By Robert W. Lindsey, all rights reserved.
1. Do Research: Scan newspaper, magazine, internet sites, and radio/television want ads to determine which abilities/skill sets your prospective employers are looking for. Look for any specific projects or client specific experience for which your background is a match. Identify all the elements of a potential employer's want ad that match your capabilities. Search in trade magazines and newspaper articles highlighting contract awards which may indicate the projects a company will be working on and for which your experience may be a good match. Pursue jobs with companies where you have the strongest match of skills and experience to enhance the odds of a successful job search. Companies only want to interview those applicants who most precisely match their requirements.
2. Prepare for Interviews: When you are invited for an interview, be sure to do your homework in advance before you meet with the interviewer (See Interviewing Techniques & Tactics). Prepare thoroughly for interviews by researching the company at the library or using an online service. Check out the company's Website or Homepage on the Internet.
Network, network, and network! Utilize your personal, social, military and business contacts to gather information. Find someone who knows the company and ask about the company's projects, background, corporate culture, etc. A referral to a company from a friend or insider in the company or a related business goes a long way. Also, your research will pay off when you can answer interview questions like: "Why do you want to work for us?" and "What do you think about our company?" You will also know what questions you want to ask an interviewer, specifically about salary, benefits and working conditions.
3. Interview the Company: Interview the company at the same time they interview you! Make sure you understand the details of the technical work that they may want you to do for them. Ask about their management style to see if you'll be comfortable working in that corporate environment. Ask if it's an individual or team-oriented contributor corporate system, if it's the latter, ask to talk with some of the team members to find out how the system works and if you'll be comfortable with it. Show you're prepared - bring a list of well thought-out questions with you to ask the interviewer.
4. Be Familiar with Your Accomplishments: Identify your specific work-related accomplishments that will boost your marketability with the specific company that you're interviewing with. Write down and review your list of accomplishments, so that they come easily to mind when they ask you - "What can you do for us specifically?" Role play interviews with a friend or family member to practice interviewing and answering tough interview questions, specifically about your accomplishments. Think in terms of projects you worked on and what specific accomplishments you achieved and roles you played. Always mention if you saved a previous employer time or money, improved a process, or you were rated the best in your group. Emphasize anything you did or were a contributor to that increased efficiency, delivered more productivity, and/or created a profit! Your accomplishments show a track record of the type of work of which you are capable. What you did for someone else in the past, they'll hope you can do for them in the future.
5. Learn Emerging Technologies: Staying abreast of new technology trends has become essential. Employers today are looking to hire individuals who will help them stay abreast of new technologies, and, frankly, understand emerging technologies perhaps better than the employer themselves! Even if you have to go back to school or take a certification course that you pay for yourself, don't rely on just what you know and what you've learned from past employers, get out there and learn new technologies. Take advantage of free or inexpensive training seminars and training programs available from vendors of new technologies. There are lots of one or halfday programs offered around most major cities. There are also sources available on the Internet and through on-line services.
Participation in technical and professional associations will also expand your knowledge of the types and the ways others are using old and new technologies. Besides, colleagues you met at a meeting can be added to your network of contacts to search for a new job or for information on a company in which you're interested.
6. Communicate Effectively: Cultivate your communication and interpersonal skills. Interviewers feel that the way you communicate with them in an interview will be the way you communicate with a colleague, boss, or client, so prove that you can do it well. If communicating is not one of your strengths, improve it by taking classes or joining Toastmasters (an excellent networking opportunity as well!) Also, there are many free or inexpensive one-day seminars and classes on business and technical writing, making presentations and communicating with others. If you feel this is your weakness, invest the time and money to improve your communication skills before you start your job search.
*** Material contained herein is made available for the purpose of peer review and discussion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Navy or the Department of Defense. ***