Yesterday’s very disturbing unemployment survey has made me look differently at the best way to conduct an effective job search. Perhaps job seekers and those looking to change career should assume the perspective of the entrepreneur and write a personal business plan.
There are two reasons someone starting a business needs to write a business plan: First, it is a great way to focus on what you want to do. Second, you have to have one if you are looking for funding. For job seekers, the latter is obviously irrelevant, but the former is most definitely relevant!
That said, a business plan is a living document. It is always subject to change. Remember that! What you will write is written in a computer, not stone.
Also, this is not the structure of a real business plan. For example, you will not need an “Executive Summary,” nor will you need the intelligence gathering of an entrepreneur nor an analysis of your competition.
Yes, you are a “company,” the company of you! So who are you? What is it that you have to offer? Why should someone hire you? Why should they interview you? Why should they network with you? Who are you? What do you want?
Previously you wrote about you as a person. Now comes you as the professional. What do you have to offer? What have you actually done? What are your professional accomplishments. Under “Company Description” you engaged in self-praise, now is the time for objective proof. How can you reassure a nervous employer that you are the person for the job?
Start with a SWOT Analysis. What are your Strengths? What are your Weaknesses? What Opportunities exist for you? And what Threats will you have to confront? Strengths and opportunities complement each other, as do weaknesses and threats. The important thing is that the former outweigh the latter. Ideally, you want the latter to be eliminated by the former.
For example, your strength is your years of experience. Your weakness is that you lack education/training in a new software/program or foreign language. But being unemployed, ironically, provides you with the opportunity to get the education you lack. The threat is that, being unemployed (if you are), you can’t afford the cost. Which means you have to take advantage of the opportunity of studying on-line where there are plenty of very good free programs.
Having completed the SWOT Analysis, now you have to start researching yourself. Google yourself. See what’s out there. Ask friends, relatives and (former) colleagues to evaluate you. Tell them you want brutal honesty and will not be offended. Prepare a form indicating your strengths and weaknesses. Ask for examples. And ask for a face-to-face meeting to discuss the good and the bad. And make certain to be grateful not offended. Take the high road. Be mature. After all, these are the people – your network – who will no doubt be the ones to get you a job.
One more question to ask: Is what you want (as indicated in the first section of the Plan) realistic or a pipedream? The answer to this could be the most difficult thing to hear.
Now that you know you, the question is, How are you going to get a job or start your new career?
The easiest and least effective thing to do is to apply for jobs. Why? Because only 20 to 30 percent of jobs are advertised. The hardest and most effecting thing to do is to network. Why? Because the remaining 70 to 80 percent are not advertised; you will only hear about them from persons with whom you network.
Of course, the best thing to do is to have employers come to you. The way to do that is by building your brand.
So you need a good networking plan, a application process, and phenomenal interviewing skills. You can either teach yourself or get outside help.
Prepare a budget. You have to know your financial needs. Having a written document can also help you when negotiating a salary. In any event, if asked for your salary requirements, you have to have an answer.
The two documents you need are your cover letter and resume. Additionally, you should organize copies of any licenses, certifications and academic degrees that you have, just in case you are asked to produce copies. And, depending on your profession, a portfolio of work samples.
Now that you have finished writing, go out and get that job. You are already ahead of most.
Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter and career counselor. He is the author of Success! As Employee or Entrepreneur and A Hooker’s Guide to Getting a Job: Parables from the Real World of Career Counseling and Executive Recruiting.