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Know Your Story!

One step you should take that will transform your relaunch energy and confidence

By Kendell Brown

Kendell Brown is a former member of the iRelaunch Career Coaching team. Founder of Ascension Careers and a relauncher herself, She works with clients with to ascertain and achieve their career goals via strategic planning, positioning and branding assessments, identifying transferrable skills and providing counsel for working through challenging work situations.

When it comes to job searching, what’s more important that a well-written resume, polished LinkedIn profile or a well-crafted cover letter? It’s knowing your story. When job searching, people are always curious about you. What kind of work have you done before? How has your career progressed? What do you like to do? What do you want to do next? Why did you leave your last job? Some of those questions are easy to answer; others require more thought and there are probably some don’t know the answer yourself. No matter where you are in the job search – just getting started, ready for interviews, or somewhere in between – you need to be able to articulate your story so that it accurately portrays who you are and what you’re about. The following is a list of critical story elements that will ensure a smoother job search:

Know your imperatives

What are your “must haves”? Think through what you need to accept an offer. Is it a salary minimum, a certain set of responsibilities, a short commute, or the ability to wear jeans in the office? Define your non-negotiables early. Knowing what you will say “yes” to and what won’t be attractive to you can help you determine whether or not a job is worth pursuing.

Know your transferable skills

What strengths and talents will you leverage? Think through your prior roles, volunteer experiences, natural instincts, etc. and determine what skills you have. Old performance reviews are a terrific resource for reminding you of how you perform best. Additionally, review what you’ve done in your time off. Have you continued to refine these skills during your career break? Be sure you can articulate that the foundation of these skills was built while you were working, but that you have continued to grow them while away from the workforce.

Know your goals

What are your ambitions? Of course, an immediate goal is to get a job. However, employers want candidates who will positively impact their organization in the long term. Establish post-job search goals (Yes - one day the job search will end!). These goals will actually influence how you conduct your search – you’ll focus on career development vs the next job. It’s beneficial to consider what you want for the role after this one and the one after that. Perhaps the company with the strong training program and a history of giving employees stretch opportunities is the one you really want to target. It may require greater effort, yet you’ll be more committed to staying.

Know your challenges

What are the red flags of your candidacy? Be ready to address what gives hiring managers concern. A long career break leads to concerns about up-to-date skills and/or a commitment to working. Take classes (online or in person) to show you can handle the technical aspects of a role. Look for opportunities for freelance work or ad hoc projects to show you can handle the logistics of returning to the work force. No experience in the field you want to enter? Subscribe to journals, follow opinion leaders and monitor industry happenings to highlight your dedication to this next-career step.

Know your reason

What is your motivation for returning to work? Job searching is filled with disappointments, and it can be difficult to remain energetic and enthusiastic. So, when you feel like you can’t write another cover letter or have another coffee chat remind yourself why you want to work. Stepping back and focusing on the reasons for your efforts can help you do what needs to get done to achieve your return-to-work goals.

Know how you got here

What’s your origin story? Employers expect to assess candidates whose career progress is a straight line from point A to point B to open position. When your candidacy differs from expectations, you have to articulate why you chose a different path and how that difference is unimportant. To do so, you must be able to discuss your choices without apology. Instead of “I’ve been out of the workforce for a while, but I’m confident that I can get up to speed,” try something like, “After a fast-track engineering career, I took time off to raise a family. During that time, I honed and developed my soft skills, particularly leadership and persuasive communication via a variety of volunteer roles. I’m excited to bring together my technical skills and my more-recently honed soft skills in this new role.” Although, you may not be the candidate the employer envisioned, they’d be delighted to talk further with you.

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