- Develop targets. The first step in helping yourself and allowing others to effectively help you is to develop a target list of organizations whose mission you will be best able to show evidence of contributing to in the past and/or where functions inside those organizations best reflect the functions you have mastered in the past. Employers will look at past results inside of similar contexts to determine if you are qualified for a role. Outside of basic qualifications, you need to understand generally who else is/will be applying for the same roles and what those candidates bring to the party to be able to get a sense of how competitive you will really be. If it is evident you are lacking key skills that will allow you to function successfully, then you can find out what it would take to gain them and gauge whether you will be able to do so in a time span that allows you to compete now or if the type of role would be better approached at a later time. Or you may determine the necessary skills are not of enough interest to you to develop or the investment is not worth the reward. In any case, it is critical to look closely at the difference between “qualified,” “capable” and “competitive” to decide how to best use your time in your job search.
- Investigate your assumptions. After beginning a list, the next key step is to investigate the organizations thoroughly. There is usually considerably more to the equation when seeking an ideal employment experience than selecting a company that is at the top of everyone else’s desired list. Everyone else’s desires and circumstances may be very different than your own, so it’s critical to know as much as you can about what you are really getting into. That can be accomplished by talking to people in the organization to learn about the culture, the specific skills that are required for roles in a particular department, why particular roles are open, expectations, challenges, chains of command. These are just samples of how much you would want to know before you pursue a specific role and ultimately before you make a commitment.
- Record everything you learn. One of the most important components of an effective job search is to record what you learn and track what you do. You may obtain several opinions and will need to compare them. You may have multiple irons in the fire that could create scheduling conflicts if not closely monitored. There needs to be a strategy for taking next steps, and without the facts of each scenario, it’s very possible to make some missteps. It’s critical to track every task, each conversation and your results. Only if you track what you do will it be possible to know what to change to keep moving in the right direction.
- Hold yourself accountable. I require each of my clients who are involved in an active job search to track what they are doing and to develop an agenda for our weekly coaching sessions. I ask them to write down the questions they encounter as they face them so that any obstacles can be addressed when we speak. I can best advise them on how to shift gears or when to take action if I know what they have actually done, said, heard or promised. This process is also a method for being clear about what is being done each day and to help determine when more effort is needed or there is a need for better time management. In my experience, it has not been uncommon for the people who have the greatest need to get a job or make a change to be the most resistant to tracking their actions. Resistance to holding yourself responsible for your own actions (or lack thereof) makes it much too easy to blame someone else for your predicament. Blame doesn’t fix anything. Being accountable for your actions shows you that you are still in charge of your life rather than throwing up your hands and allowing past or present employers to dictate what happens next.
Although working this process may seem dull to the person who is excited by pursuing their friends’ random suggestions or it may seem complicated to the person who thinks throwing a resume at a job posting is all that is needed, it’s much more likely to produce tangible, sustainable results than either of the former approaches. If you have grown weary of the chase and are ready to get started moving in the right direction, you have nothing to lose by trying a methodical approach.