Getting a job isn’t easy for a lot of people, many career paths do not seem very open and inclusive from the outside looking in and even from the inside looking out but difference is increasingly becoming a cool commodity for employers as they try to build more diverse workforces and reap the benefits of a more creative and innovative group of employees generated from a wider variety of individual professional and personal backgrounds. If you have identified your unique offering of your age, abilities or cultural background, this is the age of owning it so let’s see how it is done.
1. Research – Step one in any career strategy is always research. Like any good marketer you need to know what your ‘customer’ the employer wants before your craft your message or strategy to approach them. You are marketing yourself to an organisation. There may be an alignment in terms of their customers or clients, manufacturers or their expansion strategy. You might have grown up in a regional area a company will expand to and your local knowledge and networks can ease their entry into the region. This information is not easily available on one click, that’s why it is called research. Start by listing all the companies/startups you are interested in working for, shortlist a top 10 and then take a look at their annual reports/podcasts interviewing the CEO etc to find your angle. Consume podcasts in your business area of interest, join a professional association, follow people on LinkedIn. The more you drill down into one vertical and build connections the more insight you will have in the industry and the easier it will be for you to highlight your unique offerings in alignment with their organisation and strategy.
2. Package it up – Now that you know what the organisation/startup wants, it’s now time to craft the message. Practice by writing one or two concise sentences about yourself and your experience really tailoring it to the organisation, based on the research you have done. You might make a connection to your language as a way to assist them negotiate with overseas manufacturers as you heard the founder on a podcast talk about the challenges of overseas manufacturing for an english-speaking team. You may draw on your lived experience to demonstrate an advantage over any other potential applications such as a childhood diagnosis of Diabetes on your application directly to a Director of Nursing in the Endocrine ward of the children’s hospital. Try to deliver your message to a person that is closest or influential about making a hiring decision. These days LinkedIn can be an effective channel for a direct approach.
3. Build credibility – Sometimes it is what know, what you have experienced and who you know. It is really important to build out a network if you are transitioning a career into a new area or breaking into a new field. Absorb everything about your industry, clients, key influencers in your world. Start a twitter account and connect to people in your industry, go to conferences and meet-ups, follow up with coffees after meeting people at events and develop a deeper knowledge of your chosen industry. You might even consider some study to add value or reposition your career. But most importantly, don’t forget to tell the world what you want. Update your LinkedIn profile, Twitter handle or any other channel you use for professional purposes and be clear about the roles you are looking for and tailor your experience to suit the roles you are looking for.
4. Skip the queue – I call the ‘queue’ what you imagine happens when a role is advertised. There is a whole lineup of imaginary people at the front door of an employer. Meanwhile, there is a little-known side door which is opened occasionally to people who network effectively or directly approach an organisation with the right skills and abilities at the right time. With your packaged pitch from Step 2, approach an organisation directly or through a network connection and ask for any job opportunities available now or in the future. You should always have an ‘passive’ strategy of waiting for jobs to be advertised and applying, as well as an ‘active’ strategy of building your networks, researching and gaining knowledge of the industry and going to meet-ups and conferences to find out the organisations/startups growing, expanding into new markets or focussing their efforts on certain aspects of their business.
5. Know your ‘street value’ – You have to know what you are worth as when that organisation does give you a call out of the blue and offers you a role and asks what your salary expectations are, you don’t want to say, “I’ll work for anything”. Not only do your sound desperate, you are essentially not valuing yourself. If you know the industry, and are familiar with the roles available and annual salary then you should have a $10,000 range in your head you can draw on. Create a small business case to go alongside your salary pitch so the employer not only knows what you are salary expectations are but why you deserve to be paid the amount you are suggesting. The conversation could go something like, “I am aware of industry salaries in this area and believe based on my 10 years experience in business, combined with a personal knowledge of living with a disability I would expect to be in the upper salary range of $60,000 – $70,000”.
Now you have 5 actionable steps to leverage your difference into an advantage and it’s time to get active!