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This post is the 4th in a series of 5 posts regarding career development planning. You can find earlier posts in the series by clicking here.
The “Pathway to a Successful & Satisfying Career” includes four key steps:
- Campaign, and
- Ongoing Reflection & Transformation
Previous posts addressed the Assessment and Alignment phases. This post will address Part A of the Campaign Phase (Steps 1 –3).
Setting Your Foundation
Congratulations! Based upon your work during the Assessment and Alignment phases you have:
- Completed assessments to identify your unique parameters, including your abilities, skills, values, interests, personal style, career goals, and how your family background may influence your career.
- Created a career vision statement that aligns your career life and personal life, is easy to understand yet specifies who you are, what you want to become, and the impact your desire to have on the world.
- Targeted career options and companies that match your career vision; and
- Identified a network of influencers and decision-makers that can help you achieve your desired career.
That is a significant effort, but you are not across the finish line yet! You have prepared well, but your work is not complete. It is time to Campaign for your career. You have to “package” yourself, put on your “sales” hat, engage with your network, inform them of your value, and put them in a position to help you. That requires a process with repeatable steps, activity and persistent follow-up, tools to make the process efficient, and belief and conviction in your career vision statement.
The Campaign Phase – Making It Happen!
It is worth pointing out again that your efforts and success in the Campaign phase depend upon the quality and validity of your Career Vision Statement. If you have not yet finished the work to create a Career Vision Statement, then you are not ready to launch your Campaign. Go back and finish your work! Your Career Vision Statement is the core of everything you will do during the Campaign Phase.
The Campaign phase consists of six critical repeatable steps that position you to secure your desired career opportunity. These steps include:
- Creating your professional “brand.”
- Target your audience and message them.
- Actively engage your target contacts.
- Create proof that you are the ideal candidate.
- Actualize the opportunity, and
- Negotiate and close the deal!
Steps of the Career Campaign Phase
Step 1 – Creating Your Professional Brand
Building your professional brand consists of crafting your resume, social media profiles, cover letters, and other supporting material with the same overriding theme as your career vision statement. Your professional brand is the impression you want to leave with people, and it is the heart of who you are, what you want to become, and the impact you desire to leave on the world. It is not the same as your Career Vision Statement but encompasses the same messaging. It is the smart use of words and phrases without being too cute or overly clever. It is the first thought that you want to come to people’s minds when they think of you in a professional sense.
There are numerous resources to help you craft your professional brand through a resume, social media profiles, cover letters, and other supporting material. You know best what’s behind your Career Vision Statement and are in the best position to translate that into messaging that builds your professional brand. To help you craft your resume, consider the free resume builders on Indeed or that offered by Austin Belcak at Cultivated Culture. Money.com also has an annual review of resume tips and recommendations based upon trends in career development, along with templates.
If you need professional help in crafting your resume and messaging, consider paying for someone to help craft it for you, including Virginia Franco Resumes, or Great Resumes Fast. Keep in mind that professional resume services will cost between $1,000 and $5,000 depending upon your targeted role and level of experience.
In terms of social media, LinkedIn is your most valuable resource. With more than 575 million users (including 260 million active monthly users), LinkedIn is the most influential and potentially helpful source of network connections and career intelligence for professionals. Experts are specializing in establishing your professional brand on LinkedIn, such as Bob McIntosh on Things Career Related. Read his posts on how to optimize your LinkedIn profile. While your LinkedIn profile will carefully follow the branding strategy you use on your resume, it has some unique differences regarding keywords, placement of those keywords, dynamic updating of your information, etc. Ignore LinkedIn at your peril! Stay tuned – there is more regarding LinkedIn in Step 3 – Engage.
Step 2 – Target Your Audience & Message Them
You now have a terrific professional brand. However, without telling people about it, it has little value. Unlike practices past, your strategy will be to target those people that are in a position to help you. The help comes in two forms – influencing or decision making. Influencers cannot hire you, but they can support your efforts by making connections to decisionmakers that can hire you and potentially recommend you for the position. Decisionmakers can hire but can also create jobs to solve challenges they face (more on this in Step 4 – Proof).
At this point, many people refrain from “putting themselves out there” for fear of being told, “no thanks.” Such feelings are natural but also serve as a form of creative tension. No champion ever enters competition without a sense of creative tension! It is what produces the adrenaline to keep you motivated and on your toes. It is a necessary part of the process, and your efforts will pay off, even if they are not picture perfect.
How do you start? By sending a simple message outlining your objective and asking for some brief time. Austin Belcak of Cultivated Culture has a terrific process for messaging that you can find here (Note: Austin’s website is a treasure trove of tips and tricks for the entire Campaign phase). Austin’s “secret sauce” for getting noticed involves researching your contacts background and finding something in common with the connection. Topics can include projects they are working on, their unique experience, a mutual relationship, or anything that bridges the immediate divide between you and the person. Next, use a subtle but straightforward description in the Subject Line of the email message, like “Quick Question.” Finally, write three brief sentences that outline why you desire to connect, your insights on the topic in common, and your desire to meet with them to share some thoughts. Appeal to them as a potential mentor. If people understand your objective and believe it to be honest, they will try to help you. Austin provides several examples on his website, but here is one of the best:
Subject: Quick Question
My name is Austin , and I currently work at Cultivated Culture. I was browsing through LinkedIn and came across your information – I hope you don’t mind me reaching out of the blue here.
I saw that you have extensive experience in Google’s Technology B2B vertical, and I’m very interested in learning more about that space. I would love to have the opportunity to run some questions by you, as well as tap into any advice you may have given your knowledge of the industry.
I know that your time is precious so please don’t feel to need to respond in depth. If you do have 5 minutes to chat, I would appreciate it.
Create and send similar messages to all of your target contacts to set the stage for the next step, Engage.
Step 3 – Actively Engage Your Target Contacts
Sending your target contacts a simple email is engaging them, but it is not active engagement. Active engagement builds upon your initial research and looks for opportunities for you to provide additional insight, resources, tips, suggestions, or educated commentary as it relates to your target contacts. Again, LinkedIn provides the perfect venue to actively engage your target contacts, assuming they have a LinkedIn profile and post on the platform. Ideally, you should actively engage a few times before you send your “Quick Question” email message. That way, they have a frame of reference and familiarity and will be apt to accept your invitation to chat with them.
Active engagement takes time, lots of time. Expect to devote a few hours a day actively engaging your target contacts (done after hours if you are currently employed). It also requires critical thinking and offering insights, opinions, resources, etc. of value to the target contact – something that enriches the ongoing discussion on social media and provides a unique perspective. It is not “stalking,” and it is much more than “liking” someone’s post or comment. Keep the interaction professional and within reason, in line with the professional brand you are promoting. Block out time to actively engage your target contacts, think about your contribution to the engagement, and keep the conversation professional.
To help you stay organized you need a tool, namely a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Consider signing up for the free individual user versions of Capsule CRM or Hubspot. These online tools are great for capturing and organizing all information relative to the conversations you have with your contacts. In addition, you can create follow-up notices and tasks and can also monitor when your contacts click on and open your emails. For those that prefer a spreadsheet, you can find an example of one here from Austin Belcak. Keep in mind, however, that the online CRM tools offer greater flexibility and more ways to capture, organize and track your information gained during your conversations. Pick a tool and use it to keep yourself on track, accountable, and organized in the eyes of your network.
The next post in this series will outline Part B of the Campaign phase (Steps 4 – 6), so stay tuned. In the meantime, where are you along the path? If you need help, a process to follow, or a source of subtle but effective accountability, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit my website, https://www.cfpathways.com, for more information.