Good news. Economic indicators are pointing up from here. Companies are reporting profits again and the job market will follow. 2010 will be a better year for business and jobs. Last week, I tweeted the 9.4% U.S. unemployment rate will drop to 7.5% in March, then 6% next June. Bold predictions.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the key factors of success in business, recruiting and job searching. The tools may change (Social Media is changing “the how”) but “the what” (e.g. Covey’s Seven Habits) will stand the test of time.

In my experience, the #1 factor of success – in business and in life – is preparation. Preparation takes thinking, planning and work. If you prepare, you’ll win: a new job, new client business, financial security for you and your family.

Three examples of preparation in business: Job seekers prepare for interviews. Speakers prepare for presentations. Owners prepare for growth. Three examples in life: A couple prepares for a child. A family prepares for a vacation. A person prepares for retirement.

In third party recruiting, people who plan – prepare their daily/weekly activities – out earn those who do not by 35% on average. 35% of $100,000 is $35,000. 35% of $200,000 is $70,000.

Preparing is so important because it lays out a mental framework, a path to achieve goals. It helps to smooth out the inevitable “bumps in the road”.

Many know that planning (business and personal) is a key exercise to achieving goals. Planning involves both short term (action-oriented steps) and long-term (strategic thinking). Do you have 1 year, 5 year, 10 year, 20 year plans? Are they in writing?

7 Steps to Prepare to Win:
1. Discover what you want (the hardest part for many).
2. Envision yourself there (mental preparation).
3. Research and do your homework (learn the details).
4. Write it down (on paper).
5. Get advice from a mentor, coach or field expert (great value here).
6. Vision the day/event in your mind (mental test run).
7. Relax, be yourself and enjoy the experience.

Why preparation is so critical: Winning (achieving the result you want) has all to do with confidence. For example, when you prepare for an interview or a meeting, your confidence level increases with how well you know your subject. It’s similar to knowing the questions on the exam.

Job Seekers – How to Win the Job You Want:
– Discover the position you want.
– Research the companies you want to work for.
– Craft a custom resume.
– Get your resume into the right hands.
– Prepare for a meeting/interview.
– Follow up with decision maker. Follow up, again.
– Prepare for second/third meetings.
– Prepare for a job offer.
– Negotiate the job offer.
– Start your new job in the position and company you want.

Speakers – How to Deliver a Top Presentation:
– Find the organizations you want to speak for.
– Research the events and submit a proposal.
– Ask those attending, what they want to hear/know.
– Prepare all materials; visuals and handouts.
– Practice presentation in your office.
– Arrive at event site early and scope out room.
– Rehearse full presentation on site.
– Morning of – exercise, practice intro, shine shoes.
– Arrive early, talk to people in audience.
– Smile, be upbeat, engage audience. Deliver!

All preparation is a process. Time taken to prepare will be time well spent. You will deliver at a higher quality. Preparation builds confidence. People will gravitate to you because you know yourself and your topic. Prepare to win and you will.