All my posts on job search are based on this set of steps that will result in you getting the right job for you – your “right fit work” – specifically work that you enjoy and that gives you satisfaction.
Identify what you want to do
Many people are unhappy with their jobs and careers. Perhaps you are fulfilling other people’s expectations instead of following your own preferences. Perhaps you’ve reached a point where you want to do something new.
You CAN work at a job you like. My rule of thumb is that you should be 70-80% satisfied with your work. In a down economy like this one, perhaps 60% is more realistic. If you are waking up every day dreading going to work, you definitely are not in the right line of work or the right workplace – for YOU. It may be fine for others, just not for you.
We all have unique talents and abilities with which we were born, and skills we have developed throughout our lives – at home, in school, in the workplace. At base, it is our talents that determine whether we will be happy at work. If we’re using our talents, we will be much happier. If we’re not using our talents, it’s a bit like swimming against the current and hoping to reach our destination – frustrating and likely to keep us stuck in the same place.
It can be difficult to let go of our wish to please others, especially our parents, and to follow our own hearts. And sometimes it may feel as though you can’t abandon your hard-earned skills – or that they are now worthless if you want to pursue another field. Those are totally normal feelings. What’s important is to allow yourself to have the feelings and yet not allow them to derail you from reaching your goal: work that you look forward to doing every day. When you are doing that work, those who love you will be happy for you and will get over their disappointment (if there is any.) And you’ll find that every skill you’ve learned will come in handy in your new work – everything you’ve done so far is the foundation for this next step in your life. Many skills are transferable to another field and will get you started. Keep an open mind about possibilities.
Such a job search can take more time than you have at the moment, because you may realize you need to get additional training or education, or that you need to make a higher salary for some period of time to save enough to be able to afford a career switch. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon pursuing your dreams. You simply operate on a “dual track” where you look for a job that meets a major percentage of your “must have list” for a satisfying job, and you begin activities that will eventually result in your doing your dream work.
Prepare a resume that effectively markets you
When you know what you want to do, you can then identify your “core value proposition” to a potential employer. The point of the resume is to provide evidence that you are fully capable of delivering great value to the employer with your ideal job. The heart of any successful resume is a set of accomplishments that support your core value proposition and lead an employer to see you as potentially right for a specific job. I suggest only including tasks and accomplishments that you would be happy to repeat. If you put it in a resume, employers will assume you are willing to do it again. In every job, we have to do things we don’t necessarily like (that’s the dissatisfying 20-40%), so why ask for it?
Networking: your first new job
Networking is the chief mechanism people use to get their dream jobs. It’s not complicated when you know what you want to do, and have a short description of your ideal work and the talents and abilities you want to use at work. At heart, networking is just talking to people and telling them what you want to do, then asking for their ideas and help to take the next step closer toward getting that job. Most people won’t have a job for you but they usually have someone else to whom you can talk. You don’t know who knows who, so talk to everyone and keep following the trail of the next person to whom you are referred.
Identify job opportunities
When you know what you want to do, it’s easy to identify potential job opportunities. Most of the time, opportunities appear on-line and through networking meetings. Use your “Must Have List” to evaluate opportunities and see if it’s worth applying for the job. If you find a job on-line, work to find someone at that company who might put in a good word for you and help ensure that your resume is at least seen by a decision-maker.
Write cover letters that win interviews
Your cover letter is where you will make the case that your core value proposition is exactly what the job description calls for. The letter needs to position you as knowledgeable about and responsive to an employer’s needs. That means you can talk about your specific abilities and accomplishments in relation to the employer’s needs. I always say “employers only care about your past as it relates to them achieving their desired future.” So mention the employer’s name, talk about their business or mission, use the position title, and tell them why you’d be privileged to be part of their team. In a competitive market, that is even more important as employers can be and are pickier than ever. Most will seriously consider only those applicants who demonstrate knowledge of and even passion for the company’s purpose.
Prepare to succeed in your interviews
Most people blow interviews because they are not prepared to answer some of the questions that are asked. When you’ve been fired or laid off, or if you quit, it can be extremely uncomfortable to answer the question “what happened?” And it also can be hard to describe your desire for a new career. Rehearsing your answers is the solution. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse until you are comfortable giving an answer that is honest and free of any negative tone or attitude – what is called “charge-neutral.” It’s also good to remember that you get to pause before answering, and use other techniques to buy some time to think through your answer. It’s even OK to say “I don’t know” if you then follow by saying “and I’m looking forward to learning that here, working with all of you.” That’s probably the most important guidance: wind up your answers to difficult questions by refocusing on the job at hand.
Other factors in successful interviewing are knowing a reasonable amount about the company to which you’re applying, the job in question, and if possible, the people interviewing you. This allows you to give intelligent, informed responses to questions such as “how would you handle this situation here?” or “what would be the first things you would do if you got this job?” Finally, have your own list of questions to interview them as to whether it’s the right fit for you. And pay attention to your own response to the interviewer and the information you are gathering about the company.
Follow up to enhance chances for success
In a competitive job market, follow-up is more important than ever. I’ve heard stories where companies don’t interview people who don’t call or e-mail to see if their materials were received. It’s about good manners and developing good relationships. So thank people with whom you’ve networked and interviewed. It can’t hurt and it often does help.
Negotiate job offers that meet your “must have list”.
If you get a job offer, FIRST say thank you and that you are excited, and only then ask for some time to discuss it with your spouse/partner/parent/sibling/best friend/coach. You do not have to give an immediate answer unless all the terms are acceptable to you.
Usually in the job search process, one or two items rise to the top of your priority list. Often it is organizational culture and compensation. Or it may be compensation and your role or scope of responsibility in an organization. Whatever those one or two things are, focus on getting those. If you can get those and some of the other items on your “must have list,” don’t be greedy.
Have some faith.
You will get the right work for you. It is going to happen. The search rarely goes as quickly or easily as we would like. Yet that’s no reason to give up. When you have identified your core talents and preferences, the work that energizes you and brings you joy – it is impossible for you NOT to do it. It will happen if you work for it. So have some faith in yourself and the universe – and keep your eyes open for unexpected opportunities that will start to appear all around you as you get clearer and clearer.