An ancient Latin proverb applies to most any pursuit in life: “If the wind will not serve, take to the oars.”
That timeless counsel seems especially pertinent for anyone searching for employment. Doubly so in a volatile job market.
Some experts predict that, by 2025, people in their 30s will comprise the majority of the world’s workforce. Most of those people are still navigating the early stages of their careers. They’re facing the challenge of establishing their own personal “brands” and standing out in a crowded pool of applicants. Unfortunately, many of the applicants in that pool are ill-prepared for launching—not to mention advancing—their careers.
Mark Zides can help. As founder and chief executive of CoreAxis Consulting, an award-winning talent management firm, he teaches young adults the skills they need to climb the ladder of career success.
His new book is The #PACE Process for Early Career Success. It offers a rich combination of real-life experience, research, and specific tips along with a dose of tough love.
In this instance, PACE stands for Plan, Apply for, Commit to, and Evaluate your ideal career path.
Finding the right job can be tough. Mark Zides shows how to grab the oars and row to success.
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Rodger Dean Duncan: What is it about today’s work environment that makes it so difficult for the upcoming generation to get traction with their careers?
Mark Zides: The virtual nature of the workplace makes it difficult. There isn’t an opportunity to drop into someone’s office to ask a quick question. It’s difficult to build relationships in the workplace that help establish trust and credibility. There’s an inherent perception of the Gen-Zs coming into the workplace that they’re not as prepared as prior generations, which is a challenge they need to debunk with good work ethic in order for society to feel they are making an impact.
Duncan: What mindset seems to be most helpful for today’s job seekers?
Zides: It’s extremely important to be open and agile. The professional world is one that is ever-changing, and anyone who gets stuck in the weeds gets left behind. Being open to change will alleviate a lot of stress and make you an invaluable resource. While staying open, agility is key. The world moves fast, which means you need to, as well.
Duncan: You encourage job hunters to “train your hustle muscle.” Can you elaborate?
Zides: Your “hustle muscle” is a combination of behaviors and actions that a job hunter needs to perform to be successful. The job market is dynamic and challenging. Today’s job seeker needs to become an elite networker, both inside the company that they’re looking to be employed by, as well as with the connections they have who can help them get into the desired organization. Job hunters need to approach the market in a progressive way, where they are planting many seeds and establishing many connections that can help them ascend beyond just the hiring manager’s inbox, into other influencers in the organization.
Duncan: Networking is obviously important in job searching. What best practices do you recommend?
Zides: Everyday, a job searcher should be making at least five connections through LinkedIn that they believe would be mutually beneficial. As part of their networking strategy, I recommend joining LinkedIn groups that are in the ecosystem of the industry and community they are looking to join. Follow leaders in the industry on the platform that you aspire to work with. Attend virtual (and in-person if available) events to get your name and face out there.
Duncan: What role does personal brand play in a job candidate’s search for the right fit?
Zides: A first impression is a lasting impression, whether you like it or not. Your personal brand is critical to building a professional image. Your brand is something you must live by. It’s something that must align with the work you create and your professional performance. When searching for a role, make sure your branding, messaging, goals, and beliefs align with the company you’re looking to work for.
Duncan: Most people know that an interview can make or break a job candidate’s opportunity, and these days many interviews are virtual. What are the keys to making the most of a Zoom interview?
Zides: First and foremost, make sure you show up dressed for the job you want. Look professional and share your camera. When you’re talking with the interviewer, look into the camera. Eye contact in person is key, and making the extra effort during the interview will go a long way. Make sure the place you setup not only has great lighting, but is quiet. Silence your phone and make sure there aren’t any distractions around you. Finally, when the interviewer is talking, use the mute button to eliminate any background noise you may not be aware of. This will also show active engagement in the conversation.
Duncan: You quote Winston Churchill as saying, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” How does that apply to someone who’s trying to stand out in the job applicant crowd?
Zides: The reality is that you can interview for ten jobs and be turned down by all of them. But you cannot quit. Do not lose your momentum, enthusiasm, energy, and desire to land a job. If you are going through this experience of failure, learn from your past interviews so you don’t make the same mistakes in the next one. Polish your approach, or even try a new one. Ask past interviewers what you could have done better. Just make sure you have thick skin and don’t become defensive. The key is to never lose your passion for what you believe in and always stay true to yourself and the goals you have set for yourself. The right job will come along, and it will be worth the wait.
Duncan: The first 60 to 90 days seem especially important in acclimating to a new work environment. What’s your counsel on making the most of that breaking-in period
Zides: With any new role, the first 60 to 90 days are critical as they build the foundation for your future success. During this time, it’s important to learn as much as you can, to not be afraid to ask for feedback and direction, and at the same time to not be afraid to make mistakes. Because that’s how you learn.
It’s also a critical time to start establishing your company network and connections. Find yourself a mentor(s) and learn from them. Be a team player. Become part of a community at the company that makes you feel included and where you’re making an impact to your peers, team, and the organization. Always be curious. Ask for feedback and direction from your manager or other leaders on your team.
Finally, outwork everyone. Be heads down, focused, open, agile, and help where you can but not to your main role’s detriment.