Career in Your Suitcase
A practical guide to creating meaningful work... anywhere

Marketing Your Skills

This is a preview to the chapter Marketing Your Skills from the book Career in Your Suitcase by Jo Parfitt.
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Finding Opportunities


Regardless of what type of opportunity you are looking for, you will need to market your skills. There are occasions when you will need to submit your CV on its own or as part of a proposal. As well you will need to write cover letters and emails.

Jo has been freelance for more than 25 years now and Colleen for 15 years. We tend to think that, while we never apply for a single full-time, salaried position, we have to apply for many more and repeatedly. When you are freelance you are constantly looking for your next source of work. Whether we are applying for a short term contract, a one day training job, and part time work over an extended period, or persuading a client to buy our work, many of the same principles apply. We need to make a proposal face to face and/or on paper. We need to be interviewed as well, though this can be a formal or informal process. Additionally, because we also offer consultancy services, opportunities arise regularly when we find ourselves in a position to promote ourselves. Running our own businesses means it is vital we are always positive about our work, that our passion for what we do is palpable and our enthusiasm persuades others to hire us. These same skills are required to find any kind of opportunity.

Marketing your skills will require you to prepare a summary of your skills, accomplishments and qualifications, otherwise known as a CV or resume. You will need to write a cover letter or email to accompany and introduce a CV or proposal. Few jobs and contracts are offered until at least one, often face-to-face, interview has taken place. Even if you are offered a position through your networking efforts, you will probably still need to supply the required documentation to meet some procedural requirements. The society in which we now look for work is more competitive, complicated and confusing than a generation ago. Much of this has to do with the accelerated pace of change — and, of course, the impact of the Internet on our economy and society. The CV today will most likely be a digital one sent with an email cover-letter and you may be interviewed using Skype, but the key basic elements are still the same. Below you will find some helpful guidelines.

Your successful search strategy

GETTING AND STAYING ORGANISED

Conducting a focused work search requires a method of organising the information you’re collecting, and of recording the concrete steps — such as information interviews and sending out CVs — that you have taken. Getting and staying organised has several advantages over just trying to remember what you’ve learned and done. Unless your search is short, or you are blessed with an extraordinary memory, you won’t remember everything.

A nearly universal curse of looking for work, especially if you have just moved to a new location and are unemployed, is the sense of not being in control. Staying organised with notebooks, folders, files, forms or computerised tracking systems will help you feel on top of what you are doing. Most work searches last from three to six months in the western world and longer if you are highly specialised and/or making an international move on top of this. Prepare yourself accordingly. Approach work search as your ‘work’ until you find your next opportunity.

Keeping orderly records helps you to internalise and track the information you have learned and actions you have taken. This helps to build your self-confidence, sense of purpose, and to maintain momentum, and all of these impact your ability to present yourself.

How to get organised

The goal of organisation is to achieve order and clarity with the least complicated arrangements possible. To organise your job search you may need the following supplies:

• A calendar or agenda that provides plenty of room to record appointments, action steps and in which to make notes
• An opportunities binder, alphabetical filing system or online document access like Google docs in which to keep track of all the companies you research and the vacancies you find and to which you apply. Keep a copy of the vacancy, the targeted CV itself, to whom and how you sent your CV, and when you sent it. Keep track of when you called to ensure the CV was received and to whom you spoke. This is an essential opportunity to use ‘charming persistence’ and to monitor progress of the process
• Copies of all your credentials including certified copies of official university transcripts, as these are often required when looking for opportunities in a new country
• Forms with which to record and monitor your goals, research, actions, results and follow-up plans. Consider generating an Excel spreadsheet that will provide an overview of your worksearch activities and their progress. See www.careerinyoursuitcase.com for examples of these forms
• A street map to familiarise yourself with the area
• A professional looking email address which you use exclusively for the purpose of work search and make sure you check it daily. Once your work search is over, you can forward this address to the email you use personally. It allows you to separate your personal email time from your work search email time
• Set detailed goals and implementation plans for every week and break them down into daily chunks. Write down these goals and plans on paper and share them with other people, for example your Blue Sky Team, to help keep yourself committed and accountable. Don’t try to plan too much work search per day and make sure also to schedule in exercise, learning and social activities

STAYING MOTIVATED

Most work searches lasting any longer than a month or two hit ‘dry stretches’ during which it feels as though nothing positive is being achieved. When you hit a patch like this, don’t permit yourself to wallow in self-pity or negative thinking. Few people go through a work search without going through times of discouragement and low morale; it is a normal part of this process and ultimately will help you focus in on what you really want. Continue to believe in yourself and your goals. Remind yourself that feelings are not facts and their main source of power comes from whatever energy you give them yourself. Sign up for a daily or weekly free email message to help you. I (Colleen) really like Mike Dooley’s positive and humorous Note from the Universe available for free at TUT’s Adventurer’s Club, www.tut.com. Their slogan is ‘Thoughts become things. Choose the good ones’ and the Notes definitely help me to do this. Reward yourself along the way for successes, such as getting an interview, and for achieving goals you have established for yourself. This is essential for maintaining your energy and pacing yourself well.

Read more about staying positive and dealing with transition in Chapter 8 — For the Journey.

Finding out about opportunities

There are many ways to find out what career opportunities are waiting to be discovered by you. Even though most people get their jobs through networking, it is important to support this with good research. For example, finding out which skills seem to be in demand, and how frequently certain companies appear to be hiring, can provide you with information regarding the stability or growth of a business. John Krumboltz says, ‘luck happens when planning and preparation meet opportunity’. This research will prepare you for the unexpected moment when you are in the right place at the right time talking to the right person. Set yourself up to be ‘one of the lucky ones’. Maybe you want to choose this as the theme song, as mentioned in Chapter 7 — Working for Yourself, for this chapter of your life. You will find many of these sources are similar to the ones you used when generating work ideas in Chapter 4 — Creating Your Career.

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