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How to Get the Job You Want – 3 Keys to Success

By Michael Lewis

choosing a dream jobAccording to a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, one in five workers was dissatisfied with their current job in 2012. A Jobviate survey also taken in 2012 found that three out of every four workers are actively seeking new positions, suggesting that even those who may be satisfied in their current employment will move to a “better” job, given the opportunity. If you are currently looking for the next position in your career, you have a lot of competition.

An understanding of an employer’s mindset and how it affects their decision to hire one candidate, rather than another, is critical if you want to be successful in your search. Employers hire those candidates whom they believe will bring the most value to their company relative to their cost just as you select which car, computer, or phone model and make to purchase. The product that best fits your criteria of features at the lowest cost is the product you buy. Your challenge as a job seeker is to convince potential employers that you are a better fit and can deliver superior results as compared to the other candidates.

Keys to Getting Your Dream Job

Employers seek three basic traits in employees: initiative, responsibility, and effort. These same attributes are essential to a successful job search.

Initiative – Taking Charge of Your Career

No one owes you a living, and no employer will hire or promote you because you need a job or want to be a boss. The world does not revolve around you or your needs – if you want a better job, more pay, or a promotion, it is up to you to take the steps to make your hopes a reality. We all know people who spend their time and energy complaining about their lives, marriages, or work, yet never take steps to change the things that make them unhappy.

According to Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED), the average American in 2011 worked 1,703.55 hours total, or about 32.76 hours per week. Most people will work for 40 years or more, or 68,142 hours over their lifetime. Many people delay taking actions to be successful because the results are not immediate, but you should remember that it is never too late to have great accomplishment.

Darrell Hammond, a stand-up comedian, set a goal of being on “Saturday Night Live” when he was 26 years old. Thirteen years later, following two failed auditions during the span, he finally appeared on his first show doing a Bill Clinton impression. He went on to become the longest-tenured cast member in the history of the show. His advice: “Remember life is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to just keep plugging away.”

Steps you can take immediately to take charge of your destiny include:

  • Ask how you can make your boss’s job easier and become more valuable to your company.
  • Volunteer for extra work assignments.
  • Enroll and complete technical and college courses to improve your work skills.
  • Join and participate in professional organizations and associations – actively participating through LinkedIn groups is a great way to meet people and establish expertise.

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Responsibility – Owning the Situation

Being responsible is often confused with getting credit or taking blame, both of which are judgements made by external parties. Whether a career, a job, or a single task, being responsible is owning your environment and circumstances and consistently taking the appropriate action to positively influence the outcome.

Responsibility requires several things:

1. Passion
To find the job you want, you have to believe that you are not only capable of exceptional performance, but are committed to delivering it every time all the time. If you cannot convince yourself, how can you ever hope to persuade a potential employer to hire you?

2. Poise
There are always obstacles to success, some real and some imagined. Setbacks occur. Mistakes are made. Confronting disappointments head-on, objectively analyzing causes including your own errors, then developing, analyzing, and implementing remedies to overcome snags and stumbles shows potential employers that you can be counted upon when courage and commitment is most needed.

For example, a young engineer of my acquaintance was given the assignment of installing a new customer service system for a major healthcare insurer to reduce errors and improve customer satisfaction. After working diligently to install the system over a three-month period, he was devastated – and his superiors disappointed – when the new system failed to deliver the expected improvements.

To the young person’s credit, he realized that input from the employees who were responsible for working with customers face-to-face had not been included in his initial analysis and had no skin in the game. Taking full blame for the omission with his superiors, he worked extra hours, actively soliciting participation from the disgruntled employees and convincing them of the importance of change.

Within six months, results began to improve and the customer service of the company is now recognized among the best in the industry. My young friend’s career took off, and he eventually became an officer of the health insurer before starting his own company.

4. Perception
Wearing rose-colored glasses or putting lipstick on a pig does not change reality. Being responsible requires seeing the situation as it is, not what you wish or hoped it to be.

For example, you may not be qualified for a particular job at this point in your career, lacking either the necessary training or experience. A perceptive person will develop a plan to overcome those deficiencies – such as taking external business or technical training to get the requisite knowledge, or transferring to a different position to gain the necessary experience – rather than continuing to apply for those jobs as if the failings did not exist.

5. Persistence
Aesop told the story of a thirsty crow and a partially filled pitcher of water. The pitcher was too heavy for the crow to push over, and the crow’s beak too short to reach the water near the bottom of the pitcher. Many people are like the crow who have opportunities (pitchers) to sate their appetites or fulfill their ambitions, but few are willing to spend the time and energy necessary to achieve success.

On the other hand, Aesop’s crow, recognizing that the volume of water in the pitcher could more than satisfy its thirst, set about dropping pebbles in the pitcher, consequently raising the water level until he could comfortably drink his fill. Getting the job you want immediately is unlikely – you will need take small actions repeatedly and consistently to get to where you want to go.

Effort – Do the Work

Sir Issac Newton postulated that “a body at rest tends to remain at rest, and a body in motion tends to remain in motion.” The same principle is true when seeking a new job. Simply wanting or wishing for a new position is akin to having great “potential”; without action, the status quo remains unchanged. An old baseball manager, tired of hearing his scouts praise the size and speed of young, untested ball players while boasting of their “potential,” would halt the conversation and bring expectations back to reality with his gibe, “‘Potential’: that’s just another word to say they ain’t done it yet.”

The difference between potential and achievement is effort. In getting the job you want, it is the effort it takes to objectively examine yourself as an employer might, to fill the deficiencies in your education or experience that are needed to do the job, and to understand your potential employer’s products, markets, and competitors. It is the hours you spend to develop an exceptional resume, a robust social network presence, and mentors and professional contacts who will recommend you for employment. It is practicing for job interviews and following-up with thank-you notes and emails. It is analyzing failures of past applications and interviews, making improvements, and rehearsing until your presentation is natural and flows without visible effort. It is making yourself into the person you want to be.

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Final Word

Better jobs are available for those who are willing to seek them and do the necessary work to get them. However, it is not always easy to make the changes sometimes necessary to reach your goals. You make a choice every day of how the next day will play out – the things you do today will likely be repeated tomorrow unless you change your habits. Taking control of your career, owning your situation, and doing the work will set you on a new path of success.

What are you doing today to reach your dreams, to get a promotion, to get a better job, or to start a new career?

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Michael Lewis
Michael R. Lewis is a retired corporate executive and entrepreneur. During his 40+ year career, Lewis created and sold ten different companies ranging from oil exploration to healthcare software. He has also been a Registered Investment Adviser with the SEC, a Principal of one of the larger management consulting firms in the country, and a Senior Vice President of the largest not-for-profit health insurer in the United States. Mike's articles on personal investments, business management, and the economy are available on several online publications. He's a father and grandfather, who also writes non-fiction and biographical pieces about growing up in the plains of West Texas - including The Storm.

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  • http://www.makemoneyyourway.com/ Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way

    Thanks for these great tips! Good posture and good in communication skills might also one of the few tips to get the job that you want.

    • Michael Lewis

      Clarisse,
      You are absolutely correct – posture and communication style are critical to portraying the image you seek to deliver. Most importantly, however, is the psychological and physical commitment to develop the skills necessary to set one apart; a lot of people want a better job, but they fail to do the work to make it happen.

  • Ben_WealthGospel

    Great tips! It’s all about taking ownership for your own life rather than waiting for someone else to.

    • Michael Lewis

      Ben,
      As you stated, no one cares about you as much as you care about yourself. If you won’t make the effort to improve, why should anyone help you?

  • http://igmonlineloans.com/ Terrance

    I feel like starting my own business and projects is more likely to lead to my dream job. I think educating yourself and becoming an expert in your area of interest is the best way to pursue any goal.

    • Michael Lewis

      Terrance,
      Whether starting a business, a new career, or revitalizing your current situation, initiative, responsibility, and effort will be needed. Good luck with your direction.

  • jd

    Credit Sesame the worst customer service of all time the just do not care. Locked out of my account for 2 months they do not respond or help. Bad way to do business

  • Ben @YoungMoneyFinance

    I always have to remind myself that achieving my dreams is a marathon, not a sprint. Success doesn’t come over night, it comes with hard work!

    One quick tip that I wanted to add:

    In a job interview, always start out (if the interviewer is a guy) by complimenting their tie. It’ll quickly diffuse any nervousness or tension, get a genuine smile, and get the interview off on the right foot: relaxed!

    • Michael Lewis

      Ben,
      That’s a very food suggestion, The key to a good interview is being comfortable and creating rapport between the interviewer and the interviewee. If someone likes you, they are more apt to cut you some slack.
      Thanks for writing.

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