Stop being a candidate

Business and career advice with Neil franklin

The word “recession” has reared its ugly head again, unemployment rates are set to soar, and we are heading for the next phase of global uncertainty, which is not surprising, since this global pandemic was only going to have one outcome for the economy.

Businesses are now having to pivot dramatically and that means a total restructure of operations for many and a harsh rationalisation of costs.

But what does that mean for the workforce of today…and tomorrow?

As I have talked about before in a previous article concerning the future of work, we are facing increased automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and the more wide-spread adoption of internet-based technologies, but I still believe that there will be a war for talent that will help shape the future with the right technology as well as keep the invaluable “human touch.”

I believe that for people to stay marketable in the future, they must be in the top 20% of the talent pool in their industry.

And it also means that people have to stop being “candidates” in the job world and to start thinking of themselves as mini “corporations,” who can articulate clear and tangible value to potential employers and where employers can see the immediate benefit of that value to their own customers.

It doesn’t matter what job you do, or in what function and remember – the smallest component in anything, can have a huge effect on overall performance.

If you go to my website, I have written a detailed article about how to get yourself into the top 20% of your industry and to make you an attractive hire to anyone:

“Linchpin: How to become a linchpin at work and be the best employee.”

The article was written in support of internet marketing guru and best-selling author, Seth Godin, who wrote a book called “Linchpin: Are you indispensable?”

    Godin talks about how to make yourself indispensable at work and if you can write down what you do into say, a manual, then it is fair to assume that someone else could do it cheaper, or it could become automated.

    Godin goes on to bring in the concept of being an artist, but not so much in the traditional sense – in his definition in the book, he uses the term to describe the qualities of bravery, insight, creativity and boldness — to challenge the status quo and also to highlight someone who takes things personally.

It is the combination of these “artistic” qualities, alongside the ones required to do a job, that makes someone a linchpin.

    Linchpin for me, is a very good read.

The problem with many business and personal development books, is that they lure you with words, ideas and concepts, but rarely tell you how to implement them.

I am going to give you two keys to success that are immediately actionable in your search for your next job:

  • Developing an entrepreneurial mindset
  • Improving your understanding of commercial awareness

I will go deeper into these qualities in the next articles, but for now, think of the qualities that Godin talked about when he defined the word “artist” and you are well on your way to developing entrepreneurial thinking and google the term “commercial awareness”– there are some great articles on the subject.

It is the combination of both of these qualities, plus your skillset, that will get you noticed in any interview…but now you have to make sure you are noticed by the right people.

Now at the risk of upsetting human resources (HR) and procurement professionals…and when I was selling my staffing and recruiting services in the technology industry, I avoided them like the plague!

Nothing personal, but I wanted to get to the people in my target companies who were feeling the pain and experiencing the dynamic customer problems that would create the most demanding of problems…and I wanted to provide the solutions.

My immediate point of contact and here, I am talking about contacting the world’s leading multi-national technology companies, was the CEO, or more specifically, their executive assistants.

I knew that my competitors would be looking for the hiring authorities and managers, who could give them instant opportunities, but my focus was to build much longer-term and higher value relationships.

I knew that reaching the CEO would be almost impossible, but by asking for help from their trusted executive assistants, I would usually be given the right person in the executive leadership team to help me.

It worked wonders and I urge you to do something similar in your own search for your dream career, or your next job.

If you are looking for a new opportunity and for whatever reason, you have two choices:

Succumb to the “normal” and put yourself in the “waiting game” situation – loads of job applications, endless waiting for feedback and then, if you are lucky, you may get an interview or two.

You can take matters into your own hand and take control of your future and with the approach I am going to highlight to you, you may even be able to create a job that doesn’t exist.

The first thing you must do is to create what I term your “master CV.”

This is a document describing your life – the good, bad and ugly…and what you have concluded and learned from it so far.

List your successes…and what you have learned from them, plus your failures and again, what you have learned from them.

The smallest of successes and the most monumental failures are equally important to your learning experiences and the knowledge you have acquired to this day – be proud of them.

You are going to discover at the end of this task that you have a number of entrepreneurial or artistic qualities alongside the hard skills that you have learned, and they make up the ingredients for answers to the two key questions every employer is really trying to get the answers to:

  • What you know
  • And who you are

It is extremely difficult to articulate “who you are” in one interview, but you can go a long way to demonstrate it.

The two qualities of who you are and what you know will be combined into your own unique and compelling value proposition – unique because there is only one of you and “compelling,” because you will be able to make sure it is in line with the values of the company you are hoping to work for and also so that they can relate it to their customers.

This master document will form the basis of each iteration of your CV – it is important to make sure that your CV is tailored to each role you are applying for and clearly demonstrating the qualities you possess for that role.

Notice I use the word “tailored” and please don’t alter your CV!

Now, you need to come up with a target list of companies that you would like to work for…and explaining the reasons why.

This will help you to laser-focus your search and take yourself away from the rest of the pack, who are chasing the latest vacancies and relying on their CV passing the “keyword test” of the latest shortlisting software.

Make your job search personal!

I once interviewed a sales director in the US – he approached me directly, explaining that he knew exactly where my company was in relation to the sector we operated in, where we wanted to be in the future, and he knew the same about our direct competitors.

He explained that he wanted to meet me to discuss potential opportunities (he never used the term “job”) and explained that he had a few other ideas that could help my company.

I had to see him…even out of curiosity.

At the meeting, he told me he had conducted detailed research of the industry, the sector we operated in and compiled a list of ten companies that he would consider working for that would best suit and be able to utilize his skills, plus accommodate his vision for the future.

Although my ego was about to fire up and try to put him firmly in his place, I couldn’t help admiring his approach and in fact, I took a step back from the discussion (mentally and during it) and I could see that he would take exactly the same approach with regard to our own existing and potential customers.

I hired him.

He had done his research, found the companies he wanted to work with and contacted them at the highest lever.

That is the formula.

Now I know that will be alien to many of you and the process may sound intimidating but let me tell you that as a former CEO, I would love that approach, as would many of my executive leadership team.

When you go to the top of the organization, or as close to it as you can get, you are interacting with people who have only one objective in mind and that is to make their company the very best it can be…and they will talk and listen to anyone who can help them and as I said earlier, that may even mean creating a job for someone who they believe can offer that help.

It is difficult to cover everything in this article and to help people navigate through these difficult times, I am offering FREE career and business coaching to anyone who wants it.

Just email me at and I will be happy to help in any way I can.
























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