Time flies when you’re busy working a 9-5 but if you’ve been thinking about your future goals, you might be wondering when to start focusing on the next chapter in your career. Perhaps you’re not sure how to start. And if you’re like most busy professionals I’ve worked with, you’re even starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by the thought of “what to do next.”
While it’s true that the job search and finding your career path can sometimes be tricky, it’s also true that a little preparation can help to get you on the right track and smoothly transitioned into your next role.
When to Start the Job Search
Whether you’ve been procrastinating your career planning or simply just too busy to create your plan of attack, now’s the time to put the wheels in motion because like it or not, the job search can take some time (so it’s always best to get started early). Here are some easy ways to get started:
Take a Bite-Sized Approach
There are so many parts to the job search and each requires a different approach or strategy. Start by breaking your job search down into bite-sized pieces. This is a great strategy especially if you’re feeling unmotivated/overwhelmed as a bite-sized job search will feel more manageable and help you experience small wins along the way (not to mention boost your confidence). One way to do this is by organizing the job search into 3 steps.
Step 1: Know What You Want
This step is pretty self-explanatory but typically the most difficult part (so don’t feel intimidated if you still aren’t sure what to do in your next career move). It’s all about your target. What are you going after? Without this, watch out for endless job board roaming (yikes). When you actually do find what you want, you risk confusing the hiring manager with your lack of focus. They’ll want to know you are in it to win it ONLY with them. Spend some time getting focused on your target.
When You Know Your Target
If you know what that is, take a moment to jot it down. The more specific the better:
“I want to do _____ job with _____________________ company.”
By knowing your target, you’ll better be able to communicate the right message to your network (so they know how to help you) AND hiring managers (so they can feel confident you want the job).
When You Don’t Know Your Target
If you were hoping to figure out what to do next, by the time you finished your program year, but are still feeling lost, spend time focusing on research before you start getting lost in a slew of online job boards.
Using Linkedin for Research
Most people think of Linkedin as a networking platform or job board but there is a powerful research component you might be missing if you haven’t spent your research hours here. Have a look at the profiles of past colleagues or people who have worked at the same companies as you, earlier in your career. (To do this: Click “connections” and then filter by company).
Where did they end up? Are there any common themes in the types of companies or roles they moved into? You can take it one step further and reconnect with these old colleagues to do a little networking or catch up over a quick call. This is a great way to get on other peoples’ radars with the shared interest of moving out of the shared company in question.
Linkedin Groups for Identifying Appealing Jobs
Most people don’t see the value in groups but this can be a hidden gem where research is concerned. Linkedin allows you to join up to 50 groups and it’s to your benefit to do so. Join your college alumni group for starters. Once in the group, have a look at the other member profiles to see what others, with a similar interest/background have ended up doing in their careers. You might be surprised at what you uncover. When you find an intriguing profile be sure to note for future networking opportunities.
Try a Personality Test
Certain personality types thrive in certain careers and not-so-much in others. You might find this little personality test helpful in coming up with ideas based on your personality. While assessments can be great places to start, it’s good to know that assessment coaches also exist to help you figure out where you’d thrive based on your assessment results.
Step 2: Know What You Have
The second part of the job search formula is all about your professional background. Who are you as a professional? What have you done throughout your career in terms of tasks, skills and competencies that you can offer an employer?
Start to Think of You as a “Brand”
Since hiring talent is time-consuming and costly, you’ll want to present yourself as the best person for the job – simple as that. When you have your target in place, do you look like your target? Do you speak like your target? Do you have the background necessary to be your target? If you’re not sure how you should be branded, spend some time researching professionals in your industry. What skills do they possess? What companies have they worked for? What groups are they in? Know what you have (and what you don’t) as well as what you must look like to be an attractive candidate when applying for jobs. Jot all of this down for later use on your resume.
Step 3: Know How to Use What You Have to Get What You Want
Last but not least, the successful job search is achieved when you are able to combine steps one and two into a cohesive, targeted BRAND. This is the part where you apply to jobs. Hiring managers will always hire the best person for job, so in this step you’re going to be focused on communicating your fit based on your experience, skills and enthusiasm for the role. Of course, your communication will happen in the resume, cover letter, Linkedin profile, and interview.
So now that you have a nice little overview of how this works, here’s my challenge for the week: Set Your Target. Remember: a target will look something like this:
“I want to be a [insert role] with [company].” (Be as specific as possible).
So an example target might be:
“I want to be a volunteer coordinator for a non-profit focused on after-school programs in the California area.”
If you don’t know your target, spend time on research or assessments focused on self-awareness and clarity; even if that means working with a coach. You’ll need to know your target to move forward so the extra time/investment is worth it!