career

How To Generate New Career Opportunities

stepping-off-a-cliff

When you’re considering how to generate your next career opportunity, the challenge is often about knowing where to look. Here are some ideas about how to go about it in a clever way that maximises your reach, and your time.

Most people think too narrowly when they’re looking for the next role. It limits them to only a few choices. As a result, it’s often the case that none of the choices can look too appealing, so they’ll stay put, stewing in frustration.

Don’t do that.

When you’re looking for the next role, start broad. Simply put, consider everyone, and everywhere, as a possible source of career opportunity. At the same time, be smart about how and where you focus your efforts.

Here’s an approach to help with that. It’s something I’ve developed and used to help hundreds of people generate new opportunities.

First, identify the critical few criteria for what you want in the next role. Aim for 5-6 key words or ideas that sum it up. For example: tech industry, challenging work, a boss who will actively mentor you, an opportunity to make a real difference, autonomy, financial stability, et cetera. Those criteria will help inform what is a ‘right fit’ for you. A tool like Career Anchors can be useful here.

Next, it’s about identifying the people and organisations that may be useful. Not just the ones you’d like to work with, but a  broader list that covers four bases:

  • People and organisations you know, and you think would be a right fit for you
  • People and organisations you know, and you think aren’t the right fit for you (for now)
  • People and organisations you don’t know, and you think would be a right fit for you
  • People and organisations you don’t know, and you think aren’t the right fit for you.

A useful place to start is to scan your LinkedIn contacts. You can export your contacts into a CSV file for easier scanning.

Then map these people to the model below.

career-opportunity-generation-model-v2

Think of it like a stovetop. You use different burners, at different heats, for different groups.

  1. Generate: these are the people and their organisations that you know, and you’d love to work with. Approach these people directly. Your aim here is to create alignment between what you’re interested in, what you offer, and what they need, and then generate commitment for you to work with them.
  1. Leverage: these are the people you know who, for whatever reason, you don’t think would be a right fit for your criteria. However, they are likely to have good connections and/or advice for you. Leverage those relationships to get referrals to people and organisations in the top left quadrant, and to strengthen your positioning with those in the top right.
  1. Educate: these are the people or organisations that you don’t have a strong relationship with yet, or perhaps any relationship at all. And, you’re excited about the idea of working with them. Use your contacts in the Generate and Leverage quadrants to help you connect with them. When you meet with them, your goal is a) to listen well, and b) to educate them about the value you bring to help solve their issues.
  1. Monitor: these are the people, organisations and industries you don’t have a lot of interest in working with, and don’t have connections into. Don’t write them off. Be curious: you can learn a lot from difference. Set up monitoring mechanisms (eg subscriptions to magazines like Fast Company that cover mega-trends across a range of industries) to help you spot practices that could be transferred into your domain. When you meet someone new in this quadrant, put your ‘learning hat’ on. See what possibilities you can discover.

You can use the  Career Opportunity Generation template to make all of these easier for you.

Right in the middle, there’s ‘Add Value’. Regardless of who you meet in your search, find ways to help them, regardless of what you might get from the interaction. They payoff is a) they’ll remember you as being a useful person (which can only be a good thing) and b) you’ll have made a difference (which is what it’s all about, right?) I’ve written about the value of adding value before – see Networking For When It’s All Too Hard for more ideas on that.

Go well.

 

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Photo source: brendaknowles.com

 

How To Stay Valuable.

How valuable are you to your organisation? Or to your clients? You must add some value, right? Otherwise why would they hire you?

In a disruptive, fast-moving world, what’s valued today is less likely to be the same as what’s valued tomorrow. Consider the plethora of evidence out there to show us that the jobs we used to think of as safe are no longer safe. For example, the rise of the driverless car has huge implications for jobs, and not just for people who drive for a living. Wired Magazine’s founder Kevin Kelly says that if your job, or your workforce, has any element that is about improving efficiency or productivity, that part of it will most likely “go to the robots” in the next few years.

Of course, this pattern has always been with us. We no longer having typing pools, CD stores, or milk delivery to our door. The value that these services provided is now delivered in other ways. As technology and culture evolves, so do we, along with the jobs we do.

In an age of rapid change and disruption, the most successful people and organisations deliberately and constantly pay attention to where and how they add value. This ensures their relevance and sustained longevity in the market. They live the wise words of Albert Einstein:

“Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.”

What does it take to do that?

To my mind, it’s all about deeply understanding and artfully blending three elements: You, Them  and It*:

 

Positioning Model

‘You’: the unique talents, perspectives and qualities you bring.

‘Them’:  whoever you serve: employers, stakeholders, clients, customers, society at large.

‘It’: the problem or need that’s causing ‘them’ to be willing to pay someone (like you or your organisation) to help them solve it.

You become, and stay, valuable by constantly working the intersections:

Perception: Master the art of seeing what’s really going on. Become an eternal student of your craft and understand the forces that shape it. The broader and deeper your perception of ‘it’, the more you can bring to the table. What are the major forces that are shaping your profession or industry? What do you see that most people don’t?

Attention: ‘They’ will have a certain take on the world, as seen through their preferences, priorities, abilities etc. To be useful to them, you need to understand that take. What is their attention focused on? How could you help them with that? And what part of the broader picture are they not seeing that you could help shed some light on? 

Connection: The currency of connection is genuine interest. When you can show someone you get them, and their issues, in ways that highlight your unique relevance, the more likely they will want to keep you around. What can you do more of to make a genuine connection with the people that you serve in a way that makes a significant difference to them?

Something to try:

Recently, I wanted to get a better understanding on how I add value to my clients. So, I decided to email some questions to a few of them that I knew would give me straight-up answers. Here’s what I asked:

  1. What’s the first thing you think of when you think of me?
  2. What edge / uniqueness do I bring when we work together?
  3. How does that make a difference to you?
  4. What do you consider my unique expertise to be in?
  5. If you were recommending me, how would you describe me to someone else?

The result? Pure gold. I got rich insights into their take on all three circles and the intersections. It’s affirmed what I think I’m doing well, and uncovered some things I didn’t even acknowledge were valuable. I’ve taken that information and used it to shape what I offer, so I can (hopefully) continue to stay valuable over time.

Try this exercise out with some of the people in your, or your organisation’s, ‘them’ circle. You’ll likely be amazed at what you’ll learn, and it will give you a foundation for you to stay valuable well into the future.

 

* The ‘You’, ‘Them’ and ‘It’ headings originally came from the very elegant ideas on how to position yourself as outlined in the book ‘Sell Your Thoughts’, by Matt Church, Peter Cook and Scott Stein. I’ve evolved those ideas to create the model you see above.

 

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Networking For When It’s All Too Hard

A lot of people say that networking is hard, and they’re not good at it. And, we know (or at least, we hear) that a healthy network is good for us. So there’s this tension that we live with. If you’re one of those people feeling that tension, let me help you ease the pain.

If you want to know how to build and sustain a useful network, and you read nothing else, just act on these two ideas:

  1. Keep a few key people close.
  2. Find simple ways to add value to everyone else.

(more…)

How To Navigate The Messiness of ‘What’s Next’

A colleague asked me recently why I stayed so long with my last organisation, when clearly I was better off as a free agent. It would have been easy for me to rationalise my answers: the job wasn’t done, the market wasn’t right for me to move, I wasn’t ready. But, in truth, I was terrified of letting go, backing myself, and stepping into the unknown.

I should have swallowed some of my own medicine. A while back, I wrote about ‘where are you on the career curve?’ People continue to find it helpful to this day to make sense of their career path, especially the messy transitions than we all inevitably encounter. If you not sure what I’m on about with the curve thing, here’s a quick summary (or follow the link above for a fuller description): (more…)

Are You A Heat-Seeking Leader?

I’ve just spent the past week meeting with a range of leaders to debrief their 360-degree feedback. They work for the same organisation, which is going through a sustained period of huge turbulence and change (sound familiar?) As the week unfolded, I noticed an interesting theme emerging: the leaders who were rated the most effective in this environment, by far, had similar patterns in their own backgrounds. More specifically:

  1. They’d experienced a significant degree of change and stretch in their own careers
  2. They’d made sense of their story and drawn strength and wisdom from it to apply in the situation they found themselves in now

Let’s break these points down a little more:

First, their career paths weren’t linear. Their backgrounds included multiple roles in different industries, often in different countries. While their career paths told a story of ongoing evolution, as most resumes do, there was something deeper at play. Their changes weren’t forced upon them – they created them themselves. There was something in their stories about the courage to break away from the norm and pursue some sort of calling, even though they knew it’d be difficult and scary. I’ve noticed that that’s been a pattern of mine in my own career. Taking the ‘road not taken’, as Robert Frost would say.

Road Less Travelled

 

Second, they were able to articulate what they’d learned from their experiences – they could tell their personal stories of change. Stories about learning to be confident and resilient in the face of the unknown, about learning to be compassionate with themselves and others, about discovering their where their real talents and passions lay. In short, stories of self-awareness and discovery. And, I suspect, because they’d integrated their experiences into their identity, they were able to more confidently lead themselves and others effectively in the testing time they found themselves in now.

I observed a certain ‘unflappableness’ about them – not detachment; on the contrary, they were purposeful and passionate about making a difference – but more that they were like the person who steers the whitewater raft – there’s craziness all around them, but they’ve been similar situations before, and have a deep confidence in their ability to navigate the volatility. My guess is that you’ll agree that our organisations could do with more of this ability in this in our VUCA world.

These people are what I’d call ‘heat-seeking’ leaders – they’ve learned that discomfort and challenge is good for their own growth, and they seek it out rather than avoid it. And it’s something that you can do too, starting today.

If you think you could do with a bit more confidence about how you lead yourself, and others, through the turbulence you’re experiencing, try these ideas out:

  1. Remind yourself that you’ve experienced change all your life. Tap into your pivotal experiences – what have they taught you that you can draw on now? I’ve written specifically about learning to tell your story here – use the tools to help you.
  2. Get back in touch with your own purpose or calling. What it is that drives you forward each day, how do you want to make a difference? Listen out for the clues. Write them down. Use these tools to help you.
  3. Cultivate the habit of taking the first step, the one you don’t want to take, into the challenge you face today. Don’t plan it all out. Just step forward. David Whyte’s wonderful poem ‘Start Close In’ gives wise words here.

I’m left with questions about how our organisations could attract and develop more deliberately heat-seeking people, and cultivate a culture that includes that heat-seeking aspect. What would it be like it that was the norm? What would it take? Questions for another post, I think.

For now, let’s keep it focused on what you might do differently for yourself, as all change starts here. And let’s let Robert Frost give us the final words:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—  

I took the one less traveled by,   

And that has made all the difference.   

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