career support

New Year’s Resolution: New Job

After you get past health related goals and the desire to quit smoking, one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is finding a new job.  While you may feel inspired to seek greener professional pastures as you watch the ball descend in Times Square, New Year’s Day comes with a sobering reality: getting a new job is easier said than done.  The “how” and “where” and “what” of your job search will ultimately be the easiest part and so the first step in your process should be defining your “why”.

What does your current role lack that you are looking for?  Are you looking to advance your career?  Or diversify your skill set?  Is your current company unstable and you’re looking for greater longevity?  Are you looking for better benefits?  Is your job search just an attempt to get more money?  Defining your motivations for a career change is as important as any other step of the process.  As I tell many of my candidates, “money isn’t always the best motivator.”  Be honest in your assessment of your current role and how it falls short for you.   Understand, in advance, what you value most, what type of culture you’re seeking in the work environment and where you’re willing to make compromises when it comes time to accept an offer.

Now that you have your “why” defined, work on the “who”.  Your resume will be, in most instances, your introduction to your new company and the way you make your first impression.  Another piece of advice I often give my candidates is, “be true to yourself and represent yourself authentically.”  Most resumes, however, are FAR too long.  Hiring managers have day jobs and limited time to review the pool of candidates for their role.  Keep your resume tight and tidy and to two pages when you can.  Never more than three.  That “purpose statement” or “objective” at the top?  Delete it.  The college internship you had 20 years ago in the industry?  Irrelevant.  For senior level folks, spend the first page summarizing your last 10 years and the second page foot noting everything else.  More mid-career or junior level people can potentially even get their experience summarized in a single page.  Link your LinkedIn profile in your resume and use that as a platform to talk further about yourself (more on that in future posts).

Your resume should have both qualitative and quantitative talking points.  Job seekers will too often repeat less relevant details or include Microsoft proficiency while failing to provide data on the key parts of their background.  How many people do you manage?  What is the overall revenue of the project(s) you support?  How much were the cost savings from your initiatives?  In the government and defense market, where I work, be specific about your clients.  Which DOD agencies are you experienced with?  What part of cyber security have you focused on?  How does your current company define logistics?  If you have certifications you’re proud of or that are extremely valuable in the market then list them, but leave off the internal leadership training you did 8 years ago along with your lifeguarding certification (unless of course you’re trying to become a lifeguard).  Instead, use the room to layer in additional detail about the key parts of your work history and what makes you unique compared to the 100 other applicants for each role.

Job boards and LinkedIn aren’t the only place you should be shopping for a new job.  They aren’t even the first place you should start.  Take a look around your current organization.  Are there jobs there that interest you?  Is there any opportunity to apply some unique skill you have on your current team?  Take your updated resume and sit with your supervisor and let them know what your interests are.  Give them a chance to provide some cross training, or additional responsibilities.  One piece of advice I give my candidates is, “ask for what you want.  Even if the answer is ‘no’, you’ll have more information to base your next decision on.”

Marketing yourself internally may not result in an offer immediately, but good employers see the value in employee engagement and retention.  After all, the cost of replacing an employee is one-half to two times base salary.  It’s estimated that in 2019, US business lost nearly $1 trillion dollars to voluntary turnover and that was before the “Great Resignation” and COVID-19.  For employers, upscaling is a trend savvy companies in the manufacturing sector began focusing on in the mid-2000’s.  With shortages remaining within the labor market, government contractors would be wise to take a page from that playbook.

If it truly can’t work out with your current employer, then you know what happens next: online applications.  Most of us, especially in the government contracting market, will be applying to medium or large size companies that have dozens of openings at any given time.  These openings can sometimes get hundreds of applications and recruiters often do not look at every resume.  The process is unavoidably impersonal.  What’s worse; most Boolean search strings are either not used by recruiters or are ineffective in the various applicant tracking systems.  The largest government contractor out there had 447 job openings within 50 miles of my zip code at the time of writing.  The average job opening gets more than 250 applications, which means this contractor is dealing with over 100,000 applications in my area alone at this moment.  Unfortunately, this means that quite often you’re applying and never getting a look.  I see so many posts of job seekers taking this impersonal process personally.

One study has shown that 80% of jobs are filled through networking.  If you are applying cold to a company, then know it could take as many as 50 cold applicationsto get a new job.  That is a lot of applying.  Increase your chances by looking through your network.  See a job you like and you want to apply to?  Your next step should be finding someone you know who’s working over there.  They may be able to give you insight as to what’s happening internally or better yet, ensure your resume is fished out of the sea of applications that HR is looking at.  Most companies have some sort of referral program where the employee receives a small bonus for recommending you.  Leverage your network and it’s a win for both you and your colleagues.

A study that included more than 800 million activities predicts that nearly 80% of all New Year’s resolutions are abandoned, for good, by January 19th.  Even worse than giving up on your job search is being one of the 54% of people who “quick quit” or leave a new job in less than six months and start this process all over again.  Finding your new job, the right job, takes time, plenty of patience and lots of hard work.  Good things rarely come easy so expect to have to grind it out.  Deliberately take a moment every few applications to review the kind of questions you’re seeing.  Are there shifts in job descriptions that leave your resume lacking?  Are you aiming too high or too low for your next role?  Check back in on your motivating factors.  Does it feel like your search will generate the job that you want?  Talk with trusted colleagues and former co-workers.  As much as 96% of the workforce may also be looking for a job in 2023 and there is plenty of wisdom that can be gained from the success or failure of others.  If you’ve made it this far (both in the process and in this post) then stick with it.  Don’t be part of the 80% that made a resolution and abandoned it.

Andy is the Senior Account Executive and Talent Acquisition Consultant for Precision Talent Solutions, a proud husband and father, and a great listener.