In this tough job market environment, candidates who know the importance of positioning themselves to meet the needs of a company and do it wisely will have the shortest searches. But before you update your resume based on the latest self-marketing fad, ask yourself these questions (your answers will improve the likelihood that the new job will last).
• What is your sweet spot? That is, what do you do very well that you also really like to do? If you haven’t figured that out, take the time to do so before you look for your next position. It will make your search more exciting and the job you get a much better match. You can start by creating a list of the things you usually make time to do even if you are exhausted. Be as specific as possible.
If volunteering comes to mind, think about what part of that effort you enjoy most. Is it organizing events, mobilizing people, doing research, writing, facilitating, accounting, or sales? These skills should be your keywords when doing job searches—even if you haven’t used them at work or in the recent past. They also should be the strengths you write about in cover letters and resumes and talk about during job interviews.
• What sets you apart from other applicants with similar skills? Often, these differentiators reveal themselves through past accomplishments. What have you done at work or elsewhere that made you proud? If you analyze what you did, what personal characteristics become apparent? For example, some problem-solvers arrive at their solutions through persistence while others do so thanks to their creativity.
What characteristics make you who you are? If you aren’t sure, ask others who have seen your work. What do they think you do well or is special about you? They have probably noticed some things you might take for granted. But do not forget that being bilingual and bicultural also set you apart and provide added value if the employer serves the Latino market.
• What companies need people with your top skills? Job postings using your keywords also will help you with this question. But you also should do some research through recent articles in trade publications and websites so you can spot trends and needs that can best help you position yourself. Perhaps more importantly, talk to people in your field and in your industry to corroborate your findings—and to connect with others who might become important networking contacts.
If you can’t join them, at least participate in some of their events or follow and contribute to their blogs. (FYI, networking is the major reason why people become involved in professional associations. But if you don’t know what you need, you can’t ask for it.)
• Why do those companies need people with your skills? This question goes hand-in-hand with the previous one, and the answer can be obtained using the same tools; research and networking. Your objective is to uncover the major issues companies are facing so you can position your skills (your sweet spot) as the best solution to those challenges. For example, a hospital may need someone who can manage multicultural teams. How can your bilingual and bicultural skills add value given your past managerial experience?
• How do you communicate your value? Once you do all that homework, you also must be able to communicate how your strengths can help a potential employer—first through your resume and later during the interview. While we Latinos are discouraged from tooting our own horn, today’s hiring managers will likely eliminate anyone who appears to lack self-confidence. To avoid that perception, prepare a script that includes all the ways in which you can meet the needs of the companies you identified.
Practice telling the script to mentors, past colleagues and bosses, and anyone who’s willing to hear it and provide you with feedback. If the thought still makes you uncomfortable, consider using third-party comments. For example, “my past supervisors have said that my consultative skills made me an excellent accountant.” Last but not least, show passion for the work you want to do. Employers often overlook a missing skill or two if they connect with the candidate and sense their enthusiasm.