January is behind us and the new year is well underway. If you’ve decided to look for a new job in 2020, then the following key points will help you boost your employability this year and beyond.
If you really are to move closer to reaching your professional goals, it’s crucial to subjectively take stock of your current skillset, and then make concrete plans to plug any gaps you may have. The start of a new year is a great time to do this.
It’s vital to appreciate the difference between skills and competencies, the former being specific learned abilities, and the latter being knowledge and behaviours that contribute to your success in a job. By understanding the differences between the two, you’ll gain a better awareness of which areas you need to focus on to reach your career goals.
In addition, it’s important to understand that at different stages of your career, there will be different ‘skills buckets’ that you’ll need to focus on filling.
In your early career, for instance, you should be especially focused on building technical skills and expertise. As your career progresses, however, you are likely to become less involved in certain day-to-day tasks and will progress to participate more deeply in projects in different areas of the business. That’ll necessitate you beginning to fill up your project/niche skills bucket. The below video explains this in more detail.
So, as we enter a new year, use this time of reflection to consider where your skills gaps are, and then make a commitment to yourself to continuously upskill – making learning a lifelong habit for you going forwards. Do everything you can to develop a growth mindset and think about finding a career mentor.
Remember that a commitment to lifelong learning doesn’t just enhance your CV and LinkedIn profile – it is also something you can showcase in a job interview. This will only strengthen your appeal to hiring managers and recruiters.
Interestingly, a study of senior executives, by Cornell University, found that self-aware leaders with strong interpersonal skills consistently delivered better financial performance. But what exactly does being ‘self-aware’ mean in the world of work?
If you are self-aware, you understand yourself better than anyone else on the planet does. You know your strengths and weaknesses, but also accept that you’re only human. Crucially, you understand how other people perceive you.
Remember that the more self-aware you are, the better-placed you will be to adjust your behaviour and work on your personal brand. Modifying the way you operate in line with a strong awareness of what you presently already do well and what you might still need to improve about yourself, will help you to improve how you are perceived by others – including in a job interview. It will help you to understand what your values are and how you want others to perceive you.
A good starting point in establishing greater self-awareness is asking yourself what three words you want people to most associate you with. This will help you to start getting a sense of what your values are – and once you are clear about this, you will be able to improve the way you’re perceived by potential employers, while still being your authentic self. Developing a greater sense of self-awareness can only ever be a good thing when striving to reach our career goals.
Acknowledging your own strengths and weaknesses can also help you to identify the right job opportunities – rather than spending time on a job application that isn’t right for you in the here and now.
It’s also important to start thinking about what your USP is. While you’ve almost certainly heard of USPs, you’ve probably only ever associated them with the marketing of products or services, rather than people. Nonetheless, many of the principles of USPs can also apply to jobseekers.
To determine your USP, answer the following questions. Why should an employer hire you over any other candidate? What is it that you can bring to the table that other candidates can’t? What unique skills or experiences do you have that could add real value? Do you consider yourself to be particularly creative or innovative? With a backdrop of increasing automation, human skills such as creativity are set to become increasingly important to employers in the decade ahead. So, keep this in mind as you embark on your job search in 2020.
Also, it’s important to think about any specific examples you can cite which clearly evidence your USPs to both recruiters and hiring managers. Perhaps your innovative thinking and new ideas led to new processes being rolled out, and thus time and money saved? Or perhaps your strong communication skills and compassionate leadership style improved your employer’s retention of high performers? Take some time to reflect on what tangible impact your unique skills have had on the teams and businesses you’ve worked for. Thinking about this ahead of time will help you tell your career story in a succinct, compelling, and undisputable way – which will really help you stand out from the competition.
If you can define your USPs before you start your job search, you’ll be able to clearly (and with more impact) communicate what sets you apart from others throughout each stage of the process.
Of course, don’t forget to also update your CV and LinkedIn profile (especially your ‘About’ section) with the USPs you’ve now decided on, as well as tangible evidence for these.
I mentioned the importance of self-awareness above in terms of improving how you are perceived by employers - and if there’s one aspect of how you present yourself that will definitely influence how a prospective employer perceives you, it’s your social media activity.
After all, it’s been a while since social media was used purely for relatively frivolous purposes, such as retweeting that witty comment by a celebrity, or sharing cat videos. Indeed, social media can be an extremely powerful tool when you are searching for a new role and wishing to attract potential employers to you, as Hays EMEA’s Business Engagement Manager Chantelle Kemp outlined in her podcast on the subject.
There’s plenty that you can do across social networks to make yourself a more intriguing prospect for hiring managers, including writing about things you have learnt or have pre-existing knowhow in, sharing other people’s content that is relevant to your line of work, adding examples of your work to your profiles, and sharing successes with your social ‘friends’ or followers.
However, Hays Australia Regional Director, Eliza Kirkby, warns that there are also certain things jobseekers should avoid doing on social media if they want to present a positive and professional image of themselves, such as posting inappropriate material and being active on social networks during working hours.
If you’ve already been taking the steps I’ve outlined above to improve your self-awareness and pinpoint your USPs, you will be in a strong position to put those USPs front and centre in your social media presence.
This, in turn, will be highly influential in shaping how you are perceived, so that employers are more likely to see you as someone who is employable, rather than someone who isn’t very professional or is careless – not exactly qualities they will want in someone actually working for them.
Next, put some real thought into what it is you’re looking for in a new opportunity. The more comprehensive your understanding is of precisely what you are seeking in a new job and employer, the better you will be able to target your job search, so that you can be sure of only exploring the most relevant opportunities.
To this end, before starting your job search and to help clarify your thoughts, ask yourself these questions:
Contrary to the popular perception that the best way to build a career is always to take the most obvious and incremental steps, taking a few calculated professional risks could actually go a long way to making yourself more employable in 2020 and beyond.
As Hays Spain Managing Director, Chris Dottie, has previously explained – having taken a career risk himself that turned out well – sometimes, a ‘risky’ decision can also end up being the right one.
Just imagine how much you could expand your experience and skillset, for example, if you were to switch to a different industry or move to an organisation that is significantly larger or smaller than your current employer.
But of course, it’s also important not to take a gamble just for the sake of it; the wisdom of taking a particular risk will differ in each case, in light of your own particular priorities, circumstances and ambitions. So, you should always do your research, carefully consider exactly what opportunities a particular career move could bring you, and ensure that whatever decision you do make is well-reasoned.
A bright outlook and positive attitude will greatly aid in improving how recruiters, hiring managers and interviewers perceive you – thereby potentially bringing you one step closer to that much-desired job offer.
It’s understandable that your initial positivity and motivation may wane if your job search begins to last longer than you had expected, so you might want to follow our previous tips on how to keep smiling, whatever your job-hunting brings. That might include reminding yourself why you are seeking a new role in the first place, as well as learning how to deal with rejection constructively and giving yourself occasional time off from your job search.
Crucially, a positive frame of mind isn’t just good for your own wellbeing – it also demonstrates to a prospective employer that you can deal with unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances constructively. This is a skill in and of itself – remember, after all, that employers wish to recruit people who can perform strongly on the job, including by facing down and overcoming unexpected challenges and thriving and developing under pressure.
Whatever you aspire to achieve in your career in 2020, the steps above will help improve your employability, and ultimately ensure your professional dreams become a reality this year.
Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director, began working at Hays in 1993 and since then he has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business. In 2004 he was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors. He was made Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand in 2012.
Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.
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