You may have picked up the news in July of Steven Covey’s passing.  The well-known author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, first published in 1989, was considered a pioneer in the self-help genre.  “This was one of the first books in recent times that was really directed at prioritizing the way you worked, so you could be more effective as an individual” said Adrian Zackheim, of Penguin  publishing, “it wasn’t about how to be a manager or how or to run a company. It was about how to conduct yourself.”  I pulled out my beloved, old, dogged-eared copy of Seven Habits and realized that much of my counseling to alumni owes something to these proven principles.

Most alumni I work with have enjoyed success in their lives.  Job opportunities in their early careers came easily and even frequently.  Then one day they face a daunting fact – they’ve reached a career plateau where they’ve stopped learning and growing, or some realize they’re unhappy doing what they’re doing, others have been laid off, and a few have taken time away for family but want to return to high performance work.  Yet the next new job isn’t right there waiting for them.  Now what?  They get busy, searching the internet’s multitude of job postings, then begin submitting online job applications, and worry about how to network.  It’s easy to fill up time with lots of activity when searching, but being effective at job search is altogether different.

The seven habits that Mr. Covey mapped out to conduct an effective and rewarding life can be applied to the process we outline in our Alumni Career Services Job Search Toolkit:

  1. Be Proactive / Have a Clear Career Objective – Covey’s first principal teaches that “our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions”;  proactively directing your career means fundamentally understanding what you want to do;  this question must be asked and answered continually throughout your career.
  2. Seek First to Understand / Know Your Audience – most job seekers want to launch themselves out into the market as quickly as possible to as many prospective employers as they can;  knowing where you truly fit is as important as knowing what you want to do, and only in-depth market research will help you understand on which employers you want to focus.
  3. Begin with the End in Mind / Create Targeted Marketing Materials  – when you have a clear idea of what you want to do and where you want to do it, writing your resume and telling your story is positively shaped by this vision of your future;  Covey encourages us to create a personal mission statement focused on our values;  it’s the same when communicating your value proposition to your target audience indicating what skills, attributes and accomplishments you have that make you an ideal candidate. 
  4. Think Win/Win / Connect!  – Most job seekers know that networking is key, but don’t understand how to actually go about it when they want a new job;  Covey tells us “Win-win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions”; a job seeker should shift his mindset from “I need a job” to “Who has a problem I can solve?”;  approaching people in your network with genuine curiosity and a willingness to give and get information will increase networking success.
  5. Synergize / Use a Multi-Platform Approach – Covey’s principle of synergy is about creative cooperation, teamwork and open-mindedness; synergy in a job search comes when all the parts work together…the foundation of  objectives is understood, the target market is identified , the marketing message is fully informed and you can then use the many connecting avenues of postings, social media, and headhunters to their fullest.
  6. Put First Things First / Balance Your Time – “If you put first things first, you are organizing and managing time and events according to the personal priorities you established with ‘Begin with the End in Mind’.”  I recently talked with an alumnus who was very frustrated after interviewing and getting offers from several different companies; no offer seemed ‘just right’ – none had the ideal mix of compensation, responsibilities and title.  As I questioned him on his “vision” of work he really didn’t know.  He felt that his past career success should easily land him in the perfect next role, yet he hadn’t done any soul-searching to figure what that was.  Only when you’ve built the right foundation for your search will you be ready to land the job through stellar interviewing and negotiating.
  7. Sharpen the Saw / Finish & Begin Strong – Seven Habits culminates with the idea of continuous, balanced self-renewal in four essential personal areas (physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual).  As job search concludes with the happy acceptance of an offer, a new beginning is undertaken, and likewise the principles of sound career management should be followed:  assimilating to the new environment, growth of new skills and accomplishments, and re-evaluating professional objectives.

As you strive to be effective in managing your career and job transitions, know that The Armstrong Center for Alumni Career Services is available to help.

Marty Speight MBA’96, Associate of The Armstrong center for Alumni Career Services