Last article we covered how to prepare for success in the role of a Six Sigma Black Belt. Today we’ll focus on the game plan to land the role. If you followed the advice in the first article, this part will come much easier.
Get the Answer Key Before You Take the Test
In job hunting, as in our projects, we want to focus on the key actions that require the minimum amount of effort but deliver the maximal results. Unsurprisingly, there is a methodology for this. If you are a student of Six Sigma, this process will sound awfully familiar to DMAIC.
Be very specific about the kind of role you want. Narrow down the industry you would like to serve and create a plan to get your results. Very similar to the practice of creating a project charter, we know that naming a goal makes it easier for us to accomplish. So let’s do that. first.
Also important to reference are our stakeholders. Create a list of people likely to hire you. If you do not know these people personally, or if you don’t know anyone who makes these kind of hires, it’s time to network.
If these hiring managers do not exist in your current company, you will have to reach out to your extended network. Remember in the previous article about preparing for a job as a six sigma black belt? There you found teaching opportunities, found and ran Six Sigma projects, found mentors, and by-and-large did great work in your current role. People should have taken notice of your work. It’s that network of people that you must leverage and ask if they know hiring managers. Use LinkedIn to examine who you want to meet and whom in your network could help facilitate that.
Once you have a list of potential hiring managers, it’s time to impartially assess what their disposition is towards you. This is similar to the stakeholder analysis you might perform at the start of a project.
Now that you know your intended audience and you know what their dispositions are towards you, it’s time to create a communication plan to 1) improve their disposition of you and 2) keep you at the top-of-mind when an opportunity that you would excel in comes open.
OK. You have your communication plan set. Now what is left start meeting the hiring managers. It is irrelevant if they have an open position. In fact, it is better if they do not. You can meet hiring managers with open positions through any interview. We are trying to “win the position” before it is officially open. To do that we need a fair and frank assessment of how we would rate in an interview so that when a job does come open, we know what the questions are going to be, what the concerns are about us as a candidate, and we’ve worked to address each of those.
This approach is similar to taking a baseline sigma measurement in your six sigma project. We need to know where we stand before we know what actions to take.
Most people are happy to mentor you. It allows managers to evaluate new talent. It allows them to practice coaching. Also, it introduces them to new thoughts and ideas that they may be able to apply immediately.
Be respectful of people’s time. Offer to meet for coffee or what ever is easiest for them. Do not treat this meeting like an interview – specifically state that you want career planning help – that’s it.
Once you are meeting with a hiring manager ask what they look for in Black Belts. Use that as a baseline to judge your performance. If comfortable, ask them how they see you measuring up to that standard. Take notes on what they say.
I find it helpful to state exactly what I am doing an why I am doing it. Stress that you are just looking for a baseline so you can improve on any areas you need to before posting in the future.
Before meeting with anyone you should do your research on them. Know what they do, what their responsibilities are, and what concerns them. Even better, know what concerns their boss. Look at the places they volunteer. Take the time to identify a problem that they have and come prepared with a solution or material ways to solve it for them. Each of us have special skills in addition to the Six Sigma knowledge we have worked so hard on. Leverage those skills to help them before asking them to help you.
Talk through the solution and make sure it meets their needs. At the end of your meeting ask to come back – even if it’s only to talk about the application of problem you solved. Also ask if you could do another career counseling session with them.
Once you meet with enough people you will see a pattern emerge. And that will help you prioritize what you need to work on.
By the time you have the next meeting be sure that you have made progress on improving yourself as a candidate in their eyes. Repeat the process of identifying what they look for in a candidate and determine the difference between where you stand and where you want to be.
Implement & Control
Once you have an established relationship, meaning that they are gaining value from your work, you are gaining value from their suggestions and mentorship, ask if they would be willing to do a mock interview with them. Mock interviews are great. They give you practice answering really tough questions on the fly.
Mock interviews also gives you the benefit of learning all of the types of questions people tend to ask – and as a benefit, these practice interviews are a wonderful education! Sometimes you may be thinking that you are giving a great answer but for a specific reason you may be missing the mark. This kind of practice helps you sharpen your answers to best reflect all that you bring to the table.
Another reason that I love mock interviews is when the interviewer asks experience-based questions. For example, if the question is “tell me about a time you had to ….fill in the blank here” and I know that I haven’t had that experience yet, I add it to my action plan and ensure that I get that experience so that I can give a great answer the next time I encounter it.
At the end of a meeting, be sure to ask whom else you should reach out to who could help you land a Six Sigma Black belt position – especially other people who are on your communication plan but do not have a great way of approaching. At this point you’ve demonstrated that you are motivated person who can deliver results. Anyone would be happy to recommend you! Repeat process with that new person.
I hope this process helps you further your Six Sigma career. Now it’s your turn! What approaches do you take to finding and landing a new job? How did you get your current position? What do you recommend that the people you mentor try?