Regardless of how long you’ve been looking for a job, it remains important to focus on strategic targeting. And this approach is rooted in the idea of balance – balance between your goals and values (personal and professional) and the realities of the job market. Couple this with the pressure you may be feeling at any point in your search.
Finding balance isn’t easy. Your perceptions and attitudes at various times in your job search are subject to fluctuation. If, for example, you’re not under financial pressure – you have a job or a nice nest egg – you can afford to set targets that are heavily weighted toward you. But if finances are an issue, your targets have to reflect that priority. You can’t be as selective as you normally would be. Your target is now weighted more toward those jobs available that can alleviate that pressure.
Here are four ways to frame thinking strategically in your search:
Put together a rough list of job possibilities – jobs that, based on your personal and career goals, you can see yourself doing and can get excited about pursuing.
These jobs don’t necessarily have to fall within the same industry (healthcare, finance, retail, etc.) or even the same occupational category (salesperson, engineer, manager, etc.). Not at this early stage; don’t worry right now about how you go about assembling that list.
Explore those rough target possibilities in more depth, with the idea of determining how realistic they are.
A realistic job target meets two benchmarks. The first is that there are openings and opportunities in that field in the region of the country where you would like to be. Translation: You don’t look for a cattle rancher job in the city of Seattle. The second is that you can hold your own with the competition when it comes to experience and skills. Translation: If you failed math in college and have always struggled with numbers, accountant won’t be a priority goal.
Assuming there are realistic job possibilities and that you are a valid candidate, decide whether the overall practical aspects of the job or field you have targeted meet your basic financial and lifestyle requirements.
In a nutshell, can you afford to accept a job if it is offered to you, given the salary it is likely to offer and the demands it is likely to place on you?
Assess your “market value” for those job possibilities by matching your personal inventory of qualifications, skills, and positive qualities with the qualifications, skills and qualities that employers in those target job areas are looking for.
If practical, seek to narrow the gap between what you can offer and what employers are looking for (which you may be able to do fairly easily by learning new skills or taking classes).
Don’t let the above overwhelm or be a roadblock. Remember that:
It’s not a science.
Strategic job targeting is a process – and an imprecise process at that. Its goal is not to conjure up the “perfect” job opportunity, but simply to give you a range of options around which you can strategically organize your job search activities.
Sequence is important.
The steps outlined above are not random. The sequence has you exploring the opportunities in a particular job target area before you begin analyzing the skills requirements. It also has you determining whether you can really afford to accept an offer before you get too involved in matching your own skills and qualifications to the requirements of the job.
Efficiency is the rationale. If there are no opportunities in a particular area that you’re considering as a target (the market for cattle rancher in Seattle, for example), dissecting what it takes to be that successful candidate is not the best use of your time and energy. And if you have decided that you can’t afford to live for less than $80,000, exploring job opportunities in which the most you can expect in salary is $40,000, will prove to be a frustrating exercise. There are, of course, exceptions to that rule. Personal choice might lead you to modify your lifestyle. People make career modifications for new-life chapters all the time.
Expect to do leg work.
To develop strategic job targets, you need information. Lots of it! And from different sources: people, print and online sources, and anything else you can gain access to. The good news is that gaining access to job- and career-related information isn’t hard these days. It’s also very feasible to get useful, reliable knowledge from people who are currently working in jobs or fields that may hold possibilities for you.
Strategic job targeting is a very flexible process. As you move ahead in your job search, you should be prepared to modify targets, abandon targets and add new targets in response to the results you’re getting – or not getting. After two or three months of not make progress with a particular target, you may well have to sit down and start the process again. There’s nothing wrong with repositioning your targets. It’s not a sign of failure! In today’s rapidly changing job market, it’s just part of the deal.
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