Practical Tips for Your Career Success

What is your current situation?

In other words, what exactly is your motivation for answering a recruitment ad? It is highly likely that this question will come up during a face-to-face interview, your first step in actually getting a new job. Possibly one of the following five scenarios mirrors your present circumstances. If not, they might give you some input and suggestions to pinpoint your specific motivation.


Scenario 1:
As a recent college or university graduate entering the job market

This scenario presents the fewest problems if you approach the situation with a mixture of realism and flexibility. Strategically, all you need to do is to get hired in order to enter and participate in the job market. This might sound somewhat simplistic, but in fact it is just that. Let us tell you why:

While the decision you are making now will lead you into a certain direction professionally, this is not carved in stone. After about 3 years, which is about the time you should remain with your first employer, you will have the employment history you need to apply for and have a much better chance of getting that job that you wish you could get today.

Why not accept a small detour, if in the future, you can build a successful career on the experience you are gaining now?

Perhaps you have received your degree in business administration and are convinced that you have what it takes to be a brilliant marketing professional. The successful beginning for such a career might be to become a Junior Product Manager. Your particular problem is that you cannot show relevant prior training and for that reason or another, you cannot get that exact job. Why not start out in an entry level sales position? It is possible to acquire excellent knowledge about a given company’s organization and operational procedures while working in a department such as inside sales and/or sales or customer support. You might be able to visit clients along the way and learn about successful marketing and sales strategies. If you are lucky, down the line your own company might have a job opening for a Junior PM or PM and you can apply from within. Otherwise, not a problem. About 2 to 3 years into your first assignment, you can begin reviewing relevant job ads and start applying for interesting job opportunities. In subsequent interviews you will now be able to present yourself as a serious candidate for marketing functions, having gained good, basic experience in sales. Someone attempting to develop marketing strategies without prior sales experience is likely to encounter difficulties.

Another example: If you are a degreed engineer having lofty goals and the desire to invent something brilliant, you are drawn to the center of research & development or the design department of a company teeming with innovative power. If this is initially an unattainable goal, it still should be possible to find a well-regarded company willing to offer you a job as a Junior Design Engineer. Here you will be able to demonstrate your capabilities, to “show what you are made of.” If you really do excellent work, it will become obvious enough that your boss will notice it and want to help you to advance your career, in order to retain such a valuable employee.

So what do we learn from this? Intelligence, creativity and flexibility are what count. You should never utter the words: “I studied too hard to work in this position!” Your objective must be to enter the job market. You need the chance to show that you have the right stuff. Anyone doing exceptional work attracts attention and the opportunity for more challenging assignments. And once again, it is less important in what position you enter the job market, but that you get started. And here is another tip for your application strategy: Focus on what you can do for your company, not what the company can do for you. Everything depends on you and your capacity to exhibit dedicated effort.

Scenario 2:
You are the victim of a reorganization

This excuse is not usually well-received by Human Resources Management. The prevalent opinion is that companies generally do not let their achievers go; they want to keep them to assure a strong future.

How did it come to this? Did you miss the signs? Had you misjudged your position in the company? Were you blind to reality or were you just too comfortable or too distracted to re-position yourself in time? Our first demand of you is that you learn from this development. And that you not shirk responsibility for your predicament by placing the blame on others. Also, do not use the same old lame excuse of almost all the other self-proclaimed victims of reorganization: Mobbing.

How do you market yourself under these circumstances? Before we develop a strategy together, you need to understand that it is impossible to know the various personal connections that Personnel Directors have. They may know each other from their university days, from their professional circles, or from their participation in associations dedicated to Human Resource Management such as the European Association for People Management. That means that the legends or stories we might devise to cloak or polish your situation are for obvious reasons unsupportable. Keep to the truth as closely as feasible.

The only real chance you have will come in a face-to-face interview. It may not be so much that your resume/CV is what got you the interview, but rather that in comparison to the other applicants you still appear to be a decent prospect. As such, you must present yourself as convincingly as possible so that the Personnel Manager gets the impression that you apparently did just have some bad luck at your last company. You must promote the perception that you are worth the chance, that you have learned from the experience and it will not happen again. So why not just admit that you misread a certain situation and then tie that to the promise that you will conduct yourself differently in the future in order to make the most of a new career opportunity with drive and commitment. Of course this means that you must come to the interview in an excellent frame of mind, totally concentrated on making the desired impression. If you do so, you will win this battle and succeed, provided that you have changed your old strategy, having recognized that it was the wrong one.

Scenario 3:
You simply want to do something new and different

You have mastered your current job that you have held for about 5 years. You sense that everything has become more or less routine. You miss the excitement that fascinated you in the beginning. You definitely need to plan and make a job change. It is a known fact that the quality of job performance drops for people who no longer feel properly challenged, but rather are bored.

Your strategy could be as follows: Have a talk with your boss or the appropriate contact in the Human Resources department. Explain your expectation that after having worked for the company for about five years, your employer has come to know and appreciate you and that you would like the opportunity for further development or a new challenge. Ask if there might be chances for internal advancement or alternative, challenging fields of endeavor for you. If the answer is “yes”, then that could be the best solution, because you already know how things work in your current company. Do not underestimate the importance of that familiarity.

If your way to the top or to another interesting assignment is blocked, then you have to look for work outside the company. In such a case, you have to have an answer ready for the question as to why you cannot advance your career with your current employer. Furthermore, you have to make it absolutely clear why the offer of Company XY is so attractive for you and that you are the candidate of choice.

Scenario 4:
You are returning from an assignment abroad

Perhaps you are a sales engineer and five years ago you grabbed the chance to work as the responsible sales engineer for the overseas subsidiary of your employer. After the initial three years of very successful work on your part, your foreign contract was extended for two more years, with your consent.

The Personnel Director had reassured you beforehand that you need not be worried about future opportunities for further career advancement within the company. The personnel planning appeared to be working, but the reality did not develop in your favor: The management assignment in Sales or in Applications Engineering, whatever it was supposed to be, was no longer on offer. The assignment proposed as the next step, is just a stop-gap or temporary solution that is not making you happy. It is not exactly what management wants either.

So, what is there to do? Actively enter the job market and if at all possible, within nine months BEFORE returning to Germany. How can you do that if you are in the United States or Japan? You still have good connections back home and, for example, can initiate a well-formulated job search in the appropriate newspapers and trade magazines using a local address there. From the Internet you can identify personnel consultants active in your industry, and reach out to them, offering your CV/resume. Needless to say, you can also ask a trusted friend or acquaintance to check the Saturday recruitment ads for positions that might be suitable for you. Such ads are easy to fax or email to you.

As part of your written application, you absolutely must mention when you will next be in Germany. Most companies tend to shy away from the expensive travel costs incurred by applicants working abroad.

So take control and focus on the market for opportunities and alternatives outside of your current company. In the end you will have choices and that is not the worst situation. Having said this, you should also express your motivation for making contact or, as the case may be, for submitting your application. Everyone will understand that and it will be to your advantage.

Scenario 5:
You are self-employed and desire to return to a permanent employment relationship

Your situation is not so simple because you might get into a “that’s hard to explain” issue. Most likely you are going to have to say why you gave up a good position maybe three years ago in order to pursue self-employment. Were you perhaps too starry-eyed, full of zeal, and you jumped with both feet on the chance to take over the sales of an innovative high-tech product that fascinated you at an expo? Sure you can sell. You proved it in over 12 years of working as a salesperson, key account manager and regional sales director in your industry. Nevertheless, you found out that there is more to running a successful business than having above average sales skills. All the paperwork, always a nightmare for you, overwhelmed you. Somewhere along the way it dawned on you that the key to business success is not just order fulfillment, but also timely and correct invoicing. And it was almost too late. Your bank got nervous and reduced your credit line. You had to use all but your last cent in order to meet the payroll for your five employees. Fortunately, you put on the brakes just in time and you sold your little enterprise to your fiercest competitor. Afterall, you are a top salesman. You did not quite make that big deal, but you came away with only a black eye.

If your situation is as described here or at least similar, and you are really that Sales Professional with a winning countenance and a portfolio of sales successes, then your strategy should be: “I am a consumate sales professional and as such I see myself also as an entrepreneur. I dared to go independent and learned a lot in the process. Among other things, I learned that I am at my best when I am employed and working on the frontline of the sales process in a large, well organized company. Give me the chance and you will not regret it.” To prompt trust in your sales skills and abilities, you should agree to a reasonable base salary plus a results-oriented bonus.