Have you ever heard of someone who “lucked into” a job? I don’t think anyone lucks into a job, any more than a grounds crew “lucks into” a perfectly groomed, healthy playing field. For a field to be game-day ready, it takes consistently applied preparation and effort. The same is true with preparing for new job opportunities. We are either investing effort and prepared for job opportunities that present themselves or we aren’t—there’s really not much luck involved in the scenario. But the reality is we are likely to spend more time thinking/planning the details of an upcoming vacation than on our actual vocations.
When I think of luck, I like the definition of, “the place where preparation and opportunity meet.” We all have the ability to take more control over our career paths, to create our own “luck,” if we invest just a few hours each week to be better prepared for our next career move.
Preparing to meet new opportunities
The best place to prepare for our next career move is in our current job. Every day we go to work, we are “interviewing” for our next job opportunity by displaying our skills, abilities, work ethic, project management skills, and ability to get along with others. It is witnessed by a variety of decision makers, and helps establish, for good or bad, our reputation in our industry. Even if we are in a job that feels like it’s not going anywhere or we may not really enjoy, we need to remember that it is a step to the position we do want.
So take as much out of it while you are there as you can; learn everything you can, be reliable and establish a great work reputation, make industry contacts, and gather up as many “resume builders” as you can, including taking advantage of continuing education programs, being involved in extra projects, volunteering for committees. Any transferable skills or knowledge can help you be prepared for future job opportunities. The more skills, abilities, and accomplishments we acquire in our current positions, the more attractive we are to future employers.
Marketing the goods
We are our own marketing department and the best way to sell a product is to get the list of the best qualities and attributes (resume) of our product (ourselves) to the buyer (decision makers) in a moment’s notice. We should consistently invest the time to keep our resumes updated and immediately available when unexpected opportunities arise. Our resumes should be a constantly growing representation of our skills, abilities, and experience including any “resume builders” such as educational programs, volunteer or work experiences, or awards/recognitions we earn. When you receive notice of a job opening or a decision maker requests your resume, it should be immediately available and not a 1-week turnaround of your having to recreate a 5-year-old, out-of-date resume. The buyer/opportunity may be gone in a week! This is where preparation meets opportunity, so be ready!
In-person networking. Resumes are important in providing a decision maker with a synopsis of your skills/work experiences, but they will not open doors on their own. Doors are opened by people, not paper. Joining industry and local networking groups can be crucial in keeping you informed of upcoming job openings and keep your name in the right circles for opportunities. Attending training and trade seminars (like the STMA Conference and local chapter events) are imperative to putting a “face with a name” and getting exposure to a great number of industry decision makers, all in one spot. Growing contact lists by exchanging business cards is great, but remember to follow up and occasionally reach out to maintain a relationship and solidify the connection. Television and film producer Brain Grazer, who has co-produced more than 60 films, established a practice in his first job out of school where he tried to meet with/make a connection with a new person every 2 weeks. According to Grazer, “The more connections you make, the more valuable each connection becomes.”
Online networking. Joining sites like LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, and industry-specific websites allows your resume to be in the hands of decision makers before you are even aware of a job opening! And with the ease of sourcing candidates online through social networking outlets, some recruiters and hiring managers will contact candidates of interest for an employment need without ever formally posting an “open position.” In today’s job market a well-crafted social media profile is as important, if not more so, than traditional, written resumes. When setting up a profile on any social media platforms, make sure to “think like a recruiter” by incorporating key words into your work experience. By using key words that would likely be used for a job description a recruiter is trying to fill, you can get more traffic to your profile. In the sports turf industry this may include key words like “field construction,” “field maintenance,” “irrigation systems,” “natural grass and synthetic surfaces,” etc.
If completing a profile on LinkedIn, make sure to complete your profile IN FULL until reaching the point where it signifies “100% Complete.” Also, get at least one recommendation (preferably from a supervisor/former supervisor) that will give you a “1” next to the “thumbs up” graphic to help you stand apart from other candidates. If actively looking for a job, make sure to get on the radar of target employers by joining industry groups they host and get involved with their discussion posts. Add helpful, informed comments and perhaps even “look” at the profiles of other participating chat members, which may in turn may have them “look” at your profile as well.
Google+ is not often thought of for networking for jobs, but it can be very helpful simply due to the “Google effect.” Google is one of the most popular search engines and we’ve all “Googled” people or events, things, etc. If a potential employer Googles you to get a little bit more information, your Google+ profile will more than likely appear first ensuring they see the carefully crafted professional representation of yourself. Once you have built your LinkedIn profile, simply replicate it on Google+ and you’re that much easier to find!
Twitter is also a great tool as more and more organizations have a presence on Twitter. Before following or engaging with a specific business of choice or their representatives, make sure to build your bio using relevant keywords, and insert a link to your LinkedIn or Google+ profiles to find more information on you. Then start “following” (friendly stalking) desired organizations and decision makers and monitor their activities, corporate activities, and upcoming opportunities. Retweet or Favorite a positive post they may have sent out, or add a comment that may spark a conversation. The more they see your name and interest level in their company, the more interest they may have in you.
Clean it up/damage control
Surveys estimate about three-quarters of recruiters check out applicants on the Internet when hiring, and almost half of all employers do the same. Employers report rejecting job applicants when they find references to drug use, heavy drinking, sexually offensive materials, violent imagery, and so on. Some general rules of thumb for posting content include not posting anything you wouldn’t want your current or prospective employer to see, remove or untag photos that may be controversial, remove any comments, even from friends, that may seem distasteful or could be interpreted as racist, sexist or discriminatory in any way and monitor your privacy settings carefully. And remember: even if you take down an indiscrete post or picture, it may have been reproduced or quoted elsewhere, others may have commented on it, or it may simply live on forever in the digital universe. Just make sure you have an explanation ready to go if this might be your situation.
Take control over your career
We can make the choices and invest the time/effort necessary to make sure we are ready for the point where “preparation and opportunity” meet. We don’t have to leave our careers to the luck of being in the right place at the right time; we can control many of the factors that make us more employable, and more visible to employment decision makers. Be prepared for future job opportunities, and increase your own luck.
Carole Daily has a degree in human resource management and more than 16 years of experience in the HR industry. She consults through Daily HR Solutions, and also works at the University of Kentucky.