In a recent post I suggested the primary reason Why Good People Underperform is that the jobs people were hired to do were poorly defined before the person was hired.
As a result of this post a lot of job seekers cried out for help.
It’s a big problem – getting the right job – and it's one I’m working with Prof. Todd Rose at Harvard University to help solve. Rose is the author of the soon-to-be bestseller, The End of Average, and president of the Center for Individual Opportunity. He is currently focused on figuring out how work can be better designed to maximize individual performance rather than force-fitting candidates into ill-defined jobs. He contends that this is one of the reasons the workforce is highly disengaged and why good people underperform.
Until a solution to this problem is available, here’s the advice I offer job seekers to get a job that better matches their needs and interests.
Define your ideal job but don’t tell anyone…yet.
First figure out what you like to do most and what you do best. There needs to be a big overlap here or this “get a better job” exercise is a big waste of time. Define all of the technical skills required to get this job, the non-technical skills (formerly known as “soft skills”) and the size of the teams you’ve successfully worked with and led. You’ll need to fill in any skills gaps before anyone will take you seriously so get started with this right away. Maybe Lynda.com or some other online training portal can help here.
At some point in time, you’ll need to prove you’re competent to do the work you’ve just defined. I suggest candidates prove each strength with a real accomplishment. Here’s a slide deck you can use to get prepared for this. It will guide you through the whole interviewing process.
Find companies that do what you want to do.
Start looking for jobs that best match your interests on Indeed and LinkedIn but DO NOT APPLY! You’ll use these as leads. More companies are using microsites or talent hubs to group similar jobs. Start digging into these and become very familiar with the types of work the companies are doing and any new company initiatives underway. It’s a clue that these companies are expanding if they’re hiring lots of sales people, so check this out, too.
Then follow these companies. LinkedIn has a new feature for recruiters that prioritizes candidates based on their skills and how long they’ve been following the company. So this will help you get higher on the list if you do apply.
Get noticed and get referred.
Still don’t apply.
Instead you need to get referred to people who work at the targeted companies. If you have the skills, are following the company and are referred by someone in the company, you will be at the top of the list. Recruiters always review referred candidates first. However, you’ll need to own this networking advice before getting referred:
Networking is not about meeting as many people as possible. It’s about meeting a few people who can recommend you to other people you don’t know.
Here’s a video on how to implement this 20/20/60 networking plan I advocate.
Make sure you’re interviewed properly.
Make sure you’ve practiced the interview tips in the PowerPoint guide. But the big one is to ask forced-choice questions. At the beginning of the interview ask the interviewer to describe the job and some of the challenges involved. You’ll then need to prove you can do the work by giving an example of something you’ve accomplished that’s most comparable. To ensure all of your strengths and interests are covered, just ask the interviewer if the strength is important for success. Then describe an accomplishment proving you possess it.
Too many interviewers will ask you questions that don’t relate to real job needs, so this more direct approach will ensure you’re assessed properly.
Negotiate the job content, not the compensation.
The essence of a more “dreamlike” job is doing work that better matches your skills and interests. I suggest a career move needs to offer a 30% non-monetary increase. This is the combination of job stretch, job growth and a richer mix of more satisfying work. If you’re being offered a job and have the opportunity to negotiate the terms, focus more on modifying the job in some way rather than emphasizing more money. Not only will the hiring manager be impressed with the approach, you’ll also be more engaged and more productive. The big bucks will follow your performance.
Design, find and get your dream job.
While getting a great job isn’t easy, it’s a lot better than taking a series of lateral transfers and five or ten years later wondering what happened. The above is a realistic way to get a better job. Surprisingly, now is the perfect time to get started finding it.