7 Things All Job Seekers Should Know About Themselves

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Searching for a new job can often be a lengthy, frustrating process. Yet, you have a much better chance of success when you take the time at the beginning to understand yourself, your goals and your value. Here are seven things worth clarifying in your mind at the very beginning:

1. Your career goals. Are you looking for a job or a career path? Your approach will be different depending on if you are either desperate to just take anything for an income flow; or if you are in the midst of a career change; or if you are young and on the way up; or if you or are working just to keep busy.2. What your next job will mean for your longer-term career. If you don't expect your next job to last for a long time, or if you see it as a stepping stone to something else down the line, you need to consider that what you do now will be at the top of your résumé during your next job search.

Ask yourself if the particular role, responsibilities and expected accomplishments you can rack up in the job you now seek will align with the expectations of the next hiring manager you want to impress. If not, you may be raising a red flag that will affect you the next time around.

3. Your value. The value you offer to a perspective employer is comprised of many factors, both in and out of your control. You can't, for example, change the overall supply of and demand for people with your background and skill set.

However, you can add to your own value by demonstrating particular unique accomplishments in your field, the value of accounts or clients you can bring with you to your next job, your high status in your own professional circles and so forth.

Remember that your compensation isn't based on what you need to live on or what you want to earn. It depends on your overall value in the competitive marketplace of similarly skilled individuals seeking comparable positions in your geographic area.

4. Your skill set. Skills are abilities you utilize to get things done. They can be anything from your ability to use a certain programming language to your ability to persuade customers that your product or service is the best solution to their problems. It is important to be able to differentiate between your skills, responsibilities, actions and accomplishments. It is customary today to provide a list of your top 10 to 15 skills that relate to the work involved with a job to which you are applying. This list often appears near the top of a résumé, typically in two or three columns.

5. What you can actually accomplish. It's important to be able to envision yourself in a new role before you try to convince the hiring authority that you are the best possible candidate for the position. When you do, you'll be able to include something about what you can accomplish in the first 30, 60 or 90 days in the position in your cover letter and discuss it in more detail in an interview.

Many employers will be wowed when you come into an interview with a PowerPoint presentation that demonstrates your understanding of the role, what you would do in it and your own targets for success.

However, don't falsely raise expectations just to get a job. Otherwise, you'll be laying the groundwork for your own short-lived employment when you don't produce what your boss had reason to hope for.

6. Your shortcomings. Maybe you can do the work, but because of inexperience, it will take you longer to do it than someone who is an old hand. Maybe you've got 80 percent or 90 percent of the background necessary, but you need to stretch to fill the rest.

The really solid and valued employee continually strives to turn weaknesses into strengths. When you are asked about areas of weakness, you should be able to acknowledge them and, at the same time, put forth a plan for how you will master these areas of professional competence.

7. Your past accomplishments. Accomplishments are the end results of a given effort. They are not the actions you took, but rather what happened because you took them. People often fail to distinguish between what their job as been as opposed to what they have done.

Chances are strong that other candidates against whom you are competing share similar responsibilities as yours but have achieved different qualitative or quantitative results. When you speak about your accomplishments, you demonstrate your unique ability to turn your skills into results of value. And, ultimately, every employer is looking to hire the people who can offer the highest potential value for their company.

When you're clear about your skills, what you've done and what you've achieved, you'll be able to position yourself as a person of value and show how your past accomplishments can be the basis for future success at your new job.

Happy hunting!

Arnie Fertig, MPA, is passionate about helping his Jobhuntercoach clients advance their careers by transforming frantic "I'll apply to anything" searches into focused hunts for "great fit" opportunities. He brings to each client the extensive knowledge he gained when working in HR staffing and managing his boutique recruiting firm.
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