A feedback hack to finding your next job

During my search for a new job, I spent a lot of time reflecting about what I wanted to do next. This was time well spent, as it helped me get a better sense of my strengths, interests, and priorities. While the self-reflection was helpful, I had another great tool at my disposal that gave me additional feedback that was critical to helping me find my next job: A 360-degree assessment.

360 degree assessments are tools that are often used to help leaders get feedback from their peers, direct reports, and managers to help them see a holistic picture of themselves as a leader. Using these same principles, I used the 360 assessment to help me get a holistic perspective of what I thought were my strengths, skills, and potential next steps, but what others who knew me well thought of those exact same things. This feedback was informative in that it A) confirmed some of my initial thoughts B) gave me additional perspective that I hadn’t considered and C) gave me some potential paths and ideas to think about. The process for it (which I’ll outline below) is pretty simple.

Feedback

Come up with questions

Design a survey (I would suggest 5-6 questions max) that you can have people fill out and take. The questions should be geared towards getting another perspective on things you already have thought about, such as your strengths, weaknesses, and examples of past work. Here are the questions I used:

  1. What strength or skill do I have that you don’t see amongst most people you know or interact with, and how have you seen me use it?
  2. Where have you seen me at my best? What was the context, and what stood out about that?
  3. What is something that you think I can develop or improve upon?
  4. Since we first met, what’s something that has undergone the most growth or change?

 

Identify Your Survey Participants

You’ll want to make sure you get a good cross-section of people to take your feedback survey, ranging from peers at your level to hopefully people above and below you. I also made it diverse enough to include people from various aspects of my life. While some of these people hadn’t seen me in my current work situation, they knew enough about me that their feedback would be helpful so I included them anyway.

 

Review Feedback

After you get your feedback it’s time to review it and more importantly, put it into action. I categorized the feedback into feedback that confirmed my thinking and then another category for things that surprised me. For the things that surprised me, I either did additional thinking on this or directly followed up with people for feedback to get clarity or to ask follow up questions. Either way, the feedback is meant to be acted upon.

 

In the end, the feedback was helpful on many fronts. First, I confirmed a few types of roles and companies that I was interested in and had a good skillset for, which I was then able to pursue.

Second, the feedback gave me examples of how others saw my skills and strengths which was useful in crafting my elevator pitch as well as reminding me of practical experience to talk about later on in the interview process.

Finally, the feedback was a nice reminder that I had what it took to make a transition into a new job, even if there was a challenging job search ahead.

 

While some of us know exactly what we want to do next, others need a little soul searching to find the next opportunity. Next time your stuck reflecting, consider deploying a 360 review to get feedback from your colleagues and friends who can assist you in your process to finding your next opportunity.

Objection Handling your way to success

If you work in sales, you’re probably familiar with the concept of objection handling. Objection handling is a way to prepare and anticipate the concerns or objections of a potential customer, and then to come up with solutions and responses that would address those anticipated concerns.

Its an excellent exercise that salespeople go through to ensure that even if they run into roadblocks with a potential customer (very common) they have the right messaging to help the customer overcome the concerns and buy the product.

In addition to helping salespeople sell, the concept of objection handling can be very useful to all of us non-salespeople in various aspects of our life. If we can anticipate potential concerns of say, our partner or spouse, perhaps we can pick a restaurant to go to that will meet both of our food tastes. Or, if we think about how our boss might be concerned about our decision to shift our priorities to some other projects before we meet with her, we can strengthen our business case to pursue those projects and win her support.

 

Here are a few use cases where doing an objection handling exercise can help you:

Presenting or Persuading your colleagues – Objection handling is perfect if you  have to make a presentation, sell an idea, or get buy in on a specific approach to a project. By identifying the other key players, thinking about their potential concerns to what you are proposing, and practicing how you’d respond to them you can increase your chances of getting support.

Convincing a recruiter to hire you – Anytime you are applying for a job, you are essentially marketing and selling yourself to a company, so similar to how a sales rep would want to have a customer overcome their concerns about your product, you want the recruiter to overcome their concerns about your product (yourself.) By identifying weakspots on your resume or work experience and highlighting how you would overcome those, you can be sure that you’re prepared for whatever they want to ask you in the interview.

Here’s my approach to practicing objection handling:

Find the holes – Every argument, no matter how strong it is, has some potential holes or concerns. Be objective, and identify what the holes or weak spots in your argument are, and write them down.

Come up with responses and alternatives – Take the list of weaknesses or holes, and develop responses or solutions to how you would either address those holes, or how the weaknesses are actually not as big of a deal as they are made out to be.

Practice – Take the time to say your responses out loud and practice how you would respond if someone were to drill you on those specific questions. If you do this enough, when it comes time to present, you’ll free comfortable with how to respond most of their questions or concerns.

Objection handling is a great way to prepare for potential challenges and pushback in various aspects of our life. You won’t win every time, but using this tactic can help you ensure you make a compelling case for whatever you’re supporting.

Want to accelerate your career? Learn how to learn

About this time last year, I wrote about how companies like AT&T  are emphasizing the importance of learning on, during and outside the job for their employees as a means to compete in the digital age. They have recognized that the skills needed by the company and its employees to thrive in the future are not there yet today, and in order to compete they must adapt.

In a recent talk to college students at the University of Missouri St. Louis, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson yet again touted the importance of learning, even urging students to retool and pivot after joining the workforce. He said, “I believe your skill set is two years in duration, max. Mine is two years in duration, max. I’m constantly retooling myself.”

 

Learning is a topic that is on the rise in the corporate world. According to research published by leading HR Analyst Josh Bersin, learning and development is one of the most important trends facing HR Executives this year. And while many companies are rolling out initiatives, whether it’s through courses like Udemy or in AT&T’s case, partnering with a college, I’m convinced the best results will come when each individual professional takes it upon themselves to identify and develop a learning plan to make sure they maintain and even stay ahead of the curve.

As a consultant, learning is a key driver to my success on the job. We are constantly being placed in new situations, new industries, new functions and new types of business problems that the only way we can adequately advise our clients is by forcing ourselves to learn and evolve our skillset.

Furthermore, as a result of the impact of technology and innovation, our clients are coming to us with problems that are more and more complex, interdisciplinary, and frankly, new and we have to learn in order to stay ahead of the curve to guide them through the process.

As someone who has made a conscious effort to continually learn throughout their career, I want to offer some actionable tips for how you can “learn how to learn” and develop in your career:

Become an Expert – In today’s knowledge economy, knowledge is power. The more knowledge and insight you can provide, the more valuable you can be to your team and organization.

One way to accumulate knowledge in a focused manner is to become an expert. That way, you can be the go-to person on a particular skill, issue, or idea on your team. First, you might already be on the path to becoming an expert based on your existing work experiences, so think about if there is anything you already are an expert in.

Next, a simple “Major/Minor” Framework can help you find other areas to be an expert in. For example, let’s say you work in Marketing, and specifically, within SEO and Blogging. In this example, your Major would be Marketing, and your Minor would be things like SEO, Social Media, blogging, and Google Analytics. From there, you can start building your knowledge in both your major and minor to eventually be seen as the Marketing/SEO/Social Media guru.

Look for the intersection points – Knowing your function or industry is important, but what’s also important is how your function or industry intersects with the broader organization and world. I call this, “playing at the edge.” If you can play at the edge, it forces you to not only understand your specific area of expertise at a deep level, but a few other adjacent areas. By applying your knowledge to other adjacent areas, you can expand your knowledge base but also, understand the bigger picture of how your area of expertise can either be applied to other areas, or how it impacts other areas.

For example, let’s say you work again in Marketing, but begin to study how what you do impacts the Sales team.  If you can understand how your SEO and content empower and drive sales, you can A) play a bigger role in working with the Sales team and B) produce better content for the sales team that helps win customers. This increases your own knowledge of marketing, helps you understand the broader impact of your work, and gives you more opportunities to engage with other areas of the organization, all of which are positive steps for your own career development.

Use Technology – The great thing about the internet is that everything, literally everything is on there. It’s literally never been easier to learn about something by using different digital tools and technologies that are made available. Platforms like Lynda.com, Udemy and Coursera are great resources. As are things like Twitter, blogs, websites and forums like Quora.  If you want to know how about the tools and apps I use to learn on a daily basis check out my post on how I learn to keep up with my job.

Read – The best writers and thinkers are often the best readers. It’s where they generate their ideas and insights. This tactic can work for you, in your quest to learn and develop subject matter knowledge. One way to do this is to configure your information diet. This consists of books, and/or articles on relevant topics and information, and should be consumed on a regular basis.

Talk to Others – Reading and learning on your own is great, but sharing ideas and putting your mind together with other intelligent but diverse groups of people is what will spur ideas and innovation in your head. Take the time to identify other people in your network who share your love of learning and find ways to talk and communicate with them. In some cases, you’ll want to talk about topics that are of importance to you, but in other cases, you may have to talk about topics that are not relevant to you. That’s okay! In fact, that sometimes can be really helpful as it can help you make connections that you would have never come up with if you spoke with someone who was as familiar with the topic as you. The key here is finding people who are as eager to learn and engage as you are.

Earlier this year, LinkedIn studied the career paths of executives in an attempt to identify common characteristics of those who made it to the C-Suite. One of their conclusions was that the people who made it to the C-suite demonstrated a broad and diverse range of skills and experiences as opposed to a narrow and focused view, or, said another way, those who focused on continuous learning, growth and development were the ones who made it to the top.

It’s been well documented that learning is good for your health. It also might be the thing that saves your career.

Further Reading