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Strategies to Land Your Next Opportunity

Arthur Hughes
By Arthur Hughes Executive Client Partner, Heller DeLand Group, SME Member Since 2022

Success in today’s competitive job market requires thorough preparation, strategic networking and persistent yet professional follow-up. With specialization and continuous retraining now imperative and virtual/hybrid work models on the rise, job seekers must showcase the development of in-demand expertise while adapting to modern communication channels.

Even amid pressures of potential job displacement from automation and artificial intelligence (AI), underlining one’s unique human talents is critical. And sharpening the end-to-end job search process is more important than ever as the use of AI in hiring algorithms to review submissions has become commonplace, along with expanded remote job possibilities mandating conversant networking abilities.

As a former manufacturing industry executive and now a recruiter and career advisor—including  sharing insights with SME members and working with the organization’s Bright Minds program—I have been on both sides of the table and can share that it is more critical than ever to emphasize planning and preparation to create a unique and compelling personal brand to stand out.

Here are a few tips to help you promote your personal brand and rise above other job candidates.

An Accomplishment-Focused Resume

Your resume is a living advertisement of your unique value. Start by carefully studying target job postings to identify desired qualifications and skills.

List projects and achievements from your own experience that provide relevant examples meeting those requirements. Weave these together using the “Action, Problem, Result” approach to quantify contributions and distill accomplishments into concise, bulleted statements.

Showcase the specific talents you offer. Proofread extensively to ensure an error-free professional document prepared to open doors.

Research, Prioritize, Align and Network

Arming yourself with research before applying to a job is critical. Identify target companies and roles that match your background and interests through SME Jobs Connection, and other job boards. Network with professionals in your field at SME industry events, career fairs and other local events to gain insider perspectives.

Conduct additional research online through company websites, news articles, Glassdoor and LinkedIn to understand top priorities and challenges. Use these insights to shape your approach.

Your LinkedIn presence offers an online complement to your resume. Ensure tight alignment in skills, accomplishments, certifications and verbiage between the two profiles. LinkedIn’s expanded space allows you to showcase work samples, publications, courses, volunteer work and other relevant content.

Tie these directly to priorities uncovered during job search research. Include keywords from postings to boost visibility in searches. Set notifications, join relevant industry groups and focus on networking to nurture an active, strategic personal brand throughout your career journey.

In addition, events, conferences and networking opportunities available through SME and online communities offer chances to build and nurture your community. Identify member companies aligned to your goals and initiate conversations that spark constructive dialogue. Ask thoughtful questions that provide insights into initiatives and culture.

Follow up with thank you notes, recapping insights and invite ongoing discussion to build the connection. The broader your network, the more who can relay openings matching your talents.

Storytelling and Ethical AI

A strong elevator pitch can elevate you quickly, but it requires preparation and practice to master. Distill your unique value into a crisp 30-second overview that clearly answers three key questions:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • What value you offer

Practice your pitch with a mentor and trusted colleagues so the content flows naturally. Refine and memorize this high-level snapshot of your talents to open conversations.

Interview confidence stems from showcasing fit-to-key priorities uncovered through research and preparation. Understand the company’s challenges and prepare “Situation, Task, Action, Result” stories demonstrating how you drove measurable improvements.

Quantify your impact by describing the situation, actions taken and ultimately the outcome delivered. Practice telling these stories aloud to share accomplishments relevant to each target.

Meanwhile, AI tools offer more personalized job search support than ever. They can provide useful suggestions for documents and interview prep. However, copying and pasting AI content fails to convey authenticity to tell your story; treat guidance as inspiration to develop your own style while showcasing your unique background instead of relying on generated responses.

Consistent Follow-Up

View the job search itself as a relationship-building opportunity. After any substantive discussion, continue the conversation through prompt and professional follow-up—send thank you notes and personalized LinkedIn connection requests to solidify new contacts.

Apply for identified openings that match your background. Share relevant examples of your work. Follow up again at appropriate intervals to nurture these relationships over time, maintaining momentum. You never know what doors that consistent yet considerate follow-up may open long term.

With thorough preparation, strategic networking and structured follow-up, you can demonstrate unique value at each step and rise above the competition on your career journey.

Armed for Success

SME Chief Workforce Development Officer Jeannine Kunz received the ARM Champion Award by the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute. She was one of 12 recipients selected for the award out of 400-plus ARM Institute members.

As a Manufacturing Innovation Institute, ARM leads the way to a future where people and robots work together to respond to the nation’s greatest challenges. The ARM Champion Award Program recognizes members who have gone above and beyond to advocate for their mission to strengthen manufacturing in the United States.

“I’m honored to join my dynamic colleagues presented with an ARM Champion Award at this year’s event,” Kunz said in a statement. “SME’s partnership with the ARM Institute is grounded in a common belief that technology adoption and workforce development are key drivers in manufacturing’s success.”

ARM Champions are nominated by their fellow members and the ARM Institute team. The Institute’s leadership team selects awardees from the nominations, and awards are given out at the ARM Institute’s Annual Members Meeting.

“Our annual Champion Awards recognize members who have gone above the scope of membership to enable our mission,” said Jay Douglass, ARM Institute COO. “The diversity of the Champions and the companies represented by the Champions epitomizes the uniqueness of our member consortium. On behalf of the ARM Institute team, I’d like to thank these members for their continued commitment to our mission and congratulate them on this well-deserved recognition.”

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