Five must-do items on your to-do list

Going into 2018, a few fundamental truths appear.

One, doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that we were saying, “Going into 2017…”? Two, not only is time passing quickly, so are the spectacular changes that come with that. Never before have we dealt with the scope, pace, and succession of change at the levels we’re now witnessing. And three, 2018 is a mid-term election year. Election years always have interesting effects on – or at least correlations with – the job market.

So here’s the real fundamental truth number one: whatever your current situation, you’d better be ready for anything. Whether the job market continues its growth or things suddenly become turbulent, you can’t let yourself be caught unprepared. As sure as you’re reading this, you can bet on what I’ve just said.

So if we don’t know exactly what will happen, what does this mean, practically speaking?

Well, for one, election years – and the heated scenarios they produce – make for shaky conditions when you look at job creation numbers. In general, the more contentious the rhetoric, the more unpredictable the numbers will be. One thing is certain, though; employers don’t like uncertainty – never mind hostility – and will hold back on hiring faster than the next rhetorical missile can be fired. We’ve seen it before.

And nothing tells me that this election cycle is going to mark a return to civil discourse, so the fact that corporations have more cash in the bank than ever, does not for a minute mean they will use that cash to increase hiring. That was clearly demonstrated last year.

So what does being ready for anything look like? From a career coach’s point of view, it means five things, which are, coincidentally, the five things that any career coach ever works on.

Make sure you get each of these tools in your bag into the best possible working order:

  • Résumé, letters, and profiles. In other words: the way people see you before they meet you. Remember, almost always, the first time you meet someone is not the first impression you make; these written items are. And given the fact that more than 95 percent of all candidates are vetted on LinkedIn first, there’s little mystery in this. Your résumé, cover letters, and profiles have got to be absolutely top notch. No ifs, ands, or buts.
  • Our biggest challenge is not interviewing skills; it’s interviewing strategies. More aptly, it’s the lack of strategies that kills more candidates than anything else. The basic skills are ones you were taught since you were a kid: make eye contact, be positive, pay attention, don’t interrupt, think before you speak, etc. But what’s your strategy going in? The person interviewing you has a set of strategies for the meeting. Therefore, you must, too. Problem is, most people don’t.
  • Job search. We’ve had more than 20 years of proof that job boards are, for the most part, terribly ineffective, yet the most common first answer I get when I ask new clients how they’re conducting their search is: job boards (usually by name, which I’ll not delineate). The next question is always, “And how’s that working?” You know the answer. It’s what I call “click and pray.” A good, strong, comprehensive job search, on the other hand, is both strategic and tactical, but the one word that best describes it is “proactive” – good goal setting, focused targeting, effective networking, and diligent follow up and follow through.
  • Career planning. This is both long- and short-term, and is so fundamental that it shouldn’t even have to be discussed. But it’s astounding how many people – working or not – don’t have even the hint of a plan. As Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” (Funny, many people ascribe this to Yogi Berra. Sounds like him, right?) General Dwight Eisenhower used to say, “Plans are fine until the fighting starts.” Then he added, “In preparing for battle, I’ve learned that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.”
  • Career networking. For the umpty-umpth time, networking is not something you ramp up whenever you need a job. That’s not networking; it’s just getting others involved in your job search. The cardinal rule of networking is (and always has been) “A.B.C.” – “Always Be Connecting.” Networking is a state of mind, a state of being – and good networkers never have to ramp up. They’re always there.

There ya’ go: your five must-do items.

Don’t leave 2017 without them.

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