How Marketable Are You?

You don’t have to be in the career transition business very long before someone will ask the question “How long will it take me to find a new position?” A truthful answer is that no one really knows exactly. Twenty plus years ago, a guideline was that it would take one month for each $10,000 in annual compensation. As salaries have increased, those 1990’s numbers are no longer valid. A more recent study done by First Transitions reveals that on average it takes approximately one month for each $25,000 in annual compensation to find a new position.

Unfortunately, there is no scientific, foolproof formula. The figure quoted is an average and within the data are significant variations—job searches for individuals at the manager, director, vice president and C-Suite career transition participants ranged in length from six weeks to 14 months; salaries ranged from the $60,000 to beyond $1M. 

For those earning well into six figure incomes, the numbers were even better—an individual earning $600,000 could expect his/her search to take 10 months—one month for each $60,000.  While it cannot be precisely predicted how long finding a new position will take, 30+ years in the career transition business has taught us a few things about making an accurate prediction.

Job hunters who efficiently package and market their skills and abilities and understand fully their interests and values, will frequently land new positions in a relatively short period on time. Others, who may be negative or less flexible about their searches, typically find that their searches take longer.

Personal marketability describes the approach successful job seekers use to evaluate career goals, develop realistic compensation expectations, and master communication skills for networking and interviewing. The following 10 point check list will assist individuals in evaluating their marketability.

1. Attitude.   First and foremost, is a job seeker’s attitude. Zig Ziglar said “Attitude, not aptitude, will determine your altitude”.

2. Commitment.   Committed job seekers are absolutely sure that they want a new position and are 100% dedicated to finding one. This requires networking (over 70% of positions are found this way), contacting search firms, engaging in informational interviews, responding to job postings and researching potential employers.

3. Clear Objectives.  Many job searchers fail because the search lacks focus. The first step in developing objectives is to establish short-term, mid-range and long term personal and professional objectives. Then, write a description of your ideal next position. Next, create a strategy for achieving the goal and stick to it.

4. Geography. There are a finite number of opportunities in any given commutable radius area. And, of course, there are fewer highly compensated roles. If you aren’t flexible, considering a larger span of types of positions may be required or you may have to wait for a position to become available within your defined geography.

5. Flexibility/Creativity. The ability to package skills and accomplishments to meet the requirements of disparate opportunities can greatly accelerate a search.

6. Accomplishments. What matters most to potential employers is what you have accomplished is the past three to five years. When listing accomplishments, make sure you include “the numbers” i.e. cost savings, revenues generated, efficiencies attained, value added, budgets, scope of responsibility, etc.

7. Communication Skills. Effective job seekers know how to sell themselves. To sell yourself, you must have a clear understanding of your accomplishments, and be able to present them in an effective, assertive, but not aggressive, manner. And, how is your technology IQ?

8. Compensation. Salary is a factor, but not the only reason to accept or reject a position. Salary expectations should be in line with salary history and the responsibilities of the new position. Expecting greater than a 10 to 15% salary increase is generally unrealistic.

9. Ability to Listen, Accept Criticism and Direction. Successful job hunters know they have plenty to learn. While no one likes to hear about their flaws, taking constructive comments to heart can make the difference.

10. Personal Presentation. You can only make a first impression once. Look the part for the organization with whom you are interviewing. It may require some homework, but it will be time well spent. Fit, well groomed individuals have greater success in the job search world.

Reviewing the 10 criteria can provide insights into your approach. A deficiency in any area can add time to your search. Developing a creative, flexible approach will prepare you for the process. Luck is always a factor, but luck defined is a combination of preparedness and opportunity. People find that the harder they work, the luckier they are.

Russ Jones is Partner at First Transitions, Inc., a corporate sponsored career transition firm dedicated to assisting individuals from the healthcare industry. He can be reached at rjones@firsttransitions.com or 630.571.3311/800.358.1112.

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