I can’t tell you how many people tackle a job search backwards. Of course that’s my opinion, and I’ll explain more because my approach is not typical.
What I mean by “backwards” is that most approaches take you through exploring opportunities in the market and then figuring out if you can fit into them; I believe you’re better off deciding your criteria first, and then exploring what opportunities fit. When I help someone through this journey, my intention is to help them find the right opportunity so they can stay there as long as they hope to, rather than help them “get a job” that they’ll want to leave because it goes against something core that they didn’t consider.
I find that there are three commonly suggested approaches to go about a job search these days, each with good intentions but through which I believe you could also set yourself up to fail. I’ll explain my approach as well, as the fourth one, and why I think it’s the ONE worth the effort. Here’s an overview:
Today, I’ll focus on the first two (tomorrow I’ll cover the last two) –
Typical approach #1: “Update your resume, get it out there, and see what bites.” It’s a numbers game banking on the hopes that if you send out hundreds of resumes, you’ll get a couple dozen calls. From there, you enter the job-dating game and interview around until the companies stop calling… In the end, you *might* have a job, and hopefully it’s one you’d want.
You start creating your resume by listing out everything you’ve done in the past. It’s a snapshot of your career path and shows your capabilities, but doesn’t necessarily help you understand your preferences or how your career fits into your life.
In order to hit the numbers, you find yourself settling for applying to jobs you *can* do, even if you don’t really want to do them. You could end up in a job just like one(s) you have left/are leaving behind.
You end up with a bunch of interviews you don’t need. While having some extra can be good for practice, having too many becomes a waste of time – both yours and the company’s.
Related to the first bullet, as you interview for the ones that “bite,” you realize one after another that it’s just not quite what you want. Chances are the companies will sense the same. It’s discouraging to get rejected; it’s demoralizing to get rejected by many. You hate the situation you’re in, and you drudgingly start over again.
Redeeming quality: You may get clearer about what you’re looking for / what you do not want. Your resume is a tool to demonstrate your abilities and can serve as a great opportunity to tell your story.
Bottom line: In the end, it tends to waste a lot of time and can be an unnecessarily demoralizing process.
Typical approach #2: “Network, network, network!” This refers to the more intentional, active practice of meeting people; not just casual socializing. Similar to the previous approach, it’s a numbers game – the premise is that the more people you meet, the better sense you’ll get of what you’re looking for and the higher the chance you’ll find your next employer. I’m not opposed to this approach per se, but I believe the timing of it is crucial.
You can’t quite articulate what you’re looking for, so people can’t really help you.
You’re assertive and smart. People offer to help you out anyways, and offer various suggestions that may sound lovely but may not match quite who you are / may not utilize your strengths. This is a recipe for disaster as you can set yourself up to fail if you pursue those suggestions, particularly because these are not always people who know you and have a personal desire to see you thrive. You could also potentially burn bridges if you don’t follow their suggestions.
You’re “open.” Similar to the previous bullet, you meet lots of people, each with a suggestion of what you should do. But since you’re “open,” you can get blown back and forth like a tree in the wind, still confused.
Redeeming quality: I believe this approach is most effective once you’ve strengthened your sense of identity and understand what matters most to you. With that in mind, then you can further refine your search by talking to people; potentially gather some worthwhile leads.
Bottom line: In the end, though you meet lots of people, they can’t be truly helpful until you can articulate what you’re seeking. You’re not particularly clearer about what you’re looking for, and your success here is up to chance and other people. In the end, you *might* have a job, and hopefully it’s one you’d want.
Have you experienced any of these I’ve mentioned so far? How well did it work for you?
Continue reading tomorrow where I will discuss the last two job search approaches: the “See what’s out there” approach, and the one I choose to use with my clients because I believe it is the most effective and valuable. Stay tuned…!