By Elizabeth Harrin (London)
While things are looking better for job seekers, the financial sector has not yet returned to its pre-recession state. There are still fewer jobs around. And even if you aren’t looking for a new job, the risk of more redundancies hangs heavy in the City. Nobody wants to be out of work at the moment, and although it’s a bit late for New Year’s Resolutions, you still have time to commit to improving your employability this year. Here are The Glass Hammer’s top five tips for improving your CV or resumé.
- Speak in public
Enough already with the excuses. You will not die if you stand up and speak in front of a crowd. Cutbacks means fewer industry events this year but there are still plenty of conferences and seminars looking for speakers. You are an expert in something, and you only have to know a small amount more than the rest of the room to look like that expert. Speak at an industry conference about a project or initiative you have worked on – no one will know more about it than you and case studies are a perennial favourite on the conference circuit.
How do you get to be a speaker? It’s really easy – just ask. Look at the fliers that fall out of your industry publications or look on the internet for forthcoming events. By the time the schedule is published it will be too late for you to attend that session, but ask for your details to be put on the call for papers list and next time they are looking for speakers you’ll get a notification. You’ll be asked to prepare a short abstract about your presentation. The organisers take all the abstracts and choose those that would make a coherent conference schedule.
If that still sounds too scary then start small with a talk at your local professional institute branch. Or offer your services to a women’s network – they would love to hear about your career journey. If you are just starting out, talk to university groups about how you landed your finance job.
- Get international experience
A stint working abroad proves to employers that you are flexible, can adapt to new situations and are up for a challenge. It also shows that you have a broad appreciation of the fact that the world is different elsewhere. However, in this economic climate well-paid expat assignments can be hard to find. Smaller companies may not have overseas offices at all. You don’t actually have to go overseas to prove that you have a global approach to business.
“It’s an obvious point that for international businesses the leading executives must have an international outlook,” say Susan Bloch and Philip Whiteley, authors of How to Manage in a Flat World. “It doesn’t necessarily mean being multi-lingual and having worked in different regions, although this naturally helps; it is more that the individual has an awareness that this economy is global, that opportunities may arise right across the world, and that ways of doing business are diverse.”
If you work with colleagues on the other side of the world, build those relationships, even if you’ll never get to visit them. Read the international sections of the newspaper and occasionally read another country’s national news online to see what the hot business topics of the day are outside your national boundaries.
- Write a book
Seriously? A whole book? Well, why not? A business book won’t make you rich but it does show that you can deliver a significant chunk of work and that you are an expert in your field. Choose a topic you know well, do some research to formulate a book proposal and approach a publisher. If they like the idea, you’ll be asked to write the book, and that’s when the real work starts.
A book is a huge commitment, and if that sounds like too much you can build your reputation as a sector commentator by contributing articles to your in-house or industry magazines. Start small by talking to your PR and internal communications departments. Do they need case studies or quotes for the company website or magazine?
The idea is to get your name out there as a respected expert. If you don’t like writing – and many successful business people do struggle with this type of writing – you can cheat. A ghostwriter can produce the articles for you, with your name on them (for a fee) and you’ll take all the credit.
- Build your online brand
Recruiters do look online for information about new hires. It’s not the deciding factor – a good CV or resumé and excellent work experience count for more – but it is part of the decision-making process. Make sure your online presence is as sparkly as it can be. No saucy holiday snaps, no mentions of how awful your current job is.
“The internet doesn’t discern between personal and professional content, so your public persona online is your professional persona,” say Julie Szabo and Darren Barefoot, authors of Friends with Benefits, a book about social media. “When you work on the Web, remember that taking care of your digitial reputation is good for your business and for your career.”
Set up a LinkedIn profile if you don’t already have one. Maintain it, and network professionally. Having more connections isn’t necessarily a good thing: you are after quality relationships with people. Online networking is not a competition to see who has the most friends.
- Do more
It is possible to fit more in to the day – whether that is preparing your conference paper, writing an article, delivering more for your employer or getting a massage to keep your stress levels down. Learn to manage your time properly and you’ll find you have more of it.
Christine Hohlbaum is an expert in getting more done, by doing things in a mindful way. “Instead of waiting until the last minute to tackle the less desirable activities, start with them first, when you are at your best,” she advises in her book, The Power of Slow. She is not an advocate of multi-tasking to fit more in. “We actually lose time by moving quickly from one task to the other due to our mind’s need to rev up with each new task.” So plan your working day to avoid distractions and you will be able to achieve more – for your employer or for yourself.
If you follow all these tips you’ll gain presentation and public speaking skills, see your name online and in print in a positive way, achieve more and start to prove that you have that all-important international business outlook. Good luck!