To Land Your Dream Job, Build Your Edge

One important key to success is self confidence.

An important key to self confidence is preparation.

~Arthur Ashe

 

So, you’ve buckled down and identified several candidate careers (or majors) that could be your perfect match. Now, it’s time to turn this vision into a reality! It’s a highly competitive job market out there, so you’ll need a solid plan to acquire the necessary qualifications to win. That means building your competitive edge—the next step to becoming career ready.

It’s difficult to generalize the qualification process because it varies so much by career choice. Do you prefer to dive right into the job market? Are you willing to get your Bachelor’s, Master’s, Ph.D, or more? Often, it’s the qualifications that help us narrow our career options to ones that are realistic and achievable.

When entering the workforce, chances are the basic qualifications will be in the following areas:

  • Education: degree, areas of specialization, GPA, certifications, specific courses
  • Work experience: minimum years and particular positions; internships and apprenticeships; training and professional certifications
  • Skills: technical proficiencies, physical requirements, familiarity with systems, relational and soft skills, etc.
  • References: they had better be good!

In last week’s newsletter, we identified several websites that show the various qualification requirements for different careers. Familiarize yourself with them and use this information to narrow your choices. Be realistic.

Now, in order to position yourself to land the job, you’ll want to go far beyond the minimum qualifications cited above. Employers are looking for special evidences of leadership, initiative, and accomplishment. For this reason, we strongly recommend that you speak with actual practitioners who hold your desired career position. Seek out advice and wisdom from the pros, especially to discover ways you can set yourself apart from the competition. They will be able to offer far deeper insights in building your edge than your high school or college career counselor/recruiter whose knowledge is more general. What leadership skills, internships, experiences, and trainings can you undertake that will stand out? Summer jobs? Camps? Job shadows? Extra courses?

We also encourage you to review the results of the state of Virginia’s workplace readiness survey of employers. You can access it here. You’ll notice that many of the top 21 skills are soft skills. Yes, today’s employers are looking far beyond your degrees and GPAs… they want people with great attitudes and leadership skills.

Great references are another necessity. Many times, they can overcome average academic performance with great stories about you. Whether they’re professors, teachers, coaches, mentors, or supervisors, all of them are prized potential references on your behalf. What have you done to deserve the highest praise among people who can potentially become your ambassadors?

So, what’s your story, from a prospective employer’s perspective? Remember, you’re competing against other worthy candidates, and the more you can demonstrate passion, initiative, and real life examples of your leadership skills, the more an employer will want you! Make yours a great story.

Educators and parents, be sure that your career readiness training incorporates these vital components. They will help your students build the edge they’ll need to win.

 

 

 

Don’t Play the Blame Game

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible
for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

~Theodore Roosevelt

 When we experience a personal disappointment, it’s usually because we made an innocent mistake or our effort simply fell short. Is one worse than another? Well, to my way of thinking, a mistake is a little more serious because it’s an error, whereas a shortfall may have occurred despite our best effort. (After all, we can’t always win.)

Since we’re all human, mistakes and shortfalls are part of life. While no one keeps track, they number well into the thousands during our lifetime. That being the case, one has to wonder why it’s so difficult for people to admit their mistakes and accept responsibility.

Is it because the words “I’m sorry” don’t come easily? In such cases, it’s sometimes easier (and feels less shameful) to blame others and make excuses.

Is there a better way to handle our mistakes?

People who are prone to blame are actually reflecting their own insecurities. Implicitly, they assume their relationships can’t withstand an acknowledgement of a mistake or shortfall. However, it’s a false assumption, especially since people appreciate it when someone admits a mistake and asks for forgiveness.

When you make a mistake or your best efforts fall short of the goal, you can do one of two things:

  1. You can TAKE responsibility, apologize if appropriate, and do what you can to make things right.
  2. You can DODGE responsibility, blame someone else (or blame circumstances), and walk away from the situation – leaving others with the problem you created.

Choice #1 one will likely gain you the respect of your family, peers, and colleagues and help you learn from your mistake. Choice #2, on the other hand, will cause damage to your reputation and deprive you of a valuable opportunity for personal growth.

Why not exercise a little humility and take the high road? Learn to swallow your pride and admit it when you’ve fallen short. You’ll be respected and admired by others when you do… and you might be surprised by the grace they extend to you in return!

Do you find it difficult to admit your mistakes and accept that you aren’t perfect?

Are you harder on yourself than others would be if you took responsibility for your shortcomings? Share your thoughts and comments with our online community by commenting below; we’d love to hear your perspective!

 

Learn to Persuasively Market Yourself

Let’s face it. Most of us are not natural born salespeople. We generally prefer to go about our business and hope that others will automatically recognize our greatness. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t work out that way.           

In order to land that perfect job or win that prized promotion, you must persuade others that you are the answer! You need to become an effective salesperson of… YOU!

 The good news is that is that marketing yourself is a learned skill. So if you feel a little inexperienced (or uncomfortable) about putting yourself out there, here are some pointers to help you get started:  

·      Make a list of all of your strengths, qualifications, experiences, and accomplishments

·      Consider why they would be valuable to an employer 

·      Identify some personal stories that convey your attitude, unique achievements, and commitment to excellence

·      Be prepared to convincingly answer questions such as:

o   What value can you bring to the table?

o   What are your strengths and weaknesses?

o   Why should we hire you?

o   What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments and personal attributes?

o   What motivates you?

o   What are you passionate about?

o   What are your most significant professional qualifications?

o   What’s the most difficult challenge you ever faced, and how did you deal with it?

·      Understand what the employer is looking for (qualifications, etc.). Consider how your assets address their needs. Think of yourself as the solution to their problem.

·      Build a compelling resume that highlights your strongest accomplishments and competitive advantages

·      Network with as many people as you can to receive endorsements and inside connections http://dennistrittin.com/view_blog.aspx?blog_id=139

·      During interviews, be personable, confident but not arrogant, look your interviewer(s) in the eye, repeat their name(s), shake their hands firmly, listen intently, come prepared with questions, show an interest in their company and the job, ask for a business card, promptly send a handwritten thank you note, exhibit confident body language, be yourself, and smile. That’s all!

If you’re able to do the above, you can become successful at marketing yourself. Your ability to answer why you are  the best person for the job is essential and not at all a sign of arrogance!

If someone asked you why you’re the best person for a job, would you be able to answer it with confidence, conviction, and humility? Please share your insights and experiences with us; we’d love to hear your comments below! And share us on your FB page or Twitter feed; we hope you’ll pass this along to your friends, family, and colleagues.

 

Be an Inspiring Team Player

One of my most admired leaders, George Russell, always used to say, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” I have to admit I didn’t fully appreciate the wisdom of his words early in my career. But, in time I realized he was right. When you adopt George’s philosophy, you become a true team player and everyone benefits.


 Teamwork is more and more the name of the game in the workplace these days. In the past, many people learned to perform a single skill and then continued it for many years. These days, however, creativity and innovation are more often what is needed in the workplace—requiring greater collaboration, flexibility, and interpersonal skills from workers.


 Do you have what it takes to be a great team player in today’s economy? Do the young adults in your life?

 

My favorite spectator sport is basketball. To me, it’s the consummate team sport where character is revealed before our very eyes.


Some players clearly focus on individual scoring (often to the detriment of the team when they go overboard), and enjoy being in the limelight. Still others are known for their passing and defense and rarely receive the same fan attention. Yet, isn’t it interesting that, it’s the team with the best defense and passing that usually wins the championship? I believe there’s a message to be learned in this.

           

When I coached basketball, I gave special praise for assists, tenacious defense, and our unsung heroes. One young lady on our team, Jazi, as the perfect example. She may have scored only two points a game, but we were never the same without her! She was our best passer and shut down the finest guards with her incredible defense. Our victories against our toughest opponents often came from her defense rather than from our leading scorer. She was the consummate team player and unsung hero. I wouldn’t have traded her for the world.


In the NBA, the player that most comes to my mind is John Stockton, a retired point guard from the Utah Jazz. He’s the league’s all-time assist leader, which is a true sign of an unselfish team player. During his career, he handed out an incredible 15,806 assists to his teammates— truly an extraordinary accomplishment. It is rare in sports to see records that stand out like this, and it’s a testimony to John’s skill, unselfishness, and endurance.


Throughout your life, you’ll be in countless team situations, especially on the job. When these opportunities arise, focus on the team rather than on your individual contributions. Encourage them, praise them, mentor them, enjoy them, and show your gratitude toward them. Bring everyone up and your team will achieve great things. Your leadership will be liked, respected, and admired by others.

                                                                        

Can you see the difference on a team when players focus on mutual support and team effort, as opposed to seeking personal recognition? Please share your comments and stories with us; we’re always glad to hear from our readers!

 

Build Your Winning Competitive Edge

When we compete at an early age, the stakes usually aren’t that high. Whether it was a pick-up game or a spelling bee, our world didn’t end if we lost. However, as we age, the stakes become greater. It becomes getting into the school of your choice, or landing your dream job where you have to out-compete a worthy list of candidates.

 Like it or not, you’ll face many important competitive tests in life. Often, you’ll find these situations associated with your career. For this reason, it’s essential that you develop your distinctive advantages along the way. The more skilled you are at doing this, the more likely you are to win the job or that special promotion.

Our world is much more competitive than ever before. Gone is the day when our U.S. economy was built on manufacturing and manual labor with jobs that didn’t require a college education. In those days, workers were paid by the hour and there was little differentiation in wages. Our economy has become more service-oriented and knowledge-based, which has changed everything. Now, you have to demonstrate something special (i.e, skills, experiences, and achievements) in order to land the job and advance in your career. Together, these make up your competitive edge, and should include:

  •  developing both skill-based and attitude-based competitive advantages. Together, they’re a powerful combination.
  •  considering what would stand out about you to future employers during your eventual job search
  • going the extra mile to become better qualified through experiences and continuing education
  • taking every opportunity you can in these next several years to work, intern, and network. It’ll help separate you from the crowd.
  •  if lacking a skill or a professional qualification, attacking it with full force
  • demonstrating an attitude of continuous improvement and a commitment to excellence
  • showing results and impact. Create great personal stories that will inspire employers. If you don’t, remember that someone else will—and they’ll wind up with your job or promotion!

 

You’ll gain two significant benefits from building your competitive edge. First, you’ll expand your skill set and become more marketable, promotable, and valuable. Second, it will show employers that you’re passionate about your work and are driven to perform. Give an employer a great skill set and a winning attitude, and you’ll be a success story in the making!

Help the young adults you know to evaluate: As you assess your skill set and experiences, what do you consider to be your greatest competitive strengths? What are your weaknesses? How can you maximize those strengths and strengthen the weaknesses?

Success Requires Planning, Practice, and Perseverance

We all know of brilliant, straight-A students who barely even study. The other 99% of us mere mortals have to earn it the hard way! It might be easy to conclude that most successful people owe it to raw talent and brilliance, but that’s rarely the case. Usually, other factors like commitment, focus, discipline, and a winning attitude have an even greater impact.
 
Most things in life aren’t handed to us on the proverbial silver platter—success being one of them. People who do well at what they do—whether it’s academics, sports, art, music, business, a trade, or a hobby—generally have these things common. They overcome challenges and opposition, and they do it through planning, practice, and perseverance.
 
I can’t think of a better illustration of this than the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. The team of collegiate athletes was gathered randomly from around the nation under the leadership of Coach Herb Brooks, who developed a brutal training regimen and a strategy to win.
 
The prospects didn’t look good. They were dominated by the Soviet team in an exhibition game by a score of 10-3. But, that didn’t deter them. They tied Sweden, upset perennially strong Czechoslovakia, and proceeded to defeat Norway, Romania, and West Germany. There was just one problem. The next stop was another crack at the Soviet team, and the players were haunted by their previous humiliation. Nonetheless, Coach Brooks was relentless, challenging the team to do their best when it counted.
 
Amazingly, the U.S. scored the upset of the ages, defeating the Soviets 4-3 in a win dramatically captured in the 2004 film Miracle. As one of the millions of Americans who watched it live, I can honestly say that the last ten minutes of the game were the slowest 600 seconds in all of eternity! They went on to win the gold medal game over Finland, and rallied the country like (in my opinion) no other sporting team in history.
 
When it comes to achieving your goals, remember that you, too, can overcome great odds by applying the same 3 P’s the 1980 U.S. hockey team did: planning, practice, and perseverance. What good would it have done for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team to skate out onto the ice without the practice and grit to compete? Unfortunately, many people live that way—and they live frustrated, underperforming their potential.
 
They (mistakenly) believe they “deserve” success they’ve not earned. They show up the first day of a new job expecting the corner office and the respect of the CEO when they’ve not made the sacrifices necessary to deserve either. They resent not receiving the career opportunities they’d like or the salary they think they deserve—when they’ve not put in the study, effort, or commitment needed to earn those rewards.  We call this mindset one of entitlement—and it’s becoming a pervasive issue in our society.
 
Don’t let this attitude mark you. When you set your mind to something—whether it’s academic studies, a job, a sport, or anything else, I encourage you to do it with intentionality and excellence. Remember the adage, “Plan, practice, and persevere to succeed.” Doing this will give you the best chance in life and build great character along the way.
 
Is there a young person in your life who needs a reminder he or she is not “entitled” to success? Challenge him or her, “If planning, practice, and perseverance are keys to achieving goals, how would you rate yourself in each of these areas? Think back on a goal you didn’t achieve. How might the outcome have been different?” These are good discussions to have. Share your results with us by commenting below; we’d love to hear your stories.