It blows my mind when I think about how dynamic the ever-evolving world of startups, sales, and recruiting is.
No longer is finding a remarkable sales opportunity just about having a good resume and knowing how to interview well. If you want to succeed in sales these days you need to know “why” you do what you do (i.e. “vision). And, you can’t just talk the talk… you’ve got to walk the walk as well, because social media is making everything much more transparent.
The reality is, these days most recruiters and hiring managers don’t even look at your resume for longer than 6 seconds before they make a decision regarding whether or not you’re a good fit.
So unless you have a strong personal brand with a body of work that positions you as the obvious choice for your ideal gig AND are actually doing things to illustrate why you’re the go to person, your chances of landing a role that you’re going to love and dominate at the same time are slim (read: non-existent).
A lot of people recognize this, and approach me constantly with questions about how to approach the overwhelming task of finding their dream opportunity. So much so, that I wanted to put together a guide (that really works) on how to set yourself up for success.
Note: This is not an exhaustive list (that would be a book by itself). But, these are the things you need to do to see the biggest results. Think “minimum viable product”.
Let’s dive in shall we?
1. Define your ideal next step. No really, define it
My guess is, if you’re reading this you’re probably already employed and you’re probably evaluating how the year went. Perhaps you’re identifying some critical “missing pieces” or maybe it’s not going so well, and you’re ready to make a move. Or, maybe there are changes ahead that just aren’t resonating well.
I totally understand (I’ve been there myself). That said, do you know what your next step needs to look like to make a great decision? Can you guarantee that you won’t face the same things in a new role at a different company too? Or are you just chasing greener grass?
I find so many people that I talk to who are looking to make a change haven’t actually analyzed why they’re feeling the way they are about their current position. More importantly, they don’t have meaningful perspective on how their entire career culminates to this point.
Taking that several steps ahead, I also find many haven’t used said information to get a picture of what their ideal opportunity would look like. Which is a critical piece of the puzzle, because without that information, you’ll most likely be crossing your fingers and hoping that something good will “stick.”
Just a heads up, turnover in sales is EXPENSIVE, so the best companies aren’t going to be too keen on hiring someone that doesn’t have a clear direction or has taken way too many “risks” that have yet to pan out. Sound familiar?
The very best companies know the right way to hire someone who sticks around and will make a big impact is by looking for someone who has a laser-focused vision for their career that aligns with their own. Which is why it’s important to do the leg work ahead of time to make sure you know what you’re after, and more importantly, WHY.
One of my go-to tools to do this well is a scorecard. Remember, nobody knows you better than you know yourself… so having a system like a scorecard helps you take emotion out of the process, and helps you clarify what you’re after ahead of time. It’s one of the best ways I’ve found to evaluate your current role and anything else that comes your way in the future to keep yourself focused on the task at hand.
Once you’ve defined what your ideal sales role looks like, and know it aligns with your personal vision for your career, the next thing you need to do is make sure it shows with a strong online personal brand and social media presence.
Here’s how you do that.
2. Make sure your online footprint is “on brand”
As I mentioned up top, social media and the internet are changing the way relationships occur, the hiring process is no exception. We live in a world that is incredibly transparent with real-time updates, and since the best companies want to work with people who have a vision that aligns with their own, that means your digital footprint has to show yours.
Since LinkedIn is pretty much where sales people live, take some time to clean up your profile and really make it shine. Here’s a guide for how to do that (via Hubspot):
Additionally, you’re going to want to look at the content you’ve shared and are sharing currently to make sure it fits the brand/vision you’ve identified for yourself. I recommend going back through your postings to clean up the stuff that doesn’t fit.
While you’re at it, start following your target companies and the people you’d be potentially working for/with. In reality, it’s no different than how you should be approaching your sales process either, so start setting yourself up for success by making meaningful connections.
Once you’ve done that, the next piece is using social media to shape your brand further.
3. Make connections that align with your ideal role
I’ve mentioned transparency twice now, and how the internet creates an additional consideration in your search. But the good news is, you can also leverage that transparency to your advantage if you’re smart about it.
In fact, it’s as powerful for amplifying your personal brand as it is at potentially destroying it. You can use it for research, for connecting with companies that you’d like to work for, and more.
For instance, sites like Indeed aggregate pretty much all available online jobs into one place, which gives you an opportunity to get a feel for things like who is hiring and for what roles. That’s an amazing tool for understanding where you fit in the talent marketplace and what is available.
Additionally, sites like LinkedIn and Twitter give you powerful platforms to actively show companies that your vision is in alignment with theirs. I’ve written an entire post on how to use social media to build relationships that has a ton of great ideas on how to do this, but I’ll give you a quick example here.
One of the best ways to show companies that your brand aligns with theirs is to share their content and help them reach their audience better. Or in other words, “sell” them and their ideas before you start working there.
Word of mouth and referral marketing are powerful. And if you’re constantly resharing content that they put out and engaging in the conversations they are having with insightful commentary, they will likely take note and be responsive to getting to know you better.
One word of warning though: it’s important do this without expecting anything in immediate return and only for companies that you would be excited about selling. Otherwise, this is going to work against you rather than for you.
You have to make a deposit before you can ever expect to get anything from a relationship, and most companies can sniff a lack of authenticity out in a heartbeat. So make sure you really like their mission intrinsically before you jump in.
4. What you need to know about resumes, applications, and interviews...
Ok, so yes, resumes still matter. But only for a few specific reasons.
The issue with resumes is, most people don’t know how to leverage them properly or what companies and recruiters actually care about.
Resumes should not be about where you worked from when to when or what your title was when you were there. If you focus on those things solely, chances are you will get filtered out quickly via their applicant tracking software and land yourself in a big, dark hole to never be found again.
Instead, think about your resume as merely an invitation for a conversation, the rest of the details are what the interview is for. So to get invited, you need to focus on your RESULTS and how they align with your (and your ideal company’s) “why” rather than just “who, what, and where”.
Ask yourself things like:
- What did you achieve in your previous roles?
- How did you move the needle in the space your were in? How does it relate to the role your currently applying to?
- How have you helped your clients solve their problems?
- What do others have to say about you (clients, leaders, colleagues)?
Focusing on things like this (including specific numbers for context) along with a clean, crisp, easy to read design will definitely up your chances at a recruiter or hiring manager taking a longer look at your resume than those 6 seconds they usually spend.
For more information about how to tighten up your resume, I recommend checking out these articles on Hubspot and Time:
There’s really one key thing to keep in mind for applications: do not start your process by applying to anything and everything online. One more time, DO NOT APPLY ONLINE. It’s too easy to get filtered out and does zero to illustrate who you are and what you bring to the table (cover letter or not).
Instead, network your butt off to get to know companies you really want to work with (again, see this article for ideas on how to build relationships with people through social). Your chances of breaking through are way higher via this route than through the normal application process.
Yes, what I’m suggesting takes more time, but remember what you put into something is absolutely what you get back in return.
When you’re in the door and have a chance to interview, one of the most important things to remember is that every touch point counts. Whether it’s your emails, telephone calls, video interviews or questions you ask in the interview itself, you’re being evaluated each time you interact. So keep in mind everything you do has to stay on brand.
For reference, remember every touch point is evaluated with these two thoughts:
- How will you fit within the team/are you the kind of person I’d want to spend time with?
- How will you show in front of my client? If you approach an interview a certain way (good or bad), you’ll most likely approach the buyer process similarly.
And, keep in mind that not only are you being evaluated, but you need to be doing your own evaluation too. Making sure you’re fitting into their mission is just as important as making sure they fit into yours if you want to really enjoy your new role!
This is where your scorecard comes in. If you’ve done the work ahead of time to lay out exactly what your ideal role looks like, all you have to do is stick to it and make sure you evaluate each element thoroughly enough.
This is especially important if things are going well, because it easy to miss things when you’re bamboozled. Commit to the key points you’ve determined are critical for your sanity and success, and ask insightful questions to make sure who you’re interviewing with touches on them.
5. Follow up, Follow up, Follow up.
“Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.” - Dale Carnegie
You made it this far, so don’t wait for them to come to you. If they’re taking awhile to get back to you, follow up! This shows them that you’re not only some who has gumption, but also someone who isn’t a pushover.
Note: I’m NOT implying you need to be pushy, but rather persistent. There is a fine line, and emotional intelligence is key to remain top of mind in a non-overbearing way.
What I am saying though, is that you need to keep in mind your time matters just as much as theirs. No one likes to be strung along or left in the dark, and by following up, you’ll show them that you value yours.
Again, this is by no means an exhaustive nor an all-inclusive list. This is merely some of my best ideas that have worked phenomenally well for myself and others and is meant to inspire you. The reality is, we’re dealing with people and as a result, there is no one-size-fits-all process you can use to land the role of a lifetime.
So, don’t be afraid to get creative with this! Look for ways to add value to companies who align with your vision with everything you do, whether it’s inviting them to be part of a charity event you have going on or asking for them to weigh in on your latest article.
Or even something as crazy as creating a rap video.
I want to hear from you - what is one thing you are you going to do differently in your next/current job search after reading this? Put it in the comments below!