Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What job candidates can learn from presidential candidates

All presidential candidates experience their fair share of media and public spotlight. They’re graded on what they say and how they say it, and there’s no shortage of lessons that can be gleaned about how to communicate, build a positive image, and demonstrate intelligence, aptitude, and strong character.

We can all learn from these experiences, especially job seekers. I put together eight of them when reporter Julia West recently asked me to speak on the similarities between a political campaign and the job search process. She utilized one of them in her article in Metro, which you can read now. To build on her article, here are my other seven suggestions for how any job seeker can create a strong campaign for a new position.

Blanket the market with strong visuals. Some campaign ads simply resonate and make you want to learn more about that candidate. Your resume and cover letter should as well. Make sure they are clear, concise, and relevant to your audience.

Research the market. Savvy politicians know they must conduct thorough research to understand the landscape they are trying to dominate. Accordingly, a good job search candidate should review relevant resources (the Occupational Outlook Handbook is a great place to begin) to understand market trends, job projections, vital skills, and salary statistics in their area before deciding how to approach the job search process.

Shine from the podium. In this case, that means ace the interview. To do that, be prepared, display a professional image, and provide thoughtful and relevant answers that demonstrate the skills and value you bring to the table.

Create strong talking points. Prepare an elevator speech that quickly and eloquently explains who you are, what you’re looking for, and how you can add benefit to an organization. Having this speech ready will ensure you’re prepared to sell yourself at a moment's notice to a potential employer, regardless of where you meet them.

Pay attention to the polls. To find out how you’re perceived by others, ask friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances for their insight on how you come across in an interview, including your speaking abilities, mannerisms, and tone. Ask for their opinions on your strengths and weaknesses, then take that feedback and utilize it appropriately. Adjust as needed and test the waters again.

Capitalize on the network effect. It was unheard of to use social media as part of the political process a decade ago. Today, it is a vital strategy. The same holds true for a strong job search process. Utilize social media, including LinkedIn, online job boards, and networking groups to help you stay abreast of opportunities, events, and resources.

Don’t back down. A good politician understands that a campaign is not an event, it's a process. Similarly, you must be prepared to dedicate time to your job search. You might find the perfect job opportunity quickly but, more than likely, it will take some time. Stay the course and be diligent in hitting the pavement (physically and virtually) to network and pursue opportunities.

That leads me to my overarching advice -- where politicians typically spend extraordinary amounts of money trying to win an election, launching an effective job search campaign will cost you nothing more than diligence, time, authenticity, and patience. If you are armed with these tools, you are already ahead of the pack. Are there any other lessons you would take away from the presidential campaign?