What’s the best way to stand out during the application process and get yourself an interview? In today’s job market, it’s common for recruiters to receive upwards of 100 applications for one role, so there has to be something special about yours. Here’s how to give yourself the best chance of success.
Customising your job application to suit the specific requirements of a role is one of the most effective things you can do to secure an interview. When we talk about a ‘job application’, we’re referring to a collection of documents: your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile and response to any selection criteria or specific questions.
While you might think it’s too hard or time consuming to customise this content every time, we encourage you to look at your application from the recruiter’s perspective and ask yourself ‘What’s in it for them?’ Your application should immediately present you as someone who can add significant value in the role. If it doesn’t do that, you’re not giving yourself the best opportunity to succeed.
Follow these steps to create your best ever job application.
Step 1. Research: Read the job ad carefully. If possible, obtain a more detailed job description from the recruiter and identify exactly what’s required. Highlight skills or experience that seem important and make notes. If you know the company, view their website and search for any news or recent activity that may impact on the job. And take some time to understand the corporate culture. Emulating the kind of language the company uses and/or writing just one sentence in your cover letter referencing a current challenge or opportunity for the company could mean the difference between success and failure at this initial stage.
Step 2. Sell yourself: If you don’t show the recruiter you have what they’re looking for, you probably won’t succeed. This process is simple once you know their pain points (i.e. problems) because you can clearly demonstrate how you have the best solution. Again, customisation is important, so make sure your documents address as many of the role requirements as possible. Use previous successes and achievements to show how you’ve added value in the past.
We recommend including a strong, carefully crafted career profile as the first section of your resume that gives a snapshot of your skills and experience. This also applies to your LinkedIn profile summary – you can tailor that section to cover off the key skills and attributes required in the role you’re applying for. In LinkedIn it’s not necessary to do this for every role, but if there is a role you’re applying for that involves new, different or unique skills that aren’t covered in your profile, you should incorporate them.
Selling yourself throughout your job history is also important. Within each role listed on your resume, provide examples of projects, successes and accomplishments where you added value.
A cover letter provides another important place to ‘sell yourself’ and is a great opportunity to customise content to the specific role and clearly state why you think you’re the ideal candidate.
Step 3. Use keywords: Once you know the top attributes a recruiter is looking for in a candidate, you can create a customised checklist of key capabilities. Your resume should already contain a section highlighting your key skills or capabilities. To tailor this section, check the job ad for important keywords and incorporate those into your list, and re-order your list so the most important/relevant skills come first. You can go one step further by rewording those points to suit the role.
Again, this applies to LinkedIn too – check you’ve covered off the main areas within your ‘Skills and Endorsements’ section. Writing a customised cover letter also allows you to use keywords – and it’s one of the best ways to make your application stand out. Research has shown that you literally have seconds to make a good first impression. If a recruiter receives a large number of applications, having a cover letter that highlights key skills, experience and achievements that are highly relevant to the role you’re applying for will help you get noticed.
Step 4. Tweak your experience: For certain people, getting strategic about how they present their experience in their resume is a good idea. But we only recommend doing that in the following cases:
1) When recent experience is not relevant. You can reorder roles to prioritise relevant experience from your earlier work history. Simply create a new section called ‘Relevant Employment History’, then move your most recent and other irrelevant roles to a later section called ‘Other Employment History’. This ensures the recruiter sees your relevant experience first but the section title will make it clear why that experience is not recent.
2) When you have 15+ years’ experience. We usually recommend going back 10–15 years in your resume – so long as that job history provides a good picture of your experience in the context of the role you’re applying for. Any more than that will unnecessarily date you, while also potentially providing too much information for the recruiter to read. Think of your resume as a concise sales tool rather than a lengthy list of everything you’ve ever done. However, be guided by the job ad – if it says you need 20 years’ experience then include it.
3) When you’ve been out of work for some time. We generally don’t recommend including hobbies or other interests in your resume (you can list anything relevant on LinkedIn), but if you’ve been out of the workforce for a while – or you’re new to it – you could include experience outside of full-time work. Think about things you’ve done that highlight your suitability for the role, such as freelance, consulting or volunteer work. List them in a similar way to your other jobs, with the role, organisation, dates and description of what you did.
If you’re serious about landing a great job, preparing a customised application for every role you apply for is something you should make time for. While it might seem tedious, the reward outweighs the effort. Be selective about the roles you apply for and create an application that will make you stand out from the crowd.
Would you like help preparing a top-quality job application or LinkedIn profile that helps you secure your dream job? Our experienced writers can help you create a professional resume, customised cover letter and LinkedIn profile designed to make employers sit up and take notice. To find out more, read about our Services.
The world’s largest professional networking platform is constantly evolving and has become a critical part of any successful career plan. These days, many employers use LinkedIn to find the right candidates. Whether you’re searching for a new role, developing your career while in a stable position, or working for yourself as a consultant or business owner, using LinkedIn effectively can give you an edge.
If you already have a LinkedIn profile, there are several ways to update it to improve your overall presence. Many of these tips are very quick to implement but could make a huge difference to your profile and presence. Here’s how to optimise your profile and help give your career a boost.
Tip 1: Boost your visibility by optimising for SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) involves using keywords and other techniques to optimise online content to improve its search ranking. When ranking profiles in a search, LinkedIn considers several factors, including how often a keyword appears. With more and more recruiters using LinkedIn to source candidates by conducting keyword searches, having a keyword-optimised profile will help you rank higher.
We recommend first identifying keywords that recruiters may search to find candidates like you. Use these throughout your profile in as many sections as possible. For example, in the ‘Skills and Endorsements’ section, prioritise skills that already exist in LinkedIn’s database by starting to type a skill, then selecting one of the relevant suggestions that appears. List up to 50 skills and change the order by dragging them up and down. Using up all the character limits in various sections may also help improve your profile’s ranking.
Tip 2: Understand and articulate your value
Your ‘Headline’ and ‘Summary’ are high-visibility sections that allow you to communicate your value as a professional and what you have to offer. These sections also contribute to your ranking. Your headline automatically defaults to your most recent (or current) job title, but this might not capture the value you could provide in a future role, so it’s best to create a customised headline. Change it by clicking the ‘edit’ button next to the headline.
You should also avoid simply replicating the content in your resume. LinkedIn is a form of social media, so we recommend injecting some personality (while remaining professional, of course). The best place to do that is your summary. Create a clear picture of you and your ‘personal brand’, state what you’re passionate about, showcase your success and highlight what makes you stand out as a candidate. Write it in a way that’s warm and conversational – not too formal or stuffy.
Tip 3: Look to the future
An exact description of your past experience may not be reflective of where you’re wanting to head. We often talk to clients about using LinkedIn to create impact and interest for the job you’d like in the future – not necessarily for the job you have right now. This is especially true when crafting your headline and summary, but also when detailing your employment history.
Rather than simply listing your title, responsibilities and achievements, use up the available 2,000 characters to add keywords to improve your rankings (as discussed in Tip 1). Include transferrable skills and talk about experiences and successes in a way that highlights your potential for the types of roles you’re hoping to secure in the future.
Tip 4: Add value and engage
One of the great things about LinkedIn is the ability to share content. This includes sharing content such as articles that are relevant and valuable to your network, as well as adding links to projects you’ve worked on or successes you’ve had. Since each profile edit and update you make can get broadcast to your entire network (check your settings to enable this), you’ll constantly be top of mind.
When sharing content, you can either create your own or share other people’s content. Think about things like videos, presentations, publications and articles, and use them as opportunities to interact with others and have conversations. Ask questions and answer questions. Increase engagement with your network and you should start to see positive results.
If you’re using LinkedIn to find a new role or build your career, updating your profile will increase your chances of success. Stand out from other professionals by highlighting the value you offer. Optimise your profile to increase your rankings, inject some personality, look to the future and engage with your network. At the end of the day, it’s a social media network – the more active you are, the more you’ll get out of it.
If you’d like help developing a professional, keyword-optimised LinkedIn profile that highlights your strengths and achievements and helps you stand out from the crowd, take a look at our LinkedIn Profile Writing service.
A portable career is one that you can take anywhere in the world and still be able to do your job. Today’s technology makes it easier than ever to work from wherever we choose. With the right approach, a portable career can give you freedom while still allowing you to achieve your aspirations. Are you in search of more flexibility? Here’s how to build a portable career.
Opportunities for a portable career today are seemingly endless. Most people choose a portable career so they can have more flexibility and freedom – the ability to work whenever and wherever they want. If your current profession is not easily portable but you’d still like to experience the freedom to live elsewhere or travel for extended periods, there are options. Here are our tips for getting started:
- Understand your motivations: Knowing your underlying reasons can help you determine if this is the right decision. If you’re doing it because you hate your job or boss, you want to work less hours or earn more money, it’s probably not the right decision. Creating a flexible, and possibly transient, lifestyle while not having to answer to anyone is a great long-term goal, but it’s rarely realistic in the short term. If what you really want is to ‘escape’ your current job, you might be better off looking for an alternative role you’re happier with for now, while working towards longer-term portable career goals.
- Know your options: While many portable careers are held by people working as independent contractors or freelancers, there are organisations that welcome remote workers. In fact, some companies don’t even have physical office spaces but operate with a completely virtual workforce. If you want freedom and flexibility, but with some structure, this could be an option.
- Explore your passions: There are many people who make money by doing what they love. Can you create something based on your interests that others would want? This might include a website or content that could lead to passive income through ads paid for by third parties, affiliate links or writing (and selling) e-books on your chosen topic. If you have an area of interest, chances are other people have the same passion. You could also create packaged services, both physical and online, or coach or consult in your area of expertise.
- Learn to say yes: As you start out, it might be necessary to compromise. In many careers you can’t just pack up, move and expect to find work. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, for example, may need to undertake further training in order to work in other locations. This may not be viable, so you’ll need to think of other lines of work. If you’re a native English speaker, you could teach English as a second language in a foreign country. You could create a passion-based career (as discussed above), you could teach others what you know or love, or you could learn something completely new!
- Create a compelling offer: You might be looking to use your knowledge to help others. If you think you have expertise that clients will pay for, decide what you will offer and create a brand that sets you apart from your competition. Clearly articulate your offer and what makes it unique. It might be important at this point to narrow your focus rather than broaden it. Being a specialist sometimes limits your target market, but it also makes you more attractive to a specific set of prospects.
- Grow your network: Networks are necessary for any career, but they’re particularly important when you’re building a portable career. They can open up many new opportunities. For portability, you’ll need to ensure your networks are geographically diverse so you can leverage your contacts wherever you are. Here are some ways you can do that:
- Build a solid LinkedIn profile full of good-quality content that’s been optimised for search engines. Include a photo and as much ‘additional’ information as you can.
- Join professional associations with global memberships so you can connect with likeminded members while contributing to and benefiting from the knowledge base.
- Volunteer – either in person or online to build meaningful connections.
- Join online forums and groups and participate in chats and conversations to share your expertise.
Building a portable career that gives you the freedom and flexibility to work anywhere can be very rewarding. It might take some hard work to set up – but for many people it’s worth it.
If you’re ready to rethink your career and find a job that suits you better, one of our expert Career Coaches can help. To find out more, read about our services.
Finding a job is a bit like a sales process. You are the candidate but you’re also the product – with features, benefits and great potential! So it’s important to position yourself well. Having an ‘elevator pitch’ about yourself as a job candidate can be hugely helpful. It lets you sum up your value and expertise in a compelling way – and then deliver it quickly and succinctly.
The idea of an elevator pitch is said to come from the old Hollywood studio days, when a screenwriter would catch an unsuspecting executive on an elevator ride and quickly pitch their idea. But have you ever thought about having your very own career elevator pitch?
Having a great pitch is important for a number of reasons. Imagine finding yourself in an elevator (or a coffee queue) with the hiring manager of the job you’ve always dreamed of. What would you say? It’s also a good way to start the conversation in a face-to-face interview or during a phone screen. Being able to clearly and succinctly articulate who you are, what you’ll bring and what you want from your next job is an essential job-search skill.
Creating your pitch
Below are some steps to follow that will help you develop a concise pitch that’s focused on your background and immediate goals, but also shows value in what you offer. Writing down your elevator pitch helps you get it right. Reading it out loud helps you refine it and ensure it rolls off the tongue.
- Who are you? Start by introducing yourself with your full name and a pleasantry such as, “Thanks for seeing me” or “It’s great to meet you!”
- What do you do? Provide a brief summary of what you do and where you’ve come from. You should include the most relevant information to the role you’re pitching for. That might include qualifications, work experience, personal attributes, and/or other specialties. If you’re not sure what to include at this point, just write everything down that comes to mind and refine it later.
- What do you want? Explain what you’re looking for. You might ask for the job, request some advice about a role or organise a meeting to discuss next steps. The ask should include why you’d be a good fit. You want to get your message across about what you’re looking for, but you also want to convey what’s in it for them (the recruiter).
- Now read back over what you’ve written and trim it down to 75–100 words. Delete any words that feel clunky or distract from your main point. Make it relevant, concise and easy to understand with no industry jargon.
Delivering your pitch
- Talk with confidence and make it conversational. Don’t speak too fast and try not to sound rehearsed.
- By memorising a general outline or key points, you’ll be able to modify your pitch to suit the situation. When you’re going for a job interview, review the job ad or role description and make sure you know your pitch in relation to that role.
- If you’re approaching someone outside of an interview, there’s a chance they won’t be open to your pitch. If that’s the case, stop and ask if you can call or email them instead.
Examples of an elevator pitch
In a job interview, my pitch might look something like this (after the introductions): “Thanks so much for seeing me today – I was thrilled to get the call. I’ve been with Katie Roberts Career Consulting for more than 10 years, during which time I’ve helped more than 1,500 people search for a new role. My background is in marketing communications and I’ve also worked on the Katie Roberts blog and newsletter for almost six years now. When I saw this role combining marketing and career consultancy, I was very excited. I’d love the opportunity to leverage my marketing skills and career market understanding to develop your new website further.”
If I bumped into someone whose company I’d like to work for, it might look more like this: “Hi, my name is Belinda. It’s great to meet you! I’ve been following you on Instagram for some time now. I’m a career consultant with 10 years’ experience helping people develop their LinkedIn profiles and prepare complex job applications. I’ve also worked on a leading career advice blog for almost six years, and held a number of senior marketing communications roles before that. I’ve seen your website and love the fresh, innovative concepts. I think my background could work really well for you. Would you mind if I called you next week to talk about how I might be able to help you?”
Great job seekers know their career elevator pitch and how to customise it depending on who they’re talking to. Spend some time getting yours right and you’ll boost your job-search efforts and strengthen your personal brand.
If you’d like some help preparing for a job interview, so you can build your confidence and increase your success rate, take a look at our Interview Training and Coaching Services.
The next instalment in our ‘How to answer’ series looks at the question “Why are you leaving your current job?”. Some people dread being asked this question, but you should prepare for it since it’s commonly asked. While it’s easy to list the things you don’t like about your current role, the most effective response focuses on the positives and uses the question as an opportunity to explain why you’re perfect for the job.
This is a commonly asked question – and one that many people are unsure how to answer. The top thing to keep in mind is to make it positive yet honest. Your response should focus on the fact that you are seeking new or greater opportunities, responsibilities and/or challenges. If you’re trying to secure a role in a different industry, you should mention that and the reasons why.
If you were involved in a redundancy, say so. It’s best to be honest and simply say something like, “Unfortunately the company undertook a complete restructure and as a result of that my position was made redundant.”
Try framing your answer around the following positive reasons for moving on:
- Seeking new challenges.
- Desire to learn – gain new or grow existing skills and expertise.
- Desire to take on more responsibility.
- Changing career and/or industry.
- Looking for better career growth opportunities.
- Using recently completed study in a different area.
- Company restructure changed your job focus and now it doesn’t align with your interests.
- A need or desire to relocate.
- Desire for a shorter commute to work.
When responding, be enthusiastic, gloss over negatives and use the question as an opportunity to talk about the company you’re interviewing with. Show your knowledge and understanding about the role, the company, its customers and the market. For example, “I’ve learnt a lot about XYZ at [current/former organisation] and I’d like to now extend that at a company like [new organisation]. I know [new organisation] is moving into new markets, and that really interests me since I have spent a lot of time building expertise in that area. I’d like to leverage that while increasing my understanding of …”
You could also use the question as an opportunity to demonstrate specific interest in this role by saying something like: “I’ve enjoyed working on some really interesting projects with a great team in my current role, but this new opportunity aligns perfectly with the direction I’d like to take my career in.”
Remember: answer the “Why are you leaving your current job?” question in a positive way. Be honest but look to the future. Work out a response that includes something about the role you’re going for, the market it’s in, and/or possibly the company direction. Use it as an opportunity to talk about your previous accomplishments and how you hope to build on them in the future.
Do you struggle with answering questions like this during interviews? If you’d like some help preparing for a job interview, so you can build your confidence and increase your success rate, take a look at our Interview Training and Coaching Services.
Traditional job-interview approaches can be a poor predictor of actual performance, according to some studies – so is the process set to change? From virtual reality to job auditions to a bigger focus on soft skills, find out which interview techniques are rising in popularity and what the future of job interviews looks like.
The way organisations find and hire employees is constantly evolving – it looks very different today from how it looked 10 years ago. Most global companies regularly explore new approaches, with changes in recent years mostly thanks to technology. While most recruiters agree that the traditional face-to-face job-interview process is still an essential part of recruitment, some say there’s a general bias problem that can favour charismatic interviewees. After all, some people are naturally better at selling themselves – they’re more articulate, engaging and confident – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best person for the role.
Here are five job-interview trends that are being seen more frequently and are helping to shape the future of the job interview:
- Soft-skills assessments: Personality profile tests have been used by recruiters for years. What’s emerging now are other tests that measure attitudes, people skills, social skills, emotional and/or social intelligence and other desired qualities. Candidates can complete these tests online before other evaluations, which means companies can assess larger numbers of candidates faster. Employers can also create an ideal employee profile based on high-performing current employees, then use that to assess and rank new candidates. These comprehensive tests reduce bias while providing a more realistic view of a candidate’s personality than a recruiter can get from a traditional interview.
- Job auditions: This involves throwing candidates into their potential future work environment to assess how they’ll actually perform in the job. Job auditions can be conducted in different ways – one full day of work, multi-week trial periods, talent identification events – but the goal is the same. They help companies better understand candidates’ skills and traits in real-world situations relevant to the job they’ll be performing. It’s also a great way for the candidate to assess the culture and potential fit of the organisation.
- Casual meetings: These aren’t especially new but they’re rising in popularity. Casual settings put people at ease and many recruiters believe they provide a more realistic snapshot of a candidate’s personality than traditional interviews. For example, watching how candidates interact with waitstaff or assessing how they react to situations around them can paint a much truer picture of personality, tolerance, resilience and ability to handle problems.
- Virtual reality (VR): While relatively new technology, VR is being used across many areas of business, including recruitment. Companies use VR to measure skills, showcase their culture and appeal to younger talent. For example, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) created a Virtual Reality Career Experience that allowed candidates to get a feel for the types of projects employees worked on. It also enabled CBA to assess candidate skills. Showcased at university careers expos, it presented candidates with various challenges that required them to make decisions, all with corresponding benefits and consequences. It proved so popular that CBA created a virtual reality app and released it to the world. The British Army has also used VR to allow candidates to experience four scenarios: tank driving, parachuting, mountaineering and combat training. After testing it at various events, they saw a 66% increase in recruitment applications.
- Video interviews: These have been around for some time, but with video conferencing, ‘on-demand’ and ‘one-way’ video now more widespread, more recruiters are using them. The benefits are obvious: it’s more convenient and creates more familiarity than a phone call; it lets busy passive candidates record at their convenience; it allows anxious candidates to settle their nerves in a familiar environment; it’s more efficient for recruiters to review larger numbers of candidates; and it lets recruiters easily screen remote talent. Video interviews are particularly useful for roles where communication and presentation are crucial, such as sales or account management. For example, KPMG Australia now uses one-way video interviews to more effectively screen large numbers of graduates for client-facing roles.
The job-interview process is changing, thanks to new approaches that help organisations get to know candidates better, measure skills more objectively and make better hiring decisions. But these trends don’t just benefit employers. They also mean you’re more likely to be hired into a job you really want and that you’re highly suited to. It’s a win-win. Are you ready for the job interview of the future?
If you’d like some help preparing for a job interview, so you can build your confidence and increase your success rate, take a look at our Interview Training and Coaching Services.
It’s no secret that LinkedIn has become the world’s largest professional network, with over 562 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. In the Asia Pacific region alone, membership is now well over 100 million, and we know that most recruiters use the platform to find and/or screen candidates. So how can you leverage the power of LinkedIn to find a job?
If you’re searching for a new role, optimising your LinkedIn profile and taking advantage of the additional tools can be a powerful step. Here are our top tips for making the most of LinkedIn:
- Search LinkedIn Jobs: Browse the LinkedIn Jobs section to find relevant roles and use filters to refine your search. Create a search alert so you’re notified every time a job that meets your criteria is posted.
- Update your career interests: Let LinkedIn know you’re seeking work and share your career goals. You can specify the types of companies and roles you’re interested in, so recruiters can match your interests and background to available roles. Your career interests will be shared with recruiters for 180 days before being automatically turned off, but you can manually change this to continue sharing. Find ‘Career Interests’ in the ‘Jobs’ tab at the very top of your profile.
- Keep your profile up to date: A complete profile will strengthen your image, increase your visibility and bring you more networking opportunities. Complete as many sections as possible to achieve the ‘All Star’ level indicated by the profile strength metre under your summary when viewing your profile. Include everything that’s relevant to the roles you’re seeking, with a focus on your recent experience.
- Customise your headline: When users search for people with certain attributes, they only see their photo, name and headline. Your headline automatically defaults to your current (or most recent) job title, but you can – and should – customise it to ensure you stand out. Change your headline to encapsulate what you do, the value you offer or the type of roles you’re seeking. Simply click the ‘edit’ button next to the headline (and try to use all 120 available characters).
- Upload a photo: A photo makes your profile more likely to be viewed. It’s the first thing people see when they’re browsing, and if you don’t have a photo you’re missing out on opportunities. A professional shot is great but not essential – just don’t use a cropped photo from a social situation or an obvious ‘selfie’. Get someone to take a clear head-and-shoulders photo against a white or plain background, and wear something professional. Don’t forget to smile! For more on getting the perfect picture, read our recent article on DIY-ing a professional headshot.
- Include a summary: Your summary (the overview section at the top of your profile) contributes to your LinkedIn ranking and is one of the first things people read. Use yours to create a concise snapshot of you and your ‘brand’. Describe your background, experience and skills in a way that demonstrates your potential for your target roles.
- Add a comprehensive list of skills: Your Skills & Endorsements section also helps build your brand and improve your ranking. Select skills that already exist in LinkedIn’s database by starting to type a skill, and LinkedIn will make relevant suggestions. To boost your chances of getting the job you want, don’t leave anything out – you can list up to 50 skills and change the order by dragging up and down.
- Get recommendations and endorsements: These are invaluable and boost your profile’s strength and personality. Try to get recommendations for each role and include superiors, clients and colleagues since this will boost your credibility.
- Make your content web friendly: Aim for short paragraphs and concise sentences. To improve readability, use bullet points and subheadings. Consider adjusting the order that things appear within each section to suit your target role or industry.
- Be active: Share content regularly, making sure it’s relevant, authentic and valuable to your network. It might include articles, blog posts and quotes. Interact with other people and get involved in groups (click ‘My Network’ in the top menu and you’ll see your groups listed in the left-hand sidebar; use the search bar in the top left to search for new groups). The more you interact and post as a professional, the more you’ll get noticed and build recognition.
- Build your network: Connections help you increase your own exposure and access others. They also allow you to keep track of industry trends and news and create more opportunities for introductions.
- Research companies you’re interested in: Make a list of the companies you’d like to work for and follow them on LinkedIn. This will help you stay up to date on company news and new positions. Identify which of your connections are associated with the companies. Reach out to them for advice, support or an introduction to HR.
- Research your recruiter: Before an interview, use LinkedIn to research the interviewer – whether they’re internal or external to the company you want to work with. Use that knowledge during the interview to demonstrate you’ve done your homework.
LinkedIn can be a powerful tool for finding and securing the job you want. But it takes a bit of effort to get it right. Take a look at some of the top profiles in your industry for inspiration, and spend time getting to know LinkedIn so you can make the most of its tools. Your dream job could be waiting for you!
If you’d like help developing or optimising your LinkedIn profile so you stand out from the crowd, take a look at our LinkedIn Profile Writing service.
Was ‘be more productive’ one of your New Year’s resolutions? With a finite number of hours in the day, there’s a limit to how many tasks you can complete – so ticking off priorities and achieving your goals takes focus and a proactive approach. These simple ways to set up your day and manage your tasks will help you smash your to-do list – and make this year your most productive yet.
Do you spend hours ‘busy’ in multi-tasking mode with little to show for it at the end of the day? The key to getting through your to-do list is having one in the first place. While some people rely on their memory, motivation and focus to get things done, research consistently shows that to-do lists drive productivity. How that list is structured varies from person to person. Some of us are borderline obsessive, organising and scheduling every aspect of our lives, while others prefer a more relaxed approach.
Regardless of your style, most experts agree that even the most basic to-do list will help you achieve your important goals. Richard Branson, entrepreneur and founder of the Virgin Group, once wrote that he has always lived his life by making lists. Branson believes that getting things done relies on writing things down, and his lists include ‘to-dos’, ideas, insights, calls he needs to make and plans he’d like to implement.
Here are our top tips on how to smash your to-do lists this year:
- Prioritise: Writing a to-do list of absolutely everything you’d like to achieve is not productive or helpful. It’s usually just overwhelming. Categorising tasks helps. For example, you might have a home list and a work list, both of which are split into two sub-lists: urgent and non-urgent. The non-urgent list is an ongoing one with stuff that needs to be done but it’s not pressing. The other is tasks that need to be done in the next couple of days. It’s best to start with any items that absolutely must get done today – these are your MITs (most important tasks). Even if you get nothing else done, the MITs will be completed and you can start fresh tomorrow.
- Be realistic: Don’t set yourself up for failure. Instead of brain-dumping a list of everything you need to do and not factoring in how long it actually takes, work out your timeframes. You could block out daily commitments in your diary so you can see at a glance what your day looks like and how much time you’ve got to work with. If that much detail doesn’t appeal, simply look at your to-do list and be sensible about how long each task will take you.
- Schedule the scheduling: Check emails and write your to-do list first thing (or last thing) every day. It’s important to highlight urgent tasks and then plan your day before you start work. Making time for this means you’re working from a place of intention rather than just reacting to whatever comes up.
- Leverage your strengths: Know when you’re at your best and take advantage of it. For example, if your energy levels peak in the morning, schedule your complex tasks for then. Some people like to do their ‘hard’ tasks first and save the mundane tasks for low-energy times. Others prefer to clear all the little things first before focusing on the MITs without any mental distractions.
- Focus: This is one of the most important tips for smashing your to-do list. Instead of multi-tasking your way through the day, focus on one task at a time until it’s complete. Turn your phone off and don’t check emails so you can work uninterrupted. Try this for a day and watch your productivity improve.
- Systemise what you can: Routines, systems and rules are big productivity boosters. If you have regular tasks, try to complete them consistently. Establish work systems so you don’t have to recreate them every time. Implement rules and document naming conventions so you don’t waste time searching for documents. To pinpoint your biggest time-wasters, track your time for a day or a week to record what you actually do – then eliminate anything that isn’t productive, systemise what you can, delegate appropriate tasks or consolidate tasks that overlap.
- Deal with distractions: The best way to deal with all those things you suddenly remember while you’re trying to be productive is to write them down on a brain-dump list straight away and then return to the task at hand. Then set aside time to deal with your brain-dump list each day.
- Switch off: It might feel counter-intuitive these days, but most people don’t need to be contactable 24/7. Turn off your phone and only respond to emails at certain times, so you can work uninterrupted.
- Learn to say no: This can be difficult in a work situation, but setting realistic deadlines, not over promising and managing expectations is an important part of good time management.
- Get up earlier: If all else fails and you really don’t have enough time, set your alarm and get up an hour earlier – you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve with no one else around!
No matter how busy you are, you don’t have to feel overwhelmed. Rethinking your approach to your to-do list is key to achieving your goals. Try implementing some (or all) of these tips and see if they help you smash that to-do list. Make this year your most productive yet!
Do you feel like you spend too much time working through your never-ending to-do list and not enough on building your career? If you’ve been struggling to find time to get your career on track, an expert Career Coach can help. Or maybe you know your next step but you need help developing a tailored Job Search Strategy to secure your future? To find out more, read about our services.
Applying for a job these days usually involves sending your resume electronically, which may then be processed using an applicant tracking system. Recruiters and organisations are also increasingly using LinkedIn to recruit. This means that using keywords is an essential part of getting your application seen and demonstrating that you’re the best person for the role. Here’s how to identify the right keywords and use them effectively so you can get the job you want.
A high percentage of resumes are now scanned using applicant tracking systems (ATS), which means your resume may not even be seen by human eyes – unless it makes it through the initial round of scanning. More organisations are also using LinkedIn to find candidates. That means you need to use the right keywords in your resume, online profile and other content if you want your application to be seen.
A keyword is simply a specific word, set of words or phrase that relates to or describes a job, skill or experience. They can be general or specific – for example, ‘general manager’, ‘administrative assistant’, ‘report writing skills’ and ‘agile software development’ are keywords that a recruiter might use to search for candidates.
Regardless of the job you’re applying for, there are some common principles for selecting and using keywords effectively. Here are our top tips.
- Your name: Use your full name and ensure your online profile is consistent with your resume and other application documents. For example, if your resume says Greg Smith but your LinkedIn profile says Gregory C Smith, you’ve made it difficult for a recruiter to connect the two. There’s no need to include your full birth name if that’s not your preferred name. While we don’t recommend using nicknames, we do advise shortening (for example, Christopher to Chris) if that’s how you’re known in the workplace.
- Job title: Recruiters need candidates with experience that matches the role requirements. To get noticed, you should include your target job title. This doesn’t mean deceptively changing previous job titles, but simply tweaking title(s) to better describe what you did. With many of today’s organisations opting for more ‘interesting’ titles for employees, it can result in the title not necessarily articulating what you do (think ‘Director of First Impressions’ versus ‘Receptionist’). A good solution can be to use a slash to include two titles – for example, ‘Receptionist / Director of First Impressions’ or ‘Senior Administrative Assistant / Executive Assistant’. This will help you get found regardless of which title is being searched.
- Qualifications: Include relevant education, licences and certifications with the organisation that conducted the training as well as the year you completed it. Always include study you’re currently undertaking (with an estimated completion date/year). And translate difficult-to-understand qualifications (or those gained overseas) into the commonly understood equivalent. There’s no need to include high school qualifications unless you’re a recent graduate with no other training or education.
- Skills: Include a succinct list of relevant skills and capabilities focused on those most frequently mentioned in the job ad. You should create a section in your resume called ‘Key skills and capabilities’ or similar, which could include up to 15 individual skills, if necessary. This helps a recruiter to match your strengths with the right opportunity. And it’s just as important for your online profile as your resume. According to LinkedIn, members with five or more skills listed are contacted (messaged) up to 33 times more by recruiters than other LinkedIn members, and receive up to 17 times more profile views.
- Location: Many recruiters check your location so it’s important to include a city and state on your resume. If you’re searching for a new role in another state, you could say ‘relocating to Queensland in June’ or something similar. It’s also important to include your location on your LinkedIn profile. According to LinkedIn, more than 30% of recruiters will use advanced search based on location, so omitting it will reduce your chances of being found.
- Industry: Be sure to use commonly used keywords in your industry, such as ‘sales’, ‘marketing’, ‘information technology’ and ‘customer service’ to describe your field and area(s) of expertise. For LinkedIn, select an industry and sub-classification from the ‘Edit Intro’ section to better define your focus.
- Seniority: If it’s not clear from your job titles, use words such as ‘graduate’, ‘mid-level’, ‘senior’, ‘executive’ or ‘C Suite’ to show the level of seniority of past roles you’ve held or people you’ve dealt with.
- Legislation and regulations: Many roles require an in-depth understanding of, or experience interpreting and applying, laws or regulations. If that’s the case for your role, include the names of these laws, acts, regulations and codes of conduct on your resume, including shortened and extended versions if possible. Including memberships of industry groups and specific licences can also demonstrate in-depth understanding of a specific area and provides another way to include relevant keywords.
- Jargon: Include industry jargon and technical terms that are relevant and appropriate to your expertise and future goals. This includes acronyms, with the full description in brackets the first time they appear, so both versions are included.
When preparing your application and online profile, think like a recruiter filling the job you want. How is that job described in job ads? What skills, capabilities, qualifications and tools are required? Decide on your keywords based on the categories we’ve listed above. Then incorporate those keywords logically into your content.
Avoid madly listing or repeating keywords – this is known as ‘keyword stuffing’ and applicant tracking systems can easily recognise it and may reject your application. But get your keywords right and you’ll be well on your way to your next great job.
Would you like help preparing a top-quality job application or LinkedIn profile that focuses on the right keywords? Our experienced writers can help you create a professional resume and LinkedIn profile designed to make employers sit up and take notice. To find out more, read about our Services.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut – doing the same things, day in day out, without really enjoying them, but not giving it much thought. Work can become monotonous but most of us can’t afford to leave a job whenever the mood takes us. However, sometimes work starts to make us truly unhappy. Often we wait too long to leave or put off the decision because it’s easier to stay. So how can you tell if it’s time to move on from your job?
Recognising and accepting that it’s time to leave your job can be tough. You may have a ‘good’ job and work for a good company. Maybe you like your co-workers and get on well with your boss. But when it comes to your career, that’s not always enough. Simply feeling dissatisfied might not be a sufficient reason to leave, but there are certain situations that definitely indicate it could be time to move on. If any of the following apply to you, start planning now.
- Mondayitis is extending to the whole week: And your ‘bad week’ has turned into a ‘bad month’. Everyone has their off days or weeks. Things can go wrong, or maybe you feel overwhelmed and unable to get on top of things. However, if you’re constantly stressed or unhappy, waking up miserable most days and dreading going to work, that’s a sign it’s time to find something new.
- You’re bored: Feeling challenged at work is crucial for long-term satisfaction. If you find yourself doing the same things over and over, with nothing new to excite you, talk to your supervisor about your options. Ask if you can take on new or different responsibilities or tasks. If that isn’t an option, is there something in another department, or a special project you can work on for a short period of time to reignite your passion? If you can’t come to an agreement about new responsibilities, then it’s probably time to exit. You can help prevent the same thing happening again by asking questions in your next interview about career growth, support and development.
- You’re not achieving your desired work-life balance: Most of us are working more hours every week, which can compromise our health and wellbeing. With technology allowing us to be connected 24/7, it’s even more difficult to switch off. If you feel your employer is making it difficult for you to find time for friends, family or doing some of the things you love, it might be time to start searching for a new opportunity.
- You’re consistently overlooked for promotion: If you regularly put your hand up but you’re not really getting anywhere, what is the reason? Is someone standing in your way or are you doing something to sabotage your own success? If the problem is something out of your control, try raising the issue with your boss and if they struggle to provide a clear answer, it’s likely that the situation won’t change much in the future.
- Your company or industry is shrinking: If your company or industry as a whole is experiencing slow or negative growth, it might be time to get out while you still have a job.
- You dislike the people you work with: While it’s not viable that everyone gets on with everyone all the time, sometimes personality clashes just aren’t fixable. It’s important to know when that’s the case, and if it is, you may be better off looking for a new role.
- You don’t feel appreciated: It can be frustrating if you feel taken for granted or your advice is often ignored. If you work hard and are committed, you shouldn’t feel undervalued in the business. Talk to your boss about how you feel, and if they can’t provide a solution you’re happy with, you might want to consider your options.
We spend so much of our lives working, you owe it to yourself to ensure you enjoy going to work each day (or at least most days). If you’re working in a job that isn’t fulfilling, and you’re no longer learning and growing, it might be time to make a move.
Would you like assistance from a Career Coach to help you work out if it’s time to move on? Or perhaps you’ve already made the decision to leave and you need some help developing a tailored Job Search Strategy to secure your future? To find out more, read about our services.
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