Sam, an instructional designer in her mid 30’s, felt like her job search was all over the place. The problem for her was that she was both interested in a lot of things and had a diverse skill set that made her good at doing a lot of things.
“I’m interested in a lot of things which makes it hard to know what I should do next.” - Sam
She wanted help focusing her job search by figuring out which career path would make her happy and give her the work-life balance she was craving.
Together, we discussed four ways she could gain the clarity and focus she needed to move forward in her job search.
1. Start with reflecting on what you really want to do.
In Sam's case, while she was good at a lot of things and had experience in different fields she didn't enjoy everything she did. After some coaching, she realized that she really only liked doing one or two things, which happened to be the things she was also really good at. Because she was able to do some many things, Sam assumed that she should be keeping her options open and exploring all those opportunities, even the ones she wasn't particularly excited about.
To avoid falling into the same trap, stop forcing yourself to look at opportunities just because you think you should and instead give yourself permission to only focus on the things you are truly interested in and enjoy doing. You will be more successful in your job search if you apply to jobs you are best suited for and that you really want to do rather than applying for whatever is out there. So do yourself a favor and be honest with yourself; eliminate all of the things you don’t really want to do. It will help you focus and make your job search feel less overwhelming. If you are having trouble eliminating options, Forbes columnist Caroline Beaton suggests looking at each of your options and asking yourself, “If I don’t do this, will I regret it?” If you won't regret it, then cross it off your list.
2. Understand what employers are looking for
This is a critical step for job seekers to understand: while there might be a lot of things that you are interested in, employers are only going to hire you based on what you can do for them. Rather than applying to whatever is out there, think about what you are the most qualified to do.
A helpful way to focus your job search is to look at your experience from the employer's perspective and grade yourself the way an employer would grade you. This is a very practical way to narrow down your options and determine what jobs you are best suited for at this moment.
When an employer looks for the ideal candidate, they look for a match in four categories:
- Industry Experience - Do you have relevant industry experience or are you coming from a different industry?
- Job Title - Does your current job title match the job they are trying to fill or would this new role be a promotion for you?
- Years of Experience - Do you have the years of experience the employer is looking for?
- Work Experience - Have you recently done what the employer is asking for in the job description?
If you have met all four factors, then give yourself an A because you are a perfect match for this employer. If you have 3 out of 4 factors then you drop down to a B. If you have 2 out of 4 factors then you drop down to a C. And if you have 1 out of 4 factors then you drop down to a D.
If you are looking to make a career change and do something totally different then simply applying to jobs won't work for you. You will have to invest the time to gain the new experience needed in order to be valuable to your future employer and network with people in your desired field in order to learn how to best get a job in that field.
3. Talk to people who do what you think you want to do.
Don't make the mistake of assuming you have to know what you want to do when you begin your job search, especially if you want to do something new. Treat your job search like a research project in the beginning. If there is something you are interested in but are unsure whether it is right for you, rather than dismiss your idea as unrealistic or out of your reach, your best next action step is to go talk to people who do what you think you want to do and find out what their experience is like.
A great way to learn about different career options is to set up informational interviews where you can learn about how someone got their job, what they like and don't like about it, and what they recommend you do if you want to enter this field. This first-hand, insider knowledge is priceless and can save you a lot of time by helping you figure out which career option is right for you.
4. Test out career options if possible.
While talking to people is a great way to learn about new career options nothing can replace actually getting some experience doing the job. There are several ways to do so from taking a class in the field, gaining a certification, interning, volunteering, or creating your own personal project. By taking this extra step you not only help gain clarity for yourself, but it will also show future employers how sincere you are about moving into this new career direction by gaining the experience they are looking for.
5. Bonus Step: Build your personal brand to stand out in the job market.
Finally, after you have done your research and have tested out different career options and you have decided which new career direction you want to pursue you will want to build professional credibility in the job market by building your online brand and network. This could be anything from having a robust LinkedIn profile, publishing your own articles, contributing to online conversations, sharing relevant news, speaking at industry events, and joining professional associations.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mo Chanmugham, Esq., CPCC is a former entertainment lawyer turned career coach and the founder of MGC Coaching. He helps ambitious professionals who are feeling stuck gain the clarity and confidence they need to create more fulfilling careers. He also serves as the Senior Associate Director of Career Services at New England Law | Boston where he offers his career development expertise to law students and alumni.
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