August 30, 2023

How to land your dream job: A comprehensive career guide for workforce managers

Sam Dehart

You didn’t find workforce management, workforce management found you

When you were a kid, we’d be willing to bet your answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” had absolutely nothing to do with workforce management. And yet, here you are.

Maybe you got your start as a support agent who showed an undeniable knack for complex problem-solving. Maybe you had a great mentor who saw your potential and poured into your development. Whatever the case, workforce management found you — and you’ve been hooked ever since.

Now, you’re ready to explore your next opportunity. But where should you begin? Whether you’re new to the industry or a seasoned veteran, this career guide will help you get clear on your goals, stand out in a crowded job market, and ace your interview.

But first, a quick word on the new face of workforce management

The realm of workforce management isn't just about organizing schedules or keeping track of hours worked. It's about understanding the evolving dynamics of the modern workplace and curating experiences that benefit both the employee and the employer. As a workforce management professional, you're the bridge between the organization's objectives and its most valuable asset — its people. 

Today's most successful professionals in your field are not just adaptable but also empathetic, forward-thinking, and equipped with the foresight to predict and navigate challenges. Your ability to blend technology, people skills, and strategic planning makes you an invaluable asset in this ever-changing landscape.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

Getting clear about your career goals

Starting your job search without a clear goal in mind is like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks. And when something does stick, it’s probably not going to be the kind of spaghetti you like. At that point, you’re either stuck with yucky spaghetti or you’re back to square one.

But enough about spaghetti. Let’s talk about the steps you can take to get in touch with what you bring to the table and what you want out of your next career move.

Know thyself: A necessary exercise in self-reflection

You may think you have yourself and your career goals all figured out, but actively working through the following prompts will help you organize your thoughts, suss out themes, and align on what truly matters to you in your next role.

  • Self-assess your experiences, skills, and passions. What aspects of workforce management do you enjoy the most? Which areas are you exceptionally good at? Are you a celebrated team leader? Do your forecasts absolutely crush it? Do you manage intraday challenges like a boss? Don’t be afraid to get a little big-headed here — be honest about where you shine.
  • Outline your vision for the future you want to build. Where do you want to be in 3 years? What about 5 years? How about 10 years? This can be in terms of your job position, industry focus, or even work-life balance. 
  • Take stock of your personal values. What values are non-negotiable for you in the workplace? This could be culture, opportunities for growth, work-life balance, ethical considerations, or any other factors.
  • Identify your growth opportunities. What are some skills or qualifications you’d like to develop? This could be related to emerging technologies in workforce management, leadership skills, or any other relevant areas.
  • Seek a second opinion. Who are some former colleagues you can reach out to for additional input on what makes you stand out? They can help you validate your self-assessment and even shed light on things you didn’t know about yourself.
  • Get a feel for what’s out there. What kind of company do you want to work for? Are you interested in certain industries? Does company size play a role? Research companies and open roles before you start the application process so you can have a better sense of what resonates and what doesn’t.

Remember, the job search process is as much about finding a role that aligns with your goals and values as it is about showcasing your skills and experience to potential employers. Doing this reflection work upfront will allow you to be more focused when it comes to where you expend your job-search energy.

It helps to be as specific as possible. Instead of saying, "I want a higher-paying job," try, "I want a job that offers a 20% increase in my current salary and opportunities for annual bonuses."

And while it’s obviously important to be clear about your goals, it’s just as important to stay flexible. The job market, industries, and technologies are ever-evolving. And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover opportunities you didn’t even know you were looking for.

How to stand out in a crowded job market

If you want to get hired, you have to get noticed. And while your resume should absolutely do some of the heavy lifting here, it’s just one of several tools you have at your disposal. Here, we’ll dive into fine-tuning your resume, crafting a killer cover letter, building a strong presence on LinkedIn, and more.

The resume: Your ticket to ride

Despite what you may have heard, the resume is alive and well. And you’ll need a good one if you want an invite to interview. Follow these tips for a strong resume that is sure to get you noticed.

  • Quantify your achievements. It’s no secret that workforce managers have a reputation for being freaks in the spreadsheets. Crunch some numbers and collect your most impressive brag stats. There’s a big difference between saying, "Improved scheduling processes," and "Improved scheduling processes, resulting in a 15% reduction in workforce idle time."
  • Tailor your resume for the job. Yes, this requires more work. But you’re not reinventing the wheel every time. Look at the job posting and rearrange your resume to highlight the relevant skills and experience that specific company is looking for. You should also modify your language when necessary to ensure your resume is getting flagged by any candidate screening software the company might be using.
  • Use active language. Workforce management is about getting shit done, and your resume should reflect that. Demonstrate what an action-oriented candidate you are by leading with strong verbs like "orchestrated," "led," "implemented," and "optimized." The only thing assive language will get you is passed over for consideration.
  • Keep things professional. It’s important to note that professional doesn’t have to mean sterile. After all, the goal is to stand out. But if you can’t be bothered to proof-read, then don’t expect a follow-up. Your resume should be clean, consistent, and easy to read. Whittle your content down to the most impactful bullet points and remember that white space is your friend.
  • Show off your techie side. If you have experience with workforce management systems, analytics tools, and other relevant software, name names. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t line up with the exact tools that company uses. What matters is that you demonstrate your aptitude for using technology and your willingness to adapt to new tools. Flexibility is everything in this industry, so don’t be one of those “I only work with the tools I know” kinda candidates.

The cover letter: Tell ‘em a story

The worst cover letters are the ones that follow an antiquated formula. The best cover letters are the ones that showcase your personality while drawing clear connections between your strengths and the role for which you are applying.

  • Tell one hell of a story. Don’t make the mistake of narrating the bullet points on your resume. Instead, tell a story that embodies your greatest strengths. Maybe you were the first workforce management hire at an early-stage startup and you built an awesome team from the ground up. Maybe you joined an existing team and implemented practices that saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Lean into a banner moment from your career that you’re particularly proud of.
  • Let your passion shine bright. Remember when you took a beat to reflect on what it is you dig about workforce management? And what kinds of companies, industries, and opportunities you want to pursue? This is where all of that comes in. Your cover letter should not only express your enthusiasm for workforce management, but also the specific opportunity for which you’re applying.
  • Tailor your cover letter. Let’s be real: a generic cover letter isn’t going to land you your dream job. And customization is about more than swapping in job titles and company names. Think back to the story you want to tell. How can you modify that story to highlight the specific skills and experience that company is looking for in a candidate? Be sure to connect the dots between how your experience will solve that company’s specific challenges. And if possible, address the hiring manager by name.

Your LinkedIn profile: It’s all about the network

It may be tempting to think of your LinkedIn profile as an online version of your resume, but the platform has so much more to offer. In addition to showcasing your skills and experience, LinkedIn is a great tool for growing your network and landing your next gig.

  • Put your best foot forward. Make sure your LinkedIn profile has a high-quality, professional headshot. But again, don’t conflate professionalism with boring. The best professional headshots are the ones that feel uniquely you. Show off your personality through things like style, expression, and setting.
  • Use relevant keywords. Search-engine optimization isn’t just for Google. Recruiters rely on LinkedIn’s algorithm to pull up profiles that speak to the skills and experience necessary for whatever roles they’re trying to fill. With a well-optimized LinkedIn profile, the opportunities will slide into your DMs and not the other way around.
  • Join groups and grow your network. LinkedIn groups such as Society of Workforce Planning Professionals (SWPP) and Workforce Management Professionals are great forums for networking with other workforce management professionals and exchanging industry-specific knowledge. They’re also good places to scout out the occasional job opportunity.
  • Solicit recommendations. A few good words from your former colleagues can go a long way. Ask the people who are most familiar with your work to write recommendations that highlight your workforce management superpowers. LinkedIn makes this easy. Just find the recommendations section on your profile, click the plus symbol, and select “Ask for a recommendation.”
  • Get involved in the conversation. Of the more than 900 million people who use LinkedIn, only 1% of them create content. And that’s for all industries. This represents an enormous opportunity to build a following and establish yourself as a leader in the workforce management arena. Engaging with and posting your own industry-relevant content will boost your street cred. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of progress — just go for it.

Other ways to get noticed

Your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile are table stakes when it comes to your job search, but there’s so much more you can do. Try adding the following tactics to your job hunting strategy.

  • Attend industry conferences, webinars, or workshops. Personal connections can often lead to job referrals.
  • Pursue relevant certifications in workforce management or related areas to give you an edge.
  • Create a portfolio showcasing schedules, forecasts, or other projects you've worked on. It’s always better to show than it is to tell.
  • Consider starting a blog or a podcast that focuses on workforce management topics. This can help establish you as an industry thought leader (and it’s great fodder for posting on LinkedIn).

Be so good they can’t stop thinking about you

Now that you’ve got their attention, it’s time to ace your interview. You want to make a lasting impression, but remember to be yourself in the process. Follow these steps to set yourself up for interview success.

  • Do your research. You know workforce management, but how much do you know about the company for which you are applying? Make sure you understand the company’s mission, values, products/services, and culture. And more importantly, make sure you understand the specific workforce management challenges the company is facing and how your expertise can address them.
  • Come prepared or don’t come at all. Role playing how your interview might play out can feel silly, but practice will help you iron out any awkward kinks. Run through classic questions like “Why do you want to work here?” or “Describe a challenging situation and how you managed it.” Be prepared to discuss specific systems, methodologies, or tools you've used in the past. And prepare thoughtful questions that show your genuine interest in the role and the company.
  • Be proud of how you represent yourself. Your self-presentation and communication will play a big role in the impression you leave on interviewers. Avoid jargon and make sure you understand each question before answering. Non-verbal cues like eye contact and good posture will convey confidence and attentiveness. And while you don’t need to show up in a suit, your look should feel polished and professional.
  • Follow up. After the interview, send a brief thank-you note or email expressing gratitude for the opportunity to interview and reiterating your interest in the position. And if there were any questions you felt you could've answered better, use that follow-up message as an opportunity to provide clarification.
  • Make a strong virtual impression. Interviewing remotely comes with its own set of challenges. Before the interview begins, make sure your camera and microphone work and that you know how to use the platform. Choose a quiet, well-lit space where you won't be interrupted. And definitely don’t forget to check your internet connection.

Life after workforce management

Have you ever wondered what life after workforce management could be? Workforce management skills are highly transferable due to their emphasis on analysis, organization, optimization, and strategic planning. As a workforce management professional, you possess a set of skills that can be applied to numerous roles across various industries.

Potential career shifts include:

  • Project management. Workforce management and project management both require excellent planning, coordination, and resource allocation skills. You'd be overseeing projects, ensuring they're completed on time, and within budget.
  • Operations management. Similar to workforce management, this role involves ensuring that business operations run efficiently. It requires analyzing processes, optimizing workflows, and managing resources.
  • Human resources. Workforce management often intersects with HR, especially in areas like employee engagement, scheduling, and even training.
  • Business analyst. Your skills in analyzing data, identifying trends, and forecasting can be extremely valuable in a business analyst role.
  • Supply chain management. This involves coordinating and optimizing the flow of goods and services. It requires similar planning, forecasting, and coordination skills as workforce management.
  • Consulting. Businesses often hire consultants to optimize their processes. Your expertise in workforce management could be used to advise companies on efficiency, staffing, and operations.
  • Training and development. With a deep understanding of workforce needs, you could transition into creating training programs that equip employees with necessary skills.
  • Data Science and analytics. If you're well-versed with the analytical side of workforce management, consider transitioning to a role in data science or analytics, especially if you're comfortable with statistical tools and software.

While the roles above are logical extensions of workforce management skills, you shouldn’t feel limited by them. With the right mix of passion, training, and experience, you can be anything you want to be when you grow out of workforce management.

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