Habit #1 is Be Proactive. Covey defines proactivity as “more than merely taking initiative. It means that as human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions.” He goes on to say – and I love this – “proactive people carry their own weather with them. Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them.”
Applying habit #1 to your job search:
First, there is the taking initiative part. Of course in your job search you must be proactive reaching out to people to ask for their help in your job search. Be proactive enough to ask twice for the requests that are important to you.
As a job seeker, you also have to be able to tolerate rejection. But if you managed to “carry your own weather with you” throughout your job search, it would hurt less.
Covey also talks about how proactive people handle mistakes. They “acknowledge it instantly, correct and learn from it”, thus turning a failure into a success. As a job seeker, have you ever made a mistake? Maybe you were in an interview and answered a question in a way that made you wish you could have your words back. After the interview, be proactive enough to do a debrief with yourself to evaluate how you performed in that interview. If you made mistakes, spend some time thinking about exactly how you’ll do it better next time.
Habit #2: Begin with the end in mind. Covey says “to begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”
Covey further explains this concept by saying that “ all things are created twice”, meaning that there’s a mental or first creation and a physical or second creation to all things.
One way to begin with the end in mind is to create a personal mission statement. So that’s your homework: craft your personal mission statement.
Let’s apply habit #2 of “Begin with the end in mind” to your job search.
First, outline clear enough goals for your career that you know what kind of job you are looking for. You might think that applying for every job is a good strategy because it’s a numbers game and if you can get enough job applications out there, you’ll win the game and get a job. But you won’t. It’s not a numbers game. It’s a matching game. And those are 2 very different games.
Second, apply the habit of beginning with the end in mind to your job search by visualising yourself successfully getting that job. Close your eyes and imagine what it would be like to get up in the morning and go to that job. You can also visualize success in an interview.
Habit #3: Put first things first
Put another way, it tells us to organize around our priorities. And Covey weaves these first 3 habits together masterfully by mentioning that “you can’t become principle-centered without first being aware of and developing your own proactive nature (habit #1). You can’t become principle-centered without a vision of and a focus on the unique contribution that is yours to make.”
Covey says “if we don’t practice habit 2 (begin with the end in mind), if we don’t have a clear idea of what is important, of the results we deserve in our lives, we are easily diverted into responding to the urgent.” Amen to that.
Planning can be hard to make time to do, because it’s not urgent. It’s one of those important but not urgent activities that you will have to be deliberate about carving out the time to make happen. Here’s the payoff: Covey says “I believe if you were to ask what lies in Quadrant 2 (those are the important but not urgent activities in the time management matrix) and cultivate your proactivity to go after it…your effectiveness would increase dramatically.
Let’s relate habit 3 to your job search.
If you’re applying the 7 habits to your job search, you will have a clear goal in mind of the job you want to get and you will prioritize your job search activities so you’ll remain focused on doing the important stuff.
Planning your days and weeks can help you with the discipline to stick with the important activities and put first things first. Covey recommends setting weekly goals that are in line with the longer-term goals you laid out in your personal mission statement.
Take time today to organize your next week. Write down your goals for the week and then build an action plan around them. Let that guide you to spend your job search time on high-value activities like connecting with people and having conversations that will help you uncover opportunities that you can get referrals for. Try it for a week and see if this makes a difference. I bet it will.Habit #4 is think win/win“Win /win is a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win/win agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying. With a win/win solutions, all parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan. Win-win sees life as a cooperative, no ta competitive arena…win/win is based on the paradigm that there is plenty for everybody, that one person’s success is not achieved at the expense or exclusion of the success of others.” Covey’s words there.
Let’s apply this to your job search: If you’re in the negotiation stage for a new job. You’ll want to start off the conversation by saying “I am excited about this offer and I want to talk to you about the compensation, so that we can come to an agreement on the offer that we are both really happy with.” You are setting up a win/win if you start like that – both parties share the same goal.
Habit #5 is Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Covey talks about “empathic listening” meaning listening with the intent to understand. If you do this correctly (and it’s not easy) it requires that you as a listener get inside another’s frame of reference, see the world the way they see the world and understand how they feel. Covey says “you are focused on receiving the deep communication of another human soul.”
Let’s apply this one to job searching. Say you are in an interview talking to a hiring manager who is describing challenges facing her team. If you listen, really listen and she realizes that you really understand her challenges I promise she will be interested in you as a candidate. Covey wants you to rephrase the content and reflect the feeling back to her so she feels understood. Once you do that and confirm your understanding of the situation, you might be able to offer some solutions, some new ideas to solve those challenges. What a way to stand out as a candidate.
Habit #6 is synergizeSynergy, Covey says, means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The essence of synergy is to value differences – to respect them, to build on strengths, to compensate for weaknesses. Synergistic communication means your approach conversations with a sense of excitement and security and adventure, believing the outcome will be significantly better than things were before.
Covey also talks about the 3rd alternative in this chapter. The third alternative is a solution that is mutually beneficial and is better than what either party originally proposed.
Here’s an example of synergy at work in a job search. You apply for a job that seems like a good fit. You’re excited to be invited to interview and when you start speaking with the company, they realize that your experience may be better suited for another role. This happens. Together, you work out the details of this new role and you take a job that you never really applied for in the first place. I just saw this happen and it’s a total win/win for everyone involved. For this type of synergy to occur, everyone has to be open to new ideas and willing to think creatively about where a person might be able to make the biggest impact in an organization. The role this person took did not even exist before it was offered to him. When this candidate presented himself, the company knew the time was right to start this new group and invite him to be the first person to take that role. Ahh, synergy. Love it.
Habit #7: Sharpen the SawHabit #7 is the habit of renewal. It’s called Sharpen the Saw. It’s all about as Covey says preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you.
Work and education are evolving to a point where learning needs to be a continuous thing we do as professionals throughout our lives to maintain our edge and our expertise at work. Today we have at our fingertips lots of different ways to sharpen our saws.
In a job search, you want to be able to demonstrate that you are a continuous learner. Make space on your resume for courses you’ve done recently. Talk in interviews about what you’re learning about the projects you’re doing on the side to increase your skill set. Keep a journal of your ideas. Every hiring manager is looking for those continuous learners. Practice language that demonstrates that this is you. It’s a really attractive quality in a job candidate.