Advice for Building the Career You Want
Professionals from TeamWomen spent a morning with guest speakers Jennifer Laible from Antenna, and Marcia Ballinger and Lars Leafblad of Ballinger | Leafblad, Inc to explore job transitions from an executive recruiting perspective. Conversation ranged from how to network, to social media in the job search, to demystifying compensation, to understanding larger trends in hiring. Here are the most important ways job seekers and professionals can differentiate themselves and approach their careers with confidence:
1. Master a better way to network
Think of networking as “how can I encourage what is possible?” The vast majority of all jobs, volunteer opportunities, and board member positions are obtained through one’s network. Putting in time and building relationships increases the likelihood that you will hear about positions, or that people think of you when an opening becomes available at their organization.
That being said, networking sometimes gets a bad rap as something people “have to do” when they’re looking for a new position. It’s easier to develop your network when you’re not job hunting—challenge yourself to carve out time each month to get to know other people. For the most successful relationship building, frame a request to network as an invitation vs. an ask. By reframing the experience as a social invite to stay connected and seek counsel, you’re avoiding the impression that you’re using colleagues when you need them.
2. Use LinkedIn to showcase who you are
Panelists all agreed, professional candidates without LinkedIn profiles raise red flags. Having an updated, accurate profile with a good photo assures hiring managers and recruiters that you’re digitally competent and that your online professional presence matches your resume. Beyond this baseline, the platform gives you so much more room to express yourself than a resume does. The more dynamic your profile is, the more people want to talk with you. Does your LinkedIn accurately reflect your passions, interests, activities, and what you care about? It’s the details: the shared photographs, the highlighted projects, or even the other interests that spark interest and connection in those with hiring power.
Recruiters spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and a LinkedIn recruiter pass gives them a lot of access. This visibility is great if you are leveraging LinkedIn as a resume—it gives you more opportunity to develop your personal brand and share who you are. If you’re worried about bragging online, or sounding gauche, you can try framing projects, meetings, events, and accolades in terms of your relationships with others. Keeping things positive and enhancing those around you helps you gain traction in your network without being obnoxious.
3. Working with an executive search firm? Network first
Executive search panelists shared some real-talk: knowing executive recruiters isn’t that important. But having a large network of professional colleagues and friends is. Executive recruiting relies on referrals for many of their searches so in order to be considered, it helps to be on the radar of people the recruiter talks to. If you’ve been putting yourself out there, there’s a higher chance that a recruiter will hear about you from a connection.
4. Be specific when describing what you want in your next role
Panelists agreed that it’s hard for your network (or a professional recruiter) to help you if you don’t have some foundational interests or requirements for a job. Narrowing your focus to specific roles, or specific requirements actually makes you a more compelling person to work with. It’s counterintuitive to narrow your scope, but if you are able to give some non-negotiable description about who you are and what you’re looking for in a role, that helps your network help you.
5. Tackle compensation conversations with confidence
When the question of compensation comes up in the recruitment process, many people get nervous. However, this is an exciting moment because it usually means because you’re a top candidate and it’s an invitation for dialogue. If you’re happy with your current compensation and think you’re fairly paid, by all means, share. Of course, you don’t have to accept their invitation because once you name a number, it’s harder to retract it.
If you’re unwilling to use your current salary as a baseline for a future offer, try turning the question around and asking them for the position’s target compensation range. This is a great moment to talk about the total compensation plan too. If the position has great benefits, a generous bonus plan, or other opportunities, you’ll need all the information in order to accurately assess the offer.
You can also reframe a recruiter’s salary question by offering up the salary or the range you would accept for the position. Once you’ve named your requirements, don’t qualify them. Silence will keep you from talking down your own offer and allows the hiring manager to make the next move.
From a trends perspective, non-profits, higher education organizations, and others are beginning to list their salary range on job postings. This transparency helps candidates opt in or out and saves the organizations from wasting time, energy and money on candidates who are looking for something different.
6. Showcase your unique perspective and experience
Overall, employers are responding to changing U.S. demographics and the value that diversity, equity, and inclusion bring to company culture and bottom line. In addition, employers are looking for candidates with wide perspectives. Increasingly job hopping is an asset which provides a candidate with additional context and experience beyond one company. In this emerging landscape, candidates are seeing success by authentically projecting who they are, as well as demonstrating a curiosity and tolerance for those around them.
Final Thoughts: Staying up-to-date
Differentiating yourself during a job search and projecting confidence in your career requires intentionality, planning, and practice. It’s important to take advantage of structured learning and networking opportunities to gain a firm footing on best-practices and start establishing new connections. Whether you’re mid-career and planning ahead, or in a senior leadership position, we invite you to join us for Carlson Executive Education's program Women in Leadership: Inspire, Influence, and Impact. This course will continue the conversation on confidence, leadership, and career growth. Join us and enhance your communication skills, negotiation toolkit and leadership style in the company of your peers.