GUEST COMMENT: planning a focused job search

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The current recession has seen the finance sector hit earlier and harder than many others. Redundancies in the financial markets have been larger and higher profile, and while everyone hopes for a quick recovery, it is possible that early 2009 might see further cost-control measures being initiated.

Losing your job with little warning is a miserable experience and naturally causes concern to those unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of redundancy programmes. During a growing or stable market, retrenchment of staff is often used as a vehicle to exit average to poor performers. In the current market , mass redundancies have been necessary for companies to stay afloat and, as a result, they are being forced to release some of their most talented people.

While it is a challenging and competitive job market, some companies and sectors remain stable and others, while not hiring in high volume, will continue to want to attract top talent. This means that:

· As an employer, now is a great time to identify and attract A-class players.

· As a prospective employee, now is the time to differentiate yourself from the crowd and market yourself smartly.

The job market has evolved considerably and for many this may be the first time in years that you have found yourself actively looking for a new role. There are numerous channels (job boards, search firms, print advertising, professional networking, pro-active marketing etc) to find and identify job opportunities. In addition, there are many ways to make contact (directly and indirectly) with hiring stakeholders and decision makers.

If you are about to embark on a focussed search for a new job, planning and preparing well will considerably increase your chances of securing a new opportunity.

It is not possible to cover in detail all the key elements of job searching here, but the following planning advice might be useful.

1) Define the product (what is your value to a new company?)

· What are your core competencies? - go online and search for competency libraries (they help you articulate what you are good at and why)

· What sectors have you worked in? - investment, wealth, retail, etc

· What is your tangible value to a company? - revenue, cost control, building capability etc

· What countries/regions do you have experience of operating in? - Singapore, HK, SE Asia, Australia etc

· What transferable skills and competencies do you have? - management, planning, sales, design, training etc

· What outcomes have you achieved? - saved X, generated Y, designed Z resulting in...

Conduct this exercise before writing your CV or career profile. The temptation on a CV is to create a chronological list of activity and tasks. Firstly, define what is accurate and valuable about you as a product (potential employee) and then make sure you stick to referencing these unique selling points when writing your CV. A short, accurate and clear CV has far more penetration than a long document that dilutes your key value and attributes.

2) Map out your target companies and key hiring stakeholders

Spend time researching and listing all the direct and indirect companies that you believe could benefit from your value. These may be obvious competitors to your previous or current employer but think "outside of the square" too.

When mapping out your value and attributes you will have listed your transferable skills. Think how these could be of value to alternative sectors and role types and then research and list applicable companies. More than ever you need to think about marketing yourself to a broader audience than the sector or role vertical you have recently been working in.

In addition to mapping company name, try and identify the names and contact details for relevant hiring stakeholders in these companies. People you can consider contacting directly to pitch your value and attributes to.

The activities listed above can be completed thoroughly in two to three days, after which you will be clear about your value to a new employer, you will have a list of direct and indirect target companies, and you will have identified key hiring stakeholders to make contact with.

You now need to identify the best method of making contact (directly or via an agency). If you are going to approach targets directly, then a short e-mail introducing yourself, followed by a call is a great method of bringing your value to their attention, so don't be afraid to pick up the phone.

Planning well will not guarantee success but it will give you an excellent start point in your job search and will put you well ahead of most others who will not have invested the time.

Tim Way is a director of TalentQuest, a consulting company specialising in the design, build and operation of internal recruitment frameworks. TalentQuest has offices in Singapore and Australia.

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