As a recruiter and career consultant, I’m not always the one making the phone calls. Every week, I get phone calls from executives asking for help. “I’m not happy here. I need a change.” And they often conclude with, “I read a job description about an open position at Company X on the Internet. It’s perfect for me. Do you know someone there? Can you help?”
I say, “Sure, sounds like a great job, but why would you want to work at Company X?” I turn around their question. “Tell me, if you could work for any business in any role, what companies would be at the top of your list? And tell me why.”
Here’s the point. People ask the wrong question. Don’t ask, “How can I land that job?” The right question is, “What companies out there are so outstanding that, regardless of the role, I’d love to work for?”
Becoming Your Best Self
Ultimately, the question you should be asking yourself is, “Where do I see myself working, doing a good job, and being happy long term?” The secret is to look for excellence. Look for quality. What companies catch your eye? What companies can you envision helping you become the best self you can possibly become, professionally and personally?
Most people find looking for a new job quite daunting. When they realize they don’t really have to be looking for a job, I hear a big sigh on the other end of the phone, a release of pent-up energy and stress. Relief. It’s all about finding a great match. Start with yourself. Look for companies that embody the same values you deem important.
How Do You Look For Great Companies?
First, you need to look internally. Not inside your current company, but inside yourself. Here are three exercises you can do to help you find the best companies that will be the best fit for you. Spend some time asking yourself these questions and writing down the answers. This is the next step toward finding the job of your dreams, the company of your dreams, and the life of your dreams.
1. Perform a S.W.O.T. Analysis
Most of us have performed some type a SWOT analysis for business purposes. Internal Strengths and Weaknesses. External Opportunities and Threats. Let’s modify it to use in your career search. The purpose is to help you become more aware of everything that could potentially impact the success of a new position, job opening, or career path.
Internal: Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Begin with yourself. List the key skill sets and particular leadership attributes that you bring to any company. What makes you different – hopefully better – than 100 other people with the same business title you currently have? Are you meticulous and thorough? Heavy on innovation and change? Intense or relaxed? Work better on your own? Or leading complex teams? Look for excellence within yourself. What roles do you excel at? What skills do you possess? Do you thrive on straight talk or subtle diplomacy? What are your goals? Do you most enjoy being a little fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little pond?
External: Corporate Opportunities and Threats
Now that you’ve described yourself, identify the corporate settings where you truly thrive. Alternatively, what situations would you perform less than your best? Smart, Six Sigma? Lean cultures? Global operations? Do you love messy situations you can fix? Best-in-breed culture? Performance driven? Metrics driven? Consensus management? Every industry has benchmark companies. Discover the companies who are world-class in performance, or at least committed to getting there.
2. Making the “Excellence” Match
Look at your SWOT results. What are the key factors that make you successful AND fulfilled? In what types of corporate settings do you excel? Use this matrix to discover your best potential connections. This can be the hard part, but it’s also the most rewarding. Most people don’t really enjoy looking for a job, although surveys say that two-thirds of executives in the US land their next position through professional networking. You have to commit to yourself. Set aside the time each week and report back to yourself. Diligence is the key.
Reach out to experts and executives you “almost” know. LinkedIn can give you this information instantly. First, identify your priorities. Need to stay in Chicago or London? Is your expertise in a particular industry vertical? Are you an SAP expert? Insert your critical criteria and find your “almost friends.” Take the initiative. Call them.
3. Get Serious About Connections
Budget time for yourself to make these exploration calls at least one hour a week. Remember, you’re not looking for openings; you’re listening for excellence. So, what does the conversation look like?
When you hop on the phone, try your version of this story. “I’ve been leading distribution operations for 15 years, but I’ve only recently moved to Atlanta. What companies here do you admire because they’re doing great things in supply chain today?”
When your new contacts help you discover one of those elusive companies, call someone you almost know there and say, “People tell me that you have one of the best supply chain operations in Atlanta. We’re both in Georgia and I see we’re connected on LinkedIn via John Smith, whom we both know. Do you have a minute to chat? What did you have to change at your company to arrive where you are today? Can you tell me a little about your personal process?”
You’ll soon get to know amazing new people – people who can position you in just the right place. Be patient. Opportunities will present themselves to you. If you hit a roadblock or get burned out, you can always call us. I’ll do my best to give you the full “Lynn Spin” on finding your next great gig. Keep at it, and good luck!