1. What is your ideal job?
- Go for the sweet spot. Find the intersection between what you’re good at, what you love to do and what others value. Sure, you may have to settle for less than a perfect 10. But there is a huge difference in your satisfaction and in your performance over the long term when you’re working in a job that you enjoy 70% of the time versus 30%.
- Write your ideal job description. If you can envision and articulate your ideal job, you’re more likely to know it when you see it. You’re also more likely to help others point you to it when they see it. Don’t limit yourself to jobs that you see posted. Your ideal job might not even exist … yet. Even if you’re not clear on the industry, field, or title, describe what you are clear on. List what you would want (or not want) in the role, organization, content and type of work, duties, co-workers, customers, opportunities for growth, geography, etc. Describe the job where you would look forward to going to work – the kind of job where you can’t hide your excitement when you talk about it with others.
- Take a test drive. You may be considering a job that would involve a change or investment that you’re not sure you’re ready to make. If that’s the case, ‘test drive’ aspects of the job before you commit. Take a class, volunteer for a non-profit or offer to do some free work for someone who is doing what you want to do.
2. What’s your plan?
- Treat your job search as your job. Set daily and weekly goals and a structured schedule. Establish a place to ‘work’ that is free from distraction. Get organized. Make sure you keep track of your leads and opportunities and make sure you thank everyone who gives you time, leads, interviews and support.
- Leverage support. Don’t go it alone. Enlist the help of books, job boards, recruiters and friends. If you have access to outplacement service, make the most of it including asking for career coaching and networking connections. Individualized career coaching – particularly if you’re not clear on your direction or if you want expert help, accountability, and support – can be a great resource to help you clarify your target, make a search plan and work your plan.
- Network, network, network. This is the most important part of your search strategy. Most jobs are found through word of mouth and relationships so nurture and expand your relationships. When you apply for a job, you will exponentially increase your chances for an interview if you also find someone in the organization to put in a good word for you to the recruiter or hiring manager. And as you network, look for opportunities to help others – be a generous networker.
- Be ready for ‘the question.’ When people ask you key questions (e.g., “What kind of work do you do?” “How’s work?” or “How’s the job search?”), be ready. These are great opportunities to let them know what job you’re targeting or how they can help you. And as you show genuine interest in others, most will want to help you, too.
3. How are you – really?
- Stay on top of your game. To leave the best impression in an interview, conversation, or email exchange, you need to be at your best. Many job seekers shoot themselves in the foot when they go into an interview depressed, bitter, desperate, or unprepared. Job searching is difficult. Give yourself permission to do what you need to do to energize and take care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially. Work this priority into your plan and schedule.
Being as clear as possible on your ideal job, diligently working your search plan, and taking care of yourself are all critical components of a successful career transition. Particularly if you feel out of control or discouraged, it may be time to anchor back to what you can control and where you derive your value and identity apart from your work. Remember what you uniquely offer and be humbly confident that you will have an opportunity to offer it again soon – and earn some income in doing so.
Joe Baker is a Partner with PeopleResults and an executive coach and leadership consultant. He also serves on the board of Executive Leaders in Transition Exchange (ELITE), a Chicago-based non-profit organization that helps senior HR and finance leaders find jobs through networking. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JoeBakerJr.