In honor of renowned author Stephen Covey, who recently passed at the age 79, we’ve taken the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” from his all-time best-selling book, which sold 20 million copies, and applied it to the job search process.
1) Be Proactive
As job seekers, we are responsible for our own career and job search success. Each of us have the fortitude and independent will to make decisions (choices) that can make or break our job search. Being proactive, especially in a down economy, is more than just hunting for job postings as if they were prey…and you were the predator. Being proactive starts by committing yourself to the search itself; make it a priority. Once you’ve dedicated yourself to the search, we recommend that you do 3 things: 1.) Develop a strong customized resume and cover letter that is tailored to each position and organization you are applying to; 2.) Network – whether in person or through social media, networking your way to hiring managers (or what we call the decision makers) is key to any job search; and 3.) Follow-up – don’t be surprised if you don’t hear anything from the employer after having applied. It is your responsibility to follow-up with them to acknowledge receipt of your application, see where they are in the hiring process, and be willing to offer any information to questions they may have. Don’t be the “reactor” – be the aggressor! Being proactive in the job search will be one of, if not the, greatest asset you have going for you.
2) Begin With The End In Mind
Covey once said, “all things are created twice; first, the mental conceptualization and visualization and a second physical, actual creation.” You are your own innovator/navigator, and thus must visualize what a successful job search would look like for YOU! What type of job would be ideal for you? What type of work environment would you thrive in the most? What type of culture and individuals do you see yourself wanting to work with? These are just some of the questions you should ask yourself when developing this visual. As part of that visual, you can then set the stepping stones (goals) as part of the path that will allow you to develop a job search action plan that leads you to the end result you had initially visualized.
3) Put First Things First
When it comes to the job search, no job seeker is or can be successful unless they have strong self-awareness; know yourself. What are your values, strengths, weaknesses, skills, knowledge areas, career goals and personality? By knowing yourself first, you can not only determine what types of positions you are interested in but also know how to represent yourself in your application materials and in the interview. In today’s job market, most employers are looking more at personality and soft skills when hiring. Know what you bring to the table and how it can help their bottom line; but also know what your limitations are. By becoming self-aware first, the rest of the process will seem a lot easier.
4) Think Win/Win
Go in with a winning attitude; in others words…be self-confident. Self-confidence is extremely important in almost every aspect of our lives, yet so many people struggle to find it. Self-confident people inspire confidence in others: their audience, their peers, their bosses, their customers, and their friends. Gaining the confidence of others is one of the key ways in which a self-confident person finds success. If we learn and work hard in a particular area, we’ll succeed; and it’s this type of confidence that leads people to accept difficult challenges, and persist in the face of setbacks. Thinking with a win-win attitude is also about recognizing the small wins. Olympians did not achieve their level of success unless they focused on the small wins…eventually leading them to the top. For instance, applying for a position and getting an interview but no offer is something I would consider a small win. We will all have to face rejection or setbacks, it is how we react to these that determines our success; in other words…keep a positive attitude. Stay focused, believe and trust in yourself…and watch the magic happen.
5) Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
To duck tail what was explained in Habit #3 (Put First Things First), not only is self-awareness important but it is your responsibility to communicate this awareness to your future employer with the goal of being understood. In Career Services we explain to students that the three things employers are analyzing with any applicant: 1.) do you know yourself, 2.) do you know the position, and 3.) do you know the employer. Most students fail to realize that the job posting or position description is their answer key; one that includes a “wish list” of qualifications, strengths, and experiences the employer is seeking. It is also a document that you can use to determine what types of interview questions you can anticipate in the interview. Here’s a tip: go through the position description and highlight all the keywords that represent the skills, experience and knowledge you have. Next, incorporate these into your application materials. After you have highlighted the keywords, determine the 3-5 that are your strongest. These are the qualifications you will highlight in your cover letter, in the summary of qualifications section of your resume, and what you will communicate in the interview when asked any questions related to skills, qualifications, strengths, etc. For additional interview preparation tips, visit: http://www.sph.umn.edu/careers/tipsheets/interviews/.
Having “Synergy” involves being cooperative, being able to work in a team, being open-minded, and being willing to find new solutions to problems. Lets face it…there are very few jobs that do not require the need to work with others. How well do you work with others? Are you able to see things from different perspectives? Are you able to develop multiple solutions to problems? Are you able to know what you don’t know and who to go to for assistance? These questions and more are among those that employers are seeking answers to. The employer has needs to fill and problems to solve – it is your responsibility to convince them that you have the ability to be the solution. By communicating effectively, being flexible and adaptable, and having strong problem solving skills are what will make you an ideal job candidate for any employer.
7) Sharpen The Saw
A dull saw is like a pencil with no lead…it won’t get the job done! The same applies to you! It is essential in any job search that you take the time to re-energize or replenish yourself. The job search process can be exhausting at times, so it is important to avoid job search burnout by sharpening the saw…in other words YOU! These techniques include, but are not limited to, exercise and healthy eating, reading, volunteering, meditation, traveling or participating in a recreational activity. We don’t all use the “saw” the same amount, so some of us have to sharpen the “saw” more often. Stay sharp my friend!
For more information about Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, please visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weYmwv2iyR8.