While looking for a job, all job seekers want to get the best one, fast! And the best route you can take to succeed in your job search is identifying the habits that can help you on your journey.
Keen on knowing what these habits are?
These are 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey which you might know already. I have taken the essence of these exact habits to help you be effective in your job search.
Let’s dive in!
Covey believes the way we see the world is entirely based on our own perceptions. Similarly, we see the job market based on the perceptions we have about how our friends, colleagues, and others we know of have approached the job search and got one.
Most of us are looking for quick fixes. We see a person who got the job we fancy, and ask, “How did you do it? Teach me your techniques!” But these “shortcuts” that we look for, hoping to save time and effort and still achieve the desired result, are simply band-aids that will yield short-term solutions. They don’t address the underlying condition.
“The way we see the problem is the problem,” Covey writes. In order to get the best-suited job, we must allow ourselves to undergo paradigm shifts – to approach the job search in a fundamentally new way and not just alter our approach on the surface level – in order to get the truly-deserved job.
That’s where the seven habits of highly effective job seekers come in:
- Habits 1, 2, and 3 are focused on the changes you can bring in your self to move from dependence to independence.
- Habits 4, 5, and 6 are focused on developing a strong system by collaborating and communicating with others to move from independence to interdependence.
- Habit 7 is focused on continuous growth and improvement and embodies all the other habits.
Habit # 1 – Be Proactive
We’re in ones in charge of our job search. We choose the scripts by which to live our lives. We need to use this self-awareness to be proactive and take responsibility for the choices we make during the job search.
Put simply, in order to be effective in job search we must be proactive.
Reactive people take a passive stance – they wait for jobs to be published to apply. They say things like:
“I have applied to all the jobs. There’s nothing more I can do.”
“There are hardly any job openings these days.”
Or “The job market is saturated. I will have to wait for the right opportunity.”
They think the problem is “out there” – but that thought itself is the problem. Reactivity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and reactive people feel increasingly victimized and out of control.
Proactive people, however, recognize they have a responsibility – or “response-ability,” which Covey defines as the ability to choose how you will respond to a given stimulus or situation.
To be proactive, we must focus on the Circle of Influence that lies within our Circle of Concern- in other words, we must work on the things we can do something about.
All jobs require a very important skill – problem-solving.
To understand this, let’s quickly discuss – why employers hire in the first place?
They hire because of one of the 3 reasons –
- Someone working with them has left and they need to backfill the position.
- Someone is on long leave or a sabbatical and they can’t manage without that headcount.
- Or they have a new project/requirement that has come up for which they would require additional manpower.
In all the scenarios, there is one thing that is common. Any guesses?
There is a problem that employers are facing and they want that to be solved. By getting this problem solved, they will be able to solve the bigger problem their customers have. This will eventually get them more business.
Thus you need to ask ourselves –
What problems can you solve or have solved in the past?
How can you showcase your solutions in your resume, on your LinkedIn profile, or in the conversations you have with people in your network?
Reflecting on these questions will present opportunities for you to showcase your problem-solving skills. When employers know that you have solved the problems (or similar problems) they are facing right now, it’s easy for them to make a choice!
Challenge yourself to be proactive by doing the following –
1. Replace reactive language with proactive language.
Reactive = “There is saturation in the job market.”
Proactive = “I will showcase my problem-solving skills to get noticed and create job opportunities for myself.”
2. Convert reactive tasks into proactive ones.
3. Know that you have repose-ability.
Habit # 2 – Begin with the End in Mind
Start with a clear job role in mind. We can use our imagination to develop the ideal job that we want to be doing and use our conscience to decide the attitude, knowledge, and skills that will help us get there.
We take pride in being busy. We have always grown up hearing – hard work is the key to success. So during the job search too, we keep working hard to look for job openings, connect with people to ask for a job recommendation, apply to as many jobs as possible, and get noticed. But we don’t often stop to evaluate if this busyness is getting us where we really want to be or not.
Yes, it is absolutely true that out of many jobs that you apply for you will get shortlisted for a few. But are those many jobs that you are applying to relevant to you?
I have seen most job seekers apply to jobs looking at the title or at best giving a glance at the job description. But does this job match the job you truly want to be doing?
Habit 2 suggests that, in everything we do, we should begin with the end in mind. Start with a clear destination. That way, we can make sure the steps we’re taking are in the right direction.
It is imperative to understand that hard work is mindless action. It won’t pay off. Hard work in the right direction will surely do.
Beginning with the end in mind, thus is extremely crucial for a job search. Being a job seeker is about getting a job. But being an effective job seeker is about knowing the ideal job for you, and asking, “What is the best I can do to get my ideal job?”
Challenge yourself to begin with an end in mind by –
1. Visualizing in rich detail your ideal job. What does it look like? What problems do you solve? How do you solve them? How are your relationships with your subordinates, your colleagues, your manager, with the management? What do they say about you? What do you like most about the job?
2. Identifying what is required for you to get there – what approach will you have to take to get your ideal job? What skills you will have to hone? Who will you have to approach? How will you convince the decision-makers that you are the right fit?
3. Identifying what might get in your way – Lack of confidence? Fear of rejection/failure? Write down the worst-case scenario for your biggest fear, then visualize what best you can to avoid this situation. Write down exactly how you’ll handle it.
Habit # 3 – Put First Things First
In order to manage the job search effectively, we must put first things first. We must have the discipline to prioritize our day-to-day actions based on what is most important, not what is most urgent.
In Habit 2, we visualized what our most ideal job looks like. Habit 3 is about actually going after that ideal job, and executing our priorities on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis.
In order to maintain the discipline and the focus to stay on track toward our ideal job, we need to train ourselves to do something when we don’t want to do it.
All job search activities can be categorized based on two factors: Urgent and important. Take a look at this time management matrix:
We react to urgent matters. We spend our time doing things that are not important. That means that we neglect Quadrant II, which is the actually most crucial of them all.
If we focus on Quadrant I and spend our time looking for job openings and responding to them, one thing leads to the other, and it keeps getting bigger and bigger until it consumes us. You apply to a hundred job openings and at the end of the day feel stressed and not wanting to do anything else.
If we focus on Quadrant III and IV especially during job search, we are simply wasting our time. It is leading us nowhere.
Quadrant II is at the heart of an effective job search. It deals with things like building relationships, informational interviews, identifying problems you are good at solving or possibly can solve with your expertise, showcasing your thought leadership, learning new skills, reading – all things we know would get us our ideal job, but somehow seldom get around to actually doing because getting a job at that point in time seems urgent and important.
In order to focus our time in Quadrant II, we need to be cognizant of the Pareto Principle and work accordingly.
The principle states that 80% of the results come from 20% of your time.
So spend 20% of the time on the activities that are important when you begin your day. Then get to looking for openings and applying to those jobs in the 80% of time left!
Challenge yourself to putting first things first by:
- Identifying what is the most required thing to do to get that ideal job. Write it down and commit to doing it first thing when you begin your day.
- Create your own job search time management matrix to start prioritizing.
- Estimate how much time you spend in each quadrant. Then log your time over 3 days. How accurate was your estimate? How much time did you spend in Quadrant II (the most important quadrant)?
Habit # 4 – Think Win-Win
In order to establish effective interdependent relationships for effective job search, we must commit to creating Win-Win situations that are mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party.
Covey explains that there are six paradigms of human interaction and here’s their explanation in the job search context:
- Win-Win: Both parties win. You offer a solution to the employer’s problem. They get a solution and you get handsome pay.
- Win-Lose: “I win, you lose.” You use your niche skill or the gift of gab to please the employer and land a high-paying job.
- Lose-Win: “I lose, you win.” You try your best to fit in and convince the employer that you are the best-suited person for the job.
- Lose-Lose: Both parties lose. You make a self-centric profile. Employers don’t see the value. They miss out on a potentially good hire and you don’t get shortlisted for the job.
- Win: You might solve the problem while doing the job. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is you get the job and your salary gets credited at the end of the month.
- Win-Win or No Deal: Employer has a budget constraint and cannot go beyond. Take it or leave it.
The best option is to create Win-Win situations. With Win-Lose, or Lose-Win, either you or the employer might get the desired, but that would be temporary. Eventually things will get worse – you might not enjoy the job and look for greener pastures or the employer will feel the pinch of paying you higher and not give you the desired growth.
The Win-Win or No Deal option is the worst-case scenario.
For Win-Win, we must consider two factors: Consideration and courage. Take a look at the following chart:
To go for Win-Win, you need to keep the focus on results, not methods; on business problems, not people.
So in your resume, your LinkedIn profile and during interviews talk about the business problems you have solved and the results you have created with the proposed solutions.
Lastly, the spirit of Win-Win can’t survive in an environment of competition.
So don’t compare yourself with others at any point of time. Your only competition is you. Strive to be better than yourself.
Challenge yourself to think Win-Win by –
- Thinking about your next interview. How will you exhibit high consideration for the interviewer and his concerns? What possibly are the business problems he wants to be solve by hiring you? Write them down. Next, write a list next to that of how you can make an offer to solve those problems.
- Identifying the relationship with your current / past manager. Have you made an effort to understand the business problems he is trying to solve? Have you reached out to him to have your problems solved or to offer solutions to the problems he has? Do you give more than you take? Or you take more than you give? If it is the latter, what can you do to reverse it?
- Deeply considering your own interaction tendencies. Are they Win-Lose? How does that affect your interactions with others? Can you identify the source of that approach? Determine whether or not this approach serves you well in your relationships. Write all of this down.
Habit # 5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Before we can offer our services in the form of a job, we must seek to deeply understand the employer and their philosophy through empathic listening.
Let’s say you go to an optometrist and tell him that you’ve been having trouble seeing clearly, and he takes off his glasses, hands them to you and says, “Here, try these – they’ve been working for me for years!” You put them on, but they only make the problem worse. What are the chances you’d go back to that optometrist?
Unfortunately, we do the same thing during our job search. We submit our resume to the prospective employer and say, “I am sure, my skills will be an asset to your organisation.” Please offer me a position in your organisation.
Habit 5 says that we must seek first to understand, then to be understood. In order to seek to understand, we must learn to listen.
And here are some easy steps to do so –
- When you come across a job posting, read the job description thoroughly to understand what is expected out of the role.
- If the job description matches the ideal job you have visualised, visit the company’s website and it’s social media pages to get an understanding of what they do, what business they are into and the kind of problems they might face which the role is expected to solve.
- If you have difficulty in figuring it out, ask for an informational interview with the recruiter / other employees from that company.
- Now make the necessary changes in your resume to showcase how you can solve their problem with the skills you have. Craft a personalised cover letter.
- And, before you hit the send button – be a devil’s advocate and how will you respond if you were the recipient?
A same approach with a slight twist can help you create an opportunity –
- List down the companies that you want to work for. Shortlist top 3.
- Visit their website, glass door pages, social media pages and whatever that is available on the Internet.
- Connect with department / business unit heads on LinkedIn.
- Seek an informational interview with them to understand the kind of problems faced. You can always say that you need this information for a consulting project you are working on.
- Go back to them with your solution to the problems. Make an impressive presentation!
Challenge yourself to seek first to understand the prospective employer by –
- Following the social media pages and participating in discussions out there.
- Rooting in empathy by describing the audience’s point of view in great detail. What problems are they facing? How is what you’re about to say offering a solution to their problems?
Habit # 6 – Synergize
By understanding and valuing the differences in another person’s perspective, we have the opportunity to create synergy, which allows us to uncover new possibilities through openness and creativity.
The combination of all the other habits prepares us for Habit 6, which is the habit of synergy or “When one plus one equals three or more and the whole is great than the sum of its parts.”
It is said that when 2 minds come together, there is a third mind that gets created called the mastermind.
As a part of your job search, while conducing an informational interview, you will be up for some serious revelations. It is important to embrace them. Be open and respectful of different perspectives. That will take your job search to a whole new level and landing the ideal job you visualised will be a lot more easy.
Synergy allows us to create new alternatives and open new possibilities. It allows us as a group to collectively agree to ditch the old scripts and write new ones.
Habit # 7 – Sharpen the Saw
To be effective, we must devote the time to renewing ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially. Continuous renewal allows us to synergistically increase our ability to practice each habit.
The job search can be draining. When you don’t get a response or face rejections it is easy to give up on these habits. So, habit 7 is focused around renewal, or taking time to “sharpen the saw.” It surrounds all of the other habits and makes each one possible by preserving and enhancing your greatest asset – yourself.
Challenge yourself to sharpen the saw by-
- Taking care of your physical self. Eat well, exercise, recreate and rest. This will keep you energised thought the job search process. A healthy mind in a healthy body. If you focus on keeping yourself fit, you will be able to think better, do right and take decisions that are in your best interests.
- Taking care of your spiritual self. Meditate, breathe fresh air, spend time with yourself and listen to some good music. All of this will keep you going, when the going gets tough.
- Taking care of your mental self. Read, learn new skills, exhibit thought leadership. All of this will help you gear up for the interviews and the next role.
- Taking care of your social self. Meet people, network, spend time with your friends, offer to help those in need and believe in abundance. It will help you appreciate new perspectives and build fruitful relationships.
In a nutshell,
When you practice these 7 habits you will be extremely effective in your job search and nothing can come in your way of landing the ideal job that you always desired.