As you might know, my current job is only temporary (10 months to be exact). I accepted the offer in April, got my Master’s degree in May, moved here in July, and today makes exactly 5 months that I’ve been in North Carolina. And since I’ll be leaving in just 5 short months, it’s time for me to start planning my next move. Fortunately, I don’t feel nearly as stressed about job searching this time around. Before graduating, my entire cohort (about 15 others) and I were all job searching at the same time and it seemed that it was all we could talk about. Who had interviews, who had offers, and all hoping that we didn’t cross the stage without a job or a plan B. This time feels different. I’m much more aware of what I want in a career, what I have to offer an employer, and what I expect in return. I don’t feel pressured to apply for everything or settle for anything.
It’s important to know that finding the right job and kick-starting your career requires so much more than filling out applications or handing out resumes. In fact, I describe it to my students as being a “career campaign” instead of a job search. “Searching” implies looking around aimlessly with the hopes of finding something. Campaigning involves a strategic plan with a specific outcome in mind. Job searching is comparative to buying a scratch-off lottery ticket, while campaigning is more like putting money into a promising investment. It includes knowing what you want in a position, workplace, supervisor, and colleagues. Here are a few strategies that will make your job search a success:
- Revisit your past. Really think about the good, the bad, and the ugly that you experienced in past jobs. This will help you ask the right questions or notice important details once you get to your next interview. Pull all of the positive aspects from past jobs together and use them to create an outline of what your dream job would be like. Use that description to get as close to choosing the perfect job as you possibly can. Your goal is to relive good experiences, minimize bad experiences, and completely avoid the ugly ones.
- Know if (or to what extent) you will be willing to compromise. When I was job searching this time last year, my amazing supervisor helped me out by giving me a chart with horizontal columns that said, “must have”, “maybe”, and “definitely not”. The vertical column had actual aspects of jobs like “geographic location”, “salary/benefits”, “job duties”, etc. This chart is extremely useful when it comes to fighting off desperation. Sometimes we get so anxious about finding a job that we’ll completely abandon our standards to accept anything we can get. That usually results in you being very unhappy, and quitting…or getting fired. To avoid that, write out exactly what you want in your next job and compare each job opening to your “must have”, “maybe”, and “definitely not” answers. Giving thought to this before hand will keep you from making a rash decision. Is the job worth it if it pays well but has a 45 minute commute? Would you take fewer vacation days if you could have great health benefits? What if you’ll have a beautiful office but your boss will nitpick and micromanage you? All of these things are important.
- Besides the job and workplace, the most important thing to reflect on is yourself. What are your natural talents and abilities? What do you enjoy doing? The more you perform tasks that you’re good at, the happier you are, and the more successful you will be. A great question to ask yourself is, “What do I lose track of time doing?” No job will be 100% perfect, but try to avoid as much of the draining work as you possibly can. Read the job description closely and really imagine yourself doing that everyday. Would you be okay with it? Once you’ve given this some thought, plan your marketing strategy. Employers will only know what you tell them so how will you promote your talents? What 5 adjectives would you use to describe yourself, what’s your branding statement, what’s your catchy professional moniker?
- Build up your web-presence. How you appear online is becoming just as important as how you appear in person. Once you submit a resume, the employer is very likely to Google your name. What search results will pop up? Hopefully a strong LinkedIn profile, a twitter account that shows you engaging in industry conversation, or some other display of your knowledge and professionalism. We live in the information age, you can access anything online so there’s no excuse to not know something. Employers don’t just want people that can do the job, they want employees that are knowledgeable and creative visionaries. Use social media to learn new things, then build your reputation by teaching others.
Job searching or career campaigning is only difficult when you don’t know what you’re looking for. When you know what you want and you know what you’re worth, you can be selective and negotiate until you find yourself in a great career. Be strategic, be honest, and be positive!