Preparing to find a Job – Part 1

A few days ago, I had the honor of speaking at the Trinity United Church’s Youth Fellowship meeting. It was a great event and I want to share a few of the nuggets I shared with them. There are two parts to it; the first captioned “Preparing for a job” and the other being “Performing on the Job”.

Whether you’re looking for your first job, switching careers, or re-entering the job market after an extended absence, finding a job requires two main tasks: understanding yourself and understanding the job market. Presuming you’ve already chosen a career and are currently searching for jobs, here are several ways to actually get a job.

To better assimilate the content I have put together, you need to carefully follow the FOUR key parts outlined below with differing emphasis.

Part 1 of 4: Building Your Qualifications

Revise your CV. Before you start job hunting, make sure that your CV is as complete and up-to-date as possible. Your CV is an important distillation of who you are, where you come from, and what you can offer. Here are a few tips to consider:

Be honest. Never lie on your CV; it will come back to haunt you later.
Use active verbs. When describing what you did at your last job, make the sentence as tight and active as possible. For instance, instead of saying “Served as patient contact for getting bills and contacting insurance,” say “Liaised with patients and insurance companies, and managed financial transactions.”
Proofread. Review your CV several times for grammatical or spelling errors. Even something as simple as a typo could negatively impact your ability to land an interview, so pay close attention to what you’ve got on the page. Have one or two other people look at it as well.

Keep the formatting clean. How your CV looks is almost as important as how it reads. Use a simple, classic font (such as Times New Roman, Arial or Bevan), black ink on white paper, and sufficiently wide margins (about 1″ on each side). Use bold or italic lettering sparingly if at all, and ensure your name and contact information are prominently displayed.

Develop your personal elevator pitch. Many structured interviews, particularly those at large companies, start with a question like “Tell me about yourself.” The interviewer doesn’t really want you to go back to grade school and talk about your childhood. This is a specific question with a right answer: in two minutes or so; the interviewer wants to get you to relax and loosen out your vocal cords, understand your background, your accomplishments, why you want to work at XYZ company and what your future goals are.

Keep it short — between 30 seconds and two minutes — and have the basics of it memorized so that you don’t stammer when you’re asked to describe yourself. You don’t want to sound like robot, either, so get the skeleton of it down, and learn to improvise the rest depending on who you’re talking to. Practice your elevator pitch out loud on someone who can give you feedback.

An elevator pitch is also useful for when you’re simply networking, at a cocktail party or with a group of strangers who want to get to know you a little bit more. In a networking situation, as opposed to a job interview, keep the elevator pitch to 30 seconds or less.

Make a list of work-related skills you’d like to learn. Your employer will be interested in hearing about how you intend to become a better employee. Think about which skills will make you more competent in the position you’re applying for. Find some books and upcoming conferences that would significantly improve your abilities. In an interview, tell the employer what you’re reading and learning and that you’d like to continue doing so. Here is a list of some of the most important job skills, wanted by employers, that a job-seeker must have to be sure of landing a good job and just as importantly, keeping it.

Logical thinking and information handling: Most businesses regard the ability to handle and organize information to produce effective solutions as one of the top skills they want. They value the ability to make sensible solutions regarding sending proposal or introducing an internal activity.

Technological ability: Most job openings will require people who are IT or computer literate or know how to operate different machines and office equipment. Whether it’s a PC or multi-functional copier and scanner. This doesn’t mean that employers need people who are technology graduates — knowing the basic principles of using current technology is sufficient.

Communicating effectively: Employers tend to value and hire people who are able to express their thoughts efficiently through verbal and written communication. People who land a good job easily are usually those who are adept in speaking and writing.
Strong interpersonal skills: Because the working environment consists of various kinds of personalities and people with different backgrounds, it is essential to possess the skill of communicating and working with people from different walks of life.

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