Planning your Career to Secure that Dream Job

How many of us receive emails addressed to “Dear Prospective Employer”…

Chances are that should such an email escape your spam filter and find its way into your inbox it will be deleted before it is read. To prospective employers, receiving such an email gives an impression of desperation and lack of forethought on the part of the job seeker. I must confess that recently I did read one such email as it contained a link to a personal website that caught my curiosity. Having taken the initiative to capture the reader’s curiosity the job seeker unfortunately failed to impress. His website contained several pages espousing multiple skills, positioning him as a “superhuman” manager, skilled in all areas of management. This clearly lacks any credibility. At best the employer would see the candidate as a “Jack of all trades and master of none”.

We will all at several points in our lives change careers. How successful we’ll be in making transitions among careers can at least be partially attributed to the amount of career planning and preparation we do. Every job-seeker needs to take the time to step way from the day-to-day grind of work and spend quality time reflecting on his/her career and developing some plans for the future. Whether you love your current job and employer or feel frustrated and confined by your job, career planning can help. Think of career planning as building bridges from your current job/career to your next job/career; without the bridge, you may easily stumble or lose your way, but with the bridge there is safety and direction.

So how does one “plan” a career? Here are some basic guidelines that may help. I have tried to list them in a chronological order from a planning process, though this is not a rigid process, but more of a checklist:

1. Have a clear objective as to what role, in which industry and in which type of organisation you want to work for

“If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there!” A clear defined goal will allow you to focus your efforts, resulting in a more successful outcome.

2. Study the industry/sector you have targeted

Who are the leading organisations in the sector? Which of them are hiring? What are their challenges? Which of them would place the greatest value on the experience and skills you can bring to them in the role you seek?

3. Understand what the employer is looking for

The world is full of people looking for work and organisations looking to hire. Employers will in general not have trouble to locate candidates with relevant qualifications and experience. Just think of the number of applications an employer would receive for an advertised vacancy, especially in today’s tough economic climate. Having the prerequisite qualifications and experience only qualifies you for consideration and not hire. An employer will evaluating your knowledge, attitude and ability regarding a specific role. You can judge a job opportunity by applying four questions that an employer would want to evaluate:

(A) Do I understand the job that needs to be done?
(B) Can I do the job?
(C) Can I do the job the way the employer wants it done, in line with the employers business culture, values and processes?
(D) Can I do the job profitably for the company?

In communicating with a prospective employer, whether introducing yourself in writing or in an interview keep these four questions in mind.

4. Become visible…market yourself and stand out

Your objective is to create a “personal brand” that reflects your skills and expertise. There have never been more ways to market yourself than at present. The internet provides the job seeker with many ways to find employers and engage with them. However, with professional networking websites such as LinkedIn boasting of having 1.85 million professional profiles how do you stand out? You do so by having an opinion, taking a position and engaging in discussions. This applies to any and all forms of job relevant communication. The various channels you can use to to develop and market your personal brand include:

• Face to face networking at relevant conferences and industry events, including public speaking engagements to increase your visibility.
• Active participation in online discussions, blogs and industry discussion groups.
• Your Updated and comprehensive profile on relevant websites, highlighting your specific skills and experience.
• A well crafted CV, highlighting your professional achievements and skills in your area of expertise. An effective CV is far more than a mere chronological listing of your career history and contact details. It should focus on your specific strengths and experience that enhances your value in the eyes of the prospective employer. If possible, the CV should be reviewed and adjusted such that it focuses on the specific challenges and requirements that will be prevalent in the job you are applying for.

5. Demonstrate relevance

Employers always seek to minimise risk, looking for candidates that have experienced and successfully overcome the very same challenges that will be faced in the role they are seeking to fill. It is therefore essential that you relate your actual experience to any issues and challenges that will be faced in the role you are applying for. This requires you to explain a real work experience from your recent past that demonstrates your capability to successfully accomplish and overcome the challenge being discussed in the new role. Demonstrating relevance should be done at all stages of your job search, whether writing a letter of introduction, presenting your CV, or taking part in an interview.

Effective planning is all about giving yourself the time to successfully complete the task in a realistic timeframe. so don’t leave it too late, to the point when you find yourself in a desperate need of a job. Following some or all of the steps above is a sure way to increases the chances of you finding that dream job.