Be Prepared


Be Prepared

One of the simplest and most effective mottos originates from scouting organizations.  Be prepared.  Be ready for anything.  Every year, Coast Guard searches are conducted, looking for people who were ill prepared.  Sometimes they did not adequately prepare with emergency supplies, or safety gear.  Perhaps they neglected to look at the weather reports for the day, and were caught unaware of an approaching storms.

Preparation is vital, not just for life, but also for profession.  Those who apply and interview for jobs that are prepared, will greatly increase their chances for success.  Those who “wing it” or hope to perform and adapt on the fly will have more frustration.  Increase your chances with the following:

  1. Know Yourself

For thousands of years, philosophers and thinkers struggled with the idea of knowing who and what they are.  Know what makes you who you are and how you think.  This can be rather abstract, but in the realm of the job market, know who you are and where your strengths lie.  What are you good at?  What makes you do the things you do.  What do you seek or what do you want to do?  Where does your passion lie?

Fully understanding where you stand in terms of the job market can make interviewing much easier.  When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can learn to focus and match your strengths with the job descriptions.  Equally important is to know what you need work on.  Targeting weaknesses and areas that need improvement can make you a well-rounded employee down the road.  The first step towards greatness is to know who you are and what you need to do.

When a hiring manager asks you questions, you can always frame the arguments towards your strengths.  You will be able to answer questions with more authority and conviction.  You will not have to spend moments trying to reflect back when asked.  You will be assertive and on point.

  1. Treat Each Application as Unique

It’s easy to target quantity over quality.  The trap is easy to fall for.  Why send out just ten resumes for job openings, when you can send out one hundred.  I’ve heard the argument before.  A small percentage of one hundred will yield more results that a small percentage of ten.

While the math backs up this logic, in terms of job searching, this will generally not work out.  Take each job posting as separate and unique.  Read through the description and look at what skills the organization is seeking.  Match your own skills with the various elements of the job description, tailor the resume to reflect what the job posting specifies.  You want to lead off the resume with the most relevant skills for the posted jobs.  A posting may require marketing skills, so be sure you lead off your marketing abilities, not accounting.

Create a standard resume base, and take the time to modify it as needed for every job you apply for.  Treat the job search as a full time job.  Be organized, and have a breakdown of resumes for every position.  You learn more about yourself in the process and will separate from many applications.

  1. Research

Many interviews will ask what should be an easy question.  “Tell me what you know of our organization and why do you want to work here?”  Learn the pros and cons for every company you apply for.  Are they on Forbes’ list of good companies to work for?  Did they make the Fast Company Magazine of the one hundred most innovative companies?  Are they the subject for impending high profile lawsuits?  Have they declared bankruptcy in recent memory?  Understanding the footing of the company or organization today can lead to a better understanding of what to expect.

Congratulations, you have an interview and are scheduled to go in a week from today.  What’s your game-plan?  Are you planning to drive by the location where you need to report to?  What’s the traffic like?  Construction nearby?  Eliminate potential stress from an already stressful time by knowing exactly where to go and what the parking will be like.  The time before the interview will be better spent on relaxing and reflecting on possible questions, not where to park or go.

Do you have the list of names of who will be conducting the interview?  Check them out on LinkedIn, or even Facebook.  Someone who has a bunch of Star Wars references on their Facebook page may appreciate a reference to the movies.  Discretely, of course.  The last thing you want to do is appear to be stalking them, but having some level of who they are, maybe a little about their personalities can help you leave a quality impression.

Be prepared.  Take all the little steps that can work together to separate you from the others.  Every bit you do will help, and it will take time and effort, but when you go into job search and interview prepared, it shows.  You will tell the prospective company you are serious and determined.  Others may have more skills, but dedication, work ethic, and preparation are equally important traits to have and demonstrate while at an interview.


Honesty is the Best Policy


My mom always told me to tell the truth. The truth may not always be what you want to say or hear. As a manager, do I want to hear that a project is failing, or that there are some significant problems that will put our department in a negative light? No, but I would rather hear that than something inaccurate. Bad news isn’t always the worst thing in the world, and knowledge is power. Knowing the true state of something will allow me to prepare and respond accordingly. Someone who is honest is someone I respect, even if the news may be bad.

As someone new to the job market, it may be easy to be inaccurate on your resume or application. As job searches go on for longer periods of time, it may be tempting to claim that your role in a project or previous job was more significant than it really was. To make false statements or to claim roles and experience that you did not earn can backfire. When it does, you will violate their trust and put your reputation on the line.

Volkswagen-scandalA couple of recent examples immediately come to mind. On a corporate level, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen have made news. Whether or not the companies mandated false claims for mileage for some of their fuel efficient vehicles, or whether individuals took it upon themselves to falsify the reports, the fact is the companies are seen to have violated the trust in the consumers, which will resonate with consumers for decades.

Years from now, how it happened may not matter. All that will come to mind is that these companies lied to the consumers. Their trust is no longer what it once was. Companies can spend years trying to resurrect tarnished images. Ford is still remembered for the decision to not correct the problems with the Pinto. Union Carbide’s role in the Bhopal disaster, or more recently BP’s role in the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have tarnished their image. Decades may be required before some of the trust can be earned again.

The same principle holds true on a personal level. Lance Armstrong will never live past the performance enhancers he used while winning seven consecutive races in the Tour de France. Pete Rose, the leading hitter in baseball history, is still banned from the game due to his gambling on games. President Nixon never was never able to get past the Watergate scandal. These are famous individuals, but the same thing can haunt everyone.

To get a foot in the door under false pretenses can lead to a job, but the hardship of getting in over your head can be severe. The organization spends time and money hiring someone, only to have to let them go, and repeat the process months later. Projects can fail, and money can be lost. Worst of all, people can be laid off. Decisions all have consequences that may reach far beyond an individual’s reach. The company thinks they are getting someone to perform a valuable role, only to lose time and resources.

In a more networked age, reputations will more easily follow an individual. Burn a bridge, or get caught lying or falsifying your experience, you can make things more difficult for you down the road. Be honest and accurate, and if finding that first job, or something better than you have now, takes a bit longer, you’ll be better off because of it. Earn that job and feel good about it, you’ll be better off the long run.