1. The most qualified candidate does not necessarily get the job offer
Many times, candidates with lesser qualifications get job offers simply because they’ve prepared and presented themselves in a more compelling way. They “package” themselves better, with an outstanding portfolio of career documents and oral presentation skills. The winning candidate is the one who knows how to tie his or her achievements, strengths and assets directly to the employer’s needs, problems and challenges.
In a difficult employment landscape, strong qualifications and accomplishments are necessary, but not sufficient, to find a job you love and earn what you deserve. Don’t be fooled into believing that the work world is a meritocracy — it’s not. In the end, it’s the best self-marketer who gets the job.
2. The best time to work on your career is when your job is secure
Even if you’re very happily employed today, you never know what may happen tomorrow! To avoid a career crisis, you should incorporate the concept of “Perpetual Career Management” into your professional life. This means consistently pursuing activities that you THOUGHT were only for job seekers.
Vital tasks like keeping your success stories up to date, practicing interviewing and negotiation skills, or networking regularly with professionals in your industry, should be incorporated into your routine whether the economy is good or bad — and whether you feel you need to or not.
Instead of focusing only on doing your job, you should focus on managing your career — at all times, regardless of how the economy or job market is doing!
3. Graduating from school is the beginning of your education, not the end
In good economic times or bad, you should always look for ways to advance your industry knowledge and professional qualifications. Attending seminars, reading trade journals, pursuing certifications, etc. — these activities must be a part of your ongoing professional development process. It’s imperative that every professional remain current in his or her field. No company wants to hire a candidate whose intellectual capital is stale. NOT upgrading your knowledge and skills on a continual basis is a risk you can’t afford to take.
You should continually build your credentials, which will make you more attractive and marketable as a candidate — both inside your company and in “the outside world.”
Plus, in a down economy, the greatest assets you have to sell are your knowledge and intellectual resources. When business gets tough, the demand for people who can think strategically and deliver tangible results goes UP, not down!
4. An employer’s first offer is NEVER their best offer
When it comes to compensation, employers expect that you’ve done salary research, and they anticipate having dynamic negotiations with you. In fact, they’ll often be disappointed and question your candidacy if you DON’T negotiate. You might be tempted to think ANY job offer is great in a tough economy or that this is the WORST time to negotiate — but you’d be wrong.
Employers usually start with a low salary offer merely as a “trial balloon,” to see how you’ll react — and there’s almost always room to improve on the initial compensation offer, even in a tight job market. If you don’t negotiate further, I guarantee that you’ll be leaving money — and possibly a whole lot more — on the table.
5. Always research and be “plugged in” to the competition
Research and be aware of the competition — whether it be information about other companies or other professionals in your industry. Always know who they are and what they’re doing. Endeavor to “know the competition better than they know themselves.” This will greatly enhance your competitiveness when jobs are hard to come by, and it will allow you to jump on opportunities that others might not yet be aware of!
So “research your way to success.” Read industry publications, your daily newspaper’s business section, Business Week, Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and so on. Pay attention to other local, regional, and national sources of “business intelligence,” such as web sites, newsletters, blogs, and radio or TV shows.
Connect with people, companies, and groups that you read about. The more you know about the competition, the easier it will be to land the right position in a challenging job market.
6. Networking is not as important as you think it is
It’s far more important!! Put time aside every week for active networking to maintain established relationships and develop new ones — both inside and outside the company where you work.
You should always be positioned to leverage your professional and personal contacts when the need arises. So, adopt the discipline of blocking-out time on your calendar specifically for networking activities — every week, every month, and every year, for the duration of your career!
It’s important to keep networking in both good economic times and bad — and to continually expand your contact database. This vital resource becomes the “backbone” of every future job search, as well as your overall career development process.
7. If YOU’RE not managing your career, nobody is!
When I speak to audiences about career management strategies, I often start by asking, “Who is responsible for managing your career?” Is it Human Resources, your manager, a recruiter, your Career Coach, or none of these?
In the past, when the job market was much healthier, perhaps any combination of these would have been the correct answer. But in today’s economy, the answer is clearly “none of these.”
It doesn’t matter what your Human Resources department says about “succession planning” or “leadership development.” It doesn’t matter that you have great relationships with recruiting firms. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with the world’s best Career Coach. It doesn’t even matter if your boss loves everything you’re doing, has big plans for you, and has nothing but praise for you at every performance review.
The bottom line is that YOU, and only you, hold the keys to your career and professional future. Although there is no longer such a thing as “job security,” if you take 100% responsibility for managing your own career, you can still develop and maintain own brand of “employment security.”