Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Transition in a Wobbly Economy

As the Presidential election nears, the questions on most people’s minds are: “What’s going on with the economy and what can be done to ‘fix’ it?” For people in job search or career change mode, this translates into, “How are my chances affected by the state of the economy?” There is no doubt that these are important questions, but I believe people in transition should focus their attention and efforts in a different way.

Instead of looking at the macro data and trends (the downward move of the stock market or the unemployment rate, for examples), I believe it is more important than ever to look carefully at what you have to offer in the way of skills, accomplishments, energy, and how you can add value for a future employer. Your ability to clearly and confidently articulate what you can bring is the key differentiator and determinant in if and how you move toward your aspirations.

In times of downward change, where competition for positions is likely to be intensified and where employers are going to be very choosy, you must be crystal clear on who you are and what you have to offer. I often have my clients develop and rehearse a “mission” statement that includes why and how they do what they do and how those are of benefit to a potential future employer. This is then followed by a detailed analysis of one’s best and most liked skills, ranked in order of importance for you and potential employers.

It is also incumbent on you to make networking core to your transition strategy. We have written about this before, but in a downward economy, who you know (and who you can get to know) will make the difference in how you work your way through your transition. I recommend setting a weekly goal of at least two networking meetings, one with someone you already know and one with someone new.

And, of course, your interview skills must be sharper than ever. A good interview begins with the recognition that your mind set, that is, your ability to be positive and confident, is as critical as what you say in the interview. Furthermore, you must fully prepare and practice if you are to be a successful interviewer. Preparation includes: Researching the organization you will be interviewing with; developing a clear agenda of what you want to say in your interview; recognizing that you can guide the interview in ways that serve you. Practice is also essential, both to calm your nerves and to work on those areas that might present you with particular difficulties (for example: Why did you leave your last position? Or: What makes you the strongest candidate for this position?) .

Transition is difficult in a struggling economy, but you can turn things in your favor by focusing on those things over which you have control. As noted above, these include: Being clear about what you have to offer, networking regularly and consistency, and becoming an excellent interviewer. Let us know if you need assistance on any of these. Best wishes.

Mark Guterman