Seven Smart Skills
(For the New Millennium Market - JL)

Market Thyself # 048

Career strategists agree that charting your course toward success will involve knowing how to sell your talents, plus change directions, if necessary. The following seven skills will take you not just from one position to the next but from one profession to another if you need/want. And you don't have to go back to school full-time to acquire them. Ready to feel more secure?

1. A Compelling Voice

Believe it or not, we depend on the voice for up to 80 percent of all communication, but in our quest for self-improvement, it is the one detail we usually overlook. Very often most of us work day after day with a voice that sells us short.

If you doubt the power of effective and engaging speech, really listen to the calls you get in the course of a day. You'll be amazed by the range of patterns you hear, see how you instantly judge a person by the quality of his/er voice. How to improve yours? Place a mirror at your desk, so you can see yourself smile before picking up the receiver. Your voice will sound better. The person on the other end can hear the smile. Also, aim for a really friendly tone - pleasant is just average. To be exciting, you have to exude warmth, express interest. Tape a telephone conversation with a friend, then critiquing it. Other strategies: Join a speaking club such as Toastmaster, check out voice teachers in the local yellow pages, and enroll in an acting class.

2. A Persuasive Pen

Speaking well is not the only communication skill that is crucial to success - so is writing. Employers are flooded with resumes, so to ensure yours stands out, you have to craft a well-thought-out, customized cover letter (Refer back to Market Thyself # 039 - The Most Used Letters). This is particularly important if you are trying to change job or move to a different field; all a resume will do, then, is eliminate you. Specifically, your letter should explain the reasons you and the job opening are a perfect fit. To this end, show you have done your research by identifying the employer's need, then emphasizing your qualifications, accomplishments, and benefits you can offer the company. Many people think they will never be good writers because they did not excel in English composition at school, but an effective letter is conversational in style, not academic, and the skill can be learned. Need guidance? There are many books on the subject. You can also take a business-writing class, even pay a professi

3. A Talent for Ideas

Taking in information and then using it as a jumping-off point to come up with ideas of you own is key in tomorrow's competitive job market. Currently, the amount of available knowledge doubles every five years. It is predicted that the overload will be so great by the next Millennium, we will need personal trainers for our minds - people to advise us on what to read and watch and how to put it all together.

Meanwhile, we must scan today's culture for signs of the future. At least once a month, check out best-seller lists of books, movies, music, products, and ask yourself: WHY THIS? WHY NOW? You need to tap into what is going on in the world around you. Monitor the top ten TV shows; pick up a magazine you have never looked at before; skip reading your trade publications one week and scan another industry's reports. Find out what other people are up to. The future is out there - not in the office.

Be prepared to go into every interview with at least three ideas for the prospective employer. To get those ideas, you must constantly read, clip, and file - keeping a manila envelope, and highlighter always at hand. Stay informed, and you will not only discover new job opportunities, you will be perceived as a valuable resource - employers are impressed by people who know stuff.

4. Tech Know-how

Most (if not all) of us are in this field. We skip this section - JL.

5. Money Smarts

Most employers use a simple mathematical formula as a basis for hiring. They look for someone who demonstrates that she can help the company make more mondy than it will cost to pay him/er. In a job interview, you will make an impact if you show you are able to contribute to the bottom line. How do you do that? If you are applying to a service firm, name potential clients you could bring in.

6. An Expanded And Nurtured Network

Possibly the most powerful career-enhancing tool is a network (Refer back to Market Thyself # 033 - Ten Things to Prepare For The Job Market). But that does not mean just mingling successfully at events - initiating conversations, circulating, exchanging business cards. You then have to establish a solid contact base you regularly call upon for advice, information, and referrals. You can meet millions of people, but if you do not stay in touch, you have memories - NOT a network. Networking is critical for career management because people do business with those they know, like, and trust. What is more? Consultants estimate that between 60 and 75 percent of new jobs result from professional word of mouth. Remember the average adult is in touch with three hundred other people you do not know. You must not assume that because someone is not in your field, s/he cannot help you.

The key to expanding your network is to acquire diverse contacts. Join format network groups, professional organizations, special interest clubs, but also take advantage of the people you meet in exercise class, even while shopping or at the beach. You can also join VACETS AdCom (Administrative Committees) or VACETS local chapters. You will be surprised that how your network will grow fast. Remember business success is not just about whom you know but WHO KNOWS YOU.

7. Follow-through

Whether you are networking or actively looking for a job, you have to keep at it. Many people start off with tremendous energy and enthusiasm, but then do not make the effort to follow through. This simple skill is a key indicator of how successful someone will ultimately be. Statistics shows that more than a half of those who send in letters to ask for work never call for an interview. Since so many job seekers fail to reconnect with a potential employer, the person who follows up with a telephone call may well land an interview - and a job!

(Seven Smart Skills - Cheryl Jarvis)

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