Job-seekers spend the majority of their time and focus on three aspects of their search: their resume, networking and preparing for interviews. It goes without saying that each of these elements is critical to job search success, however the most elemental piece of the process is often overlooked. In order to present yourself as an attractive, viable candidate, you'll need to know what employers want -- and that takes research.
Any savvy marketer realizes that prior to launching a product, he or she has to determine the needs and preferences of their customers. In fact, it is only through a thorough understanding of their customers' needs that marketers can then go on to identify their product's key selling points: what makes it unique, how it's better than the competition, etc.
You'll want to follow this same information-gathering process as you prepare for and conduct your job search. Consider that the only difference between you and a marketing department is that your customers are your potential employers.
Here are three ways you can ensure you're gathering the information you'll need:
1) Use job postings as a research tool
Although job-seekers turn to online postings, they often do so for the wrong reason. It's estimated that fewer than 15 percent of positions are obtained by responding to postings. So this means you should only spend about 15 percent of your time in that activity (way less than most job-seekers).
Postings, however, can prove extremely helpful as research tools. They tell you who's hiring, the skills that are currently in demand, the latest buzzwords for your industry, etc. As you peruse the listings, you'll want to:
- Look for keywords/skills you see come up again and again. If they're true for you, make certain they're prominently displayed on your resume and that you can speak to them when networking or during a job interview.
- Identify the types of training/technical skills required and ensure that you have them. If you need to update your skill sets, there are a number of low-fee or free software training sites online, including GCF Learn Free and Microsoft Office Training.
2) Look at the trends
Identify the recent developments in your field: locally, nationally and internationally. (Today's economy is a global one and you'll need to be able to speak with confidence from all three perspectives.) Also ask yourself the following:
- Is your field expanding or contracting? (There are jobs to be found within contracting industries, but you'll want to be aware of that fact so you can make an educated choice as to whether or not you wish to remain in the field.)
- Considering recent developments, what are your personal opportunities for advancement within the industry?
3) Research your occupation
Although you may have been in your line of work for years, you'll need to present yourself as a consummate professional who's on top of your game. You may also be considering a career change and, if so, you'll want to determine:
- Which organizations might employ someone like you?
- How can you best present yourself to these companies?
- What additional education or training might you need?
- What is the current labor demand and future outlook for the occupation?
The Occupational Outlook Handbook is a resource providing current, helpful information regarding specific occupations. You'll find detailed information as to the "nature of the work," "training and qualifications," "job outlook," "related occupations," and more.
Research is your key to identifying the needs of potential employers, making certain you're well prepared and properly trained for the job, and ensuring you will present yourself as the candidate they're seeking. So do your due diligence. You'll be well rewarded for your efforts and you just might land your next job in record time.
Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that helps you turn your age into an advantage. It's packed with information providing mature applicants with the tools to successfully navigate the modern job market and gain the edge over the competition. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!