Feet on the Street

Market yourself outside your ‘box.’

HandsThe last few weeks have certainly been difficult for the folks on Wall Street and the companies affected by the credit freeze. If you had asked me if there was a surplus of talent in August, I would have said no. Even with today’s landscape and with more ‘feet on the street,’ I would still be inclined to say no. So take heart; companies will always need top talent with specialized skills.

You may feel that your skills are industry specific and that prospective employers could pigeonhole you. However, many experts believe that certain attributes are transferable, such as strategic thinking and problem solving skills. To quote an excerpt from Caliper, a Princeton-headquartered HR consulting firm who surveyed over 1,000 executives, “Employers want to know whether applicants can solve problems and are conscientious. These attributes are demanded the most, but the most difficult to find.”

The survey goes on to express that problem solving and conscientiousness were selected more than twice as often as other qualities (i.e. the ability to handle stress, being assertive, being agreeable and having good self esteem).

Consider what your bosses and co-workers would say your intrinsic value is to the bottom line. Companies need to be competitive, especially in this economic environment, and they will always be open to hiring people with talent. Apply for a position even if it’s outside your ‘box.’ As maintained by Caliper, 25% of employers frequently hire individuals without the qualities they are seeking most.

Here are some tips to help you market yourself outside your ‘box’:

Attend Industry Events

It’s extremely important to listen to leaders in the industry speak about trends and best practices. Conferences are a terrific way to learn from these select few. Introduce yourself after their speech or panel segment is finished. Ask provocative questions that you have prepared, and increase your chances of being remembered. Hold on to their business cards, and follow up with an appropriate email and then a phone call. Yes, a phone call – it’s called building a relationship!

Do Your Homework

Once you’ve landed an interview, find out about the person you will be interviewing with. Know the company’s business such as their competitive advantage and competitive landscape. Know the names of the founders, the history of the company and be prepared to answer why you would like to work at the company. The internet has given today’s job seekers an edge. Knowing more about a company provides you the ability to ask insightful questions.

Question, Question, Question

I am consistently surprised by people being unprepared for interviews. Being armed with questions is your most basic responsibility. Would you be more inclined to listen to a person who focused expressly on themselves or the person that wants to know all about you and your successful company? Stop selling; start asking questions – it’s the best sales tool ever! Talk about the big picture, but ask for specifics into their way of thinking.

Prioritize Authenticity

At the end of the day the person sitting across the table from you is just as scared about the economy, so why not empathize and share ‘war’ stories. Right now, people do not want to hear your 15-second elevator pitch and why you’re the perfect fit. It’s much more interesting and effective to be honest, and impart examples of your past performance. Just last week I was interviewing a candidate who gave me answers they thought I wanted to hear instead of real life examples from their own experience. If they had just provided me with one example, he would have legitimized his value proposition.

Translate Your Skills into Successes

Take time to consider your skills and how they may be applicable to other industries. Always remain clear on what your value-add is for the company. How can your track record of successes translate into an impressive ROI for a prospective future employer? Revisit accomplishments – think of problems confronted, solutions developed and results achieved. Think about how those situations could be relevant for a different industry.

Work Your Network

‘Who you know’ will often help you land your next opportunity. Network, network and then network again. A positive attitude is contagious, and people enjoy helping people who have this quality. My ‘A’ candidates have terrific attitudes, a good sense of self, and an awareness of their strengths.

Make It Personal

Your career is individual, so show passion for the industry, position and company. When looking outside your industry, it’s wise to ask trusted advisors who work in the field to tell you about what constitutes success. Ask them for their story.

Remember, there are a lot of ‘feet on the street.’ Differentiate yourself. Be passionate, personable, and authentic by asking the ‘right’ questions.