The commercial real estate industry is booming again. Many employees who hunkered down in their uninspiring positions during the recession are finally feeling comfortable enough to look for the next meaningful step in their career.
Yes, this even applies to the more mature, set-in-their-ways, approaching-retirement talent. The “do what you love” movement makes even the most conservative commercial real estate industry veterans step back and ask themselves, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”
If it has been a while since you last interacted with the job market, I offer you my top five tips for navigating the current interview and job search scene.
• Invest time to discover your dream career: Whether it be dedicating an hour a week to perusing job sites and job descriptions, setting up a career-focused lunch with a trusted colleague, or taking a three-month break from the real world to live your own version of “Eat, Pray, Love” at a meditation retreat in a foreign country, make time to focus on figuring out where you would ultimately like to be in your career.
Once you have decided what career would motivate you to jump out of bed every day, set incremental short-term goals to achieve that desired career. These goals might include taking graduate classes, attending a specific CREW event on a relevant topic, or meeting someone currently working in your desired position who can point you in the right direction.
Setting aside time for career soul-searching and subsequently setting measurable goals to get to your ideal career will be exponentially more rewarding for you, your family, and future company and colleagues.
• Worry less about work gaps: Employers in this day and age realize that even the best employees may have been affected by economic factors outside of their control. Candidates who take the time to try to start their own venture or discover the world show tremendous initiative and curiosity that employers respect and admire, even if it means periods of unemployment on a resume.
• Research your ideal companies and yourself: Google yourself and see what comes up because you can be sure employers are doing the same thing.
In order to promote positive pieces as the first things employers see when they search your name, create your own content through articles and blogs, customize your LinkedIn domain name or create a personal page to showcase your talents.
Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and up to date. This includes asking former co-workers and clients for public feedback on your performance.
The Society for Human Resource Management indicates that the cost of hiring the wrong candidate can be anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of that employee’s annual salary. To avoid making this costly mistake, companies are turning more to references and LinkedIn recommendations to validate their hiring choices.
In that same vein, research the person you are going to meet before you meet them. This will give you clues as to what causes the person is passionate about and what they like doing in their spare time. Find some common ground to start the conversation off on the right foot.
LinkedIn is also a wealth of information, but you may want to make your searches private so your interviewers don’t see you habitually checking their profiles. I do not suggest requesting to connect with your interviewers on social media platforms until after you accept the job with their company.
• Dress professionally: Whether your dream job interview takes place in a coffee shop or in the corner office of a downtown high-rise, always present your best self. I cannot tell you how many candidates I have dealt with who are extremely qualified, but carry themselves in a way that causes future employers to see them as someone who would be detrimental to the hiring company’s image as a whole.
It is always better to be overdressed. Peruse company material and photos of their executive team on their website to determine the appropriate attire. If the company you are interested in is a construction company and the website is full of casual pictures, then you are probably safe with dress pants and a jacket or a nice professional dress. In most cases, the old conventions of wearing a suit or professional outfit to an interview still apply.
• Send a written thank-you note: The art of the thank-you note seems to have gotten lost over the past 10 to 15 years with the rise of the Internet. Regardless of the context of the meeting, the person on the other side of the table consciously took time out of their day to spend with you, so express your appreciation with a thank you message within 24 hours.
If you are very interested in the position or gleaned valuable information from the discussion, go one step further and send a written note to really stand out.
The most important part of getting your dream job is conveying your passion for the position in a consistent message through your personal brand and value proposition. This can be done online, through social media or, most importantly, in person through your interviews and other meetings.