The CFA Society Chicago Professional Development Advisory Group hosted the Launch Your Search program over the course of 4 weekly sessions in September and October. Over thirty participants gathered to develop or enhance the skills necessary to successfully navigate a job search, lessen the associated stress, boost confidence and stand above the competition to get hired faster. The program was conducted by Megan Walls who is a certified executive and career coach who provides professional guidance for all phases of your career: entry, advancement, and change.
Week 1 kicked off with participants learning How to Talk Confidently in an Interview. Individuals reviewed their personal strengths that were determined by taking the GALLUP Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 Assessment. Years of research suggest that the most effective people are those who understand their strengths and behaviors. A review of the knowledge and skills you have acquired can provide a basic sense of your abilities, but an awareness and understanding of your natural talents will provide true insights into the core reasons behind your consistent successes.
Each participant’s report listed his or her most dominant strengths from 34 themes that were measured. The strength themes include a broad range from Achiever, Communicator, Developer and Includer, to Learner Maximizer, Relator, and Strategist. Many participants agreed that they have difficulty talking confidently in an interview for various reasons – they’re modest, they feel like they’re bragging, or they don’t think their accomplishments are unique. But, we learned that leveraging these strengths into stories makes it much easier to talk about yourself and articulate your value proposition.
We spent time individually to develop Strength Success Stories based on our Top 5 Themes.The process includes listing a strength and providing an example of how you’ve used it in a business situation.Then a CAR (challenge, action, result) story is crafted on that strength. Having these stories polished and at the ready relieves anxiety, increases confidence and makes you stand out as self-aware in an interview.
An example CAR story:
CHALLENGE: There was no recording keeping system for the sales/orders that came in from the sales representatives.
ACTION: I developed an electronic submission form and organized a two-step process for the sales representatives to use on future orders.
RESULT: Company orders were processed 40% faster.
Week 2 focused on Crafting Your Personal Brand Statement. This one to two sentence statement conveys your uniqueness and competitive advantage to your target audience. It should be easily understood, memorable and benefit driven. Your statement should answer 3 questions: 1) what value do you provide (describe your expertise); 2) what sets you apart from the competition (your unique attributes – use your strengths learned in the first session), and 3) who is your target audience or what is the position you are seeking? This statement will be the foundation for your marketing material and distinguish you from others in the same industry by creating differentiation in the minds of networking contacts and interviewers. Additionally, it establishes a consistent (versus broad) message, highlights your credibility/expertise and tells an organization why they need you.
Example Personal Brand Statements:
I use my passionate, emphatic approach to build key relationships with customers (sets you apart) that evolve into multi-year contracts (value) for high tech companies selling enterprise software (target audience).
I help small to medium size businesses (target audience) grow strong brands and boost organic growth up to 27% (value) by creating marketing programs that speak to customer needs (sets you apart).
Modernizing Your Resume was the focus during week 3. The group discussed many aspects of resumes, including the differences in today’s resumes, as well as the best ways to get your resume noticed. It’s important to make the best of your resume and grab the attention of your potential employer quickly. Typically, a recruiter or employer will only spend six seconds looking over your resume. With this being the case, the top third of your resume is most important. This section should include the highlights of your strengths, achievements, and value you will bring to an organization. Walls provided this example:
Corporate Finance Executive | Senior Finance Management Professional
Dynamic and resourceful problem solver who mitigate risk and addresses opportunities for profitable growth
Strategic about cost-savings: Eliminated, averted or saved $3M during tenure at XYZ Corp.
Adaptable to fast-paced changing environments: Partnered with cross-functional team to create financial model to calculate weekly one-year cash liquidity positions during financial crisis.
Extensive finance and management skills: Eliminated key man risk in department by creating cross coverage task list and initiating cross training of staff, allowing continuous workflow during absences.
Analytical approach to achieve results: Led development of database to consolidate disparate data sources so bankers could have accurate real-time picture of expenses, saving time and money.
Further, with job applications being submitted online, it’s imperative to have your resume make it past the ATS (applicant tracking system) so your resume makes it to a human being in HR, or better yet, the hiring manager. (In addition to applying online, you should always network into the organization to have someone at the company present you personally.) To pass the screening of an ATS your resume must contain keywords specific to the job! Scour job descriptions in your industry to gather those that best suit the position you’re looking for and incorporate them into your resume.
In addition to keywords, it’s important to use statements that are accomplishment driven. Beyond explaining what you were required to do in your role, you should expand on your successes. Your past experiences should enlighten prospective employers on what value you bring to the organization. Your CAR stories will be helpful in penning your achievements. To make your achievements pop, use powerful verbs in describing how you were effective.
The Powerful Verbs below will be helpful if for example, you:
Saved the Company Time or Money – conserved, consolidated, decreased deducted, diagnosed, lessened, reconciled, reduced
Led a Project – chaired, controlled, coordinated, executed, headed, operated, orchestrated, oversaw, planned, produced, programmed
Supported Customers – advised advocated, arbitrated, coached consulted, educated, fielded, informed, resolved
The final week’s topic was Structure your Job Search Plan, Set Goals & Take Action. In order to jump-start and conduct a successful search you need to be mindful of many factors and be honest about where stand personally in each area. To help you focus your time and effort in the right areas, rank each of the following components on a scale of 1-10:
- Structured Plan & Goals
- Time Commitment
- Resume & Marketing
- Mindset & Attitude
- Personal Brand
- Interview Prep & Skills
With an understanding of where you need to dedicate time, you can start setting goals for a systematic job search. Think about the strategies you will pursue to move toward this goal and establish specific action items. Be aware that obstacles will arise along the way so think about how you can best overcome them. Often times you will require support in various forms so don’t hesitate to ask for help – many people have been through this process and are willing to be of assistance.
Participants gained invaluable job search insights and left armed with many tools to help them throughout the process. Additionally, new networking contacts were made and all benefited from the ideas/support from others in the group.
Should you desire career coaching or help with your job search, you can find information about Megan Wall’s services from her website www.WallsCareerCoach.com, and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847.490.5776.