My area of expertise is helping companies improve their sales coverage models. I work with firms who are trying to figure out the best way to cover their markets and, at the same time, reduce their cost of sales.
Recently, however, a great deal of my time has been spent providing career advice to friends caught in the ever-expanding downsizing tide. So this time around, I'm departing from my traditional column on sales coverage and marketing to share some advice that I have been passing on.
1. Prepare a marketing plan for your search. Just as you create a marketing plan to launch a new product to customers, you need a plan to market yourself. As with all good plans, be flexible—but make it detailed enough to where you have daily, weekly and monthly action steps to keep you on track. Identify what types of companies and industries need your skills. Are there industries you haven't worked in, but which your skills may be transferable to? Develop a targeted list of companies to focus on that would be within your geographic flexibility (where you would be willing to work).
2. Create a resume that opens doors. As with the launch of a new product, customers want to know how it will help them solve their business problems and get results. Think of your resume as the brochure that will help open the door to an initial meeting. Be specific on results you've been able to achieve, such as "grew revenues by 30 percent," or "reduced expenditures by 25 percent, resulting in a $2 million savings." If you aren't confident in your writing abilities, seek professional help.
3. Show your expertise. Create awareness of your name and the expertise you offer. Possible ways to do this are by writing an article, short white paper or newsletter. It can include best practices that you've implemented or have seen in a particular area that you are skilled in. A document you've authored is a great tool to include with your resume to potential employers. If you have a personal Website, add this work to it as well.
4. Use social networking. Sites such as LinkedIn are being used by most HR departments and recruiters to help in the search to finding the right candidate. Make sure your information is up to date, add a professional picture and get connected with people you know. Through your network, ask for introductions to individuals who work in companies you’re interested in pursuing.
Consider this recent scenario: A client of mine received two resumes on the same day and decided to check the candidates out on LinkedIn. Candidate #1 had a very unflattering picture (replete with sports T-shirt), their job history was incomplete, they only had nine connections, and they had no recommendations. Candidate #2's picture showed them in a suit and tie, their profile was up to date, they had over 200 connections to other business professionals, and they had been recommended five times by both clients and people within their organization. Without ever meeting either individual, an opinion was formed…and you can guess who was asked to come in for an interview.
Also remember, for any networking site (LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, etc.) be careful with what you include on your site. Employers frequently search a candidate’s name through these sources. Although they can't access your site, they can see the picture you post, the current status of how you're feeling that day and who your friends are. As I have told my nieces and nephews, if most of your pictures show you partying and drinking, it may send the wrong message. Be careful of what you post. Don't use these sites as your private diary or journal thinking employers won't see them.
5. Network, network, and more networking. Most professional positions today are being filled through the networking process. Let all your connections know what type of position you're looking for, your geographic flexibility and to help "be on the lookout" for you. If you are currently employed, don't wait for the next round of layoffs to start networking. Join professional associations and become active with people outside your current job. The people who are finding jobs the quickest have built strong networks over the years and have an early advantage in the job market.
Mary Donato is president of Applied Principles and associate director of the Institute for the Study of Business Markets. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.