Careers Key Traits Seekers

As important as the hard and soft skills are that you bring to your job search, so are the traits that you embody and bring with you into all your job search activities.

A trait can be defined as: an aspect of a person’s behavior and attitude that makes up who they are. You can also think of this as a characteristic, attribute, or quality. Given that you will have 1) a defined window of time during which you are eligible for Career Services support (180 days after your job search start date), and 2) multiple interactions with each company you engage with throughout the recruiting process, you will want to be embodying the traits of a successful job seeker throughout your entire job search journey. In other words, consistency is key!

By doing so, you will be significantly more equipped to:

  • Make the best use of your time
  • Move forward at the pace and in the direction that you desire
  • Position yourself powerfully to potential employers
  • Optimize your candidate credibility, value, and visibility
  • Stand out and distinguish yourself as a no brainer hire

So let’s get embodying! Here are 7 super traits of successful job seekers.

  • Commitment - First and foremost, you must be committed to your job search goal/s! You must know why you want what you want, and then you must decide wholeheartedly that you will do whatever it takes to get there. It will not be easy (nothing truly worth it is). There will likely be ups and downs, but it will be worth it once you have achieved it! You must above all ‘keep your eye on the prize’, and keep moving forward, one step at a time. While it is easy to sometimes feel like each step seems so small that it’s meaningless (especially in the beginning), the only way to move closer towards your goal is to keep moving! As long as each step you are taking day by day is moving you one step closer, then you are headed in the right direction.

  • Patience - This is perhaps one of the most critical traits to possess as a job seeker (and especially for a career changer)! There will be highs and lows throughout your job search (guaranteed!) and times when a company or recruiter doesn’t get back to when they said they will, just to name a few examples. In times like these you must not give up, assume the worst, or take it personally. Instead, you must persist, and realize that every company manages their recruiting process differently, and at their own pace...and as frustrating as it may seem, this is the way it is, and you must be able endure it with calmness, professionalism, and positivity. You must be the one to “take the high road” and show them that you are someone who can navigate through a variety of ambiguous circumstances with ease and poise. After all, how you behave throughout the recruiting process is a direct indicator of how you will act on the job. Companies want to hire people who are a pleasure to work with, so show them that you are that person.

  • Preparedness - This one goes without saying, but is necessary to highlight. Since your goal is to stand out powerfully as a no-brainer hire, you must be as prepared as is humanly possible for each and every interaction you have with a company, in the research you do before interviews, career fairs, networking events and coffee chats, etc. This even applies to your job search marketing collaterals and communications (cover letters, thank you’s, follow-ups, etc.), all of which your Career Coach (should you be working with one) is highly skilled in helping you optimize. You only have one first impression, so you must do the preparation needed to make it count! How? By throwing standard, run of the mill, mediocre preparation out the window, and replacing it with extraordinary, thorough preparation, at each and every stage of your job search, such as:

    • Preparing customized, compelling cover letters and thank you’s to convey your exceptional interest in, passion for, and value you can contribute to each company you apply to/interview with.
    • Researching a company in detail across the web (their website, social media channels, etc.) to gather valuable intel on their history, products/services, clients, mission, culture, key values and principles, and how YOU are aligned with them. They will expect you to know these things.
    • Researching your interviewers on LinkedIn (and Google) before interviews so you have a deeper understanding of not only what is important to them in the work context, but also of them as an individual, their career path, interests, etc. This is helpful in finding a commonality so that you can ‘break the ice’ as soon as you meet them. Did you both come from a bootcamp or graduate from the same school? Are you both from the same home town? Do you both follow the same sports teams or volunteer for the same non-profits? Do you have friends/connections in common? Don’t disregard these things! As small as they may seem, they can make a huge difference in your ability to instantly connect and build a strong and positive rapport with them. People like to hire people like them (on the same page, similar mindset, attitude, etc.) and that fit well into their culture. Leverage the available information out there to help you do this successfully. By doing so you will also show your interviewer that you are serious about the role and have a great work ethic. After all, how well you research them is an indication of how thorough you will be in the job.
  • Passion/Personality - Your passion for the company and role, and your ability to convey that, is as important as your technical abilities. Yes, we’ve said it, and it’s true! Companies don’t just want to hire the person with the ‘best’ resume or skills, because frankly, your resume tells them nothing about how you are to work with 8 hours a day, and lots of people have equally strong skills. Companies want to hire the person with the right set of skills who is personable, has great energy, and who can show they are passionate about their career of choice, can explain why they chose this path, this company, and this role, in a way that is genuine, compelling, enthusiastic, and...passionate! No one wants to hire a candidate who obviously is not really into the company or knows they will want to leave in 6 months; this would be a complete waste of the company’s time and money. In other words, let your passion for your work and the company shine through, in all your interactions with them; emails, phone calls, interviews, follow-up challenges/assessments, etc!

  • Flexibility - Defined as “an ability to change or compromise”, this trait is especially key in your job search. Does a company ask you to reschedule a call, perhaps last minute? Did an HR person or team lead at a company whom you emailed not reply back to you? As frustrating or inconvenient as it may feel in the moment, you must be flexible and go with the flow. Never assume why someone does or doesn’t do something. This is a very dangerous thing to do, and can put you in a negative mindset and course of subsequent actions that can adversely impact your candidacy. A company may have had a last minute emergency, an interviewer might have been called out of town to a VIP client meeting, an HR person might be swamped with tons of emails in their inbox (and hasn’t seen yours), may be on vacation, etc. The possibilities are endless. So, what you must do in these situations is to remain neutral and proactively take the necessary actions to bring these opportunities to fruition. Think about how you would expect candidates to behave if you were hiring them. What impression would a candidate who grumbled and complained rudely about an interview reschedule make on you, as compared to a candidate who graciously acknowledged the change and expressed their continued interest and enthusiasm for rescheduling the interview? As companies are assessing you on not only your technical/hard skills but also your behavior, attitude, and communication skills, your ability to be flexible throughout the recruiting processes that they have put into place will significantly impact your credibility, value and appeal as a candidate. Remember: it’s their company, their job, and how they want to run those processes is their choice (and they’re the one with the job to give).

  • Creativity - Yes! You can (and should) be creative in both how you approach your job search and how you market yourself as a candidate. Since your goal is to stand out as not just any candidate, but as the winning candidate, creativity reigns supreme here. How can you approach job lead development and strategic networking in a way that uncovers opportunities outside of overpopulated and overused job boards and other typical job sources? How can you craft stellar, customized, compelling, engaging cover letters and thank you emails that distinguish you powerfully and communicate the incredible value you have to offer? What can you do post-interview as a bonus to showcase your exceptional skills, passion, determination and work ethic to a company? Give yourself permission to think outside the box and devise new ways to get yourself out there and bring jobs to you. Should you be working with a Career Coach, they can help you to brainstorm and come up with an action plan.

  • Courage - Partaking in a career change can feel equal parts exciting and frightening. You may be feeling like you are in unknown territory or a deer in headlights. You may feel very uncomfortable. You may even sometimes feel like you want to turn back. That’s totally normal, and you’re not alone! In times like this, you need to remember why you’re pursuing this new career and the positive impact it will have on your life going forward. Conjure up a high-definition image of this in your mind, with all your senses. What does it look like? Feel like? Taste like? This is what you need to keep your focus on to ensure you are taking steps that move you closer to this goal. You will likely have to do things very differently than you have in past job searches. After all, a different result requires different actions. Acknowledge the differences and any weird or uncomfortable feelings they bring. They are a natural part of the process in creating the huge and extraordinary change in your life that you want to see for yourself!

In Summary

Just as important as your hard skills are in getting a job, so are the traits that you bring with you into all your job search activities. Consistently embodying those traits throughout your job search journey will help you remain in a focused, can-do mindset, enabling you to maximize your efforts efficiently and distinguish yourself powerfully to employers, making you a no brainer hire!

Ways to Be Proactive in Your Job Hunt

Below are activities that define a proactive job search.

  • Schedule time in your calendar for specific job search related tasks. I.e. 1 hour to research open positions, 2 hours emailing new and existing contacts, another 30 minutes following up, etc.
  • Research job openings, companies you want to work for, and people you already know (or have mutual connections with) who work at those companies.
  • Attend in-person networking events (meetups, conferences, association meetings, etc.).
  • Join online groups around a particular interest/industry. Example: a vocation-specific LinkedIn group.
  • Create an online presence by using social media (like LinkedIn and Twitter) and start to blog.
  • Consider volunteering your skills for an organization you care about (something you can add to your LinkedIn/portfolio!).
  • Build side projects that people can actually use and find value from (another thing you can add to your LinkedIn/portfolio). The more invested you are in your own education, you'll come off as more passionate and excited!
  • Prepare answers to common interview questions you may be asked.
  • Practice online challenges as a way to prepare for interviews.

Networking FAQs

“How do I make small talk?” In general asking, “What are you working on right now?” is a great way to get a conversation going with anyone from CEOs to fellow practitioners. However, at a networking event, a great way to break the ice is by using the situation. Example: “So, how long have you been going to this Ruby on Rails meetup?” or “Wasn’t that last speaker great?!” When you’re making small talk, don’t make it all about you; show that you’re interested in the other person. Try to find ways to help people. It doesn’t have to be big. Suggest an idea or offer to introduce them to a contact at a company where you know someone, or recommend a book or your favorite meetup. When you help someone, they will naturally want to return the favor. (Aka “pay it forward”.)

"What should I do if I am shy? When it comes to networking events and even one-on-one meetings, try to schedule them all on the same day of the week. This way, you can relax afterwards (if being around people exhausts you). Another way to make yourself feel at ease is by making it about the other person (especially when at a networking event). When you do this by asking questions about them and offering help, it puts less pressure on you having to talk about yourself. And you’ll be much more likeable. (It’s flattering to have another person take interest in your life/work!)

“What if evenings don’t work for me?” Whether you have small children at home or don’t drink alcohol (and therefore don’t enjoy happy hours/”getting drinks after work”) - ask for a lunch/coffee date instead. When it comes to attending networking events, you can try to go to breakfasts before the workday begins. (If you live in a city, there is most likely some kind of breakfast meetup near you, and many breakfast meetups are attended by people who are employed -- those are the people you want to meet.) There are also more and more weekend meetups popping up. Try to explore all options within your surrounding areas.

“Isn’t it creepy to research and email someone I don’t know?” Actually, no! The fact that you are reaching out shows that you are serious, committed, and passionate about your career. People appreciate and are drawn to other people who share their same interests, goals, etc. And, they were once in your shoes! Consider that every person you know in your life was once a stranger, until your first interaction — the same holds true in professional networking. The approach that you take in writing your networking emails will make all the difference in your response rate. Work with your Career Coach to craft fully personalized, compelling emails that engage the recipient and make them interested in meeting you.

“Why should I go to an event if there aren't any recruiters there or people hiring?” Truth be told, everyone you meet has some value to offer you, whether it be in this moment, or in the future. Never make an assumption who can and can’t be helpful. You never know who knows who, and who knows what! For example, while talking to other job seekers at an event you could learn about new companies and job opportunities that you weren’t aware of before, or other worthwhile events, seminars, resources, etc. Or, perhaps while speaking with another attendee you learn that their best friend/relative is a recruiter or executive at a company that you’d love to work for. You would never have learned any of this if you just decided to stay home under the assumption that the event wasn’t worth your time. People are always willing to help out their friends, acquaintances, etc. The key is to cultivate those relationships so when the opportunity comes you are able to both give and receive value from each other in pursuit of your mutual career goals.

Employers Want to Hire People They Like

Because you’ll be spending a lot of time together and with the rest of the team, hiring managers want to make sure you can get along with others. Are you pleasant to be around? Can you make small talk? Are you easy to hang out with?

There is a test often used in the world of recruiting and HR called “The Airport Test”. Essentially, the employer asks themselves, “Would I want to be stuck in an airport with this person?”

Keep this in mind during every stage of the job search process — from initial contact down to the in-house interview and even job offer.

The Best Opportunities Come When You're Committed

To recap:

  • Finding a job isn’t easy or a straight line — it takes time and effort
  • Throughout your job search, communication is key
  • Having technical/hard skills matter, but your personality/soft skills do, too
  • Employers want to hire people they like and can spend time with
  • Ultimately it’s your responsibility to land the job — to do this, you must be proactive

Working with a Career Coach

Your coach will address the importance of committing to your job search. Your coach will be there for you in all the aspects of your search, including:

  • Staying motivated
  • Holding you accountable
  • Optimizing a resume, cover letters, thank you’s, and all communications
  • Preparing for interviews, networking conversations, and career fairs
  • Refining your job search strategy
  • Circumventing potential roadblocks
  • Reviewing and negotiating job offers
  • Committing to the process is important because the best opportunities can take the most work upfront. In the end, you get what you put into it. Remember: you are in the driver’s seat of you job search. Your coach is a passenger helping you navigate.
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