Over the past 6 weeks, I have been seeing early signs that jobs are coming back slowly into the tech market. In almost every one of the conversations I have had recently with VCs and CEOs, they have been quick to point out the flood of talent in the market and a significant increase in resumes hitting their inbox. Not only do these companies and funds believe that they are getting “A” players, but they are seeing executives make career changes and use this time to take a flat-to-down move in total compensation to move from one industry to another (i.e. getting into tech startups where growth is happening).
Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock these past 6 months, you know the job market is super-competitive today. It’s not hard to find any job… but it’s an entirely different story to find a great job for you and get that first meeting. The market requires much more than a casual approach to your job search if you want something NOW. Yesteryear’s strategy of making a few calls to get some leads simply won’t cut it. It’s more than half-heartedly updating your resume and blasting out a few generic emails. You need a GAME PLAN. You ready?
Ok, so where do you start? Well, let’s start with a big picture question… Where do you want your career to be in 5 or 10 years from now? Do you want to be a CEO? A CFO? Heading up Sales and Marketing? Sitting on Boards advising the next waves of entrepreneurs? Perhaps you want to run an international business line? Or maybe you just love creating that cool next-new thing that no-one else has built yet. It is actually a tougher question than it sounds, so don’t be discouraged if it takes time to come up with your answer. I strongly believe people should follow their passions and interests when defining their careers. The path may not always be clear or without challenge, but there is usually a way to accomplish whatever you set your mind to. (If you were only 6’ tall and wanted a pro basketball career, there would be no need to study Shaquille O’Neal’s game. Obviously, just because you aren’t 7’ tall and 300+ pounds doesn’t mean you can’t get to the NBA. Just look at what Spud Webb, Muggsy Bogues and Nate Robinson were able to accomplish!)
Not surprisingly, when I ask most executives the basic question “what type of job are you looking for?” I typically get an answer with multiple career options or possibilities. Answer the question too specifically and you might not be considered for something interesting that may be slightly outside of your core skill set. But answer too vaguely and you may come across as ill-defined. While some executives love to do one thing in particular and strive to be known as “experts,” many enjoy moving across an organization and experiencing different functional challenges to add breadth to their knowledge base. By understanding your passions, your skills and what makes you really great, you can figure out which opportunities are best suited to your stated goals. Although the path isn’t always clear, I have found that people tend to have an idea of the ultimate position they want to hold. Sometimes reverse-engineering your career path creates much more clarity than trying to build your plan ground-up. Remember, you don’t need to be clairvoyant but you do need to choose your path wisely so there is purpose to your career moves and you understand what you are shooting for.
So, with that in mind, let’s make the first step of building your Game Plan to compile the list of skills you need for your dream job. I’m not talking about just the basic skills… but the skills you need to be really excel in your career. Not sure what those are? Well, that’s a good sign that you need to do some homework on what the best execs in your business do and begin to point yourself in the right direction. If you get stuck on this, pull up job postings for similar jobs to your own and see what the requirements are… OK, let’s move on.
Next, do a quick gap analysis and look at the skills you have worked hard to acquire versus the skills you need to get you into that job you eventually want. This will provide you with the areas you can develop to help you get from the job you have to the job you ultimately want. Map it out. Consider creating a skills inventory list that you can reference. A spreadsheet or a post-it note on your refrigerator. Whatever it is… just be honest here. If not, the only person you cheat will be yourself.
Here are some questions that might help you think about specific roles and skills. Do you want to:
– Broaden your industry experience?
– Manage more people? Manage less?
– Develop an international rolodex? Or leverage your international rolodex to build your US contacts?
– Transition from a major corporation to a startup?
– Create new product or execute against corporate strategy?
– Add new functional responsibility to round out your overall competencies of running a business?
Strip away personal bias and try to see your career experience as objectively as possible. If you know what opportunities to look for, you will significantly improve your odds of finding that next great job and smartly managing your career towards your ultimate goals.
In Part II I will discuss the importance of considering how your personal life can affect your career path/decisions.