With the 2014 Winter Olympics launching in Sochi, Russia, in just a couple of weeks, it’s again time to be impressed by the incredible discipline, focus, and persistence of the world’s best athletes. I’m a firm believer that even the non-athletes among us can learn from their example. Without question, job seekers can benefit from taking an “Olympian-inspired” approach to their searches.
So, how do you job search like an Olympian?
First, let’s consider the four best practices athletes leverage to make it to the Olympic level. First, they establish clear goals and sustain that goal focus over time. They know exactly what they need to achieve in their training and competitive events, and they harness their energy and efforts to accomplish those goals. Second, they dedicate whatever time, resources, or money they need to succeed. If this means investing in new tools, coaching, or specialized support, they do so.
Third, they practice their sport consistently. This single-minded pursuit of excellence is integrated into their daily schedule and they faithfully train their bodies and their minds to exhibit peak performance on an automatic level. Fourth, they learn to adapt to constantly changing environments and circumstances. They master the inner game of excellence while taking advantage of the shifts and changes around them to fuel next-level performance.
How To Job Search Like An Olympian
Let’s take a look at how each of these Olympic best practices relates to the job search process:
1. Establish Clear Goals & Sustain Focus
An effective job search begins and ends with a thorough plan. Without a job search strategy you have no roadmap to guide your investment of time and energy. This means defining your preferred job titles, functions, and levels of roles, as well as your target companies, industries, and geographic areas.
It also means setting weekly and monthly targets for the numbers of contacts you plan to make and the volume of resumes you plan to submit throughout your search. I recommend getting a minimum of 25 to 30 resumes out the door each week for at least three months, for example, which means your strategy has to provide structure for outreach to 300 or more targeted roles in your preferred geographic area(s).
An effective job search plan also details the strategies you will use to produce the outflow of resumes just mentioned. There are a handful of tried-and-true search strategies – which ones best meet your needs and search personality? Is your candidacy a good match for recruiters, for example? If so, how many should you contact, how do you find them, and how do get them to notice you? Are you likely to find the types of jobs you’re seeking on job boards? If so, which ones, and what is the best way to use them?
2. Dedicate Time, Resources & Money
Once you have an effective strategy in place, you’re ready to identify and create the tools you’ll need to execute your plan. In job search terms, this means creating or getting professional help with your career communications portfolio. These days, most job seekers need a minimum of a resume and a LinkedIn profile to properly position their search. But depending on the types of jobs you’re pursuing, you may also need one or more types of cover letters, a bio, a networking resume, or an interview PowerPoint, to name a few.
There are many more career communications tools to consider – which best align with your chosen search strategies? If you’re going to be targeting recruiters, for example, you’ll need a recruiter letter which has a different structure and format than a job board or company letter.
You may also need other resources. How will you find all the recruiters you need to contact? Will a recruiter database or resume blasting service help? Would you benefit from a relationship management system designed especially for job seekers such as Jibber Jobber?
3. Practice & Prepare
Of course, part of the job search is about practicing interviewing skills, voicemails, and salary negotiations, but it’s also about preparing for networking meetings, crafting brand-focused LinkedIn messages, and finding relevant information to use in LinkedIn Group discussions or profile status updates.
All of these functions and the many, many more that constitute an effective search all require a certain amount of “how to” knowledge. The Olympian-inspired job seeker will recognize the importance of accessing training or coaching on these issues rather than wasting precious severance time figuring out the basics on your own.
If you don’t already know how to effectively leverage LinkedIn status updates to broadcast your brand in classy ways, then find a coach who can shortcut the process for you. Yes, you’re intelligent enough to figure it out over time, but how many opportunities will you lose out on while you do so?
4. Adapt To Recruiting, Hiring & Labor Market Shifts
Recruiting, hiring, and job search practices shift constantly to reflect evolving market realities. This means the savvy job seeker has to stay on top of emerging trends on a wide array of topics, from resume best practices and Applicant Tracking System technologies to LinkedIn features and Google SEO tactics. While you don’t have to be an expert in such areas, you do need to know enough to determine what, if any, changes in your job search strategies you need to make.
Since late 2012, for example, LinkedIn has released a number of significant changes to their profile builder and how they identify candidates for client companies/recruiters. As a job seeker, you cannot afford to ignore such evolutions; you need to know how they will likely impact you and quickly get up to speed in your search.
Personal branding trends are constantly evolving, as well. Preview personal branding trends for 2014 in this recent blog post.
The bottom line is that an effective job search requires an investment of focus, energy, time, and money like that required of Olympians in pursuit of bronze, silver, or gold medals. For most job seekers, it’s realistic to expect that you will have to invest 1-2% of your annual income each year in your career in the form of professional development, coaching, job searches, and/or career communications tools such as resumes or LinkedIn profiles in order to maximize your career and minimize your transitions between roles. How much have you set aside to spend on your career in 2014?
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