Political pundits and average Americans will be talking about the 2008 presidential election for years to come. The significance of the outcome, the potentially dramatic shift in domestic and foreign policies, and the nationwide clamor for change offer these five lessons to job seekers:
(1) Experience isn't everything.
From the moment it was clear that Barack Obama would be the Democratic nominee, John McCain put more emphasis on his experience and – by extension – the wisdom that comes with age. But the majority of voters felt they needed someone who would chart a different course and help take the country in a new direction, putting more weight on vision and less on years in the industry.
Lesson: If the company wants someone with fresh ideas, experience is not necessarily your strongest asset.
(2) Eloquence, clarity, and preparation are very important.
If you have a strong sense of who you are, you’re more capable of articulating a vision of where you see the job opportunity going and a passion for what you believe in. Both candidates demonstrated that, but Obama had more success with carefully detailed plans and ideas that evidently appealed more to the majority of Americans. And you need to be aware of the issues. Case in point: While the stock market took a dive in September and everyone argued over the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, McCain was roundly criticized for the rest of the campaign after he called the foundations of the economy “strong.” Although he later said he was referring to the American workforce, the lack of clarity in his initial statement hurt him, because it seemed to contradict most people's reality.
Lesson: If you know the depth and breadth of your skills and the company's needs, and can identify how they all mesh together, you can be a strong candidate for the job. Express that vision and motivation in the interview.
(3) Be gracious and professional if you’re not hired.
McCain’s concession speech was one of the most gracious and self-effacing I've heard out of all the elections I have witnessed. He thanked his supporters and blamed himself for his campaign “mistakes,” and also pledged his support to the man who won the job.
Lesson: If you don’t get the job yet would still like to work for the same company, don’t leave on bad terms. Be gracious and professional. You never know when they might call again for a chance at another job opening.
(4) Team players are highly valued.
If you listened closely to Obama's campaign and victory speech, you heard such words and phrases as “humbled,” “your victory,” “we rise or fall as one nation,” and, of course, one of the mantras from his campaign: “Yes we can.” He also sent a clear message to Americans claiming that, while he will lead, he wants others on his team to speak their minds.
Lesson: Teamwork is a highly valued soft skill in the workplace. If, as a team leader or team player, you enjoy the dynamic that comes from sharing ideas and reaching a common goal, and can share specific examples of how you contributed to a team effort, you'll have a good chance of landing the job you want.
(5) Technology and social networking are effective.
Information technology was a cornerstone of Obama’s campaign, from raising money, to sharing information, to correcting myths and falsehoods about him. And remember how he announced his selection of Joe Biden as his running mate by sending a mass text message? No wonder younger voters were so influential to his victory.
Lesson: Social networking can enable a prospective employer to learn something about you beyond what they see in a resume or hear in an interview. And many companies are using the web to vet job candidates. So, try to gain a professional presence on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and use blogs and other social networking tools to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise.
What other lessons about job searching can you draw from the Election of 2008? Please share them with us.