social networking allows you to reach across numerous networks and maintain an infinite number of contacts. Further, rather than engage in expensive reference-checking, companies now check a candidate's online presence before proceeding.

Monster: What are some traditional or "old-fashioned" methods that no longer serve job seekers -- especially older job seekers -- well?

Holland I advise older workers to, rather than become a victim of their age, take advantage of their age. Globalization and rapid changes in technology have forced companies into a desperate search for people who can create value. And that can be you regardless of your age.

It used to be that Baby Boomers and Generations X and Y were defined by the years in which they were born. Now a new generation is emerging that is defined by how it sees the world rather than by its chronology. Today’s world (generation) is global, and the requirements for membership have more to do with one's ability to create value rather than one's age. It is a new mindset any of us can develop -- call it Generation Global.    

But the new mindset for older workers is tricky and requires meticulous attention to detail -- on everything from how you dress for the interview (you can't wear yesterday's buttoned-up dark suit to an interview in a super-casual high-technology work environment) to how you speak. Referring to "back in the day" is a non-starter; stay focused on creating value going forward rather than on previous accomplishments. 

Monster: Soon-to-be college grads and their parents are feeling hopeless about career prospects -- what is your advice for them? 

Holland: My messages are specifically for parents who want to help their college-aged children become career-ready: Make sure your kids understand what employers are looking for in recent graduates. You can do that together by reviewing the position descriptions for jobs specific to their major.  Even if they haven't declared a major or think they will change, companies still interview candidates with a wide range of majors and often stipulate that major is unimportant. You and your student should visit the campus placement center and take a close look at those descriptions; they will tell you exactly what the companies are looking for. 

Businesses complain they can't seem to find enough students who can think critically, who have both verbal and written communications skills, and who have demonstrated analytical talent and job experience (in internships or volunteer jobs). Treat the balance of the time they have left in school as a resume-building opportunity -- time in which they work diligently to prepare themselves for a career. Given the competitive environment in which we live, our kids can no longer afford  to treat college merely as a way station between adolescence and adulthood.

If your son or daughter has already graduated, they still need to identify those jobs for which they see themselves as a reasonable fit and develop a resume that speaks directly to what companies want. You/they can do it; my book, "Cracking the New Job Market," directly addresses these issues. Some recent graduates I know have used it with great success -- even in this lousy economy.

Monster: What skills should all workers be cultivating to stay relevant?

Holland: There are two answers. The first has to do with keeping up in your field -- this is the easy part: Attend professional meetings, participate in activities designed to keep abreast of new developments, and apply what you learn to your immediate work environment. The practical application of knowledge goes a long way in a competitive world toward the maintenance of relevancy. 

The second answer is a little more complicated, difficult, and important: Today's organizational structures tend to be flatter and more efficient. As a result, people skills are more important than ever. You should think about leadership, project management, teamwork, and influencing without authority as some of the skills that are important to develop. Any course or class you can take to help you become a more effective team player could pay big dividends. The ability to get things done through others is a critically important way to create value in the environment in which you work. 

For more tips on new job-search rules, read:


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Posted by Charles Purdy on November 16, 2011 at 11:45 AM in Books | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

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Posted by: yogesh kumar | Nov 17, 2011 4:55:51 AM

Really like what Holland says about one's major being unimportant - there are plenty of international relations majors on Wall Street and quite a few government majors in consulting, to offer a couple examples. Employers will, however, look closely at applicants' internship experience - so a young person who wants to work in a certain field should try his/her hardest to intern in that field while s/he is in school.

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Posted by: Ben Foster | Nov 17, 2011 11:58:26 AM

I have been raising my kids for 13 years, doing babysitting jobs on the side, some house cleaning, delivering papers at night, and doing collections part-time. I even did some voluntiring job finding sponsors for Music Studio for kids, some CD designs, and ad designs. Now I'm ready to start full time work, and don't know where to start,

Posted by: excel development | Nov 17, 2011 9:11:02 PM

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