It can be so confusing to think about what you want when there appear to be so many choices.
I’ve started asking my clients what has helped them make decisions, and I’d like to share some advice from Shawn.
He is a successful consultant working with businesses, advising them on their growth strategies, and recently pivoted to a new role with an Ohio-based distillery.
Shawn says a couple of things helped him pick and win this opportunity:
- Knowing his main skill set.
- Thinking about translatable skills.
- Considering how the company does things, and how his way of approaching problems can help.
Step 1: The Target
First, at my urging, Shawn determined what type of role he was seeking.
In his case, it was operational and business development.
He has a lot of experience in those areas, and he understands how businesses work. He can manage a balance sheet and make decisions affecting scaling. You, as a job seeker, also know what you’re good at. Perhaps you are an engineer, and you are great with mechanical processes and problem-solving.
Step 2: The Tools
Then Shawn took a step back and began thinking through the qualities and abilities—the so-called “soft skills”—that would help him shine in multiple industries doing similar work, regardless of the type of technology or the product.
Generally, these qualities are about people skills. Because that’s how business works—through relationships. (Frankly, that’s life works.)
It’s no different for you. You likely won’t be working on anything totally by yourself.
He considered his experiences: The teams he assembled, the problems they worked on, the way he helped organize the work and kept the process moving until they achieved the goal.
Shawn realized that certain skills help across the board: “Smart people get stuff done and know how to negotiate. It could be in manufacturing, insurance, or life sciences.”
Step 3: The Context
Shawn thought more about what his target companies actually do, and how his soft skills could be an asset.
He realized that he could learn about a new product or service, but it was his skill in team management, project organization, and business development that would make the real difference.
He then researched the culture of target companies to see if they aligned with the way he operates. Talking to people who know your target company is a great way to find out what office life on the “inside” is like.
“Do research on the company,” he advises. It’s important, especially if you’re a manager, because, “if you have people working for you who don’t fit your style, you’re not going to accomplish what you want to accomplish.”
He then thought about how he could demonstrate his value. There were questions he could ask (during a screen or an interview) that would give him insight into company priorities and demonstrate to the company how he reasoned through processes. He went in prepared to talk about their goals and strategies, ready to give his take on things when asked.
“In every industry, there’s a certain element of groupthink,” Shawn said. “But someone from another industry can say. ‘Why are we doing it like this?’ ” That can be valuable!
The pay was the last thing Shawn considered. Of course, it’s important, but it’s not the whole picture.
“There are three legs of the stool,” he said. “I look at geography, people, and the industry.”
It’s a strategy that has helped him pretty accurately gauge whether he would be a good fit.
“I never got it wrong,” he said.