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There are many misconceptions about job hunting and how to advance your career. For 5 weeks between January and February this year (2021), I was on my Facebook Page every Wednesday doing live and free coaching sessions, busting one myth per week for five weeks. This was a fun project for me, and at the time of writing over 4000 have watched these videos. 

I compiled the best of each of the five sessions to write this article. 

Myth 1: The perfect resume and cover letter will get you the job.

The first myth that I discussed and busted is that professionals assume they will get a job if they have a perfect resume and a cover letter. That is not true.

If you have a great resume and hear crickets back, don’t be surprised! It’s not just the resume that gets you the job. A resume is just one of the many things you have to do as a job hunter to progress in the recruitment and selection process. 

I have created a free worksheet – The Optimized Job Search Schedule – that you can download RIGHT HERE, where I teach you how to optimize your job search; you will see that there’s a range of activities that you should be doing every day, or every week, to optimize your job search, and move faster towards your next role.

This myth can also be an emotional crutch for you, making you not even looking for work because you believe you don’t have a perfect resume and a cover letter. It can keep you from moving forward or moving faster in your career. 

The other problem is making resumes and cover letters that you believe look perfect but are entirely unsuitable to the 2021 job hunting market. A good resume in 2021 needs to be read by humans and by bots. Sometimes a straightforward resume will have better results than a pretty one with a pink side banner and lots of pies and charts, especially if bots do the first reading!

Finally, there is never “one perfect resume” that fits all your job applications. But you can have a master document that will be a framework for you to work from every time you’re applying for a role. You really have to invest time in tailoring and curating your resume and cover letter for the job you are applying for. However, not many people know what exactly needs to be done or how to do that efficiently. 

Myth 2: You need to have perfect answers to all of your interview questions.

This misconception is that your job interview starts when you’re sitting at the office or the zoom meeting with the interview panel or recruiter. Nope, not true. Your interview starts from the moment of the first contact.

I’m going to let that sink in for a little bit…

Throughout your career, as you chat to anybody, be it your colleagues, managers, clients, suppliers, neighbours, they will be considering you (or not) for future opportunities and collaborations. Understanding the power of that, how it goes both ways (you have power over other people’s career as well), and how to be responsible and empathetic towards others, as well develop a good professional image over time, is what will make your career sustainable. 

But how about the actual interview? 

Prepping for a job interview is the most underrated activity of all. Recruiters agree that my consultation service at an hourly rate is a great solution to help professionals when they need it most. But if that’s not something you can invest in, you should at the very least be doing your own interview prep!

And prepping to answer questions in the STAR format will only take you so far. We have plenty of research showing that what comes out of your mouth is only a small percentage of the cues you’re sending out to your potential boss or employer, hiring manager, and recruiter. There’s more you need to train for and get better at doing. Most importantly, it would help if you learned to relax and not let the nerves get the better of you. 

Practicing to answer questions in that STAR format takes practice not to sound robotic, artificial, or fake. It would be best if you were ready to adopt a story-telling narrative rather than say something that you’ve rehearsed over and over again because the questions could be slightly different from the ones that you’ve prepped.  

Myth 3: You are not ready for a promotion.

The comments that I hear from people that reach out to me are, ‘look; I don’t think I’m ready for the promotion or a new job.’ There have been situations when they’ve been tapped on the shoulders by their managers for opportunities, and they have come to me and said, ‘I don’t feel ready.’ You may be sending mixed messages out there to the world!

Why does that happen to us? Why is it that we don’t feel ready? The voices in your head saying you’re not good enough, you’re not ready… that’s not you! Those voices in your head are called resistance, fear, inertia, laziness, de-motivation, procrastination, and perfectionism.

Please put all of that aside. Then think about what you really want for yourself. Some people want to advance in their careers. They want leadership roles. Others want a job that pays the bills, gives them security or flexibility. Figure out what you want, and then invest in making sure that people know what you want. 

Because sending the right messages about your career goals when you’re working with people who can help you get there, is really important. 

And remember: You don’t need to be ready to do the job. But it would help if you were ready to take on the challenge. That’s the difference. 

Myth 4: There are too many candidates out there, and this is why I’m not hearing back. 

Even before COVID, between 60 to 80% of the job applications were not good enough. The problem is if you’re not cutting through, you’re probably in that pool. And this is what needs fixing. So you need to qualify. And the qualification is your online application. 

How do you make your job application stand out?

Myth 5: I’m too young or too old for the job market.

We are living longer and getting healthier, even as we age. So it would be expected that professionals can work longer. If you are over 50, you have a lot of excellent experience under your belt. There will be roles that would need that. These opportunities would be looking at trustworthiness, mentoring, and leadership that you bring to a team. So, how can you best highlight those strengths to make your application stand out? 

On the other hand, you may think you are too young for a promotion. But these days, information is so easily and freely available to everyone that if you are an up-and-coming rising star and want to excel and have ambition, you definitely have the tools at hand to learn to develop yourself. You can move faster than others, so go for it, if that’s your ambition!

Yes, there is ageism and bias out there. That’s something we can’t control, at least not in the short-term. But I can help clients overcome those challenges. If you feel like there is a bias – and some biases are stronger in some industries and countries than others – you have to be aware, acknowledge that, and build that risk into your job-hunting strategy or your career plans. Please don’t shy away from it. Don’t leave it out of your plan as the “elephant in the room” that shall not be spoken. No, you bring it to the forefront, and you tackle it:

As a coach, I can’t fix your age. You can’t fix your age! But I can certainly give you tips and ideas that will help you overcome the mindset that keeps you from presenting yourself in the best light.

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Renata Bernarde is a Career Coach and Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. You can listen to the podcast in all available podcast apps. Download Renata’s Optimized Job Search Weekly Schedule to create the perfect job search routine to suit your needs, no matter how much (or little) time you have.

Donna Burr has been a partner in Watermark’s Interim Management Practice since 2018, deploying senior-level interim executives in both private and public sectors. She focuses on CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CIOs, change & turnaround professionals, senior Finance, HR, Operations, Legal & IT executives. She has completed interim management search assignments across various industries, including Financial Services, Government agencies, Peak Member and Regulatory bodies, Not-for-Profit, Healthcare, Energy, and Utilities.

I interviewed Donna for The Job Hunting Podcast recently (episode 71, which you can listen to in most podcast apps). I asked her the most common questions executives have about job hunting, recruitment, and selection. This is what she had to say.

How to identify your transferable skills?

In Donna’s case, she had a mentor point out to her what her traits or superpowers were, which helped her transfer her skills and develop new expertise. But you don’t need a mentor to do that. Here are her tips for other ways to find out what your superpowers are:

Once you get the answers to these two questions, look for patterns. Your superpowers will be in the answers. Then, you need to develop a narrative and understanding of what they mean in terms of skills you can transfer to a different workplace.

Be ready to accept the answers you will get. Those superpowers might not be what you expected or wanted to hear. Most likely, it will not be “leadership” or anything grandiose! It would be best if you took the feedback on with interest and curiosity. Listen and spend time reflecting on it; it’s what people have seen over a long period of time. 

What to do when you don’t have industry experience?

What happens when you have been working in an industry all your life, and now you find there are not many jobs advertised in that industry? You need to start looking for jobs in industries and companies unfamiliar to you, but the job title and the responsibilities are within your skills and experience. How do you position yourself to compete with other candidates who have industry or sector experience?

  1. Don’t just send job applications anywhere are everywhere! Find out which industry or sector you want to work for, and focus on one or two only.
  2. Once you have niched down, think about what problems that sector is facing. Do your research, read the news, ask your network, be informed. 
  3. Connect with professionals who work in the sector or industry you are targeting. Are there people in that sector that you can meet? Are there professional bodies that you should be connected to within that sector?
  4. Now that you know the sector well, what skills can you use to help organizations solve their critical problems? Donna says, “You’ve got to take the time to understand and marry how your superpowers can come and support them.”
  5. Will you be comfortable helping this sector solve its problems? Is working for this sector aligned with your values? Your head may be in it, but if the heart’s not in it, that will come through in your job application or interview. 

Donna reminded us of something we have heard before in previous interviews of The Job Hunting Podcast “Never answer a prospective employer and tell them, ‘I can do anything.’ This is not helpful. The Tighter you can be about your strengths or superpowers, the more likely it is that people will be able to help you, and an employer will be able to see where you could potentially fit.”

Dealing with ageism when job-hunting?

There are two ways to address ageism when job-hunting:

  1. Stay current – Donna often hears a candidate that says, “I’ve been a CFO for 40 years. I’ve got 40 years of experience.’ Although that shows extensive experience, it is important to showcase what you have been working on for the past three to five years. What are the problems have you solved? How are you getting across digitization in your area of expertise? What are the key changes you’re seeing? In the example Donna used above, “What are the global issues that are impacting CFOs these days?”. Donna agrees that age gives you the war wounds: the experience and perspective to come into an organization and stay calm under pressure. But staying current and up to date will enable you to hit the ground running and blend it with the team. So how are you skilling, re-skilling, or cross-skilling? Are you involved in networking groups or professional organizations? How are you improving your digital literacy?
  2. Network – According to Donna, your network’s strength will absolutely be a lead indicator of your success in finding your next role. If you’re in the market for a job, you need to let your network know. Therefore, it’s important to keep your network current and connected, regularly engaging, not expecting it to be transactional, or only connecting with people when you need something from them.  It’s a two-way street. Make sure you’re helping others as much as asking for their support. 

“Renata, your optimized job search schedule is gold dust!”

Donna and I discussed the importance of a great job-hunting routine to speed up results. If you’re an executive or a job hunter in transition, be disciplined about your week. You need a reason to get up in the morning, a rhythm to the week. It would be best to read the news, map out those sectors you’re interested in and who you need to connect with. You should be looking at your digital profile, your resume and seeking the help that you need. You should be getting out and speaking to people, be it virtually or in person, if possible. Be disciplined about it. There’s no short, quick, fast way to do this.

To help you understand what tasks you should be doing each week to optimize your job search, and choose the best routine for you, download for free the Optimized Job Search Schedule.

For some, the job market is still very competitive. It can be frustrating and demoralizing when you’re getting knock-backs or just feeling like you’re not making progress. Still, be patient, keep the discipline, believe in yourself, surround yourself with people who will help and support you.  Donna and I firmly believe that if you do focus on all those things, you’ll start seeing conversions, leads, and opportunities coming your way! You have to put in the hard work. No one’s more interested in you finding a job than you. It’s not the recruiter’s job; it’s not your friend’s job; it’s not your network’s job to find you a role. 

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Renata Bernarde is a Career Coach and Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. You can listen to the podcast in all available podcast apps. Download Renata’s Optimized Job Search Weekly Schedule to create the perfect job search routine to suit your needs, no matter how much (or little) time you have.

Whether you’ve been job searching for months or you have just started, I encourage you to press reset, sharpen your focus and go through the list of key success factors below. Make sure you are reviewing and addressing them every day during your transition. I hope that by being strategic and building a healthy job search routine, you will – like my clients – have a shorter transition that leads to the best possible outcome for you in 2021.

Regardless of the magnitude of your career goals: be it finding a similar job or making a bolder career change, the strategies below will help make your pitch crystal clear to recruiters and hiring managers: 

1. Understand who you are as a professional and what you offer to employers.

Find out what your strengths and transferable skills are. Even though different sectors require different expertise, they need common essential skills, such as communication, analytical skills, people skills, etc. Please write down your transferable skills and include them in your job search materials, not as a jumble of words, but as the most relevant competencies applied to you. Whether it be an interview, your resume, or your profile, ensure you can speak confidently about the skills you listed and that you have robust examples to back them up. 

2. Ask yourself, what industry, sector, and organizations do you want to work for?

If you are unsure where to go next and curious about industries and companies you don’t know, investigate. You can read about them, and most importantly, talk to professionals who work there. Draw on your network, or start building one. For example, you can tap into your university’s Alumni, former colleagues, and friends. Think outside the box, talk to people from different areas and sectors. Then make sure you make these decisions before you start your job search. Yes, you can revisit later. In fact, you should be reviewing your job search strategy constantly. But sharpen your focus on the industries, sectors, and companies before going to market. Otherwise, there’s a great chance you will feel overwhelmed and pulled in too many directions.

3. Once you identify your preferred industry, find out what knowledge, qualifications, experience, and skills are valued by the hiring managers.

Your research will provide you with important clues that you should use to draft your cover letters, resumes, LinkedIn profile. It should also guide the way to interact with recruiters and even which recruiters to interact with. Good sector analysis will help you learn the sector’s language so you can better explain in writing and conversations how your strengths and transferable skills can support your new career transition. You will feel more confident about your prospects at this stage.  

4. Find a coach to support your transition or at least a mentor.

It is not easy to shift sectors, and having a mentor can help access information to support the transition. And learning how to play the game and win as a job candidate in a sea of highly qualified peers is a steep learning curve. Investing in help at this stage can shave off weeks or months of unemployment, as well as keep you operating at high performance and low-stress levels. It is a competition, and there’s no way around it. The top players usually have top help. Be one of them. 

5. Know your values.

What sort of culture and what kind of organization brings out the best in you? For example, do you work better in an organization where there is a lot of autonomy? Or do you work better in an organization where you’re part of a team? Use the interviewing process to learn more about the organization, the same way they are using it to learn more about you.  Values alignment will make a difference in how long you stay in that organization. Don’t just take the first thing that rolls up along the aisle because it could be a disaster. Transitions can be stressful, but you don’t want to regret your move a few months down the track because you took the first offer, and now you’re miserable again. I’m assuming you can have the privilege of making the most out of your transition period. However, if your situation requires you to find a job quickly, then it may have to be first in best dressed. In that case, don’t forget to keep working on your future career steps and don’t take too long to move again. 

Keep in mind: success occurs when opportunity meets preparation!

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Renata Bernarde is a Career Coach and Host of The Job Hunting Podcast. You can listen to the podcast in all available podcast apps. Download Renata’s Optimized Job Search Weekly Schedule to create the perfect job search routine to suit your needs, no matter how much (or little) time you have.