In preparation of her upcoming Career Branding workshop with the CMA I was able to speak with Jackie Rafter, President of the career transformation company called Higher Landing. Jackie and her team help job seekers and employees looking to brand and market themselves so that they can successfully transition their career into the next stage.
Over our inspiring conversation, Jackie shared her insights on
- Why she started her business
- What challenges and emotions a typical job seeker can expect
- Why it doesn’t work to throw your resume into a job lottery
- Why value is more important than skill and
- The successful process she uses to help applicants stand out from the crowd and “land higher” in the job market
Without further ado, here’s Jackie!
Marc: Tell me about Higher Landing and why you started it.
Jackie: After spending several years running search firms, I noticed a void in go-to-market services for people looking for their next opportunity. Despite many of my candidates having been sent to a traditional “outplacement” service by their former employers, they expressed having received little value and were still stuck and without work. There was nowhere else for them to turn for help.
A while back, I was headhunted to work for a traditional outplacement company. Outplacement is a service which helps employers transition their departing staff, however there is limited accountability with regard to results. As such, I saw that as an opportunity to disrupt and build a new business model to help people transition their careers and prepare them for the new reality of work. My vision is to make this service available to the average person anywhere in the world – not just for corporations.
We focus on results. Specifically, we measure the landing rates of our clients. Pre-COVID19, we had a 77% landing rate for client placements within 3 months of working with us.
Marc: Before we get into your process, can you tell me a little about what people can expect when they’re let go from their job?
Jackie: Absolutely. Expect to be hit by a bus. If you haven’t looked for a job in a while, a lot has changed, plus it’s a lot more competitive. Many people are stuck playing the “job lottery”, repeatedly spinning their resumes out on social media, hoping for a call back which usually doesn’t come. Each time you apply and don’t hear back your confidence takes a hit. Over time you may become frustrated, angry and more fearful that you won’t be able to find a job. I’ve seen that happen to good people and it’s a hard place to come back from.
The nature of job search and career management has changed forever. People now need to manage their own careers because nobody is going to do this for them. But they don’t know how…
Marc: If the job lottery doesn’t work, what should people do instead?
Jackie: Follow a process! Today, job search is about understanding how to market your value, rather than a host of hard skills mainly because it’s so competitive. We also teach people to be open minded about their career and consider this a chance for transformation instead of just transition from one role to another similar one because the nature of work is changing so rapidly, and has been accelerated because of Covid.
When applicants build their resume to showcase a specific set of skills, they lump themselves into the same bucket as everyone else, showcasing the same skills so they’re not distinct from the group. In addition, the responsibilities of a role and the skills to succeed are changing quicker than ever. What this means is that the problem you get hired to solve today, may not be the same problem you have to solve tomorrow and the skills you take to market could become outdated just as quick as the jobs change.
Instead, we like to get our clients to stop thinking about their skills and instead focus on their value. What’s the impact you can have on a company? This won’t change. We think it’s important for job seekers to focus on their timeless, unique value rather than on skills that anyone can learn.
Marc: How do you do that?
Jackie: Our clients are guided through a powerful three-step process that’ll be very familiar to marketers:
- Product Development
Most people will put a resume together then rush to market and they’re not ready, which is why it doesn’t work. Instead, they need to think of themselves as a product going to market and spend some time thinking about what that product is – themselves. They are the product. We do this by taking them through a process to assess things like their hard and soft skills, passions, experiences, value and purpose. Once we understand their product, we start the branding process.
Branding is not about who they are so much as the “output” of who they are, which is their value. They need to be able to explain how a company will be different with them in it. If they can’t do this in 5 seconds, they’re not ready to go to market.
Effective branding is clearly packaging the impact and timeless value one can contribute to an organization. Once you know your value, conversations about compensation become easier too because you’re not ‘selling’ a commoditized skill, you’re selling your unique impact.
After people get clear on their value, we help them build resumes, LinkedIn profiles and elevator pitches. These are all market tested in our Grizzly Den. It’s like the Dragon’s Den on TV and it’s a way to help our clients determine their market readiness. Our clients pitch themselves to a panel of invited executives and get a Grizzly Certification when they are market ready.
Some of the candidates are even hired right in this process by the Grizzly’s or their network. Often what happens is that people end up getting jobs for roles that don’t exist because they’re leading with value. It’s a win for everyone and allows them to tap in to that hidden job market.
Marc: How do people create their own jobs?
Jackie: We teach our clients to create go-to-market strategies that include companies and people who are likely to appreciate their value, then show them how to approach these individuals. This way our clients aren’t competing with everyone else for a job but creating new opportunities that aren’t advertised to the masses. Once you understand these principles, you’ll be able to manage your career forever.
Image Credit: Hugh MacLeod
Marc: Are there any specific things that people who are currently employed can do to better manage their career and get out of a rut?
Jackie: Of course! It’s up to each person to educate their team, boss and colleagues about what value they bring to the table. I like to think of this as IP and I don’t mean intellectual property. Imagine that you ask the people you work with two questions every single day:
- I = What’s important to you?
- P = What are your pain points?
Asking the right questions is only half of the process. The other half is that you actually have to care about their answers. If you do this over and over again, then you will build a brand for yourself as a person who can solve specific things, and ultimately create VALUE.
What’s great about this is that by asking about the IP of others every day, you’ll stay relevant and engaged. You’re also likely to find out that the value you create isn’t industry specific because you’re building problem solving skills that are transferrable across industries.
Marc: Any final advice?
Jackie: We each have to take responsibility for managing our own careers. Think about the value you bring to a company, and you’ll be in a really good spot to position yourself in the job market
About the author:
Marc Binkley is the Chair of the Calgary Marketing Association board, Managing Director and Director of Digital & Strategy at Anstice, one of the leading marketing agencies in western Canada.