As we’re all witnessing or experiencing firsthand, the future of work is being revealed—and created—in real time at lightning speed. The economic impact of the global pandemic unleashed the worst unemployment in our lifetime. The way we work, where we work, and how we pursue new jobs have all been reimagined.
If you’re like many of my career coaching clients, your own personal struggles of the past year have reinforced an urgency for change, and supported the idea that life is too short to be spent in unfulfilling work that doesn’t make the best use of your great talents, skills and passions. Now is the time to ask yourself if you’re doing the job or work that you’re truly meant to, and making the impact you long to.
As the post-pandemic economy regains strength, a fresh look at the job market will find your new opportunities increasing. But before you engage in a job search, consider if you’re ready for more than just the next job. Take a long look in the mirror and think about what you want and if you’re even in the right career.
To help us do that, I caught up this month with headhunterRob Barnett, media and management pro, MTV and CBS veteran, digital pioneer, and author of the book Next Job, Best Job: A Headhunter’s 11 Strategies to Get Hired Now. As founder of Rob Barnett Media he has discovered, hired, and led hundreds of talented creators and executives in senior management roles. A former executive with MTV, VH1, and Audible/Amazon, Barnett also served as President of Programming at CBS Radio. He also founded My Damn Channel, one of the first original online studios and networks. Representing diverse careers, companies, and opportunities, Barnett’s multi-platform content and no-nonsense approach inspires people to optimize their professional brand.
Here’s what Barnett shares:
Kathy Caprino: Rob, from your view, is striving to get one’s ideal job often a pipe dream or a goal people should be hoping to pursue right now?
Rob Barnett: Your ideal job is not a pipe dream if you rethink outdated ideas about job searching and adopt a new strategy to redefine your own professional brand. Start by analyzing your entire work experience to determine the strongest patterns of your past success. Count your wins. Look for evidence that you can make the most compelling case for the next job you want.
Your heart knows the answer to the work you want—not the work you fear you need to settle for instead. Your head may argue against chasing an ideal job if you don’t have the confidence that your experience, skills, and contacts match your desire. But this is why you need an honest review of the past before you chart the best course forward.
We counsel all our job-seeking clients to remove the phrase “transferable skills” from any pitches for new work. Employers increasingly want specialists in every open role. Candidates without enough recent and relevant work won’t convince most hiring managers they can fill a job they haven’t done before.
You can try to fight the power, but a wiser job search moves a thousand times faster when you present a single job title that defines who you are and exactly what you offer.
Caprino: What about entrepreneurship? How do you compare the risk of being an entrepreneur with the increasing instability of working for a larger company?
Barnett: The percentage of people who hang a shingle and build their own business remains tiny compared to the masses who crave a “long-lasting, secure, stable, full-time job.” That craving is genetically encoded inside us from hard-working ancestors.
But today’s long-lasting jobs only average four years. This reality can make working for someone else just as risky as forging your own path as an entrepreneur. We counsel our clients to adopt an entrepreneurial attitude—whether they’re working for another company or working as their own boss.
An entrepreneur constantly balances risk with potential reward. An entrepreneur knows that every A-plan must be protected by B-plans and C-plans to prevent setbacks from putting the survival of the business at risk. You’ll maximize your own individual success working for someone else’s company if you consistently demonstrate an owner’s dedication to winning against all odds.
Caprino: Is the concept of a 9-5 job dead and buried, given everything we’ve been through in the pandemic that’s changed how we work?
Barnett: Yes. Don’t watch the clock if you’re judging personal achievements or the success of a mission. Watch for results no matter what time of day a victory is accomplished. Dolly Parton proved to be an inspiring hero of the pandemic. One of her greatest hits was written before we were connected to our working lives 24/7 in an endless addiction to your digital device of choice. The old 9-to-5 mindset got a global rethink in 2020 about whether we commute to an office or work remotely at alternative hours of the day. For many workers, the lack of commuting actually added more working hours, not less. Constant digital connectivity to the office creates the need to find a new balance between the demands of the job and the needs of home and family. This struggle has impacted women more negatively than men during the pandemic.
Caprino: What about the approach of having multiple income streams? Are there advantages to these or should one job be enough?
Barnett: Your need for ample sleep will help determine whether you can maximize your income in a career that includes additional revenue streams outside your main source of income. Many companies demand too many work hours and insist on strict non-compete rules to prevent employees from taking on any side hustles.
If you’re lucky enough to know what your dream job needs to be, there’s nobody stopping you from developing plans to ignite the work you want to be doing more than anything else on your own time. And if you’re able to balance multiple revenue streams openly with more than one main employer, you’ve definitely got the power and the drive to ensure against any one failure from cutting off all your income.
Caprino: What’s your best tip for conducting a job search that will really get results, as opposed to throwing our resumes into the black hole of online submission?
Barnett: Too many job seekers believe that presenting multiple options atop their resume or LinkedIn profile increases their odds of winning a role. But if you’re selling yourself as a butcher/baker/candlestick maker, the companies craving fresh-baked bread only hire candidates who present the best baking credentials.
By committing to a single career focus, your next step on the road to the best job is to create a targeted search. Stop surfing random job listings. Start each morning building a long list of the companies where you want to be. Stop uploading blind resumes and cover letters to jobs where you haven’t taken the time to research and identify their senior-most hiring manager. Get around gatekeepers determined to throw your resume into a digital sinkhole by pursuing direct connections to employees on the inside to help make your case—by any means necessary.
Caprino: Let’s talk about the AI/algorithmic scanning process regarding our resumes. How can we get around this robotic process and connect with a real human and why do we need to?
Barnett: Banish the notion that one or two loaded keywords on your resume is the secret to being found by an algorithmic robot holding the keys to your future. There’s nothing wrong with including important industry terms when you tell your story. But there’s everything wrong with presenting that story like a soulless clone. We’ve lost too much human contact in the pandemic not to make every effort to infuse your communications with your own true voice and personality. Who decided that cover letters need to be devoid of soul or personality?
A resume and a standard cover letter are no longer enough to make the best possible first impression for a coveted job. Make the most convincing case for moving to the front of the line for an interview by proving you’ve done more homework than 99% of other candidates. We recommend that all first approaches include action-packed feedback and ideas about what you will bring to the job. A cover letter needs to delve deeper than what is already on your resume. Deliver the goods without fear of holding back. You never get a second chance to forge a first impression.
If your ideal next job can’t be supported with enough evidence that you’ve got the experience needed to win the position now, two strategies can help turn your dream into reality. Many people who want to be in a line of work they love decide to live a double life working in a job they hate while waiting for all the fates to align for a dream role down the road. It’s better to take a more junior role in the right line of work with a company on fertile ground where you can learn, grow and gain the experience you need to advance. This strategy beats a better salary in work that won’t bring you any closer to what you really want.
Caprino: Finally, any last words on how we can make the impact and stand out from the fierce competition professionals face today?
Barnett: One of the best ways of finding your ideal job is to practice social media magic on a daily basis. Stop all the photos of friends, pets, places and foods, and turn each social media post into a focused reinforcement of thought leadership to support your professional brand. Be engaging, consistent, topical, accessible, inspiring, and interactive with your social media, and you’ll build the credibility and the visibility you need to land your next, best job.
Kathy Caprino, M.A. is a career and leadership coach, speaker, educator, and author of The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths to Career Bliss. She helps professionals build their most rewarding careers through her Career & Leadership Breakthrough programs and courses, Finding Brave podcast, and her Coaching team. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.