Monday, May 12, 2008

A Strengths Based Approach Makes the Job Search Easy, and A Lot More Fun

I’ve been counseling college students to forget what they think they know about “getting a job” to pursue a “strengths based” effort to become involved with an employer where they can maximize their entry value in whatever enterprise that may be fortunate enough to hire them.

It’s a simple and effective process.

Let's say you want a job.

Begin with a change in perspective. You are really not simply looking for a job, as if you were taking something from someone, but, instead, you are looking for an opportunity to serve someone, as if you are actually giving something valuable.

To do this confidently, you must absolutely know how you naturally work best. This knowledge is what Marcus Buckingham calls a talent, which is the foundation for a strength. Once you can identify your real and natural strengths, you can approach employment in a new way. What you'll learn isn’t what job you should do, as is customary for career counseling services, but how you should uniquely approach anything you might choose to do.

It’s a five step process:

  • Understand these strengths as areas of near perfect performance. Learn what results they can almost automatically offer, simply because of who they know they are.

  • Research companies to discover ones with visions and missions that are aligned with the kinds of things they can be passionate about.

  • Take a different approach. When talking with a prospective employer, don’t ask things like, “What positions are you currently looking to fill?” and then try to make the resume look like a fit. Instead, using their knowledge of their strengths, engage a business on the basis of the expected outcomes that their employment will produce for the company. This helps the prospective employer frame the hiring decision. It changes from, “Do I have a position for your?” to “Do I want the outcome you offer?” Managers and business owners are hungry for outcomes, and the average applicant rarely offers any.

  • If the first company declines, ask what other companies in the space are in need of the outcome you deliver.

Experience tells me that this approach leaves a better impression than the typical employment interview. Rather than the employee-centered approach, this one shows a business owner that the primary interest of the applicant is producing a beneficial outcome for the business. The applicant is there to help him. If the offer of a great outcome is declined, consider that it may lack clarity. Revise it.

No business person worth his salt forgets the approach. And, if the outcomes are well presented, few can resist the strong temptation to take advantage of the opportunity you present. After all, should they pass on a great outcome, their competitor might get it. This is a risk too great for many managers to take.

Besides, you don't really just want a job, or do you?

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