When I started recruiting, 5 years ago, I did not have any experience with interviewing or career coaching what so ever. I had no academic background in HR or People Operations, and frankly I was an introvert engineer with an interest in the human mind. I had to learn everything from scratch, how to search for talent, to contact them, get them into interviews and interview them. What I did not know at the time that was going to become a large part of my daily work was career coaching. I started recruiting directly from university and I started recruiting students and graduates. Naturally I had an understanding for them and connected with them well. As I grew into my role, I also started to see things that students and graduated did badly when they were looking for jobs or being interviewed. I started coaching them, or rather engaging in a conversation about this with them. I organized student-evenings where we’d go through how to write a CV or how to cope with interviews.
After conducting over 2000 interviews and reading I-don’t-know-how-many CV’s in my career, I found myself not only coaching graduates but also senior people in their careers. Developing and/ or changing your job or career is one of the largest decisions we have to make in life and naturally a lot of thoughts and options arise when you start thinking about making something out of it. Let’s bring these thoughts into actions.
It starts with you
Find your core values. No, it’s not new-age nonsense, finding your own values that you want to live by helps you make decisions and take the right actions towards your goal. When you act according to your own values you feel motivated and engaged. Values are quite general, like honesty, respect, responsibility, safety and creativity. You should focus on maximum 5 core values at a time. Your values may change over the course of life, and at different points of your career.
Find your greatest interests and passion. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it has to do with “work” or if it’s a hobby. Finding your interests and passion, and finding a job that correlates with that to some extent, will make your work life so much easier and rewarding. If your interests or passions aren’t obvious, try visualizing what situation you’ve been in when you enter a state of flow. Flow is the mental state where you are fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus when performing an activity. You have full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
Find the best environment and atmosphere for you. Continue visualizing what you need in order to enter flow again. What environment do you need, physically? Do you need an open office space, a lot of good colleagues, special light or nutritious food? Also start thinking about the company culture and what culture will fit you the best. What do you need from colleagues, managers and what kind of atmosphere will you thrive in?
You don’t necessarily have to be looking for a new job; maybe you just want to make sure you’re on the right path? Once you have a clearer picture of what you want to do or where you want to end up, take action towards it.
Start zooming in
Connect with your network. Are you on Facebook and/ or LinkedIn, this is pretty much done for you. Start looking up old friends, colleagues or people you went to school with. What do they do now? What connections do you have in common? It might suit you to focus on the role, or industry, or topic and not all at once. Start with where your passion lies, and from there it can take many forms. Write down interesting companies, roles and topics that you find during your research.
Connect with, and contact people. Don’t just send a generic “I want to add you to my network”-request. Ask a common connection if they can introduce you or write why you want to connect with this person. If you’ve read their blog, say so, if you are curious about their recent project – ask if they can tell you about it! People often really enjoy being contacted in a “human” way, and they will meet you. I’ve reached out to people this way, either to hear more about their idea, their company, or actually to “recruit” a mentor for myself. It’s humbling to receive a request like this. I think we all should start utilizing our network more and make them come alive! What does 600 friends on Facebook or LinkedIn mean, if you don’t interact with them?
It’s all about the attitude. If you feel that this is super awkward, I’ll guarantee you it will be awkward. If your attitude is that this is super natural, you are genuinely interested in the other person and what they do, or how they solved a problem, it will feel natural. What I’m talking about now is you as a person, meeting with another person – not approaching a company through a recruiter or HR. I’m not saying either that you have to be looking for a new job to do this, you just want to make the most out of your network. This requires an open mind to whatever might come out of the meeting. YES, it is going to feel strange the first time, and you might feel too humble and not feel comfortable to ask for their time, but remember – we’re all just people.
Some tips for the road…
When you reach out, tell them exactly what caught your interest with their profile and why you want to meet. It can be as fluffy as “I read your latest blog post and I thought it would be super interesting you get your view on something I’ve been working on…wanna grab a coffee?” or “I find your background super interesting, when you X at Y for example, and I’m looking to broaden my network within in this area, and I would love to meet you for a coffee to get to know you and the industry better. ” Find your own touch.
Prepare an agenda based on their profile or what you want out from the meeting. While in the meeting, keep it casual or as business as you want, but I suggest you don’t open with “So to start with my first question..”. Prepare what you want to know and be genuinely interested in the other person and what they have to say.
Sum up and agree on the next actions (if any). At the end, sum up the meeting and thank the person for taking the time to meet you. If you’ve found some common interests, business-intersections or actions that you’ve agreed on – that’s great! But don’t be disappointed if you didn’t, you still broadened or deepened your network and you should feel proud of that.