As I travel around European business schools I'm struck by one shocking fact. No-one seems to have taken on board just how drastically the jobs market has evolved.
Let me state that more clearly. If you're still job hunting today the way you did a few years ago, you are condemning yourself to career stagnation!
So let's look at two key ways that jobseekers need to evolve to ratchet up their chances of success.
Only a few years ago, most executive jobs were advertised. With a well-crafted resume, candidates could research their market and submit a tailored resume to dozens of positions - giving themselves blanket coverage in the jobs market.
Today this is no longer the case.
Today, a significant proportion of all executive openings are never advertised. You will not find them on job boards. You will not find them on LinkedIn. You will not find them on company careers pages. But if you can't find these openings, how can you apply for them? The answer is you can't - instead you have to ensure that recruiters can (and will) find you!
One of the biggest shifts that social media has brought about is a move away from advertising roles to an alternative world in which recruiters track down the ideal hires for their openings. It should therefore be apparent that you'll only be considered for a role if you can make yourself a "must-hire" candidate for that type of role.
The key to this is ensuring that your professional profile is highly visible, even when you are not job-hunting. To achieve this, there are two essential steps I would recommend to any ambitious professional today.
The first essential building block is ensuring that your LinkedIn profile has been fully worked over to appeal to recruiters in your niche. This means two things fundamentally. Firstly it means doing the keyword research to ensure your profile will appear in the types of candidate searches that recruiters are undertaking in your market. Secondly it means reworking your profile to be a marketing document that showcases your skills and excites the reader into thinking they've found their perfect hire.
The second building block - not essential but highly recommended - is to start nurturing your professional reputation online. Do people in your industry know your name, would they recommend to others in the sector that you're a source of great insights or a key person to network with? Are you a published author? Do conference organisers, journalists and industry influencers reach out to tap into your expertise?
Those who can answer yes to this question find that they are regularly being approached with lucrative new engagements or career moves. They have made themselves an aspirational hire - great things will happen to a company if this person's services can be secured. Those who cannot answer yes to this question are more reliant on a recruiter needing to fill a position for which they are an exact. This may still happen, but you'll no longer have businesses creating a position in order to accommodate your talents - you're simply a candidate to fill a known vacancy in the business.
For the avoidance of doubt, someone still operating in the old world will always have to be working to have their resume considered for openings. Someone who's finessed their LinkedIn profile will increasingly be receiving direct approaches and be less likely to need to job search. And those who've built their professional persona to be a known expert in their industry will get such a flood of approaches that they can pick and choose their next moves or engagements at will.
Which type of candidate would you like to be?
The second major change to comprehend is that the resume is now only a small element in the selection process. A growing proportion of candidates are today being rejected because of other information a recruiter has uncovered about them online; and increasingly a candidate's online presence can play a part in making them appear to be the strongest candidate on the shortlist.
Two actions should be considered in light of this. Firstly, you should regularly try searching for yourself online and seeing what other people can learn about you through simple research. Maybe you've been tagged in photos that could cause alarm to a prospective employer. Maybe comments you've made on social media could be misconstrued. Or the tone in which you've interacted with others leaves something to be desired. Not everything that appears in those searches will necessarily even have been published by you. But being tagged in posts or photos still creates an impression about you that may or may not be harmful to your future employment.
The two steps you can take to improve things are firstly to try and remove posts (or have your tag erased) so that unfavourable impressions are cleansed. Secondly you can also look at creating new profiles online so that more of the Page 1 results on Google are actually impressions that you've written yourself and that therefore represent you in the most favourable light. It's worth noting that social profiles often appear very highly in Google searches, so the simple act of creating yourself a Google+ profile or a Twitter account can mean that what appears as a page 1 result is much more within your control.
If these steps could be describing as "cleansing" or "housekeeping", the second action involves being more proactive. We've already seen how becoming renowned as an expert in your industry can bring you a stream of enquiries and opportunities. But it also has the secondary benefit that your candidacy is strengthened when a recruiter starts researching you online. A Google search that produces lots of results where you are sharing expertise with others in your industry, sparking debate and interactions, building your professional profile... this all reflects very well on you as a prospective candidate.
So I'd describe this second action as "carving out your online persona". Decide what you want to be renowned for in your industry - and then go out there and build yourself a reputation in that mould. For some people this will involve becoming an occasional blogger. For others it'll be more simple - finding and curating great content from others in the industry... and adding your own insights and commentary when sharing that content. The most important thing is consistency - so that others in the industry are increasingly drawn to you and encouraged to share your updates with their wider networks. It's these actions, repeated over time, that result in you becoming extremely well known in your industry - and having a professional reputation that you yourself have manufactured.
As I travel to Business Schools across Europe, one thing is very apparent to me. As I deliver guest lectures on behalf of careers services, it's clear that these developments are real eye-openers for the majority of top flight executives. And if top MBAs aren't fully aware of these changes, I have to think that the same must be true in the broader market.
So please, for the sake of your career trajectory, carve yourself out some time over the next month to really address these issues. A small investment now will yield disproportionately strong results over the coming years. Good luck.
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