What’s the difference between running a business and taking responsibility for your own career? Very little! It’s a question of perspective.
It’s time to stop coaching people on traditional views of a career (get job, keep job, get promoted/ headhunted, repeat to fade) and start taking a more proactive look at what we all need to do to make our way in the world. There’s so much written about the future of work, but the truth is we don’t yet know it. The only constant in our working life is ourselves – it’s our own responsibility to do the right thing at the right time, in the right way to make things happen.
We live in times where the options are abundant, as are the opportunities. In fact, if none of the standard ways fit, we can create our own with little more than a smartphone and internet access.
If you were told to run a business, you’d immediately assume certain responsibilities – sales, marketing, accounts, operations, yet with our own careers many of us still bash out a dry CV in Microsoft Word, apply to jobs we think we could do, then hope for the best. We need to start looking at ourselves as mini businesses and adopting exactly the same techniques as organisations to create success.
Here are three things to think about to get started:
Know What You Want to Do.
When I started The Work Project, I was asked many times by many people what I actually do. It took me nearly eight months to work that out and how to connect it with my working life to make a living. I could have saved a lot of uncertainty and effort if I’d been clear on that in the beginning. Although a massive part of me still thinks it should be about who I am and what I could do, the world wants us in boxes and until I can find a way to change that, to get our foot in the door we need to allow ourselves to be categorised.
Before you start applying for jobs, work out exactly what it is you do, make sure your branding (see below) shouts that you’re great at it, then target opportunities that match.
Building Your Brand.
For some reason, the CV just won’t go away. You’ll probably need that document, but in truth it does less for you than your social media profiles and should be an introductory point of reference that catches the eye and encourages further reading on you as a subject. Keep it simple, keep to the message – make a version tailored to every job/ organisation you apply to. Don’t be afraid to be visual, use colour and experiment with layout.
If you don’t feel up to the creative side, try Fiverr.com and ask someone else to create a layout, or provide some illustrations for you. Your CV is a sales document, look on it as your brand’s pitch presentation and aim to make the statement that hooks your customers in.
Refer to your social media profiles and make sure they’re up to scratch. Have some consistency in your profile photos, keep them human and make sure the photos of you vomiting in the street in Magaluf aren’t shared as public. Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date, think what you tweet and remember, social media is your brand and its content marketing efforts – use it to your advantage.
Find and Target Prospects.
Every business needs customers and they start as prospects. Identifying those most relevant to convert and then building a relationship with them to create a working relationship. Your potential employer is a customer of your personal business – you need to create a relationship with them that makes them want to buy your services.
Start with a simple checklist of what you want to do, where you want to be or travel to geographically and research potential employers that fit this. A LinkedIn advanced search is great for this, although Google works too (Insurance Companies in Bristol or whatever fits).
As you build a target list, filter and funnel them by factors like organisational culture, values, working hours, or whatever helps you narrow down your top 10 prospects. Then follow them on Social Media, get to know them, call and speak to them about opportunities – make sure that when the chance arises, you’re in position to seal the deal and bring home that customer!
We all spend a lot of our lives at work, so we should be prepared to work on our careers as if they are a business we need to keep afloat. I’m not convinced that traditional job seeker support allows for this, but it’s essential for everyone.
It might be something The Work Project could help with and I’m starting to think about a not for profit way to deliver real, effective education and support to help everyone rethink and take control of their work life – which naturally starts with their personal ‘business’. I’ll keep you posted as I work on that, but if you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.
In the meantime, for starters, take a look at The Work Canvas – the first tool that came from The Work Project.