Building your skill set and easing your job search: Tips from a veteran work and life coach

IN the digital era, searching for a job is easier than ever. A simple Google search for “jobs” will lead you to a horde of job search sites like Indeed, Glassdoor and Snagajob. 

But searching for the right fit isn’t always the easiest task especially with the rising expectations of job applicants. And the number of moving parts needed to fine-tune when searching for jobs, submitting applications and handling interviews can seem stressful, but if you know what you’re doing, it doesn’t have to be. 

Filipina-American Terry Samala de Guzman, a New York City-based work and life coach whose clientele comprises primarily of company executives and author of “Here I Am: Learning Along The Way,” says that people ought to expand their approach when it comes to searching for the right job because the ultimate goal is to find the job that is the suitable fit for them.

“I think one common mistake people make is they get stuck with the same thing,” de Guzman shared with the Asian Journal. “They have a preconceived notion of what kind of job they can get and that they get into some tunnel vision of their approach in their efforts, that they limit their ability to find the opportunity that fits well with them.”

So in order to streamline the process of landing your next job, establishing a more nuanced way to search for opportunities and branding yourself as a viable candidate for any given position is essential. Here are some of de Guzman’s tips to help with your job search.

Take advantage of your connections

No matter what level of experience you have and what industry you’re working in (or looking to work in), professional connections are valuable relationships to keep when looking for new career opportunities, de Guzman says. 

Especially if you’re new to a field or fresh out of college and you have little to no professional experience, leveraging your network — whether that be your college’s alumni office or internship or other professional connections you may have — can be helpful in job searching.

“For the first timers, clearly, they’re looking for opportunities that align with your training, lifestyle and ambition, so they’re a little more limited in terms of how wide they cast their net,” de Guzman shares. “So regardless if they’re first-time job market seekers, one thing that helps in casting a wider net is to very thoughtfully think of your network and leverage all your possible connections. One might not give you job, but the next one might, or the next one, so every contact you make, you can expand your network three or four times forward. The truth is people want to help, so don’t be shy. Make a list of your network, and if they cannot help you directly, ask if you can get connected to others for more opportunities.”

Before making a massive career change, take time to reflect and act with intention

“The first thing I tell people is to don’t quit your current job right away, especially if you need the income. Don’t just quit because you hate your job and don’t act based on emotional incidence,” de Guzman says.

She says if that if you’re out of a job already, networking, again, as much as you can is essential. But if you’re still at your current position, “confidentially talk to people” in your professional network (who aren’t at your current job) about your possible career change.

If you’re looking into taking on a whole new different career path, time needs to be taken before making moves. Ask yourself: Why do I want to change careers? What will that look like? What about this current position do I no longer like?

Taking time to reflect on yourself and the reasons for this desired shift is essential, de Guzman says. This means taking stock of all your training and skills and really thinking about how those characteristics could apply to other opportunities in order to make that transition as smooth as possible.

“Hunker down, get a piece of paper, list out your skills and really do a deep dive into your own aspirations, likes and strengths and you will find that those skills are applicable to an opportunity to be appealing to you,” de Guzman added.

Expand your skill set and training while highlighting experience

If you’re of a certain age, searching for a job could be harder. Ageism toward older Americans is common in many industries, but de Guzman says that harnessing your age and wisdom and emphasizing experience could actually be an advantage in your job search.

“I think there’s a lot of merit to the wisdom and experience that sort of demographic offers,” de Guzman says In a sense, a person could truly leverage that, that depth of experience that a person may have, in terms of projects completed and life cycle at a business. At the end of the day, companies want people to stay. Turnover is very expensive and that is an advantage of anybody who has been working for more than 10 years.”

Among the older demographic, keeping up with technology and maneuvering around electronically could be a roadblock, so learning basic computer software and getting training in various technological courses could be helpful. Even language courses, de Guzman says, could help some people feel more confident in their communication skills and ability to conduct themselves in a professional manner.

“Technological skills are key now and everybody needs to know things like Microsoft Office or manage an electronic calendar,” de Guzman advises. “These are things that have become necessary, so get up to speed with those. I think you can also consider training courses at community college in these aspects could be beneficial.”

Embrace all parts of you and be yourself

The process of making ourselves look viable to employers, we can often feel pressured to show a carefully-curated version of ourselves, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we shouldn’t completely deviate from who we are when presenting ourselves to prospective employers.

De Guzman shared a story about someone she knew who had training as an actor in college as an undergraduate and then went on to a “very good” graduate school and earned his MBA and then landed a great job. 

“I told him, ‘Well, congratulations on that job,’ but don’t forget that your acting training helped you get there,’” she shared. “So when you tell someone that you were an actor who got into an MBA program, that’s a much more interesting story than someone who just got their MBA in grad school. It gives the person on the other side of that interview a glimpse into how you overcome challenges in a very indirect, but direct way how you think and how you make decisions.”

“At the end of the day, just be yourself and you need to be happy with whatever it is you want, whether that’s balance and be honest and realize that you can’t have it all,” de Guzman added. “You can have most of what you’re looking for by making the choices that are important to you and what you need. You can get there but you have to be honest with yourself and not be shy to tell your story because your story is important.”

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