Job hopping 101


Because I’m still reading through the hate mail that I received after posting Are You Getting the Itch to Switch (jobs) on brazencareerist’s blog: http://www.brazencareerist.com/2008/09/08/are-you-getting-the-itch-to-switch-jobs I thought it would be a good idea to set the record straight about my philosophy about job hopping.

Lets start by defining what it isn’t.

Job hopping is not a sport. It’s certainly not about running away from something. Neither is it a way to feel redeemed by getting back at your boss or the HR department. Make no mistake, if it’s not done strategically, job hopping might as well be called career suicide.

In order for job hopping to lead you to success in your career, you must be strategic and follow a few ground rules.

These are my top 10:

Rule #1: Be a career owner. Take charge and run your career like a business venture. Have a long-term plan. At the very least know what you want to achieve during the next 5 years. Map out how you’ll get there. That way when you switch, you’re not running away, you’re going towards something.

Rule # 2: Package yourself on your resume. Ditch the features. Focus on the benefits that your past experiences will bring to your future employer. Your potential future boss does not care about how many clients you cold-called. She wants to know that because you’re not afraid of cold-calling you have the potential of opening new accounts. Back up your claims with past accomplishments.

Rule #3: Package yourself during the interview. Okay, so I’ve had 4 jobs in the past 5 years and I owned and ran a business in between. To show my future bosses what that means to their bottom line, other than quite possibly that I will not be around for more than 18 months – I use the following illustration:

+ + + + + = $$$ for you

To do this, I pull out a piece of blank paper and a pen and draw this same picture as I talk about what I learned from each experience. I focus on the transferable skills that I bring to the table that will impact their bottom line. For example, when I mention that I’ve had my own business, I explain that I can work under minimal supervision and get things done. I do not leave it up to them to answer: “What’s in it for me?”

Rule #4: Partner with a recruiter. I’ve worked in recruitment so I know how nasty recruiters can get – especially when they’re desperate to fill a role (i.e. to get commission). But I have also found some very professional ones out there. In fact, much of my success in hopping around I owe to one particular recruiter who since day one got me. It was more than chemistry. She took time to read my resume and ask me insightful questions. Not only did I feel respected, I also felt that because she took time to understand me, that she would be able to place me well. Twice in a row she has placed me in jobs that have been bigger and better than my previous ones. I suggest that you take the time to look for a recruiter who you feel comfortable with and you can trust. When you do, keep them around. I had to kiss a few frogs before I found mine.

Rule # 5: Network. I don’t believe in being Machiavellian about relationships. It’s those people who I genuinely connect with who have helped me the most during my career. So there’s little point to go around collecting acquaintances. For your network to really support your success, it must be made up of people you like and respect. Your recruiter is one of them.

Rule #6: Prepare for the sales presentation. Make no mistake, you are selling yourself at an interview. For that very reason, I treat every interview in the same way that I treat a sales presentation to a client. The difference is that at an interview I’m the product and the salesperson. I make sure that I know my product (i.e. my resume) and also my presentation. These days there are no secret questions at an interview. You’ll find lists and lists of interview questions online. Here’s a list I found to be quite insightful since it gives advice to interviewers on how to get the best (and worst) out of candidates: www.bnet.com/2403-13056_23-52952.html

Rule #7: Ask for the job. Please do not get so close to the job and yet be so far away simply because you do not ask for it. I admit that it can feel awkward to say to the interviewer: “I like what I know about the company, and what I learned today about the role and the team. And I really want this job. What will it take for me to get it?” But being that I’ve sat on the other side of the table, I know that candidates who do not ask me for the job come across as people without a back-bone. As a future boss, I want the person who will do whatever it takes to get the job done – even if it means putting up with a few seconds of awkwardness.

Rule #8: Learn to negotiate your salary. In an earlier post I wrote about negotiating the empowered way (http://silvanaavinami.com/?p=28). The main thing to keep in mind when you’re negotiating your salary is that a negotiation is the beginning of your relationship with your future employer/boss, not the end. To set a positive tone, aim for an outcome that’s mutually beneficial. For the relationship to last, you must feel that you came out getting what you need. By the same token, do not expect your future boss to give you more if that will land them in the loosing position. Expect them to pay you in line with your contributions – not the smick life-style you want to lead. By focusing on the value that you’ll add to the company, quite possibly you’ll find that you’ll be able to afford all those toys that you want.

Rule #9: Exit in style. I covered this in an earlier post (http://silvanaavinami.com/?p=161). In short, aim to preserve the relationship that you worked so hard to build with your soon-to-be ex-employer. Very few people know you as well as they do. Like I have, some day you’ll find that they will be great allies as you sail across the big blue ocean of possibilities.

Rule #10: Become a learning machine. To successfully switch jobs, let alone careers and industries means that you’ll have to climb some steep learning curves. And tackling all the information that comes your way can at times feel like trying to survive an avalanche. The key is to find out very early on in your career what steps you go through to learn new information as well as under what conditions you learn best. Once you know this, you’re less likely to panic if by month 2 in a new job you still feel clueless. For example, I know that after month 3 things start to gel in my brain. After month 6 I’ll start to see the light. So I no longer panic. I simply make it a point to sleep 8 hours a night for the first ew months so that my brain survives the over-stimulation.

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