A career search is difficult for everyone—for job seekers and recruiters alike. The search involves a lot moving parts and changes. Job seekers might be hitting the interview circuit for the first time or for the third or fourth time. Regardless of how many times, one thing remains constant: the need for a plan.
Career seekers give a lot of attention to writing resumes, crafting an elevator pitch, and getting ready for interviews. But before you start all this, take a step back and create a plan. Generally, this includes some combination of assessing company cultural fit, in addition to your function, industry, and geographic preferences.
I offer three steps to start your career search right.
1. Assess Your Interests
Once you have decided to start your career search, sit down and have an honest conversation with yourself. There are hundreds of thousands of jobs posted across the Internet every day, so don’t let that massive amount of data make your head spin. Invest the time to assess yourself and identify your strengths, weaknesses, and passions. Start the process with our "Career Search Chart," designed specifically to implement these three steps.
2. Decide Your Direction
Take some time to determine your goals. Instead of sifting through mountains of job postings, identify a general direction for yourself. Read about different companies and learn who they are and what they do. Reach out to people you know and ask questions about their industry. Talk with people in the business and learn more about their duties, responsibilities, and functions. These conversations are critical to help you decide which companies, industries, and functions fit your next move.
3. Prioritize Your Needs
In my experience, job seekers use three basic criteria for prioritizing their needs: geography, industry, and functional skills. Once you have invested valuable time looking at yourself and identifying what is important to you, you can hit that career search with confidence.
Download the chart and start your career search right.
- Geographic Needs. While the workforce is going through many shifts right now with globalization, mobility, and virtual and remote work environments, geographical preference is a strong point to keep in mind. Working in a remote environment brings with it new challenges that you may not experience inside of an office. Make sure that you are talking with the important people in your life about whether relocation is realistic. We all have preferences on where we are willing to go. Do not be shy about knowing what your priorities are; be brave enough to pass on an opportunity because it is in a location that you truly do not want to go.
If you’ve narrowed down a few select cities that you want to be in, start looking at opportunities in those cities through job boards, niche websites of the city, and your own network. While we often recognize national and global employers, we may not realize they have an office in numerous cities outside of their headquarter location and opportunities exist in many other locales. If location is your priority, spend time finding out who is in that area for your career search.
- Industry Needs. We may have companies that are on our short list of “dream employers,” often because of industry. For those on their second or third or even forth career search, changing industries requires educating yourself by talking to people in various industries, reading the paper, and reading articles. You can even attend events to learn about various industries.
When you learn more about an industry, you can start to hone in on specific companies within that industry for your next move. Start by utilizing your LinkedIn network--leveraging your connections will connect you directly to career opportunities at your target companies. Also, look at company websites for growing your network.
- Functional Skill Needs. Finally, focus on the functional area you would like to work in (e.g., accounting, finance, java programming, etc.). If you want to continue using your current skills, start by networking with others in various companies who have your desired function. Highly specific roles exist in every industry in every city.
Knowing what you want lets you focus on how you are going to get it.
Invest time early on to explore, understand, and identify what you are looking for. This will help you make sure that once you start interviewing, you are interviewing with the right people for the right positions and taking control of your career search. By planning in this way, you’ll be more comfortable talking to a recruiter or a hiring manager about roles. They will connect better with you, too.
The views expressed are my own and not that of my employer or other party.
Dan Piontkowski has worked in staffing and recruiting for over ten years. He now works for Amazon as Workforce Staffing Manager. Find him on LinkedIn here.