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Want to Emerge Victorious in the Job Search Game? Begin with a Strong Game Plan

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For many years I have coached the game of football and, being the competitive person I am, loved celebrating a hard fought win with my team. During the post-game celebration, however, I would remind my team that it was what they did with the time in between games that ultimately contributed to the win. It was the investment that they, as individuals and a team, made toward drills, scrimmages, weight lifting, running, etc. What I didn't tell them was the investment we, as coaches, were making between each game; film reviews, team break down, and personnel matchups. It was knowing as much as we could about the other team, making the proper adjustments, and carrying out those adjustments on the field. An effective game plan was critical to any victory.

                Similar to football, if you are going to be victorious in the job search game, it is what you do with the time prior to applying and interviewing for a job that will be most influential to obtaining the job you want. It will hinge on your game plan. Below are a few critical item to consider when putting together a strong game plan:

  1. Know the employer

Just as a football coach would study film to learn everything they can about any opponent, you should study everything you can about the employer to whom you are applying. Learn information about their organization such as their mission, vision, when they were established, and their recent accomplishments. Understand what it is that they value in their current and future employees. Research their current reporting structure and how you would fit into that structure (who would you report to and who would be your colleagues).

You can learn about the employer using their web site, social media sites, newspaper articles, or by conducting informational interviews with current employees.

2.  Know yourself

As important as it is for a coach to know the opponent they must also know their own team to create an effective game plan. Understand the skills and accomplishments which you are bringing to the table that make you the most qualified candidate for the job. This could include your education, past work experience, awards, volunteer work, evaluations, and your unique skills. Learn how to communicate your skills and accomplishments both verbally and written.

3.  Make unique adjustments

Just as a football coach would not approach every opponent with the same game plan, ensure that your job search game plan is unique to the employer for which you are applying. Create a cover letter and resume which is unique and targeted to the employer. These documents should reflect back to the employer that you have the skills and accomplishments which they are seeking (hint: the job ad will give you great insight to exactly what they are looking for). Also, ensure that you prepare for interviews based on each employer uniquely. Again, reflect back to the employer the skills and accomplishments you have that correlate with the skills and accomplishments they are seeking.

4.  Create the game plan

Now that you know all that you can about the employer, yourself, and the importance of targeting your information based on this knowledge, you can create an effective game plan. An effective game plan comprises of bridging the gap between what the employer is seeking and what you have to offer (skills and accomplishments) using the unique and target documents for application and communication for interviewing.

Bridging this gap on your documents (resume, cover letter, and application) enhances your opportunity to be interviewed. Bridging this same gap for your interview allows you to more effectively answer each interview question. For example: when the employer asks you to tell them a little about yourself you can effectively answer with the skills and accomplishments you have that correlate with those which the employer is seeking.

Remember, it is what you do with the time between the "games" that ultimately contributed to the "win". Spend the time to properly prepare a game plan for each job you apply. Doing such will greatly increase your chances of tackling the job you desire.

Brandon Street, M. A., CPRW, CEIP

Director Career & Professional Development Center

Southern Utah University

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