Both Sides Now

Let’s look at both sides of the job seeker – employer equation.  When you think about where you want to take your career, one of the first considerations is the kind of work you want to do, and the industry in which you want to grow.  But an equally important consideration should be your understanding the needs of the employers in your chosen field.  You can start by asking yourself, “What do I really need to know, and what skills must I be good at, to be successful in my career?”
If you attended college or university with a particular professional goal in mind, you hopefully attended a variety of courses that provided you with – at the very least – a basic understanding of that industry and the hard skills required to effectively pursue that endeavor.  Your instructors and professors tried to give you the rudimentary – and perhaps advanced tools that you hoped would prepare you for a job in your chosen field.
Then, after graduation, if not before, you started a dedicated and focused job search, and uncovered the reality that employers are looking for different skillsets and knowledge than you are ready to bring to the table.  You learned, possibly the hard way, school can only provide you with a relatively limited perspective on what employers really need. Even if you are/were lucky enough to have instructors who are currently working professionals in your industry, each employer has their own particular needs, and ways of doing things.
So, how do you find out what employers are really looking for in your field?
It starts with some clarity about your goals.  “A career in ….”  Not sure?  Pick something related to your deepest interests, and follow through!  It’s not a slow or easy process, and it will take time and effort.  Take small steps.  Anything you uncover will likely lead to other usable information.
Research the companies and industries that you want to pursue.  Go to LinkedIn, or other business-focused or industry-specific website and identify the people whose jobs are closest to your goal.  If they are active using professional networking sites, it should be fairly easy to reach out, do some online networking, and ask to start a conversation.  Remember, your objective is to learn how others fulfilled their employers’ needs!
Careerists with extensive and focused work histories should have some insight into knowing what employers want, especially if they are currently employed! Even those recently unemployed may have a perspective worth hearing.
Write a polite email requesting to connect.  Be upfront that you want to learn, and ask a few questions.  You may get turned down, but I believe those who are willing to share a bit about their personal experiences are far greater in number!
Making contact online really is the best way to initiate an informational conversation.  Then, after initial contact you can ask if they are willing to talk on the phone or possibly meet in-person.  Promise to minimize any intrusion into their day and respect their schedule.
If you’re not comfortable making contact with strangers and asking them for their insights, use the net and learn as much as you can about the professionals and companies that interest you.  From reading their profiles, you will find out more about their skills and accomplishments, shedding more light on what employers are looking for.
Don’t ignore the value of reading industry-specific professional publications.  Frequently you’ll find interviews and profiles of the movers and shakers from that industry.  The content may or may not provide specific information on what employers are looking for, but you are sure to uncover information that will motivate and energize your search.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re having difficulty finding the information you want.  The results you’ll get from an internet search can frequently be overwhelming, so it is important to have some perspective on what is, and is not, truly relevant.  And a good place to get that help is your friendly neighborhood library.  Don’t underestimate the value of this resource and the people who work there.  They can help you filter information to find the most relevant and important leads to what you want to know.
At the very least, understand that no matter the industry, most employers are looking for the same basic characteristics in all their employees.  They want to hire people with the right combination of drive, ambition, knowledge, a willingness to learn, who have passion for their work, and who work well with others.
No matter your career choices, when looking for work your job is to convey to the employer how your skills and experience meet their needs and that you are willing and know how to do what needs to be done.  Now you know both sides!
For more ideas on what employers want, your job search and other career development topics, please search this blog and visit: or contact me.