Do you have enough experience for that job?

Blake Andrews with Verizon, left, visits with prospective

Blake Andrews with Verizon, left, visits with prospective employees during a job fair, in San Antonio. Employers advertised more jobs in September than at any other point in the past three years, a hopeful sign that job market is slowly improving. (Oct. 4, 2011) (Credit: AP)

Just because you were a senior manager at one company doesn't mean that your next job won't be a midlevel role. Often, appropriate job titles can get confusing during a job search. "There's no standardization as to how the titles are done," says Jim Beqaj, founder of Beqaj International, an executive search firm and consultancy.

Not sure which job title you should target when looking for a job? Here's a rough guide to deciphering how to categorize your skills and what to keep in mind:

Entry level

This category is misleading, because it's not just for those new to the workforce. Plenty of people who have been in the workforce for five years or fewer can fall under the entry-level umbrella.

When going after an entry-level job, try to let your personality and enthusiasm shine. "Entry level is all about personality fit ... basic skills of good communication, eye contact and a sign of eagerness and genuineness are key in securing entry-level jobs," Beqaj says.

Midlevel

For job seekers who are no longer newbies in the market, a midlevel position has entirely different demands. "A midlevel manager typically directs people, departments, functions or projects as well as budgets," says résumé writer Deborah Schuster, founder of Lettersmith Résumé Service. "For most companies, this would require a minimum of a bachelor's degree and five to 15 years of experience."

Additionally, conveying to hiring managers how you would fit in with the company hierarchy is key. "Midlevel requires experience in previous jobs, so making sure that you have the experience and skills sets required is paramount. Your ability to articulate your experiences and how they positively impacted your previous employer are critical," Beqaj says.

Senior-level and executive

Just because you were a senior-level employee at one company doesn't mean you should be targeting only senior roles for your next gig. "There are many definitions for the word 'executive' and 'experienced,'" Schuster says.

Corporate structures vary and larger companies have few senior-level slots. Before applying, use a site like LinkedIn to see where an employee with duties similar to your desired role fits in. "It helps if you know the size of the company and have a description of the qualifications they seek. And be sure your résumé and cover letter is tailored to show that you have those qualifications," Schuster says.

Match skills not level

Just because you fall into a certain experience bucket doesn't mean you can't apply for a position that requires your skills but is on a lower level. Most companies are happy to consider a more junior person for a job, especially if that means they can get away with paying a lower salary.

Before you apply, consider whether "your natural instincts [are] making you feel comfortable or uneasy; trust your senses," Beqaj says. Many larger companies may also start employees at a lower level. In other words, your senior-level role at a technology startup may result in a midlevel position with a Fortune 500 firm.

Understand what or whom you're managing

Another good test for figuring out which level to target is to gauge your current job responsibility. Whether you're getting the information from a recruiter or through your own personal connections, get a sense of whether you would be managing entry-level employees, other managers, a department, a group of businesses, the entire enterprise or just your own time, says George Bradt, managing director of PrimeGenesis, a company that helps executives become established in their new jobs.

The higher the level, the more senior the job title should be for your next position. "What matters when reviewing job descriptions for entry level, midlevel, senior and experienced positions is what people are managing," Bradt says.
 

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