Exploration and Discovery as Part of the Job Search Process

JenniferHay
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An ideal job search focuses on exploration and discovery of opportunities more than it does on the simple, yet boring, practice of searching for available positions. For IT jobs in particular, the industry changes so frequently that new opportunities continuously arise. For inquisitive individuals who are able to look beyond standard career paths, the results can be truly amazing.

For some IT professionals their most interesting achievements are not part of their primary job, but rather are related to the additional roles they are expected to perform, particularly when budgets are tight. Taking on these expanded responsibilities can create career opportunities beyond a traditional career path. This was the case for one of my clients who made such a discovery.

Bryan came to me after being laid off from a job he’d held for over 10 years. He wanted to find another position as a help desk support manager because it aligned the best with the primary work he’d been doing. From my perspective, it seemed like a very straightforward project.

Bryan used my storytelling approach to describe those projects where he was most proud of the results. He soon filled his questionnaire with great examples of the work he’d done. But as I read through his stories, a distinct theme emerged that had nothing to do with his IT support responsibilities. 

Instead, the projects that he described were about the business products he’d created– simulations to develop and test management skills in an online learning environment. Over his career, he’d designed business simulations that blended standard business programming with game programming into products that became the primary revenue stream for the business.  

Here is how I captured some of the work that he’d done.

Business Need: A new “family” of project management teaching simulations.

  • Developed products that generated ~$10M over 3 years, with a low development cost. Created a common platform for 3 educational product lines.
  • Coordinated with subject matter experts to define requirements and validate features including action learning, individual team exercises, and a mini simulation of a project for a hands-on experience.
  • Designed and developed simulation, utilizing a blended team of in-house and outsourced resources.
  • Wrote user and instructor's guides, and specified hardware, peripherals, and supporting software for classroom use.
  • Rolled out products for instructor and student use and created a feedback loop for capturing suggestions for continuous improvement.

Business Need: Major investment firm wanted to evaluate decision-making capabilities of branch managers.

  • Developed a model that put people in simulated sales situations with the ability to analyze their decisions with the goal to evaluate performance.
  • Delivered on the challenge to have performance exactly model the client’s extensive data collected by mapping real sales performance to situations and the decisions made in those situations.
  • Yielded years of continued business with the client and the development of similar products for additional investment firms.

Business Need: Major electronics firm wanted to evaluate sales assistant’s ability to influence customer decisions, prioritize customer value, and manage time well within a sales territory.

  • Worked closely with client to select the appropriate available decisions to influence the customers, and to simulate the necessity to manage time.
  • Created problem situations identified by actual sales reps and turned them into random events to challenge the participants. Used varying customer profiles and actual model numbers within current product lines for an authentic experience.

Creating the simulations had not been Bryan’s primary job so he didn’t consider it as a strong skill for his job search.  He actually thought that the simulations would only be valuable for an online learning company. What Bryan didn’t realize was that a new industry had emerged – Business Analytics and Predictive Analytics – that used many of the same skills that he possessed.

Bryan nearly missed an exceptional opportunity by focusing his job search on the familiar work of help desk management and IT support. Though proud of his work with simulations, he saw it as secondary to his core support responsibilities. Seeing simulation only in context of online learning limited his career vision. New opportunities opened up when he became aware that simulation is a central concept of business analytics and a high-demand skill set.

The moral of the story:  put all of your cards on the table.  You might be surprised where they lead.

 

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