Boyden Executive Search

Some people land all the best jobs. They climb the ladder with ease, impressing hiring managers as they pursue career development. But what exactly makes successful candidates stand out from the rest?

By Morey Stettner

This article was originally published on Investor's Business Daily's website. Click here to view the original article.

Some people land all the best jobs. They climb the ladder with ease, impressing hiring managers as they pursue career development. But what exactly makes successful candidates stand out from the rest?

Technical qualifications clearly play a role, along with an intangible blend of personality traits. How you present yourself — from the way you articulate your career goals to how you listen and ask questions — factors into the mix. To obtain your dream job:

Look Past Yourself
If your career development goals revolve around self-advancement for its own sake, broaden your thinking. Striving for more money or prestige, while understandable, can limit your appeal.

"Focus on how you're able to help others be successful," said Fred Halstead, a Dallas-based executive coach. "That's a great way to get noticed. Those leaders who make everyone around them successful will be more successful themselves."

Stay Grounded
Setting lofty goals to advance in your field can propel your ambition. Just don't get blinded by your drive to get ahead. At every step along the way, take stock of what you bring to the table.

"Assess honestly what you're good at," said Halstead, author of "Leadership Skills That Inspire Incredible Results." "Then determine how a job will play to your strengths. That way, you won't go after a job that's out of your realm."

Unleash Your Passion
It's tough to hunt for jobs when your heart isn't in it. Even if employers compete to lure you away, you might feel aimless unless you're passionate about the work itself.

"The No. 1 reason that people fail to achieve their career goal is they fail to have a compelling vision," said Dana Mayer, an executive coach in St. Petersburg, Fla. "Your vision has to set your hair on fire."

Rather than just apply for a job to boost your pay or cut your commute, ponder the larger repercussions for career development goals. For instance, seek to harness your skills to enact industry reforms or elevate ethical practices in your profession. Driven by a more sweeping vision, your goals gain fresh vibrancy.

Proceed Methodically In Your Career Development
Attaining goals won't happen by accident. You need a plan and a system to follow through.

Start by jotting your goals along with a timetable for reaching them. Keeping a written record of what you want to accomplish can prod you to persevere.

"I don't know anyone who's a high achiever who doesn't write down their goals and track them," Mayer said. "You also need a good support community for your career" that offers ongoing encouragement, provides a sounding board and opens doors for you to advance. They can be informal allies — mentors, friends, key influencers — or paid coaches.

Maintain Openness
Top candidates radiate confidence but keep their ego in check. They tap a wide-ranging network, heed criticism and withhold their opinions until an opportune moment.

"Be open to ideas and be willing to listen," said Patricia Lenkov, founder of Agility Executive Search in New York City. "That's better than coming in with a laundry list of must-haves and saying, 'I want this and this and this.' You may have a laundry list, but don't present it that way."

Think Long-Term
Prepare to discuss where you see yourself in five years by giving a goal-driven answer. But don't overplay your hand or you might seem overly ambitious.

"You don't want to sound too threatening, as if you'll take the hiring manager's job," said Alicia Hasell, managing partner at Boyden. "It's better to say, 'I want to run a larger P&L than I currently have' or 'I'd like international experience.' "

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