Today’s job market requires more than filling out applications—especially for executive jobseekers. Senior leaders must know how to market themselves effectively with potential employers, executive recruiters and networking connections.
A lot of us are prone to looking at a job as it’s described and saying, oh, I can do that, as opposed to asking, does this job fulfill some of the things that I love doing? What about this job really invigorates and excites you?
In this Find Your Dream Job podcast episode, Liesl Forve and host Mac Prichard discuss common mistakes that jobseekers make, the importance of impact and culture in a job search, and how to identify the “want” statements that help others support your job search.
Liesl encourages senior leaders to identify the defining moments in your career—what she calls “game moments”—where you felt invigorated by the job. Isolating a number of these instances helps create themes that jobseekers can use to identify the right opportunities and to stand out in a crowded market. It’s then equally important to make lists of your competencies and what you don’t want to do in your next role.
Finding your dream job starts by:
- Knowing the difference between what you can do and what you want to do.
- Creating a concise professional narrative that helps others understand exactly what you want in your next position, and using it across your job search materials (resume, LinkedIn, executive bio, cover letters).
- Recognizing what company cultures appeal to you, and how you make an impact at an organization.
- Building job search momentum through networking by being curious and generating new action items from each meeting or event.
Find Your Dream Job, Episode 366: How to Market Yourself into the Job You Want, with Liesl Forve
Airdate: September, 21 2022
Mac Prichard: This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life.
I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.
Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.
Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster.
Even when unemployment rates hit record lows, job openings attract multiple applicants.
How do you present yourself to an employer so that you stand out from your competitors?
Liesl Forve is here to talk about how to market yourself into the job you want.
She leads market expansion and corporate partnerships for Navigate Forward. Her company supports executives as they explore a shift in career, pivot into retirement, or consider board service. Liesl joins us from McMinnville, Oregon.
Well, let’s get going, Liesl. Many people see a job, send in an application, and wait for a response. What’s wrong with this approach?
Liesl Forve: Great question, Mac. You know, I think, it’s key to what we’re talking about today, of marketing yourself into the job you want. I think a mistake that a lot of people do is they don’t sit down and think about the difference between what you can do and what you want to do, and so many of us, over time, have learned how to do a lot of things. So we’re able to do and can do an awful lot. But that isn’t always the thing that motivates you to jump out of bed and go into a job and do your very best.
And so, I really encourage people to start breaking down their careers and really focusing on what it is you want to do. And that’s a very hard question to answer for a lot of people without doing some preparation.
Mac Prichard: It is a hard question. And is that why you think people often will focus on sending out applications and not really focus on marketing themselves, Liesl?
Liesl Forve: Absolutely. Because I think a lot of us are prone to looking at a job as it’s described and saying, oh, I can do that. I can do that. I can do that. Okay, therefore, I should send in my resume, and I should apply to the job. As opposed to looking at it and asking themselves, does this job fulfill some of the things I want to be doing or elevating myself into those things that I love doing?
Because really, if you think about it, the thing you want to get to is a place where your employer is asking you to do those things you really love to do best, and that’s a win-win situation for everybody. So, look at a job and determine whether it fits what you want versus what you can actually do.
Mac Prichard: In your experience, Liesl, what does a recruiter who gets an application from someone who looked at a posting and thought, “Well, I could do that.” What do they think when that resume and cover letter crosses their desk?
Liesl Forve: I think, again, it’s, you know, first, there is that question. Does this person have some of those objectives? Some of the key skill sets that are necessary and important? But really and truly, over my years of recruiting with people, I would sit down and say, well, tell me what you want to do. And oftentimes, people would give me a twenty-minute story of everything that they had done. And I’ll say, great. But how does that relate to this job today? What about this job really invigorates and excites you? So, you know, what’s the meaty part that you’re super excited to jump into?
Mac Prichard: And in your experience, could most candidates answer that question once you posed it that way?
Liesl Forve: No. Unfortunately, a lot of people still hung back. Oftentimes, when I would say to somebody, hey, tell me what you’d like to do. You know, what do you want to do next? They would say, oh well, I’m really excited about joining a growing company, and it really needs to have a great culture, and I want to make an impact. And I’d say, okay. Can we break those apart and be a little bit more specific about what that means?
So here’s the reality, Mac; nobody wants to go to a declining company. So you can sort of throw that joining a growing company out the window. It doesn’t really have a lot of import.
But when you talk about culture and making an impact, those are two really important things, and I would venture to say that a great culture for you may not be the same as a great culture for me.
Equally true is impact. How do you measure making an impact? I would venture that depending on your functionality, that will be measured very differently. So, for instance, a marketing person would measure themselves as making an impact in a very different way than a finance person.
So, I encourage you to think about want statements, about what you want, and how that defines, sort of, your image of an impact or your image of cultural attributes is very important to you. And that helps you really define, even as you’re looking at job postings, which ones you might want to pursue and which ones not, or which questions you need to ask to further educate yourself about those things.
Mac Prichard: We’re gonna talk in a moment about how to market yourself into the job you want. But I have to ask, Liesl, you’ve talked to so many candidates over the years, and you’ve been a recruiter yourself for so long. Why do you think it’s so difficult for many candidates to say exactly what they want?
Liesl Forve: I don’t think we’re trained to do that. I think it’s, here’s how I help people think through it because I think oftentimes, they think of their career as a big body of evidence, and I think it’s important to pull out special moments in your career that are really defining for you in terms of, I call them on your game moments, and start thinking about what was going on in each of those moments. Right?
So you probably were confronted with a big hairy problem. You contributed in ways that you felt were very beneficial, outcomes were great, other people recognized you for those efforts. If people start to isolate a number of those things in their careers and line them up together, it starts to create themes about what are those things about what you’re doing at that time, or the people you were surrounded with, or the company support you were experiencing. What about those things were really exciting?
Those are the ones, and I encourage people to sit down and think about that. It’s hard for people to start isolating because it takes some time, and most of us, frankly, don’t afford ourselves the luxury of time to start breaking those things down.
Mac Prichard: I’m glad you brought that up because it’s a great transition to the first step you recommend, which is to take a deep dive into your career history in order to figure out how to market yourself into the job you want.
When you’re reflecting back on those periods and looking for those themes, what are either tips or exercises that you’ve found successful to help people get clarity about those themes? And how many should they be looking for, Liesl? Are we talking about three or four examples? What have you seen to be effective?
Liesl Forve: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think, the human condition, most people want to be helpful to others. So, if you’re networking with somebody about what you want to do next, I think, to be kind to them. Offer no more than three things that you’d like to find in your next job.
So, I do look for three themes, and again, I encourage them to be sort of culturally attached or impact attached. You want to offer what I might define as your professional narrative. That’s a term that we use often at Navigate Forward. And it should be a concise statement that talks about sort of three things that you’d like to do.
May I give a few examples of some “want” statements that I’ve recently heard that I think are exceptional?
Mac Prichard: That would be terrific. Please do so.
Liesl Forve: Okay, great. So, a client recently said to me, “It’s important to me that I join a company that is deeply involved in the community where they are located.” That is a great want. Right? So it talks about the cultural attributes, and it will define him as he moves forward and looks at different companies. It’s got to be somebody that does that. So, it will drop certain companies off and keep others top of mind.
Another client, she said, “I’m the queen of gray and ambiguity, and I love leading large teams.” Please don’t put that woman in a maintenance role. She needs something where it’s complex issues, big, large problems, probably broken systems, to come in and start creating some synergies around them.
One more, I’ll tell you. This was fantastic. This gentleman said to me, “My resume suggests that I’m a facilities leader, but really my strengths and my passion are in finance, budgeting, and policy-making expertise.” And I think, there he has it. So many people want to talk about what he can do, and he says, no, no, no, no, no. I want somebody to hire me for these things I love to do. Those are my wants.
So, that’s what we’re talking about when people are looking to create your want statements. How is it about the culture? Or about what you get to do within the next job that you’re looking for?
Mac Prichard: How would you recommend to a listener that they go through a process to get to those statements? Because they’re very concise and they speak to what the person wants, but I imagine it took some effort for each of those three people that you cited to get there. What did they do, Liesl?
Liesl Forve: Yeah, absolutely. So, I think you look through your resume and your career history, and you start creating buckets of all these things in your life or all these experiences. So, again, some of those are those on-your-game moments. I talked about those where you just felt fantastic.
And then you also want to make a list of, and I call them competencies, Mac. It’s those things that you can do with great confidence. If they were part of any other job, you would just naturally have the leadership talents or the skills to succeed in those. But they probably don’t super-energize you. They’re there, but they don’t make you want to jump out of bed and run to the office each day.
And then it’s equally important to make a list of what you don’t want to do. And so, that list is actually a great compass setting. And so, I would say that each of those three statements that I recently shared had some underpinnings about what they don’t want to do. Right?
So, it’s important to break them into those three buckets, and that’s how you start to focus in on what do I want to do, and how does that influence all the rest of the things that I’m working on?
Mac Prichard: Okay, well, let’s pause there, and when we come back, I want to talk about culture and impact. Those are two ideas you keep returning to in figuring out how to market yourself into the job you want. So, stay with us, and we’ll continue our conversation with Liesl Forve after this break.
Now, Liesl, before the break, we were talking about how to market yourself into the job you want, and I was struck in the first segment how often you kept returning to the importance of impact and culture in your work with people who want to make a difference and actually get a job that they can get excited about rather than simply send out applications.
Why are culture and impact so important?
Liesl Forve: Really good questions. You know, I think there’s an old adage that people don’t leave jobs. They leave their managers, and so, you know, whether that is true or not, I think that the culture of the work environment is so important for somebody to be successful. So, and again, culture is different for every single person. But it’s an important way in which we feel valued in the work that we do, what kinds of friendships or professional connections come from all of those. You need to feel supported in order to feel excited, and a lot of that support comes from the cultural underpinning of an organization that you walk into.
You know, I often say that large organizations have a universal type of culture, but really the team that you are in within that larger universal system is most critically important because it feeds you every day.
So, culture is important for people to feel very good at work.
Equally, you know, I think every one of us has this desire that if you’re gonna go do your job, you want to do it well, and you want to see and know the job that you’re doing has some benefit for other people on the team or within the organization itself.
So, those are two critical drivers when people are looking for a job and are finding satisfaction in a job, and to the degree that you can know both how you’d like to make an impact and what kind of culture feeds you the best, the more successful you will be in finding a job that suits you best.
Mac Prichard: What’s your best advice for answering those two questions?
Liesl Forve: Again, you know, finding some way to talk about, so when it comes to culture, what kind of environment do you like? Is it an organization that values intelligence? Is it an organization that values fast pace? Is it an organization that values deep thinking and very process-oriented and regimented? What are those types of things?
And is the culture, for instance, the one gentleman who wanted a company that’s very deeply involved in the community, that speaks volumes, too, in terms of what’s the mission and the critical vision of the organization in terms of how they support other things. I know you know, a number of people are concerned about a range of topics that they’d like to know their company also values. So, that’s important.
Mac Prichard: Well, you’ve talked about the importance of doing a deep dive as well as having answers for what you want next and figuring out how to market yourself into the job you want. Another tip you have, Liesl, is to take the elements of that concrete “I want…” statement and apply them to everything that you do in your job search. What does that look like?
Liesl Forve: Yeah, great question. So, the professional narrative is that want statement; it should be pretty concise, and I think it’s your lead-in. And so, practice saying that out loud over and over and over again because you’re gonna be saying that statement a lot, either through networking or through interviewing. So get that tight and concise.
You want that then embedded at the top of your resume. And your resume should be supportive of all of that vision, I would say. If you have a chance to create an executive bio or, you know, a lead bio, I might call it, that’s something that’s important for you to have your professional narrative at the top and some underpinning supporting statements in terms of your career experience that supports that vision for yourself.
The difference between a resume and an executive bio, the resume, again, is all of those things you can do. It’s past history. It’s a rearview mirror. Whereas your bio is for your visioning. It’s what do you want to do? And why do you believe you can do it? And here’s the statements that support that.
Equally, you have got to be thinking about LinkedIn because it is such a driver today in terms of helping people find their way to their next job and determining what you want. So I really encourage you embedding your professional narrative at the top of your LinkedIn page. Being really clear, again, what about the culture and the impact you want to make are important to you.
Collectively, Mac, this is your business plan, basically your personal business plans in terms of marketing yourself. So, whether you meet somebody face-to-face or on a virtual Zoom call, and you share your professional narrative, or somebody sees your resume because you’ve sent it in for an application or you’ve shared your executive bio, or they happen to trip across your profile on LinkedIn, it continues to say exactly what you want it to say. It’s consistent across all materials, and it starts to lead you to that job that you want.
Mac Prichard: Well, what’s so striking about this, Liesl, is it’s all about what you want to do. Obviously, you have to have the experiences and skills to support that goal. But it’s not what you’re open to. It’s where you want to go. Again, this is so clear and obvious, but what stops people, particularly leaders and executives, from following this approach?
Liesl Forve: You know, again, I think it’s a muscle that we don’t flex very often. Because I think, for so many of us, like I’d said, you know, you move through life and different opportunities present themselves, and you take advantage of those, and you become master of whatever your new set of responsibilities is, and then, perhaps, another opportunity comes. So we have gone through life and, sort of, acquired a number of things that we can do. We rarely sit down and allow ourselves that luxury to think about, okay, what is it, and how do I think about it? And so a lot of times, it takes probing questions for people to say, well, tell me more about those experiences. And what about it was so exciting?
And so, I do think people can’t just sit down and just, sort of, dump all of this information on the table. It takes a lot of thought and self-reflection, and many of us don’t do that with a lot of frequency, and then a lot of us don’t necessarily have the time to do it. So it’s a discipline that I think people should afford themselves to sit down and spend some time in self-reflection.
Mac Prichard: Your last recommendation for marketing yourself into the job you want is to not forget to network. What kind of networking is effective when you want to market yourself into a job that you can identify?
Liesl Forve: You know, it’s the most important and crucial part to a successful job search. The more people who know what you’re looking for, the better. It’s more critical, particularly when you know what you want versus you’re peddling everything you can do because you are sharing with people this vision of what you want, not knowing where it might be found.
And so, the more people that hear that, the more opportunity that different things can come your direction that you might never have even dreamed of. But it actually fits both the cultural and the impact situations that you’re looking for.
Networking is something that I think doesn’t necessarily come naturally to everyone. Again, it’s a muscle that we haven’t really flexed all the time. So, I encourage people to give themselves permission to be curious, to meet new people, ask them questions about themselves, about the company they’re working for.
What do they like about it? What do they wish was different? Have they ever been in a job search? Make it a dialogue and a conversation because, really, what you’re doing is you’re feeding yourself and enriching your own education about what the potentials are out there. So, think about it. That you’re not just asking them for something. But what can you learn from them?
Mac Prichard: How do you know your networking is working when you’re trying to market yourself into a job you want?
Liesl Forve: I think it’s working when after each of those networking episodes or events, I will call them, you come out of it with additional action items.
So, you might meet with person A, and they say, “Mac, here are three people that I think you might want to talk to because I think they kind of do what you do, and you might want to ask them about that.” Person B, might say, “Well, Mac, have you heard about, you know, ACME company, or X Y Z company?” and you think, I have not. I need to go research those companies and figure out how to get into them.
The more of your networking events that create additional momentum and carry you further afield and create action steps, that’s when it’s working.
Mac Prichard: Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Liesl. Now, tell us, what’s next for you?
Liesl Forve: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for asking. So, Navigate Forward is a Minneapolis-based company, and we’ve got a very strong brand in the Midwest, I will call it. So I spend a lot of time cultivating and maintaining the brand there, while we are also looking to do some additional geo-expansion. And so, I’m located in the Pacific Northwest.
So, primarily, I’m targeted on growing the brand here in the Pacific Northwest and, frankly, other points across the U.S. So, in all of that, I meet with a lot of executives, HR executive teams who are determining if they might have a need for some of our services because our core is traditional outplacement. But we also help people as they consider retirement and what that looks like, and also board service.
So, I’m primarily targeting HR companies that I speak to or teams, I should say, and at the same time, I’m talking with individuals who are hiring us. So, I talk with people all the time about careers.
Mac Prichard: Terrific. Well, I know listeners can learn more about your company and you personally by visiting the company website www.navigateforward.com and that you also invite listeners to connect with you on LinkedIn, and as always, I hope they’ll send you a note and say they heard you on Find Your Dream Job.
Now, Liesl, given all the useful tips you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to market yourself into the job you want?
Liesl Forve: Great question. I think the specific part is I do encourage people to think clearly or break things apart and really start thinking about what you want, and again, take the time, deliver yourself that permission to explore what it is you want, and how do you start putting words to what you want, and articulating that concisely.
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This show is produced by Mac’s List.
Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests and writes our newsletter. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson manages our social media. Our sound engineer is Matt Fiorillo. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.
This is Mac Prichard. See you next week.
About Our Guest: Liesl Forve leads market expansion and corporate partnerships for Navigate Forward. Her company supports executives as they explore a shift in career, pivot into retirement, or consider board service.
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