The Best of You

Article by Manisha Patel CEng MIChemE

Manisha Patel highlights topics made available to IChemE members via the Career Solutions webinar series

AS I hope you are aware, the IChemE Benevolent Fund has sponsored a Career Solutions webinar series throughout November and December to support the development of IChemE members through these truly unprecedented and challenging times.

By the time this article goes to print, I will have delivered five of the six webinars. The recordings of all of the live webinar series will also be made accessible to members. However, if you’re short on time, then you may find useful advice and tips captured in this article on topics that have been instrumental in career development globally.

This includes:

  • transferable skills;
  • CV and cover letter;
  • using LinkedIn to improve personal branding and digital fluency;
  • job search strategy;
  • interview techniques; and
  • coaching, mentoring and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Transferable skills

T-shaped professional

Technical skills may help get your foot in the door, but it is your transferable soft skills that open most of the doors to come. The importance of these skills is often undervalued, and there is little-to-no training provided for them. For some reason, organisations seem to expect people to know how to behave on the job. They tend to assume that everyone knows and understands the importance of being on time, taking initiative, being friendly, and producing high-quality work.

There are also a number of myths about analytically-minded professionals such as engineers. These include:

  • they are risk averse;
  • they cannot acquire the transferable soft skills to become an effective leader;
  • they are introverted, and only extroverted professionals become great leaders;
  • they work well with analysis and struggle with people and building rapport; and
  • they have limited business acumen.

I’ve met a few engineering CEOs and senior leaders throughout my career who have demonstrated that these are indeed just myths - and they continue to inspire others by adopting growth mindsets. If you have a desire to become an engineering manager or leader at some point in your career, you have the means to learn and practise how to become one. You simply start where you are, model the excellence around you and develop yourself as “T-shaped” professional (see above).

A T-shaped professional is a highly sought-after individual who has deep knowledge and specialist technical skills, but also broader attributes and soft skills such as empathy, communication and team-building skills, and the ability to collaborate, allowing you to effectively connect across different disciplines.

Your work ethic, your attitude, your communication skills, your emotional intelligence and a whole host of other personal attributes (as shown below) are the transferable soft skills that are crucial for career success.

CV and cover letter

It’s quite common for engineers to produce one CV and assume that one size fits all – I know, I used to do the same. However, this is not the case. A tailored, compelling CV and cover letter shows an applicant has taken the time to understand the employer’s needs, the job requirements but most importantly it showcases how the applicant’s unique combination of skills and experience will add value to the organisation, thus setting the applicant apart from the competition – your very own market differentiator.

The purpose of your CV and cover letter is often to get an interview, and is an opportunity to give employers reasons to understand your value proposition and hire you.

To market yourself effectively, your CV should include:

There are plenty of templates available on the internet, but templates are not useful in helping us stand out. Instead, we can use the guidance below to construct an impactful cover letter to complement your CV.

Remember to identify the employer’s criteria (the key skills, experience that they require). Then, select evidence (from any aspect of your life) to show that you match their criteria. Ask others (such as mentors, colleagues or previous managers) for advice and feedback) and don’t forget to do your research.

Using LinkedIn to improve personal branding and digital fluency

LinkedIn is different to other social networking sites because it’s designed specifically for professional networking: finding a job, finding a mentor, finding a coach etc. It is said that over 90% of recruiters are using LinkedIn to find their future employees by initially screening applicants.

Having a LinkedIn profile isn’t enough. A few years ago, I didn’t see the value of LinkedIn. I was told to create a LinkedIn account and have at least 500 connections. This way, my profile would show “500+” connections, I would look popular and would attract others to connect. 500? I didn’t know 500 people and I’m sure many of you don’t either! So how do you go about using LinkedIn to improve personal branding and digital fluency?

I now have a 15,000+ strong network, and here are some suggestions, based on my experiences:

  • If you are comfortable with connecting, then connect. Your profile belongs to you, but understand that comfort zones can limit growth.
  • LinkedIn is a fantastic way to show up and build your personal brand. It provides a platform to start conversations that could support development, generate leads and encourage collaboration and creativity.
  • Seek to add value by sharing content and engaging in things that you’re passionate about; you’ll find your tribe/support system soon enough.
  • Be yourself, everyone else is already taken. Be authentic!

Job search strategy

Are you aware that not every job is advertised and that there is a “hidden” job market? According to the Harvard Business Review, nearly 80% of the openings available at any one time are never advertised. Job seekers should respond to ads, but the main thrust of your efforts should be toward establishing networks and identifying the hidden job market.

While strategically reviewing advertised jobs can supercharge your job search, digital networking and enhancing your personal brand is what gets you seen and hired. Therefore, I’d suggest you divide your time between networking and reviewing job posts.

It is also important to be more intentional and focussed to identify suitable jobs that are aligned with your skills, interests, personal style and values. While many of you will be aware of your skills, interests, personal style and values, there are a number of tools available on the internet to further enhance your awareness of your strength and weaknesses and identify important patterns in your behaviour.

Job seekers should respond to ads BUT the main thrust of your efforts should be toward establishing networks and identifying the hidden job market

A very simplistic tool is a colour approach, as shown in the figure below, where each colour has particular personality traits, and can help you understand and raise awareness of your own traits. We all have personality styles that change depending on the situation and environment we are in, but we typically have a recognisable dominant personality style. This increased awareness can help you better interact with others, and you can use the outputs to advise managers on how to get the best out of you, your likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses.

Be sure to create a schedule to support your job search efforts, get organised, and follow up with all of your messages and applications.

Article by Manisha Patel CEng MIChemE

Director, Consultant & Executive Coach at Kuzuko Group

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