Job Hunt

Hustle, Bustle and Hurry by Christina Stewart

There are a few buzz words out there these days that employers are using to describe ideal employees. Words like Resilient and Engaged and Agile come to mind; however, there is another one that we’ve heard a few times in just the past week that I thought could use some dissection and discussion.

Urgency.

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Employers want employees that can step it up when they need to and who understand when that is. 

We work with a mid-size marketing firm; when this firm started out as a teeny tiny venture their distinct difference was responsiveness.  They could out-maneuver and out-flank their larger competitors and get the deals done. They could respond quickly and move fast.  It was about hustle. This also became their competitive advantage – as a result, they grew. But, there seems to be an inverse relationship between this company’s size and the sense of urgency embedded in the culture. Now the work is ticking along and certainly getting done but that high energy buzz that used to be in the office has dwindled down to a steady hum.

More often than not, small companies have a sense of urgency.  Why? Their very survival is at stake. If they don’t move quickly, they get squashed by larger, more established competitors. In today’s market, no one can afford to drift along with the status quo.  Once a company passes a certain threshold it seems that urgency dissipates.  This isn’t about work ethic or getting the job done, it’s about that fire that moves the team. 

Think of it this way: many of us have a background in hospitality or retail.  In that environment when you have line up of customers, what do you do?  Keep the same place or do you step it up? You step it up! We may not have a line up in our professional offices, manufacturing firms, town halls or other workplaces but we do have a client that is waiting in line for the best service.

Hence employers want to find ways to create a sense of urgency.   An atmosphere of urgency will create an atmosphere of achievement. It’s tragically un-hip to procrastinate.  A deadline and strong sense of urgency generates energy towards getting results.  In short, they drive people to perform.

Activate, Accelerate & Deadlines

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Activate: Urgency requires we activate quickly: make a decision; get off the dime, pick up the phone, write the report, book the meeting, and finish the project. As someone very smart once said: “It’s easier to steer a moving object” If you’ve made the wrong decision, you can adjust.  But if you wait too long, you miss the opportunity entirely. 

Speed can still be our competitive advantage in larger organizations. 

Accelerate: Urgency requires more than activation.  You have to start quickly but you also have to keep things moving.  There quite a few forces that will conspire to slow you down; approvals, budgets, client feedback and the list goes on. Any employee has to identify these obstacles and remove them in order to keep things moving forward to closure.

    Deadlines: In an ideal world, behaviour doesn’t depend on deadlines.  

    Behaviour should depend on values, and one of the values of all high performing people is a sense of urgency. Deadlines represent commitment, deadlines enforce accountability, and deadlines create a sense of urgency. A clearly understood deadline that is shared, agreed upon and committed to is the silver bullet of proactive behaviour.

    What specifically can you do to create more urgency?

    • Walk faster – show some hustle
    • Respond faster to emails and voicemails.  Don’t allow yourself to become someone else’s excuse for not getting their work done.
    • Get to the point quickly. Clean, clear and concise communication is key.
    • Be quick to change your tactics.  If something isn’t moving you toward your desired outcome do something else – rewrite the email, evaluate your work. Pivot.
    • It’s easy to see a lack of urgency in others, but can you see it in yourself?  How can your own mindset help you in creating your sense of urgency?

    Why You Need a Sense of Urgency:

    None of us can afford to delay our goals or responsibilities.  Deadlines create a sense of urgency that help us get things done. Next Monday when you’re looking at your calendar or referring to your to-do list, factor in urgency, it will make a difference.

    Branding Yourself for a Job Hunt

    It is said that a great cover letter compels a Recruiter to read your resume and a great resume ensures an interview and of course a great interview lands you the job.  But in many cases 100’s of job applicants are vying for one coveted role.  How can you make certain that you move from one step to the next? With the right brand. Branding isn’t just for organizations; we create an image of ourselves that we put forward to the world and this representation of ourselves is never as important as during a job hunt. Below are a few tips to ensure you are presenting the brand that best represents you.

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    Cover Letter & Resume

    No Errors Allowed

    I cannot stress this one enough.  Spelling and grammar mistakes are unforgivable.  Even one small error represents you as someone for whom shoddy work is acceptable. Recruiters are looking for ways to shorten the daunting stack of resumes; this is an easy way to dismiss you. Don’t let them.  Proofread your documents, and then have someone else proofread them and then proof them again.  Also, don’t count on spell check and grammar check to save you.  Two of the most common mistakes I’ve seen are spelling “manger” for “manager” and the improper use of their, there and they’re which won’t necessarily get flagged in your documents.

    White Space Please

    Please do not cram as much information on your resume as possible.  I assure you; if your resume is hard to read it won’t get read. Leave ample space between sections and keep your margins to the standard size. A clean, clear resume and cover letter in a font large enough to actually read represent you as a professional who is confident in the skills listed.  When you stuff as much on the page as possible you come across as a braggart trying to compensate with quantity over quality.

    Short and Snappy

    Your cover letter should be three paragraphs; a brief intro, a brief overview of experience and a brief overview of education.  Then close with a brief line such as “I’m looking forward to hearing from you.  Sincerely…” Did you catch that I was stressing you be brief?  Don’t repeat the details that can be found on your resume. That is what your resume is for.  Any more information than a brief (there’s that word again) introduction is too much.  You want to be seen as a crisp communicator not muddled and verbose.

    Buried Treasure

    Make sure you highlight your strengths.  Too often I’ve seen a key piece of information hidden between superfluous details. When you first sit down to write a resume start by listing your proudest achievements and the times when you most felt on top of your game.  When you have completed your resume cross reference that list and make sure those particulars are clearly evident.  There are a few ways of doing this such as a section dedicated to accomplishments, a line outlining highlighted undertakings at each employer or within the objective (for example: I’d like to continue my award winning sales career with an employer that allows me the opportunity for creativity.”

    Interview

    Speak in Numbers

    Whether in the public or private sector, whether in for-profit or non-profit, and whether your role will spend or save money your potential employer is thinking about the bottom line.  Don’t make them do the math for themselves. Which of the following sounds better to you? “With my last employer I was able to be creative with my HR initiatives as a result we saw productivity rise.” Not bad, but how about this? “Using a minimal budget and some ingenuity we created new team based initiatives that resulted in a 25% increase in production.”  Much better.  Arm yourself with these numerical details before the interview so you can present yourself as an asset who sees the bigger picture.

    Do your Homework

    I open every single interview with “What do you know about my organization?”  How a candidate answers tells me many things such as how much research they did, where they researched, and what information they took away from that research, all of which gives me clues into how they work and how they will fit in with my team. But nothing tells me more about a candidate then when they didn’t do any research at all. The bare minimum should be a visit to your prospective employer’s website but in this case more is best.  Ideas include: looking for employees on Linked In to see what has been said about the company; conducting a simple Google search to lead you to current events, press releases, awards or potential trouble the organization may be in; and my personal favourite, pick up the phone and call a customer to ask about the culture and personality of the organization.

    Take your Turn

    Ask intelligent questions but at the very least ask questions.  When the interviewers ask you if there is anything you want to know do not say “No, I think you’ve covered everything.” Instead ask a question; any question.  Even if the interviewer has in fact covered everything ask for more details regarding something discussed earlier in the interview, ask about last year’s Christmas party or ask about the interviewer’s tenure with the organization. When you don’t ask a question the interviewer can be left wondering if you were interested and engaged in the organization or if you are just looking for a job. Present yourself as a thoughtful and attentive candidate and you just may find yourself as their newest employee.

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