Professional Development

job search networking - Shortlist

Job Search Networking 101: Basics you need to know

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Time and again we hear that building the right connections and job search networking is crucial to career advancement or scaling a business. But how do you actually build your network?

In this blog we’ll share key points on how to get started and maintain great relationships with your connections!

#1: Drop your personal agenda.

Successful people always look for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people always ask “What’s in it for me?”

  • At networking events, it can be tempting to jump on the opportunity to ask about job openings l or hand out tons of business cards. However, let this be the last thing on your mind.
  • Instead, come with an open mind. Seek out ways you can use your knowledge and skills to help out others. Most events will have an agenda or may be tailored to your industry, thus will give you an idea of what you can talk about. You can get helpful job search information at a networking event without asking for a job  – as in this example.
  • Don’t reach out to others only when you need something from them. Be generous and aim to provide a benefit to others before asking for a favor.

#2: Listening is everything — listen actively and intently.

Everyone you meet knows something you don’t.

  • Ask questions about what the other party is doing. You will be surprised that while you may work in the same industry, they have knowledge in areas you may not, and vice-versa.
  • Watch your body language! Face the speaker, smile, maintain eye contact and do not interrupt your partner.
  • Be present. Then you’ll notice when you start drifting from the conversation and be able to regain your focus.

#3: Stay in touch with your networks:

After the job search networking ends, staying in touch with contacts is just as important as getting them in the first place

  • Building meaningful relationships with others involves a high level of communication. Check in on your connections periodically. Send an email or text to say “hello” or connect on social media. For example, you could share or retweet your contacts’ posts with a thoughtful comment. Congratulate them on promotions or achievements.
  • This can also help in strengthening your more subtle relationships like former schoolmates or old colleagues.

#4: Diversify your job search networking efforts:

If your network is filled with people who are all the same, you’re limiting your room for growth.

  • Find ways to connect with people outside of your industry. Do this to avoid making your network “clumpy.”
  • A diverse job search networking effort opens up doors to help you meet people you otherwise would not and can be instrumental in your career or business growth.
  • Push yourself to engage in conversations about topics outside your usual context. Try attending an event outside of your industry or department. To make this less intimidating, start by reading some articles related to that field or sign up for an industry-focused email newsletter.
  • An easier way to start doing this is by starting in your own organization. Talk to people in different departments and get to know what a day in their professional life looks like. Get to learn about their interests outside of work and build on that.

#5: Get out there!

It’s not about who you know, it’s about who knows you!

  • Learning to manage job search networking is not easy, but with practice, you’ll get better. Attend events, reach out to people, ask questions, and seek advice and guidance on how to start and build strong networks.
  • Find out ways you can contribute to what others need. Build a reputation for being reliable. Follow through with any promises made and remember not to over-commit.
  • The only way people will remember you is by the impact you made. “If your presence does not make an impact, your absence won’t make a difference”

#6: Don’t forget the basics of job search networking:

Winning friends begins with friendliness.

  • Be on time.
  • Carry your business cards.
  • Be friendly!

Learning and understanding the art of job search networking is crucial to ensuring that we put ourselves out there and discover the of opportunities around us. In our next series, we’ll dive into how you can follow up after your meetup. Stay tuned!

4 Tips for Being a Lifelong Learner

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In order to become a sought-after professional in today’s job market, it’s more important than ever to be adaptable and a lifelong learner willing to gain insights and expertise throughout a career. Companies are increasingly looking for individuals with a broad set of skills who are comfortable moving across functions and teams.

How can you gain diverse skill sets and continue to develop yourself professionally, both on-the-job and in your personal life? We asked Wambui Kuria, formerly a Talent & Development Officer at Momentum Credit, a microfinance company providing structured working capital solutions to individuals, and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and now a Management Consultant at KPMG. Wambui has had quite a diverse career that has included financial auditing, entrepreneurship, recruiting and software. She describes her current role at Momentum Credit as “fifty percent human resources and fifty percent business development.”

Here are four tips from Wambui on how you can be a lifelong learner and become a more versatile employee:

1. Be comfortable outside your comfort zone to grow in your career

While she began her career as a financial auditor, Wambui quickly realized that she preferred interacting with people day-to-day in her work life. However, it was challenging to shift careers in a job market where you typically get a job based on what you studied for. In order to make a career shift, she first started scouting for jobs in sales where she could highlight transferable skills, eventually landing a role as a salesperson at a training company. “This anchored my passion for training, particularly when I would see the feedback from our clients saying how much the training changed their mindset.”

Her curiosity once again led her to move into a new role, this time in recruiting. There she found herself in meetings with software developers. She credits this experience with learning how to communicate with the tech team, in order to work effectively with the department to meet her timelines. Wambui used these experiences to push herself out of her comfort zone in order to chart a path of personal growth. “I often dare myself in different ways and praise myself when I learn something new.”

2. A lifelong learner loves and embraces technology

You don’t need to be an engineer or an IT professional to use technology to your advantage. Combining a desire to learn new things with technology can have added benefits. “I like to learn new things and I love technology. I’ve really enjoyed learning new software, creating beautiful designs on online tools such as Canva, and learning as much as I can on Google.” Being comfortable in Google Drive has paid dividends for Wambui, particularly when working with outside clients. “If you’re working across companies, everything is often shared online on Drive. This really makes it easier to work with my suppliers. I might have big files and need a lot of people to view them, so online tools are crucial.”

Being current with technology as a lifelong learner can be vital for just about any role within a company. “We all require these skills; When I started working I realized everyone needs to understand IT, as well as know how to operate smartphones. See, you might be a great lawyer, but if you don’t know how to sign contracts online, that’s dangerous to your business.”

 

lifelong learner

The team at Momentum learning from each other.

3. Share what you’ve learned at work!

Your learning can be significantly enhanced by collaborating with your peers in the office. If done effectively it can even positively affect the culture in your workplace. Encouraging others to share their knowledge can make room for a more interactive environment where everyone is utilizing their colleagues to actively share their learning across departments and functions. Treat this like a form of on-the-job training that everyone can participate in.

Consider starting a book club or a small library in your office to create a culture of reading for professional development. While at Momentum, Wambui implemented a system to reward high-performing team members by giving them books to read. “We reward people monthly depending on their performance, and one of the ways we’re trying to do that is by reducing on other incentives and give them books to read instead.” Putting growth and development first can pay huge dividends for everyone to meet their professional potential.

4. Build your online learning presence

According to Wambui, using your online presence to show your propensity for learning can improve your professional brand. “My LinkedIn has articles, things I’ve read, and it really shows that I am more than my educational background. I would say that’s a major thing that’s worked for me.” This shows employers and your network that you are passionate about your interest areas and serious about continuing to develop yourself as a lifelong learner.

If you’re like Wambui and YouTube is your “school of life”, consider posting videos to your social media channels to spark a discussion amongst your friends. A good habit to get into is to comment on articles and other resources that thought leaders in your field post to their pages. This can increase your visibility to ensure that high-level professionals know you are actively engaging in your professional development.

Becoming a lifelong learner requires commitment, energy, and curiosity. It takes a willingness to take ownership and expose yourself to new situations and environments. The above tips are just a few of many ways you can apply yourself to professionally grow and show your professional value is more than what’s on your CV.

Thanks so much to Wambui for sharing her wisdom with us! We’re proud to partner with Momentum Credit and help them build happy high-performing teams. Interested to work with MCL? they’re currently hiring for an Operations ManagerCustomer Relationship Officer, and Telesales Agents!

Related: Moving laterally to move upwards

Job hopping and what it can mean for your career

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Job hopping can be described as the frequent changing of jobs. In many of our interactions with professionals in different fields, we’ve met individuals who inquire about how moving through different positions reflects on them as jobseekers, and what they can gain or lose from job hopping.While we may enjoy the benefits of trying new things throughout our career, is the grass always greener on the other side? 
job hopping

 

Job hopping may sometimes be necessitated by certain events or changes that take place in an organization as well as the nature of roles performed, sometimes this may be a personal decision. We want to share with you how job hopping elevates or disrupts your career depending on the timing of your decision by looking at the pros and cons.

Let’s first look at some of the positive outcomes associated with job hopping every so often:

Growth opportunity: Young professionals are drawn to companies that provide them with upward mobility and professional development. This may be a given in most cases, as we generally would move to an organization that potentially gives the opportunity to rise through the ranks faster.

While a promotion may not be the initial prize, a horizontal move is sometimes necessary to give you the opportunity to progress vertically. Gaining exposure within different departments in your organization can provide immense growth opportunities and make you a more well-rounded professional.

Salary bump: If your main goal at work is to make money, then job hopping may give you the opportunity to attain this much faster than going through annual reviews at your current organization. However, this is not a guarantee for everyone.

You might want to ask yourself: Am I avoiding annual reviews? Perhaps by sticking with a company, you can receive valuable feedback and grow even more professionally than you would by jumping ship.

Diversify your skills: Job hopping allows an individual to sharpen a wide range of skill sets through experience gained in different industries, as well as exposure to different kinds of challenges. A candidate with diverse experience and background appears more attractive to a potential employer, as they are an “all in one” candidate and with fresh ideas and new ways of doing things.

Show some of your best attributes: Job hopping may showcase a candidate’s ability to easily adapt to different environments. If you are able to deliver in a short time frame, it will further show that you are potentially a fast learner.

Building a large professional network: From a diverse employment background, a candidate can forge strong professional relationships that would potentially be very useful in future. That said, it can be difficult to build solid relationships and credibility if you are not at a single organization for very long.

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the positive aspects of switching jobs, let’s move on to the flip side – how this might negatively affect one’s career:

Risk of appearing unreliable: An individual may appear unreliable if they have a recurring tendency to switch jobs every few months or years. An employer might assume that you will shift gears at the first sight of routine or boredom. Consider the signals you are sending by frequently job hopping. Is a hiring manager going to express concern in bringing you on board if your CV shows an employee who is constantly on the move?

Reluctance to invest in your growth: The best employers encourage their employees to grow both as a professional and within the organization. They might spend time teaching the employee new skills, mentoring them about their career path, or coaching them to improve on their weaknesses. They may also do this formally by sponsoring an individual’s studies to further their education or enroll employees in valuable trainings.

If you have a reputation of not sticking around, the employer may pass on extending an offer to you on such opportunities since they would presume it to be a waste of time and resources on their end.

Shows a lack of focus and commitment: Job hopping has a tendency to portray negative traits in a candidate as it can show that you are unstable and lack clear career objectives. It can also be difficult to explain that you actually made an impact in the former organizations you worked at within the short period you were there.

While changing jobs is not a bad thing, it is important to consider some of these factors while evaluating your options.

Furthermore, job hopping can be detrimental to your long-term career goals. You may tend to move around the same position in different companies since you have not gained enough experience to warrant a promotion at a new organization.

Individuals with a history of shifting companies at a moderate pace and showing a pattern of upward movement, increased responsibility, and increased experience, would ideally appear more valuable to an organization.

We’d also like to hear from you, do let us know how your professional journey has been. Let us know any other professional development topics you’d like us to tackle or give insights on.

 

Related: Moving laterally to move upwards

Related: Harvard Business Review: Job-Hopping

 

Finance Leaders Share 3 Insider Tips to Succeed

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What we learned from local experts about their career paths, mentorship and how they got where they are today.

We recently held the first of our monthly series of networking events for young professionals in Nairobi. Shortlist’s “Top Finance Talent Meetup” brought together a select group of finance professionals to hear from three experts within the field of finance. Ariane Fisher, Shortlist East Africa’s Managing Director, was joined on the panel by Peace Osangir, COO of Kopo Kopo; Sharon Olende, Lendable’s Director of East Africa; and Job Muriuki, CEO of Momentum Credit. This highly informative discussion contained a wealth of insights on topics such as their career journeys, future trends in the field and the importance of cultivating mentorship. In addition, our guests shared their lessons on professional development and lifelong learning.


Here are “3 Tips to Succeed Professionally in Kenya” by our panel of finance experts

1. Education Doesn’t Always Equal Results

Peace Osangir shared that, in her experience, many young people are more focused on accumulating credentials and degrees than on how those experiences will enhance their learning. “Someone can have two Master’s, but the output doesn’t tally. How do you make sure that the type of information you’re getting is going to create a difference in terms of your output? Sometimes someone can come in without any background in finance and is able to excel. And that’s because the level of execution really differs. It’s not about how many credentials you accumulate but how your output changes as a result of your learning.”

Sharon noted similar observations from her previous experience of two decades in the banking sector. She spoke about the value of having the right mindset in your professional life, adding that “it’s not about what you know, it’s about your attitude and what we can teach you. A lot of things can be taught to you. Accumulating degrees with no work experience doesn’t help you. We’re recruiting for people we think can learn. We just want to see your thought process, how you think about a problem. I can tell you that we have put out job adverts looking for someone with five years experience, but we hired someone with two.”

Job lamented the tendency for youth in the workforce to be close-minded when they view their career paths. “I believe to be successful you have to have fun. Too many young people decide to put themselves in a box. If you’re in your 20’s, you’re gonna work for another 40 years or so. So why put yourself in a box when life has so many experiences before you decide what you’re going to do? Think outside the box.” He went on to share that there are plenty of ways to continue your learning outside of the classroom: “The best education I have received in my life has been reading a lot of books. It’s good to enrich your mind with non-conventional thinking, push the envelope, read interesting things. Try not to conform to what people expect you to be.”

 

Engaged participants listening to our speakers reflect on their career journeys

2. Be reliable and always execute

Throughout the conversation between the panelists, the topic of execution came up frequently. The added benefits of being reliable in your professional life reach far beyond excelling in your current role. As Sharon remarked, “execution is the best thing ever. If you can execute, and people know they can rely on your work, you’ll go far. We’ve all sat in jobs we didn’t like, but you keep performing, because that will open your next opportunity for you.

It might appear easy for a panel of highly experienced and respected professionals to share this advice when they are at a point in their careers where they can be highly selective. However, as Peace shared, they got to this point through having a track record of excellence: “To have the luxury of selection, you have to have the execution and stand out from the crowd. Having that ability to select and question decisions comes from understanding your capability and ability to execute.”


3. Learn the tough lessons from early on in your career

Each of our panelists shared harsh truths they gained from past decisions they had made in their professional lives. Peace expressed the uneasiness she encountered when she switched from a role in finance to one in transfer pricing. Since she had no previous work in doing so, she had to apply herself to get up to speed with her colleagues. In turn, she acquired valuable life skills from that opportunity. “That was a moment of challenge. With time, I made sure I understood transfer pricing rules and guidelines. To make sure I could execute the cycle better than I could have. This took a bit of time, being able to start writing 200-page reports, but I needed to make sure I learned it so next time I could execute. My brand shouldn’t be impacted by the decisions I make. Despite setbacks, I make sure I know where my gaps are so everything is good the next time around.”

Sharon provided an anecdote about the importance of managing people, based on an unfortunate situation she found herself in at a previous position. She explained that it’s not just about managing those beneath you in the organizational structure, but “how you manage people above you is equally important.” She went on to say that “in large corporations, there’s a lot of politics. Unfortunately, to some extent, you have to learn some politicking. Particularly more senior people.”

Job shared a particularly difficult moment when he decided to make a decision without consulting with his supervisors. While the decision he made was the wrong one, he learned immensely from the experience. “Since that day it’s fundamentally changed the way I do everything. Even now as a CEO, I can make any decision I want, but I don’t. It’s not the right way to do things. It was a painful lesson to learn. That was a tough lesson for me because you can be really smart, but it’s important to work as a team.”

 

Attendees stayed afterwards to network among their peers and gain further insight from the panelists.

After the panel, participants had the opportunity to make peer connections as well as discuss finance and their career with our guests. It was a wonderful opportunity to see so many high-caliber professionals take ownership over their career and professional journey. We want to give out a special thanks to our panelists, and be on the lookout for future candidate events offered by Shortlist! And as always, if you’re looking for a new position, check out our open jobs!

 

Advice on How to Improve a Resume

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how to improve a resume

At Shortlist, we help candidates demonstrate their skills to show that they’re a great fit for a job. Most employers are looking for a mix of ability, which you can show on our assessments, and experience, which is where the CV comes in. Candidates often come to us asking for guidance on how to improve a resume so we wrote this blog post to have all of our top tips in one place!

We’ve broken down the CV into its key parts, sharing both the essential must-haves for how to improve a resume and the extra bells and whistles!

1. Contact Information

The basics: This should appear at the top of your resume and include your name, address, phone number and e-mail address. Triple-check that your information is correct and up to date. If you are applying for a job outside the city you live in and are willing to relocate, indicate the same.

Extra insight: Avoid giving irrelevant information, like your date of birth and marital status, unless requested on the job profile.

2. Personal Statement

The basics: This is your opportunity to showcase your experience, achievements, as well as your career aspirations to your potential employer. The statement should answer three important questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What can you do for the organization?
  • What are you seeking in your next job?

If you’re wondering how to improve a resume, resist the urge to use a generalized statement to suit any application, instead make this specific to the role you are applying for. While it may take time to customize this statement for each role, it makes all the difference… Consider the key requirements for the role and use these to phrase your statement to show that you are perfectly suited for the position.

Extra insight: For a fresh graduate, since you may not have much experience to site, focus on your interests. Additionally, showcase the skills you have attained and how they are relevant to the job.

3. Skills and Qualifications

The basics: Remember to give the recruiter exactly what they want and in the easiest way possible and not have them struggle to find relevant information. While writing this particular section, it is important to keep in mind the industry keywords that are relevant to different roles.

For example:

  • Data Scientist roles often require programming skills in languages like Python and R.
  • Business Development requires critical skills like analytical thinking and communication skills, and sometimes financial modeling, among others.
  • Customer Service roles require skills in problem-solving, communication, attention to detail, and demonstrating empathy.

Extra insight: As your working on how to improve a resume, go through the job description and pick out the must-have skills and qualifications that you possess. Ensure that these are what the employer sees first while reviewing your resume. Some organisations use applicant tracking systems that will scan for keywords in your CV. Hence, it’s even more important to include words and phrases from the job description.

4. Experience

This being the meat of your resume, you want to ensure that you clearly and honestly present your employment history.

The essentials in this section include the company name, your title, years you were employed and a summary (preferably in bullet points) of your responsibilities and accomplishments.

More importantly, as much as possible, do try to quantify your achievements in terms of numbers or other concrete performance measures.

How?

Example:

For sales roles, to improve a resume, you may choose to show your impact by using statements such as:

  • Increased customer engagement and online presence by…
  • Strengthened performance by…

For finance roles, showcase your knowledge of the industry and share achievements that demonstrate your ability to maximise the utilization of financial resources.

For managerial roles, leadership skills are essential.

  • Showcase how you have lead teams towards the achievements of organizational objectives.
  • Showcase how you have also contributed towards the professional development of your employees. For example, training programmes that have been implemented, mentoring team members into junior/mid-senior level managers are some of the things you can highlight.

For customer service roles, showcase how you have contributed to ensuring excellent customer experience to your clients:

  • Mention instances where you developed a program and/or implemented a system which increased the efficiency of a product or service offered by the organisation. Leading to Customer retention.

For more experienced professionals who have worked across different sectors, you do not need to include jobs that are not related to the one you are applying for.

Entry-level individuals who do not have on the job experience should include any temporary positions, internships or volunteer work that emphasise the skills related to the job.

5. Hobbies and Interests

The basics: If you are new in the job market or do not have a lot of experience, this can be the place to differentiate yourself. You never know when your side hustle, hobby or passion will connect with a hiring manager. For example, listing team sports or activities would indicate that you would be a good team player. Additionally, social hobbies, such as mentoring, suggest that you can communicate and connect well with others. These can help find a fit where otherwise the role may have been a stretch.

When figuring out how to improve a resume, don’t forget…

Proofread your resume. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatically incorrect sentences.

Your resume should be well organised, with uniform font, punctuation, and spacing. Use soft and easily readable fonts like Calibri, Garamond Cambria, Times New Roman or Trebuchet MS. Moreover, avoid the use of bold and weighty fonts such as Impact, and the same goes for unnecessary graphics, logos and pictures.

Have someone you trust to read and give you their honest opinion as well as suggest changes where necessary.

Check out these sample resumes that illustrate a majority of the points I covered above in this guide on how to improve a resume. I hope these tips will be helpful to as you chase your next big break!

We’d love to hear from you!

Share your tried-and-true resume-writing tips in the comments. Do let me know what other career-related topics you would like to learn about.

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Related: How To Tailor Your CV: Customize For Each New Role