Do You Have A Personal Game Plan?
In the world of business, companies design and implement various types of annual plans – business, marketing, and strategic. The purpose is to provide a road map to reach their goals, whether they be revenue, profitability, customer satisfaction, cost control, etc. The building blocks of these plans detail the action steps necessary to achieve the plan goals.
For the job seeker, the business templates for these plans are a useful outline to convert the various steps in a business plan into a Personal Game Plan for Job Search, and eventually Career Management.
The link below demonstrates the application of business planning to your job search – and career management:
Using this outline the master template for your own Personal Game Plan, we will now describe in detail each of the ‘building blocks’ of the plan.
I. The Executive Summary
Your Executive Summary is a summation of your professional self, your skills, achievements, and aspirations. It is designed to generate interest and awareness and give the listener (or reader) a brief synopsis of who you are.
Applications of Executive Summary information include effective written statement on your Employment Resume, and clear, confident verbal expression in delivering your Elevator Speech and during your Interview.
II. Situation Analysis I
This first step in self analysis involves the identification of your professional skillset, which you have developed over the course of your career. These skills are both professional and personal and reflect your values. This matrix will help you translate your values into skills, based on your experiences.
The following article about skills that employers value most provides the prominent skills and a description of each (with useful bullet points for a resume):
While these skills are important and may represent target skills, you must make them ‘your own’ in the sense of truly identifying and developing the skills you believe to be the most important. The three files listed below delve into the activities, interests, people skills, and even work environment that you believe are best for you personally. Understanding your attitude toward work, people skills, and where you chose to work assist in skill identification.
Skills are portable – or transferable – in that you carry them with with you from position to position and industry to industry. Skills as learned traits are continually evolving and developing, and, as responsibilities change during your career, new skills are added.
The second step is conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) Analysis. This an internal and external examination of your total value.
Strengths – Skills; experience; achievements; credentials; knowledge; positive ‘no fear’ attitude; handling adverse conditions; managerial expertise; solutions-oriented
Weaknesses – Gaps in knowledge and experience; credentials; past failures
Opportunities – Demonstration of growth and learning; self-improvement; identifying and capitalizing on opportunities
Threats – Undirected, wasted energy; inaction; fear of rejection; ‘plateauing’ in your career
The third step is understanding the four elements of your unique marketing mix:
Product – Think of yourself as a product to be marketed and sold. And think of why consumers buy products – benefits. Consumers like to save money, time, and attention. Employers subconsciously do the same, so don’t talk or write about your features, but stress your benefits – results, achievements, aspirations. Position yourself as a person with a future ( where I’m going to be) as well as a past (experience).
This process is all about self-branding, the art and science ofof people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging.
Aside from professional aspirations, personal branding can also be used on personal-level social networks to flare popularity. The online self is used as a marketing and promotional tool to brand an individual as a type of person; success on the virtual platforms then becomes “online social value [that could transform] to real rewards in the offline world.”
It is important to note and we’re not talking here about being self-absorbed or blatant self-promotion. Rather, managing your personal brand is both a mindset and responsibility, an asset you must protect.
For anyone interested in having a successful career, whether you’re a job seeker, consultant, student, employee or entrepreneur, your personal brand is everything. It’s your reputation, the size and strength of your network, and what unique value you can contribute to a company or your clients.
Price – This is about your Market Value, the relationship between equitable compensation and your responsibilities, experience, and level of achievement. This is in fact putting a price tag on your services.
Promotion – This relates to how you communicate your message (see Executive Summary) and your benefits, whether it be social media, participation in market associations, online discussion groups, etc.
Distribution – This relates to your visibility during the job search, as you actively attend organization and industry networking events, seminars, etc. Visibility enhances your brand image.
III. Communications Plan
In order to refine and provide impact for your Message, craft an authentic statement that truly summarizes the real ‘you.’
One of the chief vehicles of your Message is the Elevator Speech due to its 30 to 60 second length. This is a verbal recitation of this message reveals your Executive Summary of the type of position you are seeking, your skills, experience, aspirations, and interests.
Several samples for illustration purposes are:
I’m a lawyer with the government, based out of D.C. I grew up in Ohio, though, and am looking to relocate closer to my roots, and join a family-friendly firm. I specialize in labor law, and worked for ABC firm before joining the government.
I create illustrations for websites and brands. My passion is coming up with creative ways to express a message, and drawing illustrations that keep people clicking and sharing on social media. I am currently seeking an opportunity to utilize and develop my skills.
One key to successful use of an Elevator Speech is to have a flexible content in mind so you are organized in your thoughts, but an informal delivery style which does not make the content to appear formal or memorized. This style promotes further discussion and puts the audience at ease.
Another vehicle for your Message is the common opening interview question ‘Tell Me About Yourself.” This question give you as the interviewee an opportunity to set the tone of the entire interview, as you can provide a ‘lengthened’ Elevator Speech with illustrations of your achievements, etc.
The Employment Resume is another powerful messaging tool in your Communications strategy.
It is the primary written document that narrates your career journey, highlighting your skills and achievements, and credentials, along the way. It is in many ways a novel -, a success story that balances concise content with a flowing style and format that is reader-friendly. Although it is a factual account, it should have a compelling tone that draws the reader into your world.
Creating interest is paramount in the effort to produce an effective resume, because interest = getting the interview, which is the endgame here.
There are two basic format types for resumes – the chronological (by date) and the functional (by type of position). The following are samples of each.
The Cover Letter which accompanies the resume can be useful in adding a personal touch and highlighting key points on the resume. The following is a sample:
The following articles detail the do’s – and don’ts – of resume content.
The Personal Interview is the moment of truth, the opportunity to open a dialog, create or find common ground between the two parties, and, in short, engage in a conversation. As such, the interview is a two-way street: the interviewer trying to get a feel for the candidate, and the interviewee working to present a positive image, while seeking clues as to the future viability of the position.
The interview is a bit like a schoolyard seesaw, tilting on the fulcrum of common interest and common ground. Therefore, establishing common ground is essential for a successful interview. This ensures a certain understanding of common knowledge that provides a shared topic during the interview, and adds to the probability of a successful outcome.
There is an interview ‘paradigm’ that interviews are essentially a Q&A exercise; certainly, interviewers have specific questions in mind. However, initiating and developing a conversation is far more effective and satisfying for both parties. Use of the STAR technique and implementation of ‘soft’ interview skills are useful tools to stimulate a conversational tone.
There is an intangible, yet real, dimension to interviewing. This is the issue of chemistry, a professional attraction between you and the interviewer that creates an energy and excitement that a good professional ‘match’ has been achieved.
Finally, understanding that a good interview is a conversation, you should be prepared to ask intelligent questions. The nature of these questions reflects on your interest in the position and your processing skills.
Following the interview, the best way to keep the ‘momentum’ going in the employment process is to draft a brief, but memorable thank-you note. This followup, whether written or e-mail, marks you as a professional and reflects good work habits. It is a courtesy that is expected. Here is a sample letter:
Business Networking is a key skill that brings together all of the above elements of your Communications Plan. Yet no one ever said it was easy to be a good networker!
Imagine yourself in a large conference hall at a generic chain hotel packed with hundreds of mid-career professionals wearing nametags. Herds of anxious-looking people mill about snack tables loaded with cheap crackers and cheese. Others are circulating through a maze of card tables where men and women in business casual attire have set out pamphlets and corporate-branded pens.
Your job, over the course of the next two hours, is to make a positive and lasting impression on as many of these people as possible. And maybe even find yourself a new job. Nauseated yet?
Networking is the art and science of building professional relationships, but few of us are naturals at it. There are many excellent reasons to network: to expand your client base, develop business partnerships, find a better job or find some better workers. The more people you meet, the larger your network and the greater the odds of finding the best customers, partners, employers or employees. At least that’s the theory.
But for some of us, namely the many adults who identify themselves as introverts, networking events can feel like the first day of school all over again. So how do you develop a strong and effective professional network if you dread networking?
Think of your Networking goal as sharing and giving and listening – not downloading your life’s story! When you assist someone, it is hoped that they will remember when you need assistance.
Use a planned, stepped process to build your professional network. Focusing on a process will alleviate your fears and give you real direction. It will also make you realize that networking is a tool, not an end in itself.
Start your process by identifying and selecting a number of target networking organizations. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who attends the business networking group – will these be the right contacts for you?
- How many people are likely to be attending?
- What time are the meetings?
- How often are the meetings?
- Is there a membership fee?
- What commitment is required?
The next step in the process is understanding the ‘logistics’ of a networking event.
So perhaps you find the most difficult thing is going up to people and introducing yourself – just remember that everyone is in the same boat as you are – they are here to network and therefore expect and hope you will do just that. Just follow these tips for working the room and your confidence will soar.
- Make the first move – introduce yourself to others rather than waiting for others to come to you – this allows you to choose who you talk to To ease yourself in try heading for that one contact you know however don’t stick with them – after all you already know them
- Look for lone people to speak to – think how pleased they will be to talk to you, after all they want effective business networking, not just standing around watching others.
- Decide whether to approach groups of people depending on how they are standing. (e.g. if there are a couple of people more or less standing side by side then this means they are open to being approached.) If a couple or a group appears ‘closed’ with all parties facing each other then it may be more difficult, so save them until later.
- As you join a couple or group, listen to what they are saying, wait for a lull in the conversation, ask whether you may join them and introduce yourself.
You’ve introduced yourself and you’ve had a good conversation with someone, but the meeting is over and you know instinctively it’s time to move on…what do you do?
Be prepared to move on, it’s all part of effective business networking – once you feel that you have gained all you need from your new connection it is time to move on to the next person– remember that the other person will probably be feeling the same way too.
Move on by:
- suggesting you go and get a drink or something to eat
- by introducing them to someone else asking them to introduce you to someone else you know
- saying ‘I know your time is precious so I shall let you continue networking’
- saying ‘thank you for your time…perhaps we could arrange a meeting another time when we can talk at greater length’
- if all else fails just say ‘well shall we go and introduce ourselves to some more people now?’
As you introduce yourself at a networking event, strive to build a ‘Rapport’ strategy that will make you desirable and interesting to the people you will meet.
- Make eye contact and smile.
- Introduce yourself using your first name only.
- Repeat their name – it always makes people feel good hearing their name and it helps you to remember it.
- Start off by asking really easy small talk questions, such as “Have you been to these events before?”, “who do you know here?” and of course “What do you do?”
- Look for ‘things in common’ to talk about – perhaps there are people you know in common, or are based in the same town or your businesses are related.
- Ask further questions related to what the other person has said which shows you are listening and that you are interested.
- Listen…and show that you are listening.
- Build on what they have said (e.g. ‘the food is good here’ …’yes, it is, I particularly like’..)
- Ask for their business card and make related comments ‘Ah yes, I have heard of your company before – how long have you been established?’
Recall that your ‘Elevator Pitch‘ (described previously) is your initial introduction, ad should be brief but have impact.
Your chief influential skill in networking is in fact you ability to utilize active listening to not only hear, but really understand your audience in a conversation. This is far more important than giving your ‘sales pitch’ to everyone in your network.Work on the image you project at trade, association, outplacement agencies, recruiters, and transition services. Understand your visual, personal impact on your audience.
In addition to effective verbal expression, there is a more subtle, but significant, dimension to networking – the nonverbal cues you shower on your audience.
A word about Business Cards. As a necessary networking tool, should do three things for you:
- Accurately reflects who you are and the services that you or your business provides
- It provides all the necessary information so you can be contacted after networking events
- You will be remembered
When choosing a card ensure that you know what message you want to convey and that the card reflects both what you do and ‘who you are’ from an image point of view.
- Include essential details on your card so you can be contacted:· Your name· Company name· The telephone number of where you like to be contacted· E-mail address· Postal address
- Include key words and phrases which sum up what you do – even better how your products or services can help
- Consider using the AIDA sequence (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) to help lay out your card
IV. Situation Analysis II
In conducting an external market analysis to identify potential markets and employers, you need to understand the value of defining a Target Market. It is helpful to look at your job search project (Game Plan) as if it were a sales and marketing endeavor.
For instance, if you were planning to introduce a new product, you would first need to identify the group of customers who would most likely need or want and purchase your product in order to focus your sales and marketing efforts. You would define that group using demographic factors such as age, income, gender etc.
The same is true in a job search.
Carefully defining your target market job search increases your odds of more quickly finding an organization in which you will be happy. Focusing on organizations you have handpicked provides the additional advantage that your authentic interest in these organizations makes you a more appealing candidate.
Target Market Blueprint
Creating the target market for your job search is simply answering a series of questions and formulating a snapshot of the kind of companies that best fit what you have to offer. The purpose of this exercise is to narrow down the playing field.
The Target Market Blueprint is organized into three separate sections:
- Prospect Profile
These questions focus on the basics for your plan. They are mostly demographic type questions that require some specific data about your target market.
* What industries are you targeting? (technology, health care, finance, manufacturing, retail, services, government, non-profit, etc.)
* Private or Public company? Reason for your choice?
* Prospect location? (local, national, international, multi-location, single office)
* Size of prospective companies? (list both revenue and number of employees)
* What do these prospective companies sell? (products, services, consulting, all of the above)
* What stage of growth are these prospective companies in? (start up, early adopter/innovative, growth, stable, decline)
2. Unique Characteristics
This section looks at special qualities, challenges, issues, and the mindset of your target market. Your answers here are more subjective and intuitive in nature.
* What challenges are unique to this target market? (no management talent, technology issues, highly specialized products, long sales cycles, highly competitive, etc.)
* What political or environment issues are affecting them? (government policy, rules, regulations, etc.)
* What do you anticipate their priorities to be for the upcoming 6 – 12 months?(marketing, sales, technology, new products, contracting business model, etc.)
* What significant problems are these companies dealing with today?
* What does the competitive environment look like for these companies?
3. Your Value Proposition
This section takes what you have identified in your target market plan (above) and matches that up with your value proposition.
* Who are your best prospects for your next career move?
* How might they perceive your special skills and talents?
* What might they want from a candidate like you?
* How can you solve their problems and satisfy their needs?
* How can you increase their profitability?
* What is the potential of this market?
* What is most important to these companies?
Target Market Blueprint Guidelines
- Size of Target Market
You may ask yourself: “How many companies should be on my list?” There is no magic number. Too few companies may not give you enough choices, but too many may spread your focus too thinly. Keep your list to a size that you feel you are capable of working effectively.
2. Where will you be happy working?
What organizations are likely to be interested in someone like me?
What organizations am I most interested in joining?
3. Work Your Target List
- What will I do this week?
- Who will I talk to?
- What will I talk about?
- People effective in their job search are always researching, talking to and talking about their top targets. They constantly improve and refine their target list, taking out less desirable targets and focusing energy on the most desirable ones. Having a dynamic target list helps to keep your target market job search moving forward.
4. Keep In Touch
Use your networking skills to establish a permanent line of communication with your contacts to scout out opportunities and remain memorable.
Informal conversations or simply talking to people is the single most effective way of locating appropriate new employment.
Researching Your Target Market
Here are the chief advantages of taking the time to research:
One of the key aspects of creating a good impression with a recruiter, an interviewer, or a network contact is your knowledge of his/her company and even the contact as an individual.
Without the knowledge provided by research, you risk looking lazy and/or clueless – not characteristics sought by any employer.
At the least, this research should enable you to provide an intelligent answer to the scary job interview question, “What do you know about us?”
The knowledge gained from research will also hopefully help you avoid taking a short-term job. People often grab the first job offer they receive, particularly in a tough economy. That instinct, which seems like self-preservation, may lead you to accept a job that is not a good fit for you or which may be at an employer which is not a good fit.
There are many relevant sources of market research:
Professional organizations. Nearly every industry you can think of has a professional organization. Assocation websites usually have info on current trends, salary surveys, job listings, directories of accredited graduate/professional programs and more
Trade publications & journals. What do people in your ﬁeld read to stay current on industry trends and news? If you don’t know, do some research and ask the professionals you connect with what they read.
Job listing & professional resource sites. There are online communities dedicated to particular ﬁelds where you can often ﬁnd things such as job seeker resources, career guides, discussion forums, job listings, and more. Some of the more popular sites are LinkedIn.com/jobs, idealist.org, mediabistro.com, makingthediﬀerence.org, usajobs.gov, and publishersmarketplace.com.
Employer-specific sources. Once you have created your list of speciﬁc employers, research them! Sources include:
- Annual reports
- Recruiting materials/packets
- Marketing materials
- Media articles and coverage (check out press releases on their website too!)
- And don’t forget social media
- Databases and other resources available through the STL County Library for a wealth of information on speciﬁc employers
As you exercise your marketing expertise in the job search, you will evaluate your pull versus push promotional strategies to best effect.
- Social Media Tools. This includes a strategy of participation and contribution, and even the format of your own online group or an existing group. With more than 380 million members, LinkedIn is the main professional online community that connects many varied business and non profit disciplines and organizations. The LinkedIn profile is a hybrid of your resume, but also describes your endorsements, interests, and features your photo.
2. Traditional Media. Using collateral marketing materials, such as a detailed list of achievements, or a resume ‘brochure’ (to demonstrate your creativity and innovation) can still be effective, while expanding your credentials portfolio
3. Digital Media. This includes having your own website to increase visibility, or a video resume.
4. Volunteerism. Participating in a volunteer organization keeps you active in transition, allows for an additional entry on your resume and LinkedIn profile, and has networking benefits, in that if you’re ‘in the game’ meeting people, they may wind up helping you in your job search.
5. Continuing Education/Certification. This enriches your background, provides intellectual stimulation, and provides another venue for networking.
6. Journalism. Writing articles affords you visibility and develops your reputation on selected topics.
V. Sales Plan
However you may feel about sales as a profession, when in transition between jobs, you as a job seeker are definitely in a sales mode – from networking to resume writing to interviewing.
There is a real relationship between desired sales skills and target skills that are chief assets in a job search.
- an outgoing and likable personality
- confident and authoritative speaker
- strong presentation skills
- confidence in your own abilities
- a high degree of self-motivation
- a passion for selling
- personal ambition
- resilience and persistence
- ability to communicate with people at all levels
- strong negotiation skills
- able to work own your own initiative and as part of a team
- results orientated
- good time management
Keeping these sales skills in minds, a review of the traditional sales process may give you some tips as to what constitutes effective sales strategies in a job search.
Step One: Prospecting
In job search terms, this phase involves identifying target companies who are compatible with your skillset, experience, and future expectations. Initially, you qualify these companies before they move to your target list. Qualification criteria include compatibility, current and future financial state, level of competiveness, and work culture.
Step Two: The Approach
This is the point where initial contact is made with the target company to make a verbal/written introduction to set an interview appointment. There is a recitation of an expanded Elevator Speceh on the phone (or email), followed by a request for a personal interview. The tone of the conversation should be friendly and open, and not sound stressful or at the worst desperate.
Step Three: The Interview
In a sales sense, the interview is a sales call.
As the interview begins, you set the tone with a firm handshake, confident introduction that helps relax the interviewer. You handle the introductory ‘small talk’ and then are ready to get to the business at hand.
Your posture is erect, but not rigid, and you maintain eye contact without staring. Your overall body language is good, and you exhibit active listening skills.
Step Four: The Proposal
Your proposal is that you are the person for this particular position, and you will support your claim with your skillset, track record of achievement (supported by numbers), and your desire to achieve in the future.
Step Five: Demonstration
You provide written and verbal evidence of your claim on the position, as well as a list of professional references who will attest to your performance and attitude.
Step Six: Negotiate
You will seek to manage any objections to your background, qualifications, etc. for this position. Further, you will negotiate any compensation issues to obtain the best possible financial position.
Step Seven: Closing
Your immediate goal on the interview is to obtain a commitment from the interviewer in the form of a job offer. This entails the delicate and sometimes uncomfortable art of asking for the job. This request may take the form of an Assumptive Close (‘how does next Monday work for a start date”), or a Trial Close (when early agreement is reached on an issue, you use that as an opportunity to ask for the job).
Step Eight: Support
If the job is not offered at the end of the Interview, then you begin the followup process with a thank-you note or email. Periodically, you followup on e-mail or phone, using each opportunity to remind the interviewer of your common interests, etc.
VI. Measurement and Control of Game Plan
For any plan to work, there must be accountability. No matter how qualitative the job search may seem, there are quantitative measurement devices that track progress.
One traditional method of measurement is the Weekly Schedule, a calendar of events that ensures progress and advanced preparation. An example follows: